smor.gas.bord / 36 When molasses meets cake
people / 50 Deja and friends storm the Lied
places / 58
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lawrence magazine WI 16
DESIGNER/ ART DIRECTOR
Nathan Pettengill Shelly Bryant
ADVERTISING Joanne Morgan REPRESENTATIVE (888) 497-8668
Lorraine Cannistra Katherine Dinsdale Toni Dixon Mary R. Gage Susan Kraus Eric Melin Kristin Morland Paula Naughtin Cheryl Nelsen Nick Spacek Darin M. White
Fally Afani Ann Dean Brian Goodman Susan Kraus Racheal Major Emily Steele Doug Stremel
CONTRIBUTING Lana Grove ARTISTS Torren Thomas
ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING ASPECTS OF WORKING ON LAWRENCE MAGAZINE is the opportunity to create projects that bring together talented Lawrence residents with very different backgrounds and skills. Most often, this means pairing up a writer and a photographer or a writer and an artist to create a story. One example of this is the combination of film critic Eric Melin and visual artist Lana Grove appearing regularly in our “LM Screen” section. Here, Eric interviews a local filmmaker, takes a selfie portrait with the subject and also reviews two films. He passes on a summary of all of this to Lana, who then creates her own pen-line interpretation of the experience (such as distilling Werner Herzog’s detailed documentary of volcanoes into the illustration above). Sometimes our projects tap variations on the writer-photographer/artist collaboration, such as the combination for our cover story on winter brunch fashion. Here, award-winning visual artist Kristin Morland appears as our fashion and style writer (as well as a model), working with photo artist and educator Ann Dean. I guess that makes it an artist-turnedwriter-plus-photographer combination. In this issue, our feature story on the Douglas County Prison Poetry Project became one of our most broad-based collaborations. In telling the story of how poet Brian Daldorph has taught classes inside the local prison for 15 years, writer Katherine Dinsdale selected poems from this project that were then given to three prominent local artists (Norman Akers, Lora Jost and Jen Unekis ) who are also featured in Darin White’s “LM Gallery” section of this issue. Each of these artists chose one poem by a participant in the prison poetry project and created an original work of art inspired by it. Jen Unekis wrote about the challenge and interest of pairing her abstract approach to the very specific imagery from one of the poems.
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“I do abstract painting, and this poem reminded me of my painting style. I lead the viewer into my work through color, line and shape, but I don’t paint a literal picture. I leave it open. This poem leaves the reader feeling open, wondering what happened next. Yet the ending is also complete and brilliant. I hope my work does the same for the viewer, leaves them feeling open yet with a sense that the piece is complete.” You can both read the poem and see Unekis’ visual interpretation in the story that begins on page 73 (with additional photography by Brian Goodman). In addition, all three original poems and art creations will be on display at Lawrence Public Library during the month of December. We’re grateful to all of the Lawrence residents who made this project possible, highlighting an issue of social importance with an approach that inspires and affirms the best hopes for our community and each other. Nathan, editor CORRECTION Our story on the USS Dark Phoenix from the fall 2016 edition misspelled the name of R ezty Felty and listed an incorrect rank for Lieutenant Commander Bevan. We apologize for the errors.
Lawrence Magazine is a publication of Sunflower Publishing, a division of Ogden Publications, Inc.
KATHERINE DINSDALE PRISON POETRY PROJECT Katherine Dinsdale has contributed stories to Lawrence Magazine for many moons, enjoying the fortune of hanging out with prairie chickens, contra dancers, bead artists and, with this issue, gifted poets. When she’s not writing, she loves spending time with the parents and kids of Family Promise of Lawrence, as well as her own four grandchildren.
TONI DIXON LM FLOCKS An award-winning writer, Toni Dixon first fell in love with Lawrence as a University of Kansas journalism student, wandered away and kept coming back. In addition to wordsmithing, she loves making pottery and riding her horse.
RACHEAL MAJOR LM FLOCKS Originally from Kearney, Nebraska, Racheal Major is the owner of local retro-inspired pin-up portrait studio, Atomic Photography. She moonlights as a bartender at Liberty Hall and The Replay Lounge. Ask her to make her favorite cocktail, the Salty Dog, for you.
ANN DEAN LM STYLE “I love photography because it gives me a chance to savor the fleeting moments in life that we all take for granted and that give our lives meaning,” says Ann Dean, who teaches photography at the Lawrence Arts Center and specializes in event, portrait and commercial photography.
SHELLY BRYANT ART DIRECTOR Shelly has been a senior graphic designer with Sunflower Publishing since 2007. Lawrence Magazine has become a favorite publication to design. Shelly currently lives in Kansas City, Missouri, with her husband, two little ones and a not-so-little fur child.
EDITOR After working for nearly a decade as a Moscowbased Reuters journalist, Nathan Pettengill took the position of editor for Lawrence Magazine in 2006. He’s related—in one way or another—to any other Pettengill you know in Lawrence.
Detail of a coffee container from Ed Urbanski’s collection. Photograph by Doug Stremel
A mistaken purchase leads to an impressive collection of antique coffee grinders
‘TAKING ON LIFE’
For 15 years, one class has offered prison inmates inspiration and reflection for their time in jail and for their lives beyond the system
16 | LM Fashion & Style WINTER BRUNCH
46 | People HOMETOWN HEROES
Relaxed weekend mornings go perfect with friends and a bit of fashion on the side
Everyone needs one, and fortunately Lawrence has an abundance of them
20 | LM Sounds PLAY ON
50 | People LM FLOCKS
Music for life, and more
They’re not necessarily your friends—and not often your family. But they’re the ones who share your interests and understand your dreams. They’re your flock. And in Lawrence, there is a flock for everyone.
27 | LM Bookmarks Authors with Lawrence connections chronicle the loss of great foods, an Exoduster’s journey and Lincoln’s bodyguards
30 | LM Gallery ENCOURAGEMENT BEHIND SUCCESS Three of Lawrence’s most successful mid-career artists talk about the early influences that helped define them
36 | LM Flavor COOKIE GOES CAKE A family bake-off, a sister’s success and playful adaptation lead to Samantha Cloon’s delightful gingersnap molasses cake
43 | LM Screen A SHORT-FILM PRODUCER, TOM CRUISE AND VOLCANOES
smor.gas.bord / 36 When molasses meets cake
people / 50 Deja and friends storm the Lied
The Caribbean’s southernmost gem
$7 / sunflowerpub.com / winter 2016
places / 58
a stylish morning out
ON THE COVER Emily Markoulatos joins a brunch party at John Brown’s Underground in Downtown Lawrence. Photograph by Ann Dean
Presenting homages to creepy creature-feature hosts, volcanologists and action-film standards
54 | People THE BIG STAGE Annual charity event features all-star cast taking center stage at the Lied Center
58 | Places FIVE TRINIDAD SCENES Rich in nature and culture—and not heavily commercialized—this island is one of the best spots in the Caribbean
Border Crossing II (oil and canvas) by Norman Akers
16 | LM Fashion & Style 20 | LM Sounds 27 | LM Bookmarks 30 | LM Gallery 36 | LM Flavor 43 | LM Screen
fashion & style STORY, STYLING & MODELING BY Kristin Morland PHOTOGRAPHY BY Ann Dean
MODELS Kristin Morland, Rose Morland, Timothy Morland, Devante Green, Hannah Hurst, Kate Rockhill, Emily Markoulatos and Marcos Markoulatos.
Relaxed weekend mornings go perfect with friends and a bit of fashion on the side
I APPRECIATE A GOOD MEAL AS MUCH AS ANYONE. But when it comes to fashion and style, one meal is the best of all—the brunch. Here’s what I mean when use the word “brunch,” and why that makes it one of my favorite events. Brunch: noun \ˈbrənch\ an unhurried meal, usually during the weekend, combining breakfast and lunch, starting as late as 11 a.m. and extending up to 3 p.m. A brunch can be extravagant, set as a long tabled buffet serving exquisite foods and champagne, or it can be a relaxed gathering of hung-over cavorters around a small table. Regardless of its menu and degree of formality, a brunch involves a group of people eating together. Eating a bagel and coffee by yourself at 11:30 a.m. in the car alone is not brunch. Because a brunch demands a gathering, it is the perfect meal for sharing and admiring individual style. When we get together to go to brunch, it’s not just the mimosas or mushroom cheddar omelets we are feasting upon. Indulging our visuals with creative dressing combos makes for a deliciously satisfying gathering. VERSATILE (LIKE AN EGG) One of the most versatile and easy brunch items to include is an egg. Pair it up with meats, vegetables and cheese and you can have a frittata or an omelet. Serve it with sides of other dishes. Poach it on bread. There are countless possibilities. In fashion, denim is the equivalent of eggs—the versatile, all-purpose element that allows you to create a range of dishes. The fashion timer will never go off on denim because it’s so essential to our daily life. Grab yourself a dark denim jacket, classic denim jeans, a light denim shirt and you have a go-anywhere look. A layer of denim can always be topped off with a bold sweater, an attention-grabbing hat, or a pair of eye-catching socks. SALAD DAYS What is a salad, if not great things mixed together with love and abandon? Why not transfer that recipe to dressing up for a brunch? It’s simple to do, just join the pattern-on-pattern trend to put together a mixture of raw, bold items that will set your outfit aglow. Mixing stripes with plaids and
florals might be against some old rule of fashion, but this playful approach is perfect to lighten up brunches on dreary winter days. Just tap your youthful self for inspiration. Remember when getting dressed as a child was new and exciting? That’s the perfect mindset to begin when mixing patterns. For example, play with your clothes by mixing a bold floral dress with a cheetah print sweater. Stir in a striped scarf and you have a scrumptious ensemble. LET THE GOOD TIMES FLOW The best brunches are always paired with blends of hot coffee, the perfect Bloody Mary or a signature mimosa. These drinks top off a brunch and allow a group to linger together after eating. For fashion, take inspiration from the smooth mixing of the brunch drinks—and how they pair the bitter and the sweet. Color-match your accessories to your clothing to elevate your style, or consider dressing in a complementary style with your date. Above all, remember, we all have our own tastes—and the only way to define yours is to explore, shake things around and serve it up. You don’t have to wait for a special event—try this at your next brunch. After all, style and fashion can come into our life each day if we let them, turning a minor event into a joyous and special gathering.
