Saturday, August 02, 2003

More notes from the past, spun into a blog.

August 1996.

...I went to Kansas City, Mo., a little while ago to attend the International Association of Fire Chiefs' Fire-Rescue '96 (to give the powwow's full title). They put us up at a most gaudy pink sort of hotel, an Embassy Suites looking like it was switched at birth with a minor hotel in Las Vegas, but the digs were comfortable, and I spent most of my time at the city's enormous convention center anyway, far bigger than I would have expected.

Lots of room there for the various species of fire trucks -- pumpers, aerials & heavy rescue -- plus plenty o' tools of the firefighting trade, like breathing apparatus, turnout coats, boots, wicked extrication tools, hoses & nozzles, water guns, and secret decoder rings... well, not exactly that last one, tho' there were a number of junk booths selling t-shirt, calendars and assorted other fire kitsch. Who woulda thought. The world is indeed vast, and full of subcultures; and subcultures within subcultures.

I attended a water gun demonstration near the Kemper Arena, which is right on the border of Missouri and Kansas (in fact, looking at a map, it seems that the demonstration site was on the border, such that we probably crossed and re-crossed it unawares a number of times). The water gun, made by a German company, is a way to extinguish fires with a minimum of water. They set a car on fire and put it out with about a gallon and a half of water, and then did the same with a foul-burning, black-smoky pile of burning tires.

The gun builds up air pressure behind a "shot" of water, and when you pull the trigger, phoomf, it makes a wide spray. The best part, of course, was after the burning demonstrations, when we got to shoot the gun ourselves, but not at any fires. I never did anything like that working for a real estate magazine.

Kansas City has fine barbecue, almost as good as Memphis, which remains my favorite (but perhaps I should try it again someday, since my last experience with it was in 1985). My publisher, my editor and I had dinner on night at a hole-in-the-wall called Arthur Bryant's, and it was exceptional. Apparently, the late Mr. Bryant had a local reputation. Hanging on the wall was a reproduction of an editorial cartoon from the Kansas City Star showing Arthur Bryant standing in front of the Pearly Gates. St. Peter asks: "Did you bring the sauce?"


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