Archive for Saturday, February 22, 2014

Saturday Column: How does tie to ‘crazies’ impact Lawrence’s image?

February 22, 2014


Lawrence attracted national and world attention this week not for the excellence of numerous academic programs at Kansas University, not for programming at the Dole Institute of Politics, not for the nationally ranked KU basketball team, Haskell Indian Nations University, the unique and successful Lawrence Community Shelter or for many other assets of the community.

Rather it was recognized for the celebration of the “William S. Burroughs: Creative Observer” exhibit and the series of events marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of the maverick, beat writer, who made Lawrence his home from 1982 until his death in 1997.

John Waters, a high-profile and provocative filmmaker and writer, was the featured attraction of the 100th anniversary party. Waters has been described over the years as the “pope of trash,” the duke of dirt,” the “prince of puke” and the “sultan of sleaze.”

In an interview with a Journal-World reporter, Waters described Lawrence as “an oasis in Kansas where crazies come to hide.”

Chances are, a large number of these Lawrence crazies were thrilled to have Waters in town, and it’s likely crazies from around the state and other states made an effort to be in Lawrence for the sold-out Water’s keynote presentation. Maybe the celebration will encourage more crazies to make Lawrence their home.

Years ago, Lawrence developed a reputation of being one of the most difficult cities in the U.S. for a new business to get started. This reputation caused numerous executives, site development teams, etc., to bypass Lawrence when considering and judging cities for the location of a new store or plant.

It has taken city leaders years to try to dispel this reputation, but it continues to be a serious handicap for the city to overcome. Reputations, justified or not, last for years.

Likewise, years ago, Lawrence residents enjoyed promoting KU as “Harvard on the Kaw.” Deserved or not, that label sent a message of the academic excellence sought by the university, students, proud parents of students, taxpayers, state legislators and the residents of Lawrence.

Now, the city is being tagged as an “oasis in Kansas where crazies come to hide.”

What kind of message or reputation does this deliver? Of course, it is important to remember the source of this description.

Does such a label encourage parents to send their sons and daughters to Lawrence and KU to receive their education? What does it say to major retailers who study the demographics of a city when deciding whether to invest in one city or another?

Does a title or reputation of being an “oasis in Kansas where crazies come to hide” help Lawrence or the university?

Would those at KU charged with the responsibility of recruiting promising faculty members and researchers at other schools think Lawrence being an oasis for crazies is a strong selling point for the city and KU?

How about Kansas legislators who already are put off by what they consider an elitist attitude on Mount Oread? Would more crazies make Lawrence more attractive and deserving of increased fiscal support?

How about the battle between KU and Kansas State for the state’s brightest high school students? Would the presence of more crazies make Lawrence more attractive than Manhattan in the eyes of students and parents? Would Lawrence be a better city in which to work, live, play and raise children if we had more crazies? Would it help upgrade the city’s school system, city government or law enforcement?

Lawrence already is known as the most liberal city in Kansas. Would more crazies make it better or worse?

The demographics of Lawrence present a diversified quilt of talents and interests, probably not too different from those in many other university cities of similar size. Who is to say what is the right or best balance or what gives a community the best chance of growing in excellence and opportunity?

Another question: What is a “crazy”? Could it be that the more crazies a city has, particularly the kind who are trying to “hide”, the better and more attractive that city is?

In the eyes of some, the Burroughs celebration was good and well deserved, giving Lawrence a positive boost in the art world. Others ask why celebrate the life, morals, beliefs and actions of a character such as Burroughs?

What does it do to the image of Lawrence to be known or referred to as “an oasis in Kansas where crazies come to hide”?


Lawrence Morgan 4 years, 3 months ago

Every city has crazies, if you want to call them that. Whether Lawrence has more or less depends on who you talk to or hang out with.

It is my own personal feeling that crazies (I really don't like this word at all) help create an atmosphere of innovation, and many of them strive for new dimensions in life. After all, people like Steve Jobs and the Beatles, to give just two examples, were "crazies" in their own way. They all discovered new ideas, music, writing and art, and went on to accomplish a great deal during their lifetimes.

During my education at KU, I came across many "crazies", and I liked and spent a lot of my time with them. This helped, because the education at KU, for the most part, was not imaginative in any sense of the word. It was the "crazies" who made Lawrence what it really is and what other cities are not, and later in life I found this experience to be very useful as I went through life, constantly finding new things to explore and expand upon.

