Going to Kansas

The train is moving again. The glorious sounds of the engine meshing with the blurring of the landscape as the Amtrak rushes, backwards from my seat position, through the countryside of Michigan, the lush forests, farms, and hills of an old land that reflects the early days of the state and even the country, when cities were few and far.

We’re packed up and ready for another trip down to Olathe, Kansas. This would be the 5th or 6th time that the family is headed down to the Heartland to see the youngest sister and her significant other, the first time being in the summer of 2014 when we visited the University of Kansas. Kansas is still quite new to us as we have only scratched the surface of it, having only been near the border cities and not into the deep part of the state.

The conductor checked my ticket again today, as he always does, scanning it and giving it back to me where I place it back in the top compartment of my luggage bag.

Because of Kansas, I get the song “Dust in the Wind” playing in my head, and eventually on my computer. It is a song symbolizing our short time on this earth, that in the end we are just made up of earth stuff, living our lives and then being recycled back into the environment, continuing the cycle. We rent a period of time here to do as much as we can, to explore and learn about our history and what is beyond our imagination. The band is actually from Topeka, Kansas and released “Dust in the Wind” in 1977. The title comes from a passage in the Bible by Ecclesiastes:

I reflected on everything that is accomplished by man on earth, and I concluded:

Everything he has accomplished is futile — like chasing the wind!

In the end, everything we do, all the money we may or may not have, doesn’t matter one little bit, because all of it doesn’t go with us. The only thing we can hold onto are our hopes and dreams and to believe that there is more to life than just living and dying.

It sure is a big break from me playing video games for many hours straight, only getting up once in a while to eat something or use the facilities. I’ve become so addicted to playing Batman: Arkham Knight, the explosive finale in the Arkham series of games. Probably one of the best games I’ve played in a while, besides Skyrim, which is why I’ve had a hard time putting it down, because there is so much to see and do. From what I know so far, near 90% completion of the game, it is the ending stories of several high profile criminals in Gotham, and they all get locked up in prison, though I’m not sure yet if they escape or get released by some outside help.

For now, I continue to listen to the train’s whistle as it rumbles down the track. The usual route is stopping in Chicago at Union Station and then taking a bus to Wisconsin, but that is not the case this time. It will be a longer train ride to Lawrence, Kansas, going through a lot of flat farmland in Illinois and Missouri. It sure is a lot better than driving down there, which is what we did the first time, staring at boring scenery for hours and hours, but I remember it fondly and cherish every moment of it.

Lush

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OWPC: Ceiling

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The ceiling of the clock tower on the campus of Kansas University in Lawrence, Kansas.

One Word Photo Challenge: Ceiling

Why My Mall Sucks

I’m not one to visit a shopping mall very often but I know a winner when I see it. The overall experience of walking into a giant super plaza like The Mall of America is magical and unforgettable. Seeing all the people bustling about and all the wonderful stores and side attractions makes you feel like you’re in a wonderland of some sorts; the carousels, bungee jumping, and kiddie trains choo chooing about adds to the eye and ear pleasing scene.

I would like to say the same thing about my own mall close to home but that is not the case. The Westwood Mall in my hometown of Jackson, Michigan pales in comparison to other multi store complexes I have been to in other cities around Michigan and in other states. For one reason, it seems like it is so dead there most of the time; no wonder certain stores can’t stay in business. Compared to other shopping malls, I would say Westwood is pretty bland and boring. Kansas’ Great Mall in Olathe had a lot of cool stores to choose from and the entertainment value there was endless. Plus, it had a lively atmosphere that Westwood is lacking right now. Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor is, in my short opinion of malls, probably one of the best in Michigan, you couldn’t possibly walk out of that place disappointed, especially if you drove a ways to get there. The mall in Novi, Michigan has two floors and lots of picture worthy tourist attractions. The food court, another thing Westwood lacks, is amazing and it includes some well-known restaurant brands and others that are more local to the area; this also provides an area to chill, eat, and chat it up with friends and family. Westwood has two floors but the second is for staff only and probably storage as well. Hmm…I wonder what the employees do up there while on their breaks?

I recently went to the mall in Rockford, Illinois. It was called the Cherryvale and sported two floors, escalators, a glass elevator, and many store outlets that are popular among people today. There also were video screens around the food plaza that showed up to date news on movies and sweepstakes being held throughout the mall. These screens had a recurring section of featured YouTube videos being played, most of them involving cats and goats in trees. The ethnic diversity in Rockford made this mall an interesting place to hang about. I found it neat to order a frozen yogurt from a man that I was sure had roots in India and thought resembled Raj’s dad on The Big Bang Theory from the way he spoke; I was a little intimidated by him. Another neat thing about this Cherryvale was the free samples being given out around the place by employees. They seemed so nice and I tried every one of the samples that I came into contact with, even the little cups of yogurt from Mr. Kootherpali. The Chinese restaurant actually had people of that heritage working behind the counter and giving out samples. A Spanish person spoke Spanish to a cashier who also spoke Spanish and I was like “this is unlike anything I’ve ever seen at home”. That same thing happened at a McDonald’s in Rockford; it was the first time I heard a real conversation all in Spanish, besides in TV and movies.

It is no quick trip through the gigantic plaza of Cherryvale and unlike Westwood or even the Jackson Crossing you feel like the outside is far away and you are in the “belly of a beast”; at Westwood, it is only a short walk before you see the doors again making it seem less intimate and appealing. That’s what I like about malls, feeling like you could never go home because there is always something new to see everywhere you look.

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This shopping mall in Manila, Philippines completely blows the tiny Westwood out of the water