Tuesday, September 27, 2011

beautiful 'burbs

The tentacled grasp of corporate America is tight around Overland Park, Kansas, a Kansas City suburb that has become famous not for any geographical wonders or architectural achievements but for its dull landscape populated by strip malls, big box stores, churches, and chain restaurants.

Given the city's inability to offer any shopping or dining experiences outside of what was tested on target demographics in focus groups (with a few fine exceptions), it's easy to dismiss the whole place as soulless, and after a day spent interacting with the other humans only while sitting behind a windshield, waiting in line at Target, or asking for your ranch dressing on the side at Applebee's, odds are you'll be hungry for anything genuine, no matter how fleeting.

Having grown up in Stilwell, which is just south of the OP, I spent the majority of my teenage years bumming around the 'burbs looking for beauty, and I'd find it in unexpected places: the picnic table in an office complex courtyard; a mosquito-filled neighborhood park; an abandoned farmhouse still filled with the former residents' furniture, curtains, and documents.

Granted, the farmhouse was bulldozed years ago to build a Wal-Mart, but on a lazy Sunday afternoon this spring I went out again in search of beauty in the 'burbs, and here's what I found. From a distance it may appear mundane, but sometimes you've just gotta look a little closer.

A sassy, windswept tree

on the soul-crushing median of a four-lane suburban street.


A puddle of spring rain

in the joy-melting parking lot of a mostly abandoned strip mall.

Greenery and new life

amidst the hope-destroying landscape architecture of a former chain restaurant.

Charming wind chimes

hanging on the decaying patio of a long-closed Thai restaurant that is surely the harbinger of doom.

More to come...