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sounds / Play on STORY BY Nick Spacek PHOTOGRAPHY BY Fally Afani
PARTING TUNES Lawrence resident Misty Nuckolls has put tremendous thought into an area that most people do not often consider— the overlap of popular music and funerals. Nuckolls has been working in the funeral business for just a couple of years, but her first job was at a very busy funeral home in Kansas City where she served over 175 families in just this short time. “I’m sort of working as a freelance undertaker,” she explains. “When people need to take a vacation or take care of the restorative and embalming cases they just don’t want to do, they call me now.” Nuckolls went to Kansas City Kansas Community College to get her degree in mortuary science, a choice made partly because of her family’s experience with the loss of her father in 2009. “He died long and hard,” Nuckolls says of her father’s passing, with an audible catch in her throat. “It took about six years, and it was not easy. But when he was in his casket, he looked like my dad again. I knew they could put you back together after auto crashes and all that stuff, but I didn’t know they could take away so many years of illness and pain. I knew right then, ‘I want to do that for people.’” It’s the visual component that the funeral industry sometimes refers to as “the memory picture,” the final physical presence of a loved one. Also important to that sense of memory is the music played at a service. Nuckolls notes that for some families, those selections are traditional hymns. “But if the family doesn’t want that, you give the family what they want,” she says. That approach to choosing the musical selections is becoming more common in the funeral industry, nudged by thinkers such as Caitlin Doughty and her group, the Order of the Good Death, who promote the idea that a funeral is about the family and their comfort. In terms of music, those individualized choices are increasingly for contemporary songs that held strong memories for the deceased or their family. “I can’t think of how many funerals where I’ve played Boyz II Men’s ‘A Song for Mama,’” Nuckolls offers as an example. Other choices have included songs by Johnny Cash and June Carter, but preferences are as varied as the families served by the industry. Nuckolls notes that Mahalia Jackson’s version of “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” is a spiritual-contemporary blend that gives her the chills when played at funerals. “As the technology makes things more available, funeral homes have become more able to meet families’ wishes, but sometimes, you have to have someone in the family who pushes for it,” Nuckolls notes. “People will say, ‘Dad was a big Skynyrd fan and really loved Iron Maiden, but we can’t do that at a funeral.’ And I say, ‘Why not? Why not?’ There’s no reason on earth you cannot use music to make things meaningful.”
OPPOSITE Misty Nuckolls has advised families on choosing personalized songs for memorial services.
‘LEGIT COOLNESS’ FOR THE CITY’S HARD-WORKING PUNK BAND Though they started out playing covers for random Halloween shows, Lawrence’s Stiff Middle Fingers has become the area’s go-to high-energy punk rock group. The quintet has released a slew of material, but only one recording—a live-performance cassette—in the six years since they formed. That changes, however, with this winter’s split-vinyl single with Kansas City’s Red Kate. “Oh, man, I’m so very excited,” says the band’s frontman, Travis Arey. “Even just having a recording at all is really cool to me. It’s still some lasting proof of your collective effort. But, like, vinyl? That’s some legit coolness!” Arey and the rest of the band—guitarists Doug Griffin and Cameron Hawk, bassist Barry Swenson, and drummer George Valyer—usually just burn a compact disc if someone wants a copy of a Stiff Middle Fingers album, so the frontman describes this as “totally professional!” “And, to know that it was wrought from the ground up by collaborative effort, gristle, and scrounged-together payouts from a myriad of live shows? To quote James Brown, ‘I FEEL GOOD!’” shouts Arey. However, this new single Stiff Middle Fingers is doing with Red Kate is just the first of an onslaught, it seems. Arey describes it as the first wave of a threepronged assault, which will also include an EP and an LP in the next few months. It’s the start of a new era for the punk rockers, both musically and conceptually. On the musical side, Arey describes one of their new songs this way: “On our last EP, Anti-Social Studies, we had a song called “3 Minutes to Midnight” that had a really minimalist treatment,” explains the singer of the sonic switch-up. “We revisited that and fleshed it out, and I think it sounds really good!” In terms of diversifying their approach, the band’s pairing with Red Kate—whose pro-union, working-class anthems do not brook any ridiculousness—is the perfect start as Red Kate’s Shawn Saving has turned Stiff Middle Fingers onto some creative angles for do-it-yourself distribution, as well as how to demonstrate a social consciousness, such as ensuring that the band’s official T-shirts are made in the United States by union-affiliated workers. “That really resonates with me, so it’s always a pleasure to do stuff with them,” concludes Arey. “I always appreciate where their efforts are focused. It’s really easy to gloss over the details and miss the important part about doing it yourself.”
In true punk spirit, Travis Arey and his band hold nothing back for their new recording.
John Towner leads the New Horizons Band for the fifteenth year.
MR. TOWNER AND HIS NEW HORIZONS BAND John Towner is now in his fifteenth year as director of the New Horizons Band, and though his duties are myriad, he has a quick and self-effacing answer when asked to define them. “That’s a good question,” he laughs. “It’s to keep the thing going, I guess.” But that is no small thing. Made up of retirees, the New Horizons Band features talented, experienced musicians with quirky schedules. Towner’s own schedule has become more set, tied to his duties, ever since he moved to Lawrence from the Shawnee Mission area to be near his children and grandchildren. Shortly after moving, he attended a rehearsal and practice for the New Horizons Band and found himself taking over the whole thing partway through his first time. After teaching music in Kansas public schools for 38 years, he was supremely qualified, but somewhat surprised. “And that’s where I am today. This band, here, we have people who have played most of their lives, at some time or other,” continues Towner, explaining that the group runs anywhere from 25–35 people, as folks come in and out. People move away, quit, or pass away but Towner works hard to keep the group running. He sometimes even steps in to play, thanks to Bob Wolfersberger, who fills in as conductor when Towner picks up the trombone. “I spend a lot of time on this, and it’s all volunteer stuff. I have time,” says Towner of his position. “We keep really busy with this group. I expect a lot, but from when they started in ’96, I can’t believe we’ve hung on this long.” The band’s repertoire includes everything from classical pieces to “I’m a Jayhawk,” which the band plays despite having some K-Staters in its lineup. Towner doesn’t claim favoritism in terms of song choices but does laughingly admit he’s not yet missed an alumni band day at the University of Kansas. The band takes summers off because many of the members play in the Lawrence City Band, but once the fall rolls around, they’re back to playing together weekly. While the band gets together every Friday, many of these gatherings are performances rather than rehearsals. Towner says the group doesn’t want to end up just playing upstairs at the Lawrence Senior Center for themselves. “We put about fifteen, sixteen pieces of music in the folders to work on,” he says. “Might as well be out in the community doing something, right?”
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lm bookmarks STORY BY Mary Gage
Authors with Lawrence connections chronicle the loss of great foods, an Exodusters’ journey and Lincoln’s bodyguards
SIMRAN SETHI During a recent appearance at The Raven Bookstore, Simran Sethi passed around small chunks of chocolate and guided her audience through a tasting to appreciate the range of chocolate sources and varieties. It was a small, though savory sample of what she has done in her acclaimed work Bread, Wine, Chocolate: A Slow Loss of the Foods We Love (Harper Collins, 2015). A former associate professor at the University of Kansas, Sethi based this book on her travels around the world to explore the origins and essence of some of our favorite foods. Sethi tracked down wild coffee plants in the forests of Ethiopia, visited cocoa plantations in Ecuador, and talked to brewers, bakers and winemakers. Her book dives deep into the histories of each of these foods, how they evolved to become part of the global market, and how, despite the loss of diversity, a modern consumer can still make choices to buy foods that are not only tasty but will positively affect a small farmer in a far-flung continent. “Every chapter details a sense and explains how it all works,” says Sethi. “How does taste work? How does Simran Sethi sight work? How do all of these go into the experience of eating? I want to empower people to realize this is what belongs to us. Food is identity and food is memory. It’s history, it’s geography, it’s philosophy.” Reviews of Sethi’s book have been overwhelmingly positive. The Independent described the work as “a heartfelt lament for the homogenisation of our taste buds,” and Brown Girl Magazine praised the work for demonstrating “how food and culture are intricately entwined, relying on each other for existence.” For her part, Sethi says she hopes her book changes how consumers think about food, even if it’s only one cup of coffee or bite of chocolate at a time. Now, Sethi is working on her next project, traveling the world again for a work that she describes as a study of “the world’s first climate refugees and how they are rebuilding their lives on higher ground in Papua New Guinea.” CRYSTAL BRADSHAW She dreamed of being a writer from the time she was a young girl, and now, before even graduating from college, Crystal Bradshaw holds in her hands the book she wrote and published late last year as a junior at the University of Kansas. Eliza: A Generational Journey (Crystal Bradshaw, 2015) is a novel of historical fiction based on Bradshaw’s family history.
PHOTOGRAPH Kimberly Scherman
short takes: ON NOVEMBER 30, AT 7 P.M., author Candace Millard will talk about her new book on Winston Churchill, Hero of the Empire, at the Lawrence Public Library.
AUTHOR ZADIE SMITH’S TALK “WHY WRITE?” is at 7:30 p.m. on December 1 at the Kansas Union Ballroom as part of the Hall Center for the Humanities Lecture Series.
THE LAWRENCE PUBLIC LIBRARY announced the adult selection for the 2017 Read Across Lawrence book will be In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez. Look for events to begin in January, with an appearance by the author scheduled in March.
Bradshaw started the novel at a young age because, she says, “I did not want to feel lost anymore.” Growing up in the small town of Jetmore, Kansas, Bradshaw remembers on more than one occasion when her teachers assigned a family history project to the class. Her maternal side had a strong tradition of oral history, but on her father’s side, little was known beyond the most recent generations. Bradshaw was embarrassed by this lack of information and began researching her paternal history. What she found was the rich and fascinating story of her five times great-grandmother, an emancipated slave from Kentucky who was part of the historical Exoduster migration to Kansas. “My dad was really emotional about the novel,” Bradshaw says. “Throughout the whole writing and research period he didn’t want to see or read any of it until I was completely done. It took several years, so when the novel was finished and he read it, it just blew his mind away that his family had actually been in Jetmore for so long. He had no idea. Even the idea that Eliza is buried in the public cemetery—she died in 1913—he wanted to go there right away and find her grave. It was a really big deal because he can now say where his family came from and that they were one of the first settlers of the town.” Between her studies, Bradshaw continues to share her story. This September she appeared at the Kansas Book Festival, and in November she will be a presenting author at the Kentucky Book Fair. JAMES P. MUEHLBERGER For the past years, Kansas City-based attorney Jim Muehlberger has balanced practicing law with chasing down elusive characters from the past. The self-described history detective says he “likes the thrill of trying to find things that people don’t believe exist—sort of the unknown histories.” Some of this work has come to fruition with The 116: The True Story of Abraham Lincoln’s Lost Guard (ABA Publishing, 2015) whose pages bring to life an almost forgotten episode that
catapulted some brave men from Lawrence onto the national stage as President Lincoln’s personal “Frontier Guard” in the opening days of the Civil War. “It’s always been sort of a footnote in the history books,” says Muehlberger. “Many of the 116 men of the Frontier Guard were from Lawrence, but because they were never officially enrolled in the U.S. Army, there were no Army records telling who they were and exactly what they did. All we know about it is from articles and letters and memoirs written after the fact.” The men, led by Lawrence’s Jim Lane, a newly elected senator from Kansas and battle-hardened veteran of the Border Wars, formed the guard in Washington, D.C.,
just days after the fall of Fort Sumter and in an atmosphere where support for the South was strong even in the federal capital. The men marched to the White House to guard President Lincoln and set up camp in the East Room with Lane himself sprawled across the doorway to Lincoln’s bedroom. “These men truly risked their lives,” says Muehlberger. “They thought they would be attacked and be dead in the morning based on the letters they wrote to their loved ones when they were camped out at the White House. But for Lane’s tactics, his disinformation campaign making the rebels think that there were hundreds, if not thousands, of men guarding, they could have easily been dead.” After searching historical collections in Kansas and Missouri for several years, Muehlberger found the official record of the Frontier Guard in Washington, D.C., at the Library of Congress. He then enlisted two Lawrence historians to fill in the details. “This book would not exist but for the dedication and research of Judy Sweets and Debby Lowrey. I didn’t have the time or the expertise to do all the research on these 116 men,” Muehlberger says. The author, who lived in Lawrence as an undergraduate and then as a law student at the University of Kansas, says he’s always had a “fond place in my heart for Lawrence. This is sort of my tribute to Lawrence in certain ways, and to the original founders.”
