Birdpartments in my grandparents' yard.
I never thought it would actually come, but my vacation began yesterday when I left work at 7 p.m. After rushing to get through a small but substantial swath of work, I threw everything I thought I might need for a 2.5 week trip to London into luggage and one trash bag, made the drive west on I-70 and pulled into my parents' house in Kansas City last night.
It was a quiet, dogless house. The huskies were dropped off at the puppy hotel earlier that day, and my parents were making last-minute preparations for their adventure to an off-the-grid island in Maine. They left this morning, just after 5, and I awoke to an empty house in the woods. I lounged through the lazy morning on the screened-in porch, read the news, ate too many bowls of cereal and celebrated an early autumn in August. When I was bored with the Internet, I opened all of the windows and traded off doing my laundry and hanging it to dry with finishing up a couple of freelance projects.
I used to complain a lot about where I lived. When I was nine, my parents uprooted my brother and me from our friends and normal neighborhood to live in a house they had built in the woods on the top of a bluff that overlooks the river you can only see when the trees are bare. I missed having a next-door neighbor. And since I can barely ride a bike, I missed not having a proper block to ride in — I'm incapable of turning in a small space. But, over the year (and especially when I left for college), I've developed a deep affection for this house and the woods and the tiny blacktop road that winds towards it. There's hardly any light pollution. The moon serves as the streetlight. The katydids rasp against the hoot of a snowy barn owl I rarely see but always hear. And, with no one here at the moment, the simple luxury of walking around in my underwear is a frequent and liberating habit.
I am pre-vacationing. By the time I roll off of the tarmac to London on Monday evening, I will have slept a ridiculous amount and eaten too much (with grandparents up the road, there's no point in eating besides when I come home).
Although the only sound (save for the katydids) is the far-off hum of trains, I crave city noises. It's difficult to go to bed at night because it's so quiet. So, while I'm here, I'm visiting a few of my downtown Kansas City favorites. It's just something you do if you vacation to a place you've visited before. You develop favorites and go back to them. I have my favorites after 22 years.
Today I picked up a few things from Hammerpress, a fantastic letterpress and screen printing studio in the Crossroads of downtown Kansas City. The shop fills a small area in the front of the studio, and presses (where the shit goes down) stretch to the back, taking up the majority of the space. The people are nice. The cards, postcards, books, notebooks, posters and custom invitations are nice too. Well, actually, they're exquisite. Every time I visit, I have half-a-mind to ask if I can work for free, just to learn how to use their letterpress and stand a little longer among the lovely things they make.
I also stopped by Christopher Elbow Chocolate for some gifts. I've blogged about him before, but it's worth saying over and over how much I love this place. The shop's minimalist space on McGee Street lets the chocolate show off. Speckled colors and intricate patterns adorn the miniature edible jewels that come in flavors such as Earl Grey Tea and Rosemary Caramel. It's almost too difficult and overwhelming to pick the chocolates to fill a box, but I managed to fill two. I promise I didn't eat them — only the Lemon chocolate, which I bought separately. Underneath its shiny, Meyer Lemon-yellow and speckled-white surface, it is creamy, slightly tart (but not too much) and white-chocolate-y. Buyer beware: the looks of an Elbow chocolate are deceiving. When eaten, a tiny thumb-print-sized chocolate lasts much longer than you might assume. It slides slowly, from the roof of your mouth, down your throat, and leaves enough of an aftertaste to compel one to declare, "That was exactly what I needed!"
Tomorrow I'm off to Lawrence, a very favorite city just outside of Kansas City to see a very favorite friend. With the laundry finished, I'll hopefully start and finish my packing so that the vacation across the sea can commence.