On New Year’s Eve in Manhattan, Kansas, or “The Little Apple” as it is affectionately known, the citizens and students hip enough to not go home for the holidays gather on the corner of Manhattan Avenue and Moro Streets in Aggieville to ring in the new year. Aggieville is a really adorable part of town full of collegey gift shops, restaurants, and bookstores, so named because of the agricultural school at Kansas State University. One minute before midnight, the locals, led by Kansas dignitaries count down until their “ball” a paper-mache apple falls to the ground, There is a laser show, a DJ, and a full-on block party.
Manhattan is a small college town. Everybody seems to know each other. Kids grow up in Manhattan, go to college in Manhattan, get jobs in Manhattan, and raise their families in Manhattan. But despite this or perhaps because of it, the town is quirky and has a lot of character. I tell you about the “apple-drop” in Manhattan, Kansas because it shows what a funny little town Manhattan is. I need a good ole view of mountains or my heart breaks, but Manhattan is aight.
We spent 2 nights in Manhattan visiting the family of a friend of Christine (my travel partner and photographer on this journey). The Coffeys were delightful and did the best to show us a great Kansas time. We even went sailing. Which is pretty rare in the Midwest, you know, with the lack of oceans and whatnot. But we did it. And if you can steal a sailboat from a wealthy relative you should do it to. But maybe not in Kansas.
In the words of Samburg, “I’m on a boat”
Two nights and one day was an adequate amount of time to get a feel for the place. I saw the prairie, I saw Aggieville, I had a good look at Kansas State, and I sampled the delicious restaurants of Manhattan. Manhattan, Kansas is seriously a mecca of good food. We dined at Tallgrass Taphouse, and that bar food was better than any bar food I tasted in Philadelphia. No offense to my favorite Philly joints. In conclusion, I determined that Manhattan wouldn’t be the worst place to go to school if your parents would visit every so often and take you out to dinner. Especially if you just like hanging out with white people, because Manhattan is full of ’em.
Glorious flights of Kansas beer
The prairie is really incredible in a very flat way. All of those gosh-darn grasses. I read something on a prairie overlook that said there are hundreds of grasses, and wooded plants. I think of teens stuck in Kansas dreaming of more, feeling crushed by the weight of all that flatness, but then looking at tall those grasses and being OK with it. “Hey this sucks, but at least there are a lot of different types of grass here…it makes me feel like I live in a magical place.”
Home, home on the range
The best thing about Manhattan, besides the mind-blowing prairie grass, is Varsity Donuts. VD is located in an old drugstore in Aggieville and still has the interior of a drugstore. Doughnuts are delivered to baked college students by vintage bicycles. I wish there was a Varsity Donuts in whatever town I live in for the rest of time. It is delightful. Just look at those windows.
What a dream
In case you haven’t figured it out/care, I did not actually just leave Kansas. I am currently residing on a very comfortable couch in Los Angeles. But let’s all just keep pretending we’re still on the road. Let’s go back to the days Pope Francis was in Philadelphia. Because that was the weekend I was in Kansas. I gotta say, it would have been nice to walk the car-less streets of Philadelphia, but I had such a great time giving the Mid-western lifestyle a side-hug for a little bit and walking the also not-crowded streets of Manhattan, Kansas. I ended up feeling like I wasn’t missing much. Philadelphia is a great city. Any idiot who says differently is just someone who can’t see beauty in mildly dirty places. That being said, I’m done with Philly and ready to get sucked dry by Los Angeles. One could say I tried so hard to escape the Pope, I moved all the way to California. Stay tuned to hear about my adventures in Colorado, a place mostly run by three things: outdoor activities, beer, and marijuana.
Serious about Escaping the Papacy
Travel Tip: Budget in some time for a train to block your route. I waited about almost fifteen minutes for a train to go by. It was whacky.