Local hotspots: A guide to staying warm this winter
January 6, 2016
After weeks of dipping our toes in winter amidst a majority of spring-like days in the 60’s, tragic news is here: global warming will not save us the whole season. If the idea of winter – especially the middle of February winter – makes something inside you wither, you are not alone. Grab a cup of coffee and take a friend to one of these local winter getaways and make the most of the season by successfully avoiding it.
Watson Library, KU
A rush of biting winter wind blows in through the double doors as you step into the main level study space, pull off your gloves and rub your snowy wet boots around on the carpet. You feel warm almost instantly, both inside and out.
The Watson Library, on the first floor, looks much like the Johnson County library – a bunch of desks and rows of computers in a silent, open work space. It’s what’s beyond this floor that is something like magic on a lifeless February afternoon. You can enter the stacks from small doors tucked away on the right or the left sides at the back of the first floor. Some will argue there’s truly no difference about which side you choose – those people are wrong. The left side is much smaller, with delicate blue stairs in the center to take you from the different levels. The floor-to-ceiling stacks of books put you right in the scene of an old, classic movie as the muted colors envelop you. At the end of the stacks, a few desks line the wall front-to-back, facing the back of the library, each with its own study light, window looking down on hills of melting snow and collection of art – a few poems scrawled in pencil, pictures created in black marker and love messages dated 20 years back. This is why I say it truly matters what side you pick: the left side is quaint and cozy, and usually empty, but the right side is where you go to lose yourself for hours. You can spend hours reading everything that covers every desk on the 4 ½ floors of stacks on this side. This is where you pick up tiny, deteriorating books of poetry with “fragile” notes on them, squeeze into a crevice between stacks and find solace in the purest, calmest silence you’ll find. You can walk along the desks on the wall and read poems written on the window in a white that matches the snow below. This is the place that makes February feel beautiful.
Located at 1800 West 39th St. in Kansas City, Mo., Prospero’s is the most unique book store you’ll find around. It’s so small and local that the books don’t even have prices listed on them, and the man at the counter has the power to change his mind a few times after he tells you the price when you go to buy one. There’s an upstairs, with a makeshift stage in the center for readings and poetry slams, a small bar and a few shelves of science books. The downstairs is where the fun happens, though. There are literal stacks of books, one on top of the other, that spiral from the floor about 7 feet high, and look as though they would tumble to the floor if you reached for one within the stack. Among low ceilings and varying sizes of bookshelves, there are small alcoves against the wall with makeshift seats, and there’s even a space with actual comfy chairs and a rug where you can plop down to read right then and there. You have to head to the bathroom on the bottom floor here to find the poetry, but it’s worth it. After you find your $4.25 small red book titled “Love,” written by an unknown communist author, head out and get an iced toddy from Oddly Correct a few streets down, and then go home before Westport gets dark and weird.
The Art Factory
On Thursday nights throughout the winter, the Art Factory located across from Newport Grill in Prairie Fire rents space to groups hosting open mic nights and slam poetry gatherings. On Thursday, Dec. 3, I walked into one of the most curious and interesting arrangements I’ve stumbled upon on a weeknight. The “open mic night” was a cozy dark room of calm disorganization. There seemed to be at least two other events going on at the same time; fancy, middle-aged people sporting the latest tumblr fashions clinked glasses and murmured in little circles while boy bands set up the open mic in the far corner. The “boy bands” were more like clusters of high-class preppy hipster boys – amateur musicians in artsy glasses but also with the classic backward snapbacks.
The first musician was a high-school aged soloist with an electric guitar and the floppiest hair I’ve ever seen. He performed a very unique heavy metal guitar solo remix of Drake’s “Hotline Bling,” while keeping the same stoic facial expression the whole way through. The crowd of girls with brightly colored hair was small but supportive, dancing on the floor below him.
The second performance was a trio of blond boys in plaid shirts, two with acoustic guitars and one with a set of bongo drums, that played an original indie-inspired song. Albeit a little off-key, it was the sort of endearing high-school garage band you see in movies.
Check the Art Factory website to follow their calendar of events. The next open-mic poetry slam is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 7 and 21 from 7-9 p.m. (but they usually start a little late). Bring some vocal art to share, or just bring a friend and enjoy watching.