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Encouragement behind Success STORY BY Darin M. White PHOTOGRAPHY BY Brian Goodman
Three of Lawrenceâ€™s most successful midcareer artists talk about the early influences that helped define them
or any of us in any profession, one of our greatest needs is to feel important, to feel that what we are doing is worthwhile. This is no less true for artists. Though artists need that same affirmation, they also must follow a creative process that is often a journey through uncharted and often unappreciated endeavors—a period focused on the self and listening to one’s own voice rather than accepting the most immediate validation. For many artists, this period begins in childhood. We visited with three of the city’s acclaimed visual artists to talk about what fascinated them as children and what inspired them as young artists exploring, alone and without any guarantee of success, a style that would lead to their unique works.
JEN UNEKIS ORIGINALLY FROM Los Angeles, California EDUCATION University of Kansas in ceramics WORK Latex, acrylic, graphite and plaster on board After moving from the landscape of California pools and manicured lawns to one of open spaces on a farm outside Topeka, Jen Unekis enjoyed a childhood where creating things meant “making something out of nothing.” At her new home, she explored three barns with abandoned everyday objects that she took and—with the encouragement of her parents— transformed into visual story scenes. Unekis’ vision as a professional artist emerged over the next decades. She studied ceramics at the University of Kansas and then worked as an independent artist. Her first works were decorative displays. Over time, Unekis stopped displaying objects and began painting them on canvas, with layers of color and texture and sometimes with elements of other media. “[My work integrates] She describes her elements that feel current work of abstract art as continuing to be an unexpected, yet familiar and well worn.” arrangement of objects whose presence can be —Jen Unekis felt on the canvas and shape the lines, layering and even the horizontal or vertical orientation of the creation. She describes the process of creating these works as “going where you don’t know where to go,” or “almost like following a scent.” In some ways, Unekis’ works are a professional and beautiful homage to the playful barn-side scenes she assembled as a child. It is an approach, Unekis explains, that attempts to integrate “elements that feel 31 unexpected, yet familiar and well worn.”
OPPOSITE Above the Pink, mixed media by Jen Unekis ABOVE Patriotic Soup, mixed media by Jen Unekis
LCPJ Vigils, a poster for the Kansas Peopleâ€™s History Project; BIC Cristal 1.6 mm ballpoint pen in black and red on heavy paper by Lora Jost
LORA JOST ORIGINALLY FROM North Newton, Kansas EDUCATION BA, Bethel College; MFA, University of Wisconsin-Madison WORK Mosaic, scratchboard, mixed media collage and pen drawings PROFESSION Drawing instructor at Lawrence Arts Center Lora Jost can easily trace the roots of her artistic career— and the encouragement that nurtured it—to her childhood home in North Newton where her mother saved many of her early works and always provided art materials for the young Jost to create to her heart’s content. Here, she also received encouragement from her father, a musician who urged his daughter to create and experiment with new works. Growing up in a Mennonite family had a profound influence as well. “Mennonites do a lot of laughing at our own foibles,” says Jost. “We can be very funny that way.” This approach has guided Jost to her best work, which she describes as “whimsical with a bite to it.” That “bite” is often a theme of social or environmental justice. Some of this work is through the self-appointed and tongue-in-cheek U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, the studio of Lawrence artist and activist Dave Lowenstein. Jost “I am drawn to themes has helped with a number of social and that are mundane, climate-change projects, including one whimsical, and socially about climate change in which she directed a series of exhibitions, performances, panel urgent ...” discussions and other events. —Lora Jost These projects, along with teaching, writing and being part of her family, can cut into studio time. But Jost says her involvement in issues also provides her work with the encouragement and inspiration of new stories outside of her immediate experience. “I am drawn to themes that are mundane, whimsical, and socially urgent, and I like to mix them around to find how they link in spirit,” Jost has written. It is a statement, one can imagine, that would have met with much approval, even decades ago, at the Jost home in North Newton.
TOP Party Blowers, part of the “Sound the Climate Alarm” series; Scratchboard (Ampersand Scratchboard) BOTTOM The Toll; BIC Cristal 1.6 mm ballpoint pen in black and red, on Stonehenge paper
NORMAN AKERS ORIGINALLY FROM Osage, Oklahoma EDUCATION BFA, Kansas City Art Institute; MA in museums studies, Institute for American Indian Arts; MFA in painting, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign WORK Painter and printmaker PROFESSION Professor of art and head of graduate studies at the University of Kansas
TOP Border Crossing, oil on panel by Norman Akers BOTTOM Rebrith, oil on canvas by Norman Akers OPPOSITE Alien Conquest, lithograph by Norman Akers
Norman Akers says he was an introverted child who was encouraged by his parents in two of his interests: creating art and collecting maps. The artwork allowed the young Akers to express himself, but the impact of the maps was something Akers could describe only years later as being “complex symbols for places I had yet to know.” Akers followed these interests, studying art as an undergraduate and then enrolling in a museum studies program at the Institute for American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. Here, he created a series of plein air paintings based on the landscape around him and, eventually, incorporating his own cultural identity. “As a NativeAmerican artist, I explore issues of identity, culture, including Osage mythos, place and the dynamics of personal and cultural “You must make transformation,” says Akers. While working at Santa Fe, something that is real Akers encountered a different type of to you, which comes encouragement of his work, one he would from your own voice. ” eventually recognize as harmful. Akers —Norman Akers began creating intaglio and other types of prints. Initially, these were quick studies for future paintings, but after a few sold at a museum gift shop, demand for them increased, and Akers eventually gained local gallery representation for them. Eventually, Akers realized that the work was becoming more about what collectors or galleries wanted and less about what he was interested in exploring. So, he dropped the lucrative printmaking to return to graduate school and continue to find his own voice. Looking back, Akers says his subconscious prodded him to look beyond the commercial encouragement. He believes that a successful artist must be disciplined and willing to take a risk in following her or his own voice, even when the market is telling the artist otherwise. “You must make something that is real to you, which comes from your own voice,” says Akers, adding that this authenticity can lead to the best reward. “The notion of making allows me to feel happy, successful,” says Akers. “It is about a dialog, a conversation. Through the conversation I begin to discover my place in this world.”
STORY BY Paula Naughtin PHOTOGRAPHY BY Doug Stremel
A family bake-off, a sister’s success and playful adaptation lead to Samantha Cloon’s delightful ginger-snap molasses cake
SAMANTHA CLOON WAS NOT QUITE A TEENAGER WHEN SHE WON HER FIRST BAKING AWARD. It was for an eggnog cheesecake she entered in the annual baking contest held by her local public library—and it seemed to impress everyone but the chef. “I have to admit thinking at the time that the recipe was going to be wonderful, and everyone thought it was—but I didn’t,” recalls Cloon. Of course, she can be forgiven for being a jaded cook at the age of 12. After all, by that time she had spent nearly her entire life baking. Cloon, who grew up in the Cleveland area, remembers helping her mother and grandmother in the kitchen even when she was a preschooler. In those years, her job for one of the family’s favorite holiday cookies, peanut butter blossoms, was carefully placing the chocolate kiss in the middle of each ball of dough. Now, decades later in her own kitchen, Cloon continues that tradition of attention to detail and love of baking, particularly around the holidays.
“I love cooking throughout the year, but I love baking around the holidays because there are recipes that are saved for around the holidays,” says Cloon. “There was one time I made one of our holiday-type cookies in June, and it just felt wrong.” To perfect a holiday dish, Cloon likes to cook several versions of it, then combine the best elements of each recipe and tweak and refine it until she gets the perfect iteration. “It’s kind of the one area of my life where I’m confident in experimenting. A lot of other things I like to have everything organized and know the rules of what’s going on. In baking and cooking I’m a lot more confident–especially in cooking–it’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that. But even in baking, I like to experiment with swapping out flavors or trying to learn how the recipe actually works,” says Cloon. One of her most experimented-on recipes is for something very basic, a chocolate-chip cookie. Cloon describes it as something “most people who don’t even bake can make. But that was the recipe that I could just never get right. My family and my husband can testify to the flat Frisbees or burnt cookies that were nearly inedible. But I finally figured that one out. It took a family cookie contest at Thanksgiving for the past couple years to motivate me enough to perfect it.” That monumental contest pitted Cloon’s mother, sisters, aunt, grandmother and cousins against one another in a Thanksgiving bake-off. It was a serious affair, but not cutthroat
“I like to experiment with swapping out flavors or trying to learn how the recipe actually works.” —Samantha Cloon
as Cloon’s grandmother dished out pro tips to her competition. “I consulted my grandma, who is kind of the authority about chocolate chip cookies, about things like butter versus margarine and what kind of leaveners you use. So that’s what got me to my chocolate cookie recipe today that I’m pretty happy with. My husband likes it, so I think it’s a keeper.” Cookie recipes have become somewhat of a specialty in Cloon’s family. Cloon’s younger sister, Allison, emerged from a family bake-off with a ribbonwinning molasses ginger snap recipe. “We always had to bake several batches because it would go fast,” says Cloon. Partly as a tribute to Allison, Cloon decided to transform that cookie into a cake. “I started researching and experimenting and felt a little like a food scientist for a while,” says Cloon of adapting the recipe. “I tried to make sure the elements of the cookie were represented. I wanted to be sure that there was shortening, since there was shortening in the cookie. I wanted to be sure the spices were in the same ratio so the flavors were really still present. I learned a lot for sure about cakes.” One challenge was creating the frosting. Of course, the original cookies are not frosted, but what’s a cake without frosting? Cloon decided to base the frosting on vanilla and bourbon-tastes that would complement the molasses. “I love vanilla flavors and the bourbon gives it an extra kick. It was really fun to experiment with—developing the recipe and coming up with something that would capture those flavors and those memories,” says Cloon. “I called my mom right when I was baking it because those flavors and those smells instantly reminded me of home around the holidays.”
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ake C p a n s r Ginge
LOON’S THA C N A M SA
• 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda • 2 teaspoons baking powder • 1/4 teaspoon salt • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon • 1 teaspoon ground cloves • 1 teaspoon ground ginger • 1 1/2 sticks butter, softened • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening • 3/4 cup sugar • 1 cup brown sugar • 1/4 cup molasses • 4 large eggs • 1 cup milk
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 2) Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans. Set aside. 3) In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. Set aside. 4) In a large bowl, cream together butter, shortening, and sugars. 5) Add molasses and mix on medium speed until well incorporated. 6) Beat in eggs, one at a time. 7) Alternate mixing in dry ingredients and milk in small increments until batter is smooth. Avoid overmixing. 8) Pour batter into prepared pans, making sure to distribute the batter evenly between the two pans. 9) Bake for 30-35 minutes until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean and tops of cakes begin to brown just slightly. 10) Let cool completely on wire racks before frosting with vanilla bourbon buttercream (recipe below).