In their own way, "crazies" (I'm sorry, but I detest this word) saw a different Lawrence than many people, who during college drank a lot, took the tests, and just had a good time. I saw both the bottom of the pit (some people killed themselves later in life) and the very top (many other "crazies" invented new things which were not before possible).

They are often the true inventors, but not always: and they exist not only in Silicon Valley but around the world. Beneath them there are thousands of people who just do what they are told all their lives, yet who often do not allow themselves to reflect and to have new ideas as life moves on.

If you haven't seen the movie "The Remains of the Day" starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, rent it and look at it. It's a good example of a life without "crazies," always doing just what you are told and never looking beyond it to see what you can really see, once you are really looking, more and more both in the future and in the past.

This state of mind has a lot to do with insight meditation and "a beginner's mind," although many insightful readers have never heard either of the book or the meditation. The result, however it is reached, is lifelong delight in new things and events.

In my opinion, Lawrence has been and always will be grateful for its "crazies", some of whom stay in Lawrence and others who travel to different parts of the world and who do some great things. Let's not take the "crazies" away - instead, we need to get rid of some of the elitist people at the university who write books that no one reads or hardly will publish, and who contribute little or nothing to the world.

James Howlette 4 years, 3 months ago

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Darrell Lea 4 years, 3 months ago

Twenty paragraphs of hand wringing excess that say absolutely nothing. Not even worth sharing on Facebook for laughter and derision. I give it a C-.

James Howlette 4 years, 3 months ago

It's really such a strange and pointless rant. Is he really trying to call for more major retailers and fewer artists?

Phil Minkin 4 years, 3 months ago

It was the "crazies" who started the petition drive and had a vote on our downtown that stopped a mall allowing for a downtown that is vibrant and the envy of other cities. It was the "crazies" who spent time and money fixing up old houses in declining neighborhoods and turning them into show places. It was "crazies" who raised money and had the vision to save the of depot in N. Lawrence so now we have a visitors center. Many of those same "crazies" have worked tirelessly to save the train station in E. Lawrence. One of the first smoking bans, a human rights ordinance, a preservation ordinance were all the work of "crazies". Having the art center in a downtown location and preserving the Carnegie Building was the work of "crazies". Long live the "crazies" who continue to make Lawrence a unique and wonderful place to live.

Paul R Getto 4 years, 3 months ago

When I saw the headline, I thought you were talking about the Insane Clown Posse running the state, AKA Brownback, Kobach and some of the less enlightened legislators.

Beator 4 years, 3 months ago

Thank goodness there is a place for "Crazies" to go that has government services. Which begs the question. Which came first? The Crazies or the government services?

Wayne Kerr 4 years, 3 months ago

Yeah Dolph, Lawrence would be a better place if everyone wore the same clothes, read the same books, liked the same art, listened to the same music, painted their homes the same color, and everyone shared the same religion and political philosophy. We really need to discourage people who are different and don't see things the same way we do. Maybe we can make a law to not only refuse service to people we don't agree with, but ban them from entering our city all together.

Scott Criqui 4 years, 3 months ago

Interesting observations. However, I always thought, and said, "Lawrence is an oasis for logic in a State of illogic." Awe, the power of perspective!

Doug Weston 4 years, 3 months ago

"What does it do to the image of Lawrence to be known or referred to as “an oasis in Kansas where crazies come to hide”?"

It further enhances our image as an island of tolerance in a vast red sea.

The only "crazies" who are damaging the national reputation of this area, Mr. Simons, are your friends in the Legislature.

Doug Weston 4 years, 3 months ago

Today's (2/23) column by Leanord Pitts just proves my point that it's the "crazies" in Topeka, not the "crazies" in Lawrence that are causing negative national attention.

Kendall Simmons 4 years, 3 months ago

I just wish Dolph realized that he has had a huge role in Lawrence's occasional negative reputation. That he has been at fault himself.

Back when Lawrence had the reputation for being a bad place to start a business, Dolph wrote constantly about how bad it allegedly was...not once actually looking into the truthfulness of the that people doing research into Lawrence were being fed a constant stream of negativity. He never once wrote a Saturday column extolling the virtues of Lawrence as a place to start a business.

