I Love Lawrence
Thank you, Kansas! I had a great time at KU, with the warm people of Lawrence.

As the plane flew down from Chicago, I stared at the vast quilt of prairie and plains--the patches of corn, soy, wheat, oats stitched together by threadworks of windbreaks. Dirt paths. County roads. You'd see thin creeks with cottonwoods break the geometry with a welcome scribble of wildness. And as we came down toward Kansas City, the regularity of the immense farmlands was revealed to be filled with hidden secrets and surprises. Gulleys were full of chokecherries and trees. Ponds and creeks and little bogs revealed themselves. It seemed a good metaphor for the state and for the region and for the plains: we assume regularity and flatness, but the depths and curves are full of joyous secrets--and some not so joyous, but rich indeed. Proving again that God is the better poet.

So my new pal DaMaris Hill picked me up in her hot Jaguar, and we enjoyed the drive to Lawrence. Then, the bell sounded and I was off! Off to the races! 197 speaking events between noon and ten p.m.! And hey--if Kansas has a mountain, it looks like KU is built upoon it! I know, because I ran up and down the hill about 19 times! So my trainer Nicki will be happy I left bloody footprints all over the campus!

Seriously, the classes were great, the meetings with young warriors who have gone to the border and done humanitarian/witness work at great risk were amazing, the faculty were kind and welcoming and funny, the food was good, the hotel was interesting. I tried to twitter about it: it was a wee bit Twilight-Zoney in that Marriott. The woman at the desk seemed to be reeling with some profound dread--she watched me trot in and out between meals and gigs as if she had her finger on a red Homeland Security alarm button. I think I was really scary to her, BUT I DIDN'T KNOW WHY. Also, along with the genuinely friendly Kansans (everybody I met, even the people deeply upset by illegal immigration, were nice--I didn't get hollered at once, which was rare...OK, wait--I got hollered at by my beloved faculty members who were trying to keep my nine hours with the fans tendencies in check because we had to get to the hoedown at the Provost's showplace house--but that was friendly hollering), there were a few groups of haunted people I was immediately in love with and wanted to follow around. There was a woman who was very very heavy and who could apparently barely breathe who dragged outside to smoke and then struggled back inside again. Then there was a woman on a walker with oxygen and her friend, who was also very heavy but in blck shorts. And they wanted to know where Wal-Mart was, and also where Applebee's was. As always, on the road, I want to know them. I want to know their secrets. I want to go shopping with them and eat lunch with them. I want to pet their dogs.

This is why Chayo (patent pending) is such a boon for me. My li'l one just walks up to folks and inserts herself in their lives. If they have dogs, fuggedabouditt. She's on the case. I mentioned before that she somehow took mental control over tables full of supermodels in Hollywood, and when we left the joint, all these blonde love-bombs waved and shouted, "BYE, CHAYO!" Hmm. I know who the star in this family is.

The even itself was well-attended. Seemed like a full house to me. 300? I think it was something like that. My friend, the poet and reverend Michael Poage showed up! Yay. After e-mailing each other for ages, we finally met. Though meeting for the first time at the men's room does not, necessarily, affect the quality of the encounter.

Lots of laughs, lots of love. Big love. In fact, it was all love. And, in spite of the press for time, and the time-rangers who kept me aware of the clock, I managed to sign all the books people had, and chatter a little buit, and shake hands and hug and take the usual few Senior Prom snapshots. And off! Again! To the provost's house! Yummy snacks! Mo' talk! Mo' questions! I answered, by my official iPhone app Author's Answer Calculator, 951.8 questions in ten hours!

Finally, as steam started to leak from my ears, Marta my new English department Chair (I join the faculty of every college I visit, it seems) dragged me away from good people and took me to the hotel. She really did--she actually stopped a young woman part-way through ehr question (that's the ".8" on my questions calculator). Someone had asked me if I was tired, and I said, "I'm asleep right now. I'm sleepwalking. I am answering you in a dream." (I'd only slept two hurs the night before--that pre-trip insomnia.) So I was walking sideways when I got to the room. Managed to call Cinderella before passing out.

The next morning was gorgeous. Big prairie winds. Birds in the trees. Coffee and banana in front of the paranoid Marriott, with the same lovely woman watching me from behind the desk.

Nate picked me up and we had a fine literary drive back to KC.

So thanks, good people of Kansas. I hope I can return to see you again. You have a kind and handsome state, you have a stunningly beautiful campus in Lawrence, and there were some young ladies doing excellent hula-hoop maneuvers outside Henry's bar--and that's something I don't get to see on every trip. Just brace yourselves--next time I'm bringing my daughter. Get your dogs, cats, cows, buffaloes, horses, donkeys, pigs, chickens, peacocks, snakes, frogs, crawfish, goats, sheep, llamas, canaries ready.

Oh, and your super-models.


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