Vanilla AMANTHA CLOON ’S Bourb on Bu ttercrea m S
• 1 cup butter, softened • 5 cups powdered sugar • 1 tablespoon bourbon • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract • 3 tablespoons milk
Using a handheld or stand mixer on medium speed, cream butter until smooth and pale yellow in color; this should take approximately 2 minutes. 2) Gradually add in half of the powdered sugar and mix on low speed for approximately 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. 3) Mix in bourbon and vanilla extract. 4) Slowly alternate adding the milk and remaining powdered sugar, mixing on medium speed until all ingredients are combined and frosting is light and fluffy.
Notes: For the frosting, amounts of milk and powdered sugar can be adjusted slightly according to sweetness and consistency preferences. Cloon uses Maker’s Mark bourbon, but any would be fine. The cake photographed in this story was made from a double batch of cake batter (baked in four cake pans) and a double batch of frosting. Cloon decorated it with gingersnaps, which is optional.
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Presenting homages to creepy creature-feature hosts, volcanologists and action-film standards FROM LEFT Anthony Ladesich and Eric Melin
PRETTY PICTURES, THROUGH CHAOS Anthony Ladesich has been making art his way for a long, long time. For the last 25 years, he’s been writing, performing and recording original music with several Kansas City-based bands. His newest outfit, The Hardship Letters, performs as either a four-piece rock band, a stripped-down duo or just Ladesich and his guitar, depending on what night you catch them. In addition to music, Ladesich has spent the last 15 years as a writer, cinematographer, editor and director with his company Mile Deep Films & Television. The story is pretty much the same here too. The company is at times just Ladesich himself but expands into any number of trusted local collaborators and crew members depending on the demands of the project. “I’m a guy who wants to make pretty pictures for a living and not really run a business, but,” Ladesich pauses, “that’s why you stick to what you’re good at and get talented people to fill out the crew.” The latest thing he’s good at is a short film called Corvalo, which recently
won Best Dark Fantasy at Dragon Con in Atlanta. Shot last year in Kansas City, the 6-minute production is a wistful tribute to the TV creature-feature hosts of the late ’70s and early ’80s, but with a sinister twist. The concept for the film was inspired by NYC underground performance artist Michael McQuary, who moved to the Kansas City region three years ago and has one of those faces you don’t easily forget. “He came up to me when [my short films] Secret Story of Toys and The Icarus 1 played at KC FilmFest and said ‘You get it. We should work together,’” Ladesich recalls. “Then he proceeded to show me pictures of himself as golden-age movie monsters, and I was blown away.” Screenwriter Trey Hock turned the initial concept into a working script, and Ladesich’s crew was soon shooting at Kansas City’s iconic Prospero’s Books, a place with so much history and character, it didn’t need to be altered for filming. “I don’t pick everything in the frame and meticulously dress the set. Some people start with the art direction; I start with chaos,” says Ladesich. “I want to breathe in chaos and breathe out art.”
On his remarkable 2013 little-kidbuilds-a-rocket short film The Icarus 1, for instance, the 44-year-old found the perfect garage with all the right dust and cobwebs—something that could never be re-created as convincingly. When you’re working on a low budget, an environment teeming with character lends a priceless production value to the film. The challenges that rise out of necessity on any shoot call for a shrewd strategy, and Ladesich has a name for his approach to this eventuality: creative jujitsu. “When you’re handed a set of creative roadblocks, you just stand there and say ‘Come at me’ to the overwhelming weight of those limitations,” he explains, “and that’s when you create something that’s unique and singular. Something you couldn’t have done before.” If Corvalo, a clever film that fits more pathos into 6 minutes than most Hollywood pictures achieve in 2 hours, is any indication—creative jujitsu is serving Ladesich well.
A master of cinema erupts with a documentary of anthropology, philosophy and natural beauty Filmmaker Werner Herzog and Cambridge University volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer are standing near Erebus, an active volcano in the Antarctica. A second scientist notices Oppenheimer struggling with equipment and turns to the camera to narrate the epic scene. “It’s Man vs. Machine, Chapter 53,” he says. That was also the theme of Herzog’s documentary exploration of technology and humanity from earlier this year, Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World. But for his newest doc, Into the Inferno, the award-winning filmmaker returns to the theme that connects most of his work: man vs. nature. The interloping humans here are Herzog and Oppenheimer, and Into the Inferno is as much a tribute to their friendship as it is to the awesome power of volcanoes all over the world. The like-minded pair first met during the filming of Herzog’s 2007 doc Encounters at the End of the World, and there couldn’t be two better tour guides. Let’s be clear: Herzog’s film captures enough remarkable footage of hot magma bursts and erupting volcanoes to make any straight-up nature documentary filmmaker jealous. But Herzog’s interests are cultural. The people who live in the shadows of these fire-spitting giants construct their own culture around its presence. For example, Herzog talks with a community leader in the South Pacific island of Vanatu about the spirits that live in the volcano and how certain villagers will spend their afterlife in its core. As he travels from the continuously active Erta Ale volcano in Ethiopia to Indonesia’s Mount Sinabung, to the watery surroundings near North Korea’s inactive Mount Paektu, Herzog brings along his legendary voice-over style with its German accent and philosophical musings. While his distinct narrative style has become a favorite target of satire, Herzog undeniably has a unique knack for finding and staging scenes for dramatic presentation, and the questions he poses are always interesting. It makes sense then, that the one meandering stretch in the movie concerns the origin of man, as fossil hunters track down the bones of Paleolithic hominids in the Ethiopian desert. Speaking of birthplaces, Oppenheimer explains, the North Koreans believe that their people actually originate from inside Mt. Paektu. Granted a rare glimpse of this secretive dictatorship, Herzog finds an “underlying sadness and solitude” there — and makes the point that the only way to see North Korea is the way the Stream fre e p Ski Re government wants you to see it. The same could be said about Herzog’s documentaries, and Into the Inferno—currently streaming on Netflix—is all the more fascinating, as seen through his lens. load Buy th Down eB luray
There’s a great moment in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back when Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) lashes out at ex-Major Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) for stepping in and taking charge of a plan to uncover who has framed her. “Argh!” she yells in frustration (and I’m paraphrasing, which is a clue about how memorable the dialogue is): “You’re just like every other military man I deal with who underestimates me every day.” It’s the one self-aware moment in a movie that’s steeped in classic-era tough-guy mythmaking while also being full of enough bone-crunching violence to satiate modern crowds. The title character, who headlines 20 books by British author Lee Child, is an ex-military investigator who follows his own moral code and acts alone. He embodies the righteous independent American spirit and suffers no fools. It’s interesting then that the central mystery of Jack Reacher: Never Go Back revolves around military corruption and the nefarious dealings of a greedy military contractor. The script, co-written by director Edward Zwick (Glory and The Last Samurai), smartly avoids making jingoistic statements while maintaining predictably safe ground: Reacher is a man of action and revenge, standing up for what’s right, and he only kills somebody if they’re trying to kill him first. The first Jack Reacher in 2012 was more of a guilty pleasure, reveling in its own trashiness with macho one-liners and overthe-top performances. Never Go Back dials that back a bit, and frankly, it’s less fun. It does, however, share its predecessor’s knack for suspenseful plotting, and Zwick spends a good amount of time deepening the characters and trying to achieve a sense of realism, for whatever that’s worth. That means skipping the eight books in between adaptations and softening Reacher enough that he develops feelings for the impromptu nuclear family that forms when he, Turner, and a teenage girl go on the run. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is as safe as mainstream entertainment gets, but it succeeds in that modest goal and is a welcome respite from the worlddestroying robots, disaster scenarios and apocalypses in films of late.
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BREE McCRACKEN In many ways, Bree McCracken is a typical teenager. The 16-year-old goes to school and spends her free time running, hiking, kayaking and hanging out with her friends and family. But then there are those times she’s with the Air Force. Like both of her parents and her grandmother before her, McCracken is a member of the Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary branch of the Air Force that trains young cadets in emergency response and aerospace education. McCracken enrolled when she was 12 and began attending the group, which meets for about two hours each week with longer trainings and excursions on occasional weekends. This past year, she was one of only 120 cadets from across the nation selected to the prestigious Blue Beret program— an intensive two-week service camp where cadets train and assist at one of the nation’s largest air shows. At the end of the program, she was recognized with the “Outstanding First Year Cadet Award” based on criteria of integrity, respect, excellence, leadership and a never-quit attitude. Civil Air Patrol Kansas Wing Commander Colonel Linette Lahan says she has been impressed with McCracken since their initial meeting, noting that the young cadet “has the energy and drive to find things within the program to expand her experience.” Lahan continues to note that McCracken has advanced through the cadet program, including the most difficult academic and physical portions, with ease. McCracken says it can be hard to balance her time between school, Civil Air Patrol and her social life, but her work with the patrol has expanded her connections. “I’ve made friends all over the country,” she says. “These are friends I talk to frequently and I stay at their house when I am in their state, and we stay in touch. These are lifelong friends.” Being a member of the Civil Air Patrol does not obligate a cadet to enlist in the military. For her part, McCracken has not decided if she will pursue a military career after high school. But she believes the skills and discipline she has already learned will help her in whatever career she chooses. “It builds character and shows you what you need to work on, as well as how to handle emergency situations. I am much more confident and less introverted than I used to be.” McCracken’s mother, Cindi McCracken, agrees that the patrol experience has served her daughter well. “Teenagers are awkward. Civil Air Patrol has given her a sense of purpose. It has helped her break out of that awkwardness. She stands up straighter now. It has been her North Star.”
CHARLIE BRYAN In Lawrence, Charlie Bryan is known for his work as the community health planner for the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department. That role comes with the wide-ranging mandate to focus on community health as a whole and to address the dangers that prevent people from leading healthful, productive, happy lives. These are the very issues that Bryan has focused on his entire career. After graduating from high school, Bryan went into the army and then enrolled as a freshman at the University of Kansas with the intention of becoming a doctor. A few months of lab work changed his perspective, but Bryan says he still wanted “to help make the world a better place.” He switched his studies to public policies and, after graduation, worked for many years in emergency services before accepting his present position in 2010. Much like a good doctor who listens to a patient before beginning an examination and making a diagnosis, Bryan and his organization have intentionally queried the community about its collective health and its goals before delivering a diagnosis and prescription. The department’s current five-year plan is based on public surveys and feedback, a process that came back with clear answers. “The three main focuses right now are nutrition, exercise and tobacco,” Bryan says. “Those are the three most detrimental issues to community health.” So Bryan works on all three of these areas. Chris Tilden, director of community health at the Lawrence Douglas County Health Department, says Bryan’s work, often behind the scenes and part of a group effort, is felt throughout the community. “It is hard to walk down any street in Lawrence and not see evidence of the work Charlie does to make this a better community. It’s not always evidence you see because Charlie’s work involves policies that most people don’t think about. But if you take your children to play in a park, your kids won’t be subjected to secondhand smoke while playing there. If you go out to run in Lawrence, you have amazing trail options. At school, your child learns about the food system and gets to eat nutritious lunches that are increasingly incorporating fresh local ingredients from local farms,” notes Tilden. When asked to assess his own work, Bryan points to his involvement in the Lawrence Loop as one of his proudest achievements. The trail is an ambitious undertaking that places a 15-mile-long pedestrian and bike route around the entire city. With current construction taken into consideration, it is now approximately 80% complete, with three small unfinished portions in northwest, north and northeast Lawrence remaining. “We embraced the idea early on that it should be paved so that it could be used by people of all ages and abilities, and we came up with the map that took it from a concept to a plan,” says Bryan. Another thing Bryan has been part of since its inception is LiveWell Lawrence, a virtual and real-life network of people who share an interest in community health and the public policies that would support it. “It has been great to see that group grow from just a few concerned citizens to more than 150 members with five work groups that focus on different aspects of health,” says Bryan. “The communities we live in help define the health-related choices that we have and give us all our options. Lawrence is a great community, full of people who truly care.”
