From Manhattan to Manhattan: 1312 Miles
What a difference a few weeks — and a few miles — can make.
From mid-town Manhattan to mid-Kansas Manhattan.
I might as well have been in two different countries.
After making a Minwax appearance in New York a few weeks ago, and a Kansas City morning show last Wednesday, I jumped into my Hertz rental car and headed west.
Motivation: a treasure trove of Grant Wood original source material for my next book, “Grant Wood: The 19 Lithographs.”
After a two-hour drive and four hours inside the archives at the Kansas State University Art Museum (pictured), I emerged back into the bright, late afternoon July sunshine with a difficult dilemma: make the two-hour drive back to Kansas City for my return flight the next day, or stay in Manhattan and drive back to the Kansas City airport in the morning.
Translation: Big City — or Small College Town?
Having lived for several years in Iowa City, where home football games on those much anticipated fall Saturdays started with mid-morning tailgate parties in the stadium parking lot and ended with late-night downtown celebrations (regardless which team won), I made the obvious choice: stay in Manhattan.
It didn’t matter that they don’t play football in July, or perhaps it did, because I was treated like royalty by everyone I met. The coed working the limestone hotel across the street from the art museum upgraded me to a king room in a corner suite on the top floor, then gave me free drink tickets like she was handing out business cards; the bartender poured my merlot like his tip (and his rent money) depended on it; and the waitress at the Tex-Mex restaurant across the street — highly recommended by the bartender — brought me a free Corona just because my avocado and steak salad was slow coming out of the kitchen.
Boy, I did I ever pick the right Manhattan ….
I love the laid-back attitude of the West Coast; I relish the Southern charm of Charleston and Savannah, the beaches and the mountains anywhere, and the funkiness of Asheville; and I am often motivated by the East Coast corporate climbers; but I love the Midwest genuineness, their sometimes naïve honesty and trustworthiness, their conviction that no one should remain a stranger in their town, and that everyone is family.
It was something that Grant Wood felt, too, as he wandered about Europe, signed autographs at galleries in New York, even once lived in Chicago, working for a while at the Kalo and Volund silver shops, but always returning to Iowa, where he did his best work among family and friends.
Thomas Wolfe had it wrong: you can go home again.
Until next Monday,
Make today one you will never forget.