Congratulations, welcome to the first county I’ve visited outside of Arkansas that has two county seats! Usually when a county has two seats, it’s either because it’s big and there’s a desire for citizen access to be close by everyone or there’s a geographical impediment that makes travel difficult. In this case, however, it’s neither. The county administrative functions run out of Kansas City because it is a megalopolis connected to the various and sundries of the world, but nobody is willing to change the original county seat because it’s the home of a highly esteemed former county judge. Obviously, I hit the courthouse in Kansas City first. That is quite an edifice. And what else would you expect from a county named after…
…Andrew Jackson, the man who’s stone phallus towers above Chalmette? Interestingly enough, City Hall mirrors it across the street with another President, Mr. Lincoln sitting watch over it. Later, I went over to Independence, expecting a quiet little town and getting something…different.
What was up with the street fair? There were vast numbers of people roaming around, lots of people trying to sell parking spaces, horse drawn carts and buggies all over the place? And so many unmasked people! That’s a negative, Ghost Rider. The Presidential Library was closed, and it’s now the second one I’ve been to, the LBJ Library obviously being the first. I’ve been close to several others, but I really don’t care that much. And that weird church with the spiral top? There’s something going on with Independence and I was more than a little curious, but that was secondary to my goals.
As I mentioned back in, well, the other Kansas City, King Pleasure only wrote the words. He didn’t write the music. The music was written by one of my musical heroes, Charles Christopher Parker Jr., better know to the world by the nickname “Bird”. Born there in Kansas and raised here in Missouri, New York City is where he would gain his reputation as the greatest saxophone player who ever lived and is still on any short list of greatest jazz musicians ever. Even today, over 60 years after his death, I doubt there has ever been a serious contender to that title. He lived a very messy, painful life, but could he play… It still blows my mind to think that I myself have lived over a decade more than he did. Despite his wishes to be buried quietly in New York, his first wife brought him back to the place of his birth.
There’s always a cemetery. It’s been a while since I thought to muse on the cold ground, the great equalizer for mortals. The green trees and ordered stones stand as both monument and testament to the living that they themselves shall one day be here. To the living… You see, there is a cemetery, but this isn’t it. There are two cemeteries here. This is the Washington Cemetery, beautifully cared for and manicured.
Around the corner is the Lincoln Cemetery. Thanks to the rains, it is much greener than the first time I came here. The grounds had also been cut recently, too. I followed the road in to the stopping point of the fresher pavement. It was the easiest way to find where I was going because it terminated at a certain, well traveled point.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the grave of Charlie Parker. And you bet your tuchas I made the BeBop Pilgrimage to see him again. I logged that virtual with sadness, both for him dying so young (he was only 34), and for the others who rested here, knowing that the only reason their graves were not overgrown and hidden from view, the only reason a paved road led to see them, is because a world-famous musician was here, too. Everyone molders in the ground eventually. Some, thanks to the statuses and prejudices of the living, just get to do it in nicer ground. As Mr. Orwell so aptly wrote, “[a]ll animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” This would not be my last graveyard visit of the day, though. I would be communing with the dead again soon enough once I had, like Charlie, put this city in my rearview mirror. For all the time I spent in Kansas City and its environs, I would soon come to a quick stop in the nearby town of…