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LITERARY, SINCE 1882 Silver tea service, the china cups, the cakes, the mints and the nuts—all of this is set out when the members of the Ladies Literary League get together twice a month to talk about books. And why not do it up right? After all, this is a group continuing a rich tradition that began in Lawrence 134 years ago. Ladies Literary League, fondly referred to as LLL, may be one of Lawrence’s oldest flocks of friends who have gathered on a regular basis to share a common interest. According to records held by the Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas, the group was formed in November 1882, when five Lawrencian women decided to organize a “ladies social reading club for mutual improvement.” Unlike modern book clubs, where everyone reads the same book, the LLL designates one member to present a review of a book and then follows that review with a group discussion. “Everybody feels quite comfortable giving their opinion. It’s a nice, participatory group,” says Pam Weigand, LLL’s secretary, who joined after she relocated from North Carolina. “We pick books that we enjoy and want to share, so I read all the books that are reviewed. If a member is offering it, it must be a good book. LLL gives you the diversity of subject matter that you might not otherwise try. I’ve reread books I had to read in college, books I thought were horrible. You pick up things the second time around and wonder how you missed it.”
NOTES FROM HISTORY • LLL began as the Etesian Club in November 1882 • The name changed to Ladies Literary League in 1894, but members often called it LLL to keep their real name a secret; sometimes they would say LLL stood for “Lovely Lawrence Ladies.” • Until the early 1900s, the group read Shakespeare aloud at the first meeting of each month. • The club advocated for temperance and women’s suffrage, but eventually decided to concentrate only on literature. • The club has a tradition of providing a scholarship to a KU student and donating books to the Lawrence Public Library when a member of the club passes away. (Source: Excerpted from the summary of the archive holdings of the Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas)
STORY BY Toni Dixon PHOTOGRAPHY BY Racheal Major
Currently there are 13 members, “and most of us are 75 or older,” says member Nancy Yacher, who hosts most of LLL’s meetings. Prospective members are welcomed by invitation and given an opportunity to meet the group. That’s how Jane Jewell joined in 1976 when her neighbor invited her. “Just having moved back to Lawrence, it was a good way to meet people,” she says. Jewell, who has hosted the annual Spring Luncheon for several years, says she enjoys the camaraderie and the questions posed at Roll Call, which invite members to share thoughts on various topics: a childhood comic book character, an unlikeable fictional character or an advertising slogan. “We stay away from religion and politics,” she adds. As a member for 40 years, Jewell thinks about the original founding mothers of LLL. “You hear stories of what it was like, of them having to walk muddy roads to meet. Well, you can just imagine.” Upcoming programs include a presentation by a published author and a discussion of electronic reading devices and new ways of reading and publishing. “We’re thinking of the modern world of books and how the book will be viewed in the future,” says Yacher. “The group has been around a long time, and we think back to the days when our members could barely get their hands on a book to read.”
“NOT YOUR TYPICAL ATHLETES” Eighteen-year-old Jesse Bruner has been a member of the Five Rings Fencing Club since he was six. He says fencing provides all the athletic excitement with a bonus: “It’s the reaction I get when I tell people I fence.” Matt Torres, 36 and a club member for four years, agrees. “People are always surprised. They see it as esoteric, hard to learn. It’s tricky at first, but the only thing that precludes people from doing it is attitude.” “Fencers are often not your typical athletes,” says Five Rings owner and fencing master, Mark Wickersham. His club of about 20 members represents a wide range, male and female, ages 6 to 86 and skill levels from experienced competitors to those who have only recently put on the mask and picked up a foil (the most common of three types of Olympic-style competition blade categories). Wickersham also has students who came to the sport as parents when their kids took classes. Tom Costello, 65, was one of those parents. He joined five years ago when his son, now in the Air Force, was a teenager. “I enjoy fencing. It teaches you to think and react on your feet. And if you see something someone else is doing and can correct it, we help each other. There’s not a sense of competition except in bouts.” “Coach believes in the older ones helping the younger ones,” says Susan Bandolier, Bruner’s grandmother. “From the time Jesse was six, he was fencing with teenagers. They helped train him. He enjoys the fun and the discipline.” “I love the feeling,” says Abby Coons, 11, a fencer for two years. “It’s exhilarating and exciting. It’s fun to face different opponents— some short, some tall, some with more skill. Sometimes they take it easy on me and give me tips.” Wickersham founded Five Rings Fencing in 1997 at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival, using the setting and the interest in historical fencing to increase awareness of modern sport fencing. Wickersham, who has earned medals at the national level, coaches modern, historical, classical and even theatrical fencing, depending on the student’s interest and skill level. His club gathers on Tuesday evenings, 5 to 7:30 at the gymnasium of the First Baptist Church (1330 Kasold).
WHAT CAUSED THEM TO FENCE? • Jesse Bruner, 18, says he saw fencing on TV and looked for a club. • Alyssa Probst, 13, who just started lessons, says, “I liked the idea after reading Duel of Fire,” the first of the Steel and Fire trilogy. • Kadin Young, 10, has a less complicated reason: “I just do it because it’s fun.” • Jack Sartorius, 10, was drawn to fencing because “I like military history.” • Tom Costello, 65, says, “You have to think while you’re doing it. It’s good exercise, but not strenuous. You can work at it as hard as you want.” • Matt Torres, 36, was attracted to the sport through his interest in historical weapons. He added that it’s good exercise and a lot more interesting than a treadmill. • Abby Coons, 11, says, “My dad did a lot of martial arts when he was a kid and he wanted me to get into it. It’s cool.” • Brian McDow, 35, says he’s not met a fencer who doesn’t like the movie The Princess Bride. “It’s practically a requirement.”
Annual charity event features all-star cast taking center stage at the Lied
STORY BY Nathan Pettengill
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Brian Goodman
NOW PRACTICALLY A LAWRENCE TRADITION, Transformations prepares to celebrate its sixth year with an all-star lineup of returning performers and the biggest stage venue of the city—the main concert hall of the Lied Center. For those not familiar with the event, Transformations is a show competition that pairs up each contestant with a female impersonator to develop a stage persona and presentation. It is an affirming celebration of individuality that has brought outlandishly creative performances such as a Flashdance puppet routine, a Tina Turner tribute and an on-stage dolphin swim-along. Then there is Deja Brooks—the sequin-gown sporting show host who flirts with the audience, dishes out homespun wisdom and embodies the event’s spirit of pride, acceptance and community awareness. But best of all (sorry, Deja)—and the reason Lawrence Magazine has served as an information sponsor for the past four years—the winning contestant receives a prize of approximately $10,000 for the local non-profit that she represents. This year, contestants were selected from past show participants for an all-star cast. We’re pleased to introduce them in these pages, along with the local non-profits whose missions they represent.
Deja BROOKS SHOW HOST “Since we’ve started, it has been a dream to be on the Lied stage. And I’ll be sharing it with a group of experienced contestants who are bringing their A-game to a venue where the stakes are larger and the excitement is increased … all to benefit 13 community charities.”
Lisa CARTER Carrie COMBS LAWRENCE HUMANE SOCIETY “Everyone deserves a second chance, connecting an animal with their human counterpart warms my soul.”
FIRST STEP AT LAKEVIEW “In helping others find the path to sobriety and learn to live in recovery, I have learned and applied the concepts of recovery in my own life, which positively impacts the way in which I think about the world and communicate in relationships.”
Aidan LOVELAND KOSTER 56
FRIENDS OF HIDDEN VALLEY “Annually, hundreds of girls and youth are exposed to nature and camping opportunities at Hidden Valley, which means thousands of girls and youth have benefited over the 60 years of the camp’s existence.”
Amber NICKEL SYMBIOTIC BEHAVIORAL TREATMENT CENTER “Working with Anthony and Katy Barnett to help build this center has taught me how to think more broadly and confirm my gut feeling (by seeing data) that dogs really do help us live better lives.”
Starr PUGH VISITING NURSES ASSOCIATION HOSPICE “When we find out what you’re called to do in life, we are more fulfilled and well-rounded and satisfied with what we’re doing every day. It gives us a little more motivation in our lives.”
Sarah PLINSKY JUST FOOD “Seeing how connected food is to so many other areas of human service provision and safety net services has really been an eye-opening experience for me and my family, who has been volunteering at Just Food for several years now.”
Elizabeth STEPHENS BASIC NEEDS, INC. “We provide diapers to low-income families. I admire our consumers. It takes an enormous amount of strength and resilience to overcome the barriers of poverty.”
Sarah LOCKWOOD Jennie WASHBURN ONE HUNDRED GOOD WOMEN “One Hundred Good Women has changed me. I am more aware of the needs of the less fortunate in our community. And, I know that with just one little change, it can make a huge impact on individual lives and thus the entire community.”
THEATRE LAWRENCE “Every time I walk through the doors of Theatre Lawrence, I feel like it’s one of the only places I can go and be completely myself (or a character) without being afraid or intimidated.”
SEXUAL TRAUMA & ABUSE CARE CENTER “I have worked closely with many women in this office. I admire them all. They are all dedicated to helping support sexual trauma survivors.”
Lindsay BUCK Kenna GATES TRINITY-IN-HOME CARE “I take for granted that I can get in my car and go to the grocery store when I feel like it. I take for granted that I can make a meal and clean my house without any problem. Trinity-InHome Care helps people who can’t do tasks at home or leave their home without assistance.”
BALLARD COMMUNITY SERVICES “I now appreciate even more the critical nature of quality early childhood education and I am thrilled to support an organization that makes that service accessible to everyone—no matter their income.”