I have lived here since 1978 and been a J-W subscriber for 30 years. I can remember exactly ONE of Dolph's Saturday columns that wasn't negative. Wasn't full of pointless rhetorical questions that he never even tried to answer. Wasn't attacking whatever Chancellor was at KU, or the Board of Regents, or the athletic department, or the City Commissioners, or the business climate, or the City iself.

I was astonished when I read it. Alas, it was the only one.

Shall we bet that, next week, his column will attack Chancellor Gray-Little? After all, one of today's headlines is "Senate minority leader says chancellor under fire".

Phil Minkin 4 years, 3 months ago

One only has to look at the businesses that began and are flourishing with any tax breaks of subsidies: Waxman Candles, Sunflower Surplus, Free State Brewery, The Merc etc. that growth is alive and well here.

Paul R Getto 4 years, 3 months ago

Well said. Been reading the drivel for decades. Wish the Editor were a happy man. His writings suggest otherwise.

Marada Dee 4 years, 3 months ago

I don't like the term "crazies" either. Sure there is an element of the creative culture who are self-destructive and sometimes out of control - what people call "crazy" when they mean self-destructive in their risk taking, but most of the creative class adds to the society and introduces innovation and unusual perspectives. John Waters focuses on people who are different in a "crazy" way, but what makes big university towns great to live in is the tolerant atmosphere where creativity is nurtured so that people get the best of what an interested, engaged society has to offer. That part of creative society is not "hiding out", they are contributing fully.

Greg DiVilbiss 4 years, 3 months ago

Has Austin Texas been hurt by the "Keep Austin Weird" Campaign? I really do not think so. If we could have half the business the commercialization of University of Texas research generates plus the other business that happens in Austin...

Here is an article about the subject..

Compare the GDP to Weird Austin vs Crazy Lawrence...

Austin-Round Rock GDP The economic output of the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan statistical area (MSA) was $80,077 million in 2008. That figure is based on current 2008 prices (nominal GDP), while the inflation adjusted GDP, or real GDP, based on prices in the year 2001, was $72,415 million, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The economic output of the Lawrence metropolitan statistical area (MSA) was $3,412 million in 2008. That figure is based on current 2008 prices (nominal GDP), while the inflation adjusted GDP, or real GDP, based on prices in the year 2001, was $2,833 million, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 3 months ago

Thanks Mr Simon for drawing enormous amounts of focus to the crazies you so much despise.

Don't forget Mr.Simons it is the Chamber of Commerce who have made a world of financial blunders in this crazy town of Lawrence, Kansas. You know the Chambercrats who have served time and again on all of the commissions. That Riverfront Mall that the crazies tried to stop proved the crazies right in that the River Front Mall failed as did the Tanger Mall and in so many ways this bedroom community has failed to become the monster retail giant that you among others PUSHED which could only happen IF KCMO metro, JOCO metro and Topeka metro retail markets went out of business. Flooded markets are unfriendly to business a well known fact.

In the end what has been successful is the cost of living has increased with no means to neutralize that blunder and the biggest blunder of all is that taxes have increased in the neighborhood of 100% or more so I was told that is crazy, business unfriendly and fiscally reckless. Crazy I say.

Nancy Hamilton 4 years, 3 months ago

I will take crazy over destrictive, bigoted, and mean spirited any day.

Nicholas Eshelman 4 years, 3 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 4 years, 3 months ago

If being opposed to all the "crazy" stuff that comes out of Topeka from the Koch Regime GOvernment of Kansas, then I absolutely want to be signed up for the Lawrence "Crazies"!!

christy kennedy 4 years, 3 months ago

When I saw "crazies" and "Lawrence attracted national and world attention this week" my immediate thought was that it was just another story to add to Kansas's laughing stock reputation thanks to the antics of the knuckle draggers running the state and those who voted them there, as in "What's the Matter With . . . " so I was disappointed, but not at all surprised, to see what Mr. Simon was really complaining about. But come on, any town, anywhere, will have artists and characters who are not every last person's cup of tea, but that's no reason for a newspaper editor to write an entire column insulting the place and everyone in it. He should save himself and the rest of us all the trouble and just print one liners like, "Hey you kids! Get off my lawn!"

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