Saturday, October 30, 2004

The edge of Hell

For many years, A popular local legend placed the portal to Hell at an abandoned church in Stull, Kansas, just west of Lawrence. Find out what's become of Stull. Read Richard Gintowt's story from

Friday, October 29, 2004

Ode to the Oread

The Oread (say or-ee-add) is an older Lawrence, Kansas neighborhood with student housing and apartments, interspersed with single family dwellings and rehabbed and refurbished 100 year-old houses. Built on the hill (Mount Oread) leading up to the KU campus, its location and cozy ambiance make it a coveted choice for students who want to be within walking distance of school and downtown.

That's one take on the Oread. The Oread has also been called the student slums of Lawrence. Not every house is a landmark. Parking is tight. Many rentals do not meet building and safety codes. Last week a student walked off the unrailed balcony at 1045 Tennessee and went to the hospital. Drafty rooms and old furnaces made for cold winter nights. Students used space heaters and extension cords to keep warm. In January 2002, malfunctioning electric equipment started a fire at 1216 Ohio. (That's the house where the L.A. Ramblers played their first gig in 1985). Encroaching development removed some of the houses and replaced them with beehive apartments, parking lots, or university buildings.

I miss the Oread. I lived at 1340 Tennessee my sophomore year and 930 Ohio my junior year. I liked being in the action. You were never far from anything: a bar, a house party, the library. I didn't mind the traffic, or the freaks, or the public urination. To me, living in the Oread was a rite of passage. I survived the initiation of college life. I served a year in the high-rise dorm-i-tude of Oliver Hall and I was ready to move to an off-campus bachelor pad to be part of the scene. During one of our open house parties, the Tan Man showed up in full T.M. regalia, a brown leather jacket with no shirt and blue shorts. We had arrived!

Vintage detached garages housed long forgotten shade tree projects. Outdoor folk art, brick streets and third story pigeon roosts were often found in the same block. There were houses with french doors and upstair fireplaces and capped gas jets. Loud music echoed through the neighborhood. Beer bottles and old furniture were smashed, ignored and taken away. Big porches were shaded by big trees. At 1340 Tennessee, our kitchen featured the same model stove featured prominently in David Lynch's cult classic, "Eraserhead".

I loved it but I moved away after my junior year. A fellow Oread-dweller and I took an apartment southwest of 23rd and Iowa for a year. The Gazebo apartments were new and they had no character, no atmosphere. It was a combination of the atmosphere of the Oread and my station in life. I was the care-free college man and slave to the social scene. I lived as a new bohemian (or so I fancied) and took a few credit hours up on the hill to perpetuate the college experience. The Oread was sunday mornin' comin' down any day of the week. The Oread is dead. Long live the Oread.

Keep up with Oread News from the Lawrence Journal World or return to the Oread for a sleep-over.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Dogtown And Z-Boys

I love it when pop culture, history, and media come together like they do in the documentary Dogtown And Z-Boys. It's the history of the rise of skateboarding thanks to the Z-Boys of Santa Monica, California, circa 1975. Not only does it tell the story of a gang of renegade skate board punks who changed the culture and the sport of skateboarding forever, but there were people hanging with them pictures and capturing the whole scene on film.

This is the most entertaining documentary I've seen in years. It's got a great soundtrack and some nice editing tricks too. Directed by one of the Z-Boys, Stacy Peralta. I just saw it on IFC so check your local cable listings. Even if you're not a skate boarder you'll like this film. If you want to read up on the history of the Z-boys, here's an article that originally appeared in Spin magazine

Monday, October 25, 2004

Rave On: Carnival of Souls

Excellent Q&A by a couple of Carnival of Souls fans from Features video links to flim clips that feature Lawrence landmarks too.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Roll Your Own Chest Hair

He's an erotic artist, sushi bon vivant, and mensa member without a clue, Ron Hutchenreuther.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Strangelove As Documentary

What do Daniel Ellsberg and Dr. Strangelove have in common? They both worked for the RAND corporation. Get the details in this fascinating story from the New York Times: Truth Stranger Than 'Strangelove'

Friday, October 08, 2004

Palindromes Make Me Mad

A man, a plan, a canal - Go to hell!

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Check Out The Librarian

Now I know why you need a master's degree to earn 25 thousand dollars a year as a public librarian. One must be literate, frugal, and a master of the dispatch.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Flexing Your Nose

The Nobel prize for medicine went to big, sweaty researchers who pinpointed the genes that give us our sense of smell. They did the initial research 15 years ago. It was a mystery prior to their efforts, according to the press release. I'm surprised scientists didn't go for it earlier. "What's that smell?" That wasn't heard in a laboratory before 1991?

Perhaps aromas need more publicity. People who lose their sense of smell don't have charity telethons. In some cases they profit anyway. My daughter's pediatrician has a limited nose. I took her in for a small matter and became embarrassed when I thought I detected a dirty diaper. He assured me it was no big deal and told me about his nose. A pediatrician who can't smell caca. What a blessing for him.

The researchers were right. Memories associated with a scent are profound. I remember the perfume my kindergarten teacher wore in the fall of 1970. I can't describe it here but I'll know it when I smell it again. I have visual and aural memories of Mrs. Bates, but the nose - it's locked in and not available by other means. If I knew the name of the perfume, I'd go to the source and conjure her memory on demand.

In the late 1970s at Camp Zoe, Round Spring, Missouri, fragrances and smells were in abundance at the tennis court dances. During the slow numbers like Bread's "Diary" I embraced my camp crush in a long, slow turn. A scent crystallized the moment. One whiff of "Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific" today and I'm back on the concrete court in my terry-cloth shirt with my arms around a halter-topped girl swaying to the falsetto lyrics of K.C. and the Sunshine Band's "Please Don't Go".

I returned to Camp Zoe six weeks ago for an alumni weekend. I stopped at the Kroger in Rolla, Missouri and bought Revlon Flex shampoo and conditioner. I hit the fragrance like a snuff fiend, carefully removing the cap to allow the vanilla fragrance to reach my nostrils. It kept me in the moment. Our weekend was flooded with all kinds of memories. We were rewarded with the familiar sound of creek water trickling past our campfire. We touched the rough, aged wood of the monolithic barn. The Flex conditioner fragrance triggered additional memories. It didn't produce any revelations but the scent surrounded me like a comfortable blanket throughout my stay.

That's the reason they handed out an award to sweaty guys in lab coats who smell like old carpet, or Brut aftershave, or a disturbing mix of both. Our memory is a time machine and we travel back, aided by aromas. I'm glad for the scientists who won the Nobel prize. Quantifying the ability to move through time is no small feat. Remember that the next time you're in the shampoo section at the grocery store.