When in Lawrence, do as the townies do

Ryan Bauer and Lindsay Gurbacki, both Kansas University students, enjoy beers and fresh air on the porch at Free State Brewing Co., 636 Mass.

You’re 18, a freshman at Kansas University, and you have a plan: Go to school, get a degree, then leave Kansas forever to take over the world.

It’s a great plan, and there’s not a flaw in it, except for one thing: Chances are – now that you’re in Lawrence – you’ll never leave.

Some of you, inevitably, will become townies.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at the Lawrence City Commission; three of the five members came to KU as students a couple of decades ago and ended up sticking around. Do you really think you can beat those odds?

Lawrence, it turns out, is exactly like the Hotel California. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

And even if you do, well, you’re here for four years. Might as well make yourself comfortable.

If you want to have an authentic Lawrence experience, then, you should try to accomplish the following:

¢ Find yourself a cofee shop: Don’t drink coffee, you say? Ha. The “Honk for Hemp” guys notwithstanding, the drug of choice in Lawrence is caffeine. Downtown Lawrence is littered with java dives, almost literally on every block; now they’re spreading quickly into the rest of the city.

And they cater to all types – if you like women folk singers, there’s a coffee shop for you. If you like moody adolescent punk music, there’s a coffee shop for you. If you want to feel vaguely Bohemian, there’s a coffee shop for you.

Find yourself a coffee shop, and make it your home.

¢ Spend an evening on the front porch of Free State B rewing Co.: For legality’s sake, you really should wait until you’re 21 to do this.

That said, Free State is one of the best places in town to see and be seen. There’s great beer, a diverse crowd and, best of all, the near-constant game of trying to figure out whether that owl on the top of the building across the street is real or fake.

¢ Make some art: It can be anything. You can join any one of the many little impromptu theater groups in town, go to a poetry reading, form your own bluegrass band, or just buy a camera and take some photos. Truth is, it’s hard to travel around Lawrence without absorbing a little bit of art – coffee shops, hair salons, pizza joints and sidewalks are full of the stuff. If you take, you might as well make. And no, it doesn’t have to be good. But it can still be fun.

¢ Do something political: Lawrence was built on political strife; the first settlers here were Free Staters in the 1850s, determined not to let Kansas become a slave state before the Civil War. The arguments haven’t stopped since.

So go ahead: Demonstrate against the war. Demonstrate for the war. Go be angry at City Hall about the smoking ban. Conduct an impromptu downtown march through traffic. Whatever you do: Don’t be apathetic.

¢ Go to as many KU basketball games as you can: Before you graduate and can’t afford good seats anymore.

¢ Be a vegetarian for a year: Hey, I eat meat, but I’ve got more vegetarian friends here than anywhere else I’ve lived. And most of the city’s restaurants offer veggie-friendly options. You can always be a carnivore later.

¢ Do something crazy with your hair: Dreadlocks. Mohawks. Something shaggy. You’re still young enough you have your hair, and free enough that you don’t have to worry what, say, a potential employer might think.

¢ Write a blog: Because, seriously, anybody can do it.