Spring arrived briefly in Lawrence last week, and I swear I could smell the creativity blooming.
As always happens when the temperature heads north of 60 degrees, the porch at Free State Brewing Co. was overflowing with beer drinkers last Friday afternoon; next door, in front of the coffee shop, Jim Lee sat and played his guitar in the sun. When it's cold outside, he's inside the shop - sketching and inking in his drawings.
The next night it was colder, but I ended up at The Bottleneck, where a motley group of local musicians and their buddies put on a rousing performance of the music from "Jesus Christ Superstar."
And this is one more reason why I love Lawrence: This town is possessed by the spirit of "Hey kids! Let's put on a show!"
It's often as simple as Jim or Dan the sax guy finding a corner and playing their instrument. Or sometimes it's a big deal - like the "Superstar" folks, or the "Victor Continental" people whose scatological inebriation has become an annual community treasure.
We're lucky in Lawrence to have first-class institutions like the Spencer Museum of Art and the Lawrence Arts Center, along with community theater and chamber orchestras and on and on and on.
In most towns, such institutions exist for the sole purpose of classing up the joint - giving the upper crust a place to spend their time and money. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
In Lawrence, though, the museums and galleries and groups of musicians are an organic outgrowth of the city's life. Even without them, art and music and theater happen all the time. I've seen plays in church basements, concerts in converted garages, and you can't go into a hair salon or coffee shop on Massachusetts Street without the opportunity to view the work of local artists.
And it's not just by and for the kids. The faces onstage at the "Superstar" show were mostly in their 30s - and much of the crowd was composed of people nearly twice that age, folks who enjoyed the musical back when it was new.
Do you know how amazing all this is?
Sometimes, I forget. If you're a fish, it's hard to notice all the water; sometimes, in Lawrence, it's easy to let all the creativity fade into the background.
The great thing is, money isn't really a barrier. The "Superstar" show cost $5. Jim Lee cost nothing.
There's always stuff going on in Lawrence.