My relationship with Kansas City was doomed from the outset. I dislike sports. I’m not Christian. Barbecue makes me gag.
My husband’s company relocated us to KC in 1990. On my initial foray into apartment hunting, the company-recommended realtor introduced me to her city. “You do not want to live east of Troost.” The most important thing a KC booster had to say about her home town was a warning, instead of a brag. I was grateful to be just passing through — expecting to be relocated again in three years.
It took years for me to understand her coded language meant east of Troost was black, so black even a black person should steer clear.
She steered my husband and me to the suburbs.
On a Saturday, we explored downtown. Except there wasn’t any. Three-story brick buildings stood vacant up and down Broadway. I expected Marshall Dillon and the outlaw to step into the dusty street and face off at opposite ends of the block.
I applied for work at UMKC, Metropolitan Community College, and KU Lawrence. KU hired me first. So you see, technically, KC rejected me before I rejected KC.
The Company got sold. Relocation put on hold. The situation presented an excellent opportunity for a thoughtful person to make peace with her surroundings. I did not.
I embraced my outsider status. I gave KC the side eye and missed no opportunity to drip sarcasm at the sight of its cute little skyline.
Then along came the streetcar. I adored the street car immediately. Pleeze. You’d think I’d built it. Along came the acoustically miraculous Kauffman Center. Along came the ultramodern Nelson addition. And the snazzy new airport. You go, Kansas City.
Which brings us up to date.
I’m now on a first-name basis with KC celebrity journalist, Steve Kraske. I’m a bigger fan of Steve Kraske than I am of the streetcar. He interviewed me on KCUR’s Up to Date, which focuses on “pressing issues that are local, regional and national.” This puts me in the local issues column. Steve (!) loves books and is a consistent booster of local authors. Local bookstore owner Cori Smith had recommended me as a local author. On the day of my interview, Up to Date tweeted, “we speak to local #KansasCity author Dawn Downey.” We talked about Blindsided. (Ahem, Steve called it “searing and insightful,” so you should definitely read it.) The essay he honed in on described an incident that took place at a local restaurant. He had an appreciation for the details in my story, as only a local could have.
Local. Local. Local.
I was just passing through, but if you needed to spotlight a hometown author, I was your girl — happy to claim hashtag Kansas City, as long as it benefited me. When I looked honestly at my snooty relationship with the Paris of the Plains, my integrity broke out in hives.
I relocated to KC in 1990.
It’s time I live here.