PRESTON SCHEIBLER MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP FUND “I never had the chance to meet Preston personally. He passed about a year before I moved to Lawrence. However, from the first time I met his mom, Mistie, I could sense her kindness, warmth and compassion for others. And I am in 57 awe of Preston’s family and friends and the good work they do in our community in his name.” wi16
Rich in nature and culture—and not heavily commercialized—this island is one of the best spots in the Caribbean
STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY Susan Kraus
t’s often overlooked among other Caribbean destinations. After all, Trinidad—the larger of the two islands that constitute the nation Trinidad and Tobago—is the most southern of all Caribbean islands and only 7 miles from Venezuela. Its climate is as much South American as Caribbean. But what makes Trinidad an outlier among Caribbean islands also makes it a delightful place to visit. Trinidad is a rare vacation destination that is not tourist-driven. It is rich in diversity, more a melting-pot than even the U.S., and it has an abundance of natural attractions. Oddly, flights to this island often cost less than flights to islands much closer to the United States. Trinidad is an intriguing location for those seeking a beach … but something more as well. Here are some of my favorite scenes from a recent trip to Trinidad. SCENE ONE: THE PANYARD (WITH A SIDE OF DOUBLES) I’m walking along a side street in downtown Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad. Storefronts and cement walls line narrow sidewalks, so it is hard to see what is ahead. But I’m drawn toward the music that echoes across the pavement. The sounds are the compelling beat of a steel pan band gathering in the outdoor rehearsal and performance space known as a panyard. Usually a cemented-over vacant lot and often partially covered by a high tin open-air roof, panyards are scattered across Trinidad and gather in the hundred-plus street bands and orchestras. As I approach, the music grows louder and more insistent and seems to urge me to pick up my pace. I turn a corner and suddenly find myself in the panyard. It contains at least 75 people playing various instruments: single pans, double pans, groupings of bass drums and some instruments that I do not even recognize. Their repertoire is varied and complex: Beethoven to the Beatles, a bit of calypso and some jazz. There is no written music. No one follows a score. It is all in the musicians’ heads, the result of hundreds of hours of practice and open-air jam sessions. The musicians are all standing. They move their bodies as well as their hands with the music. Within minutes, I’m swaying with them. When the musicians take a break, I walk to the corner rum shop for an icy-cold Carib and grab a “doubles” from a street vendor. In a few short days, I’ve developed an affinity for doubles, an Indo-Trinidadian vegan street food of spicy curried chickpeas stuffed between two baras (puffy fried rolls). They are both breakfast staples and favorite late-night snacks. Wrapped in paper and dripping deliciousness, doubles are eaten by hand. They are the reason I carry Handi-Wipes in my purse at all times on Trinidad. “Ah doubles no pepper,” I say, then dare to ask, “extra chutney?” It’s the fresh chutneys that give doubles their zing. At least I think so. It is hard to separate out the tastes and origins in doubles, as it is with much of Trinidad and Tobago, a nation whose people trace their ancestry to India, Africa, France, Spain, China and other parts of the world. Refreshed, I return to the panyard, where the music feels as if it will go on forever.
SCENE TWO: THE SANCTUARY It is late afternoon, and we are driving up a winding lane into the Caroni Swamp and Bird Sanctuary. It is a remarkable ecosystem of more than 15,000 acres of protected land, is home to over 180 species of birds and hosts 40 different species of fish that come here to spawn. Leaving the car, we step into flat-bottomed boats to navigate the mangrove waterways and take a quick inventory. We’re prepared with mosquito repellent, water, sunglasses, binoculars, camera and notebook. But most importantly, we have with us our guide, Lester Nanan. Full of information and highly observant, Nanan stops our boat at almost every turn to point out boas sleeping in mangroves, egrets or herons resting by the shore and even iguanas and crabs on rocks. His family and heritage greatly influenced his love and respect for this land, as well as his dedication to its preservation. Nanan’s grandfather spent years petitioning the former rulers—the British Crown—to protect this habitat from pollution and exploitation. Both Nanan’s grandfather and father were responsible for the scarlet ibis’ designation as one of two national birds after Trinidad and Tobago became an independent republic in 1976. Throughout his life, Nanan’s father continued to document the wildlife, lead tours and speak for preservation. After his death, the government renamed the area as the Winston Nanan Caroni Bird Sanctuary in his honor. For more than two hours we meander in this area that Nanan’s family did so much to preserve. As sunset approaches, we stop in an open lagoon as scarlet ibis return to roost on the mangrove islands. The birds swoop down in “V” formations, their bright red feathers stark against the blue sky. “Cup both ears with your hands,” Nanan suggests. “Listen.” We do, and are rewarded with the sounds of the birds calling to each other, announcing their return. The sun drops quickly close to the equator, and the air instantly cools. We see a white, bright moon rising in a still blue sky as we head back through the swamp. SCENE THREE: BEACH, RAIN AND SHARK We arrive to Maracas Bay, a popular beach for residents of the bustling capital, Port of Spain. Most every day, Maracas Bay is a movie-set idealization of paradise with its lines of palm trees and deep waters accessed by a twisty twolane road. Today, however, it is a drizzly weekday. And that suits us perfectly. We have no bumper-to-bumper traffic and no crowds. We stroll the beach, barefoot, as one lonely guitarist strums in the background. And, of course, the rain doesn’t stop the “bake and shark.”
STEEL PAN AND CALYPSO The steel pan is believed to be the only crafted acoustic instrument totally developed in the 20th century. It was helped along by the abundance of discarded oil drums from the U.S. Naval Base in Port of Spain during and after World War II. For centuries, African drumming had been outlawed (which is a history lesson in itself), and the emergence and fine-tuning of this instrument brought both a musical and cultural explosion. In a few short years, bands of over 200 “pannists” formed, playing complex repertoires, classical to calypso, with very distinct sounds, both diatonic and chromatic scales (tenor, guitar, cello, bass sections) and a rhythm section known colloquially as the engine room. Calypso is musical social commentary, dripping with allegory and double entendre. It is hard to appreciate without an in-depth understanding of the politics and mores of the island. But add to that soca (a fusion of soul, funk and calypso), chutney (Indian style soca sung in Hindi), chutney soca (musical stew of all of the above), rapso soca (soca and rap) … and you have a musical buffet unlike any other.
Originally, Trinidad was inhabited by indigenous peoples who were nearly exterminated by European colonizers. The Spanish, French and British each fought over the region and left behind settlements and progeny. Groups from Portugal, Italy, China and the Middle East also arrived and merged into the population. But the majority of Trinidadians descend from African slaves and from Indian indentured servants. The island’s religions reflect the ethnic diversity. Here, there are communities of Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, Muslim, Spiritual Baptist and Orisha. Trinidad was a British colony governed alongside Tobago, a smaller and less populated island to the north. The islands operated under various degrees of autonomy until they received full independence—as one government—in 1976.
SCENE FOUR: THE HERB BASKET We are now driving up a mountain road, past terraced plots covered in French and Spanish thyme, peppermint, chadon beni (similar to cilantro, but stronger), chives and other vegetables. There are staked tomatoes that look like they will simply disappear down the steep mountainside if they were to fall off their vines. Our destination is Paramin, a town perched on one of the highest points of the island’s northern mountain range and known as Trinidad’s “herb basket.” Paramin is Catholic and rural, and its residents speak a French dialect that originated in the late 1700s. They are also known for parang, Christmas folk-music traditions. To get to this remote location, we have switched to a 1982 Range Rover that plugs up the steep roads. Kyle, our new guide, assures us that the vehicle is in great shape, and that he just put in new brakes yesterday. He smiles reassuringly in the rear-view mirror. We smile back, bracing ourselves against the improvised slab seats that face each other, as our heads butt against the roof. By this time, the mountain roads have become tight little switchbacks at 45-degree angles with zero margin for error between the surface and sheer drops. My ears pop three times in 15 minutes. We park in a small turn-around at the top. The vistas are stunning—the Caribbean Sea in the distance, the intense green of the forest, the terraced gardens with what look like dollhouses spread out below. From a tree, we pick a fruit that I’ve never seen. “Eat the skin,” Kyle says. “Just eat it all.” We do until the juice runs down our faces. SCENE FIVE: THE RETURN Someday, Trinidad, someday soon.
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A regional specialty, the “bake” is a fluffy fried bread and the “shark” is a hefty portion of fried shark. But this is a different type of fried from the Midwest version of deep-fried. Here, the shark is cooked in an uber-hot, fresh oil that forms a light, crispy coating over the delicate flaky fish, but leaves no oily taste. Most places that serve the sandwich also have a buffet table of toppings: the usual lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and mayo, but also sauces that Trinidadians consider essential: garlic, coriander, cilantro, tamarind and mango chutney. Competing open-air pavilions and stands line the road across the beach. Loyalty is hard-won here, but we’re told that Richard’s Bake & Shark is a sure bet. The next day I will hear differently, from loyalists to other stands. But I think it is difficult to find a bad bake and shark when it is fresh from the beach. We make our purchase, and I find myself pausing to inhale the sandwich’s freshness and the sauces which make all the difference. I do not ever remember eating shark, but this is the best fish sandwich I’ve ever tasted.
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67 ED’S GRINDERS A mistaken purchase leads to an impressive collection of antique coffee grinders
73 ‘TAKING ON LIFE’ For 15 years, one class has offered prison inmates inspiration and reflection for their time in jail and for their lives beyond the system
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A MISTAKEN PURCHASE LEADS TO AN IMPRESSIVE COLLECTION OF ANTIQUE COFFEE GRINDERS
Story by CHERYL NELSEN
Photography by DOUG STREMEL
pproximately 30 years ago, Ed Urbanski purchased what he thought was an Enterprise 750 coffee grinder, an impressive iron device with a large wheel and a mill box. But 10 years after that, he stumbled across new information that caused him to question that identification. “I was in a bookstore and found a little paperback on American coffee grinders. I looked through it, and the one I had wasn’t in there,” Ed recalls. Stumped, he contacted an organization listed in the back of the book, the Association of Coffee Mill Enthusiasts (ACME), whose members helped confirm that what Ed had was not a coffee grinder at all, but a gristmill. Rather than being put off by the mistake, Ed and his wife, Trudy, began watching for coffee grinders at antique stores, and with the advent of eBay and the knowledge Ed acquired from ACME, he began collecting more than the traditional designs. “I started to understand that besides the box mill there’s other types of mills. Items I would have seen before, I probably would have passed up not knowing they were coffee grinders,” Ed says. Having become an expert, Ed volunteers for ACME events and updates the club’s official website, posting 25 of his own mills online. At his home, Ed displays some 90 on walls, shelves and furniture. Ed notes that in comparison to collections of other members of ACME, his is rather small. One member in Pennsylvania converted a historic horse barn into a garage and has 1,000 coffee grinders displayed. “I don’t think a car has ever seen that garage,” Ed says. But still, Ed’s collection is an impressive gathering that represents a range of styles and manufacturers. It ranges from small toy grinders that can grind a single coffee bean to a cast-iron 320-pound Enterprise 260.
“Ed has developed a keen eye for the rare and unusual,” says ACME president Shane Branchcomb. Some of the items in Ed’s collection have a personal connection. For example, his favorite coffee grinder—Old Glory made by Bronson Walton—is a tin and wood hand-cranked grinder with lithographs of American flags and cavalry soldiers and their horses. It appeals to Ed because he was an armored tank cavalryman overseas in 1973–1976. Because his family was from Reading, Pennsylvania, Ed bought an antique Pennsylvaniamanufactured J. Fisher grinder that has hand-cut dovetail joints. “A lot of farmers, a lot of tradespeople during the winter time would do certain things because they couldn’t do what their normal livelihood was. So, they would make grinders or furniture or something else,” Ed says.
