Tom Goss is a Washington, DC-based singer-songwriter on a 10-week, 50-city tour to promote his album, Turn It Around. Tom has agreed to serve as a GayCities guest blogger, reporting occasionally from the road. This is his fourth post.
Twelve years ago I left Kenosha and headed south towards the Kansas City area. I looked at a lot of colleges but not a one in Wisconsin. I wanted something different, something new, something that would force me out of my comfort zone. Missouri was that place.
I’ve always found Missouri a little strange. It’s not quite the north and it’s not quite the south. It’s mostly rural but bordered by large cities. Strangely enough, growing up in Kenosha made me more “urban” than almost everyone else. I eventually got acclimated to dip cups (for chewing tobacco), 4X4’s and goatees. It was fun. As I crossed the bridge into St. Louis I realized that I missed Missouri more than I had ever realized. It was nice to be back.
The next two days were a study in contradictions. I had a fun, sparsely attended show in St. Louis, made up mostly of my friends from The Newman Center (Catholic campus ministry). I’ve had a hard time connecting with any LGBT community in St. Louis. In many ways it was like the old days. A couple of the folks came straight from Saturday night mass and I even heard a lot of “we always keep you in our prayers.” I know that line is meant to lift spirits but I couldn’t help see the glaring separation between where I was in college (devout Catholic on route to becoming a priest) and where I was today (alienated Catholic, happily married gay man).
When I got to Kansas City it was another story. I had booked a cool performance space (Fishtank Performance Studios) in an up-and-coming neighborhood called the Crossroads. Just blocks from the multi-million dollar performing art studio (still under construction), this ‘hood was full of artists and musicians, mostly young, getting along swimmingly. I even had someone strike up a conversation about music as I was buying a cup of tea. I mean a real spontaneous conversation, with no ulterior motives. I definitely was not in Washington, DC, anymore.
The show was amazing. There is a real, vibrant LGBT community in town. In addition to a newspaper (Camp KC), it has LGBT radio station (90.1 KKFI). Like in Kenosha, all of this was news to me. I worked in Kansas City building block walls and pouring concrete on route to the seminary. Tapping into the gay community was the furthest thing from my mind back then.
The next day I was invited to see the Heartland Men’s Chorus (KC’s gay men’s chorus) practice. The choir is 160 members strong and growing. They even have a dance troupe, called The BarBQ’s, that choreographs dances to the music. They were fun and cute! Now if only I could dance.
I met up with some old friends for barbeque. Although hamburgers and hotdogs are always good, I decided I just had to have a Caprice salad to go with dinner. For 20 minutes I ran around a grocery looking for fresh mozzarella and basil while my friend looked on confused. At some point I realized that I was being pretty loud. When I stopped I couldn’t help but laugh at how much of an urban gay I had become and how my idea of a barbeque had changed along with it. At this barbeque there was no hummus, no olives, no cheese or bruschetta–just the basics: onion dip, burgers, baked beans and friends. This is why I will always love Missouri. What else do you really need?
Where to eat: Locals will fight over Gates or Arthur Bryant’s for the best KC barbeque. I say skip them both, and get to the edge of town for L C’s Bar-B-Q. It’s dirty, small and cheap, and is one of those places that you know has been using the same recipe for 50 years. In addition to shear meat and sauce they’ll have the best baked beans you will ever have. Definitely worth the trip out of town.