“Items I would have seen before, I probably would have passed up not knowing they were coffee grinders.” –Ed Urbanski The research Ed has done on grinders often leads to collecting other coffee-related items and coming across industry stories. One of his favorites is about Arbuckles’ coffee company, a business formed in the late 1800s that introduced the concept of selling coffee in one-pound bags and captured much of the market in the western United States. Arbuckles’ also pioneered marketing by sticking a peppermint candy in the bag and offering its customers premiums, or coupons, that could be redeemed for items from a catalogue. The crates the coffee was shipped in were used to make furniture, papooses and coffins.
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But Ed’s main focus is on the grinders, preferably ones that are complete and in good shape. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t stripped or stained a device or two, such as an antique Enterprise grinder that turned out to be a treasure in disguise. “The whole thing was filthy. I took some paint thinner and realized the decals were still there. It took me 15 hours of labor to get it to this point. A lot of the detail is still there. It’s functional,” Ed says. Actually, all of the grinders in Ed’s collection are functional, but he does not use them to grind the beans for his daily cup of coffee. He finds the perfect grind he wants by using an electric grinder. Although not all coffee-grinder collectors are fans of the brew, such is not the case for Ed. “There’s no shortage of coffee makers in this household,” Ed says, noting that this even includes a single-cup device, complete with the K-cups that many coffee aficionados dismiss. “I’m the only one who uses a Keurig,” clarifies Trudy. “He’s a purist. I can’t do all the fussy stuff he does.” One of Ed’s coffee makers is a Dutch-made, drip coffee maker that brings water temperature to just under boiling and allows coffee grounds to be soaked before being released into the carafe. Also among his coffee makers is an aeropress. He says, “On the weekend when we have time, for us it’s a luxury to have the aeropress coffee. It’s very flavorful.” Another way Ed makes flavorful coffee is to roast his own coffee beans in his garage. “I roast my coffee light. This is a generalization, but when you roast light you get more caffeine in the cup, and you also get the flavor of the bean as opposed to the flavor of the roast. That’s a big distinction for a lot of coffee people,” Ed says. And for non-coffee drinkers, Ed has his tour of grinders and stories about them. For example, there’s one about the cook, the cowboys and the candy in the bag of Arbuckles’ … as well as many more. Just grind some coffee, pour a cup and be ready to listen.
Photogr aph yb yB ria n
For 15 years, one class has offered prison inmates inspiration and reflection for their time in jail and for their lives beyond the system
S t o ry by
sdale Din e rin he at
Art by Norman Ak ers ,L or a
J kis Une Jen nd ta os
an dm o o
since 2001, poet Brian Daldorph shows up at the Douglas County Jail to lead a poetry-writing class. He loops a lanyard that says “volunteer” around his neck, and an officer wands him for weapons or contraband. The electronic sliding gate that clangs shut behind Daldorph as he enters the facility is constructed of thick plates of glass framed in steel. A University of Kansas creative writing and literature teacher, Daldorph is a slightly built Brit who usually looks as though he is dressed for a run. In fact, he is known to be something of a lightning bolt in area races where he crushes competitors years younger than his “M55-59” peers. But on Thursday afternoons from 1:00 until 3:00, Daldorph’s presence is less a blur. He exudes an ordered and caring quietude, focusing serious and scholarly attention on a dozen or more inmates who file into the classroom and take their seats around a square of tables. They are ready to write and read and listen to one another’s poetry and the work of selected published poets, whose work they also read. This class, scheduled between AA and NA groups, Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center classes, library trips (each inmate can schedule a once a week trip to the jail library) and a host of religious programs offered by volunteers, is one of many programs at the jail. Jail Programs Director Sherry Gill also attends the class. Gill manages to provide both an upbeat and encouraging presence as well as a no-nonsense feminine vibe among all these XY-chromosomes. She writes right along with the class, as does community volunteer Mike Hartnett, a retired journalist and member of Kansas Authors Club.
Gill says the classes offered at the jail provide important ah-ha moments for individuals who have either kept their feelings inside for too long or who have expressed their emotions in unhealthy ways. “Inmates get the chance to express what they’re feeling and examine what might have led to the choices they’ve made,” she says. Most of the inmates around the table in the poetry class are under 35. They are Native-American, AfricanAmerican, Hispanic, Asian and Caucasian. Most have sentences of less than one year or they are being held pretrial. They may be awaiting sentencing or awaiting transfer to other facilities after a conviction. Their orange elastic-band pants and grey T-shirts indicate they are classified as medium security; maximum security prisoners are not allowed to attend the class. A couple of the inmates are minimum custody inmates, identified as such by their blue pants. Class members have been charged with crimes such as failure to appear, criminal trespass, drug possession or theft. That information is off-limits for discussion, however. Neither Daldorph nor other non-staff in the room knows the details of specific cases. The men were all arrested in Douglas County. Daldorph reads the rules of the class aloud every week. The list has evolved over the years and has been expanded by inmates and staff. In addition to the admonition not write about one’s own case, the rules include “Some profanity is okay in the context of the poems, but no overt sex or violence”; “Do not write anything that might be considered offensive by someone else in the class or pod”; “No ‘N’ word”; “Do not glorify the criminal life.”
continued on page 79
prison poetry Solitude and Escape written by D.D. visual by JEN UNEKIS
She asked me one night after we argued: “What do I mean to you?” Still mad and being a simple man in this complicated world I wanted to say what I was thinking: “B***, you ain’t sh**.” Now I thought my Mom would have kicked my ass if she would have heard that. So I told her how I felt: “The definition of you is this.” You are my Love and my Hate, my destiny, my fate, a reason for tomorrow, my joy, my sorrow, you are the reason I break down and you are the way I build up. You are why I am so smooth cuz you sanded me when I was rough, you are my Tornado Alley, my most beautiful disaster. My map down the road that we walk together, my solitude and my escape. She pulled me close and kissed me and said, “That’s what the f*** I thought,” and walked away.
Taking on Life written by ANTONIO SANCHEZ-DAY (June 2013) visual by LORA JOST
Ahau Bro, I heard the news of you walking on the other day. I will admit my heart sank at first receiving the news, shock-thundered in my spirit as the raindrops of sadness fell. I unfortunately cannot put tobacco down, or burned cedar while speaking to you right now, but I will when I get to where I am going, I promise. I again was disheartened by the news, but will not dwell in sadness because I know you would tell me, Aye! Knock it off! Behave! Instead I will spend this moment in time talking about how I knew you and how you affected my life, and influenced me. You are a friend, teacher, artist and a warrior. We first met inside that place behind them walls and razor wire, you remember? We would walk endless miles round that track talking ‘bout our life’s journey down that black road that led us to that place. We would exercise together getting our bodies healthy again, I remember you always shadow boxin’, always trying to catch me off guard with a jab or hook, eh, old man? When it was lockdown you always sent me back to my cell with things to ponder, or them damn riddles which you would let fester in my brain for days. As time passed I finally came to you and asked you to teach me about them doings. You accepted my offering and proceeded to fill my cup, quenching my thirst for knowledge of the unknown. We would attend call-out and go to our little section of land designated
to us in that place (the mini rez, eh?) and sit around that fire. I was spiritually free, you the teacher, I the student. Remember how nervous I was handling the Chanupa for the first time? Or how you would make me sing traditional songs on call? I reminisce on your stories of your personal experience of the Sundance ceremony and its beauty and healing power. I’d close my eyes, listen and escape those walls and envision your stories. You taught me that warrior’s path, that a warrior looks at life as he’s going into battle, taking on life. We did just that. I recall all the times we fasted, sacrificed, suffered, and prayed together in that lodge. I call to mind times of war where we literally stood back to back, blades in hand defending what we believed in. We shed blood, sweat, and tears together till we made it out of that place. Our battles continued beyond those walls, we fought the number one enemy, ourselves. Yes, we both became fallen warriors to our addiction, but upon hearing the news of you walking on, I heard it was the Red road of sobriety you left this earth on. I am going back to that place, to pay my dues but am back on that warrior’s path you taught me. Until next time, my friend, when our paths hopefully cross on that Red road . . . I’ll picture you at the Sundance, attached to that tree pierced through the chest with bone, blowing your whistle to the sky, taking on life!
Down this Road written by J.W. visual by NORMAN AKERS
Reached inside myself, pulled out the man that wasn’t livin’ Society did nothin’ but destruct what was written. The King inside me said these brothas are just scattered kittens, getting’ it out the gutter, slow dancin’ with the devil. Walk through the valleys through life on three different levels— Past, Present, Future, who was the one before me with 4 paths set within me Earth, Wind, Water, Fire, only I hold the gate key They say the eyes are the windows of the soul, my soul purpose is to feel the vibration of the voice or taste the stench of Death cuz I have no choice or is it to smell the pie in the sky, 3.145 Dying to live, living to die.
Daldorph matter-of-factly reminds those present that he’ll cut them off if he thinks what they are reading aloud is inappropriate. A video monitor in a corner oversees the class so that guards can watch from down the hall and be ready to step in if trouble is caught on camera. Daldorph can also summon help by hitting a panic button mounted below the tabletop, something he has had to do only once in more than 15 years of Thursday classes. Every class proceeds similarly. The group begins with a read-aloud time from the works of prominent poets. One week it is Langston Hughes. Another week, inmates take turns reading Jimmy Santiago Baca, a widely published poet of Chicano and Apache descent who taught himself to read, write and compose poetry while serving time in prison. Next, poems written the previous week are read aloud by class members. After that Daldorph turns on quiet classical music and asks the class to spend 20 minutes writing responses to a list of prompts he has written on a whiteboard. The final part of the class begins when the free writing time is concluded and all participants are invited to read what they’ve written. There is attentive respect and encouragement shown among the class members as one young man reads about the loss of his father to suicide in a poem titled “Understanding Daddy.” … and so it is no longer “Pain without Love,” but “Pain with Love.” I miss him so much. I used to be mad and hurt. Now I know I have so much love for him, Pain no longer exists. Another poem by the same author is considerably lighter in tone. The author finds a way to write about a snitch—another off-limits topic for the class—titling a poem “The Rat.” The humorous irony is that his subject matter is of the literal rodent variety, not truly a rat but an opossum. He writes of walking home from his elementary school in Hiawatha. ... I thought it was a giant rat. so being a naïve child, I picked up the thing and dragged it home.
He tells how his mom directed him to dispose of the animal in the ditch across the street. … We went back only an hour later and it was gone. The “rat” was just playing dead, The very meaning of “playing opossum.” Another of the inmates announces early in the class that he has written a song, his first song ever, and that he wants to sing it. After all the poems are read, Daldorph invites him to sing. Some of the words of the song are rapped; others are sung in a sweet and tender tenor voice. He finishes to applause all around. This whole thing between Her and I started out with us being the best of friends. Now it seems as though that the Pain that I have inside my heart will never end. I know I messed up in the past but I’m trying to get her to comprehend. That if I ever get Her back that I’ll never ever let Her go again. Honesty is an essential elixir in self-knowledge, and keeping it real makes the difference in the poems that shine in these classes and those that do not. “These guys are not showing off how clever they are,” Daldorph says. “I love my KU students, but there is something about this class that is special. These guys live closer to the edge and are willing to be a bit more honest and put more of themselves out there when they write. “Even if we achieved nothing else this week,” Daldorph says, “we’ve been there to inspire each other. The men have had the chance to express themselves and to hear others.” During one recent class men cried, laughed and encouraged one another. There was good-natured kidding. They wrote about missing their families and their grief that they won’t be around to see their kids. In a jail newsletter Daldorph writes that the class “has helped men keep their heads above water during the tough
challenge of incarceration.” He adds, “for me, it has been the best experience of my long and diverse teaching career.” In 2010 Daldorph put together an anthology of work written by Douglas County inmates titled Douglas County Jail Blues. The volume was published by Coal City Press, the publisher of the Coal City Review literary magazine Daldorph founded and edits. A book of Daldorph’s own poetry, Jail Time, was first published in Britain in 2008. “If you are expecting these poems and this class to change the world, you will be disappointed,” Daldorph says. “But if this class brings a little bit of light in this typically dark place for a couple of hours a week, then that’s great.” Daldorph’s poetry writing class concludes with a showing of a four-minute music video, Johnny Cash’s version of “Hurt,” a ballad originally written by Nine Inch Nails and then recorded and released by Cash just seven months before his death in 2002. The haunting words and images include obvious references to addiction and self-harm: I hurt myself today To see if I still feel I focus on the pain The only thing that’s real The needle tears a hole The old familiar sting Try to kill it all away But I remember everything The specter of addiction in the song reflects an almost palpable fear the men in the class mention again and again in their poems. They seem almost terrified of the seduction of addictions they will face once released from incarceration. Although talking specifically about their convictions is prohibited in class, drug and alcohol addictions certainly played an important role in most of these men’s legal troubles.
The video ends with a gaunt-looking Cash voicing a plaintive wish that expresses what seems common to many men in this class who are seeking healing and understanding of themselves through writing: If I could start again A million miles away I would keep myself I would find a way.
“Let the ink bleed” “If I can let the ink bleed on the paper, it kind of cries for me. The turmoil, the joy, the pain. It is all right there on paper,” poet Antonio Sanchez-Day says. If it weren’t for the power of words, Sanchez-Day’s story might be crassly filed as “the usual.” He grew up a kid from a broken home. He found community in a gang and in the course of trying to prove himself ended up in the penitentiary. Ten years later, after serving his sentence, he was back out on the streets. His mom passed away, and he became addicted and depressed. He says he had sunk to a new low when he tried methamphetamines. Within a month he had a violent encounter with a law enforcement officer and was back in jail. Same sad story, same sad song. But in the spring of 2013, right after two days in the drunk tank at Douglas County jail, Sanchez-Day’s life took a hairpin turn. “This has been going on way too long,” he remembers saying to himself. “That is the day I made the choice to change. I told myself that I was done with that life. About that time I found out that a lot of the guys in my pod were signing up for a writing class. Most of the time, guys will sign up for just about any program just to get out of their cells. I was no different. I said I would go. I sat in that first class and I participated. Brian wrote writing prompts on a whiteboard, and I began to think, ‘Okay, I can write something.’
MIKE HARTNETT SHERRY GILL
writer and instructor
jail programs director
BRIAN DALDORPH project founder and instructor
ANTONIO SANCHEZ-DAY poet
“I began to write and I found that my mind escaped for the time being. For a short amount of time, I didn’t see the walls or hear the clanging doors or smell the disinfectant odor of the jail. It was just the paper and me alone in the universe. I would carry what I had written back to my cell, and I would work on it more. I began anticipating each class, and it was the highlight of my week. For that one hour, it was as though I was getting out of jail for a time. It wasn’t that I was escaping reality of the situation or the consequences, but I was getting away from the guilt and the shame. “I began writing not to seek others’ approval, but just to get the feelings out. I found the power of the written word,” he says.
A Rose in a Glass Seduced by a rose in a glass Castaway by swirling smoke Blinded by simmering mirrors Deluded by a distorted love Driven by fiendish desires And left with a heart pierced By shards of a shattered future Sanchez-Day was transferred to the El Dorado’s Kansas
Department of Corrections Facility in the fall of 2013 and was paroled in October 2015, to Oxford House in Topeka, a nonprofit drug- and alcohol-free home for those in recovery. Sanchez-Day completed parole in August, several months ahead of schedule. He is scheduled to begin classes in the spring at Haskell Indian Nations University. Although Daldorph warns against crediting his poetry class with fostering transformation, when I sit with SanchezDay in the tidy living room at the Oxford House, it’s hard to avoid using the “T” word. It’s hard to imagine the man whom Sanchez-Day describes in the past without believing there has been quite a lot of transformation. “I am so grateful for meeting Brian and Mike Caron,” says Sanchez-Day of Daldorph and the former programs director at the Douglas County jail. “They saw my work, and both were really involved in opening my mind.” Daldorph and Caron took an interest in Sanchez-Day’s poetry, put together a portfolio of his poems and sent it to famous prison poet Jimmy Santiago Baca. Baca wrote back, expressing admiration and an interest in Sanchez-Day. Daldorph also nominated one of Sanchez-Day’s poems for a prestigious Pushcart Prize. This and the writing process in general helped Sanchez-
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Day find some hope. “Wow,” he says he thought. “Maybe I can do something. Maybe there is something in me that I can work with.” He says he began to think through what had gone on in his life. “There are parts of my childhood I have yet to put on paper with a pen, but now I can actually see what I used to just stuff down and cover with drugs and alcohol,” says SanchezDay. “Now I put it on paper and sometimes, after I’ve written about it, I just throw it all away.” Sanchez-Day was born in Topeka. His dad was Potawatomie; his mom, Mexican. He moved to Lawrence at age 7, when his mom and dad separated because of his father’s alcoholism. He tells the story of his mom telling his dad he couldn’t see their son until he had been sober seven years. His dad fulfilled that requirement, and the two had a lunch date set for a Monday afternoon. Sanchez-Day was 12 years old. Then the Friday before that lunch date, SanchezDay’s dad fell through some rickety apartment stairs. Sanchez-Day ended up seeing his dad for the first time in seven years in a hospital bed. He took his dad’s hand and said, “Dad, I’m here. I love you.” Sanchez-Day says that at that moment, his dad’s heart stopped. He says his dad flat-lined and died. “That started my anger. At that age I was asking, ‘Why
God? What God would do this?’” His relationship with his mom deteriorated, and at age 16 he moved out of his home. He got involved in a gang in Lawrence in 1996. “I’ve been shot at, stabbed, everything you’d expect to happen in that life. I moved my way up in the gang hierarchy. I started as street soldier, earned my stripes. And then, at age 16, I was fighting a rival gang and showing I was ‘down’ and I hit someone with a baseball bat. I almost killed them. Because of the severity of that crime and because gang activity was just becoming a problem in Lawrence at that time, the judge decided to make an example out of me. I got ten years. “Now that I reflect on it, it is all part of my testimony and story. It takes courage to read in front of people, especially in the setting of a jail, but hearing others’ work has played a big part in helping me change my life patterns. Now I put what I feel and think on paper and I am in a far better place mentally. Going to prison saved me. “At first the shame and guilt were overwhelming. I was ‘that guy.’ But as I make progress, it gets easier. I am humbled that I have the chance to tell my story. I hope it will touch someone else and give them hope as well. “Now I am taking on life,” Sanchez-Day says, using the title of one of his poems.
calendar / winter 2016/2017
Prison Poetry Art December 1–31 See original works by Norman Akers, Lora Jost and Jen Unekis inspired by poems from the Douglas County Prison Poetry Project (and featured in the story beginning on page 73). The artwork will hang in the gallery of the Lawrence Public Library and can be seen during regular library hours.
Peter Pan December 2–18 Family classic takes stage at Theatre Lawrence. There will be magic. For ticket reservations or more information, go online at theatrelawrence.com
Lawrence Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade December 3 One of the nation’s biggest holiday-themed parades of horses and horsedrawn wagons arrives for another year. This event attracts visitors by the thousands, so scout your location and arrive early. For times, routes and more information, go online at lawrencechristmasparade.org
Holiday Home Tours December 4 Annual tour of some of the city’s most decorated holiday homes—all to benefit Health Care Access, the nonprofit clinic providing health care for lowincome families. For ticket and tour information, go online at healthcareaccess. org/holidayhomestour
Prison Poetry Project December 5 Hear Antonio Sanchez-Day, Brian Daldorph and Mike Hartnett read original poetry that has come from the more than 15 years of the Douglas County Prison Poetry Project (see feature article on page 73). Readings begin at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the Lawrence Public Library (707 Vermont). This is a free and open event that is part of the ongoing “About Lawrence …” series co-sponsored by Lawrence Public Library and Lawrence Magazine.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
PHOTOGRAPH Brian Goodman
December 9 A family musical production that features a host of North Pole characters including the Abominable Snow Monster and, of course, the original rednosed reindeer. For ticket reservations and more information, go online at lied.ku.edu
Ashley Davis and Friends: A Celtic Christmas December 14–15 Lawrence’s beloved Celtic singer-songwriter performs holiday classics and traditional ballads. For ticket reservations and more information, go online at lied.ku.edu
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Genealogy and Oral History Resources December 21 Stop by the Lawrence Public Library’s local history room (707 Vermont St., lower level) from 4-5 p.m. for an introduction to genealogical research resources and an overview for using the Sound + Vision studio to record family history. For more information, go online at lawrencepubliclibrary.org
Dar Williams 20th Anniversary Tour January 4 One of the leading mid-career folk-song artists arrives at the Lawrence Arts Center for a one-night concert. For tickets and more information, go online at lawrenceartscenter.org
Andy McKee January 6 The Kansas-based acoustic musician and global sensation provides a rare homevenue concert at The Bottleneck. For more information and ticket reservations, go online at andymckee.com and thebottlenecklive.com
Knitting, crocheting and weaving January 9 Class registration begins for introductory and advanced courses in winter knitting, crocheting and weaving projects through Yarn Barn and its corps of crafty instructors. For an overview of classes and prices, go online at yarnbarn-ks.com
Transformations January 14 The most glamorous and sassy Deja Brooks hosts the 6th annual charity performance to benefit local nonprofits and, of course, the audience. For ticket reservations and more information, go online at transformationslawrence.com
The Last Romance January 20–29 A touching story of mature love, encounters at the dog park and family relations takes the stage at Theatre Lawrence. For ticket reservations and more information, go online at theatrelawrence.com
Kaw Valley Eagles Day January 21 Join biologists and fellow bird-watchers for a series of family-friendly programs, lectures and an excursion to eagle nesting sites as the community welcomes a growing population of bald eagles. For more information about this free and open event, go online at kawvalleyeaglesday.com
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Souper Bowl Saturday
January 29 Russian National Ballet center presents Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet on the Lied Center stage. For ticket reservations and more information, go online at lied.ku.edu
February 4 Annual tradition for the Lawrence Arts Center—visitors can purchase a locally made ceramic bowl (starting at $10) and fill it up with soup. For more information, go online at lawrenceartscenter.org
Rebirth Brass Band February 10 Grammy-award-winning music group combines traditional arrangements with hiphop tunes for a fast-paced concert at the Lied Center. The venue will transform its orchestra pit into a dance section for the concert. For tickets and more information, go online at lied.ku.edu
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Published on Nov 26, 2016
Winter brunch fashion | 15 years of the Prison Poetry project | ginger cookie goes cake | a hard-working punk band goes for a legit release...