Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Westboro on the way to a Wichita wedding

This past weekend, Jonas and I were invited to attend a wedding of two friends I know from my undergraduate institution. Being a ~10 hour drive, we figured we might as well have some fun along the way. Especially as we had never been to Kansas and were not planning on being in the neighborhood again anytime soon.

We spent a day in St. Louis, seeing the arch (although we could not visit the top, it being closed on New Year's Day). We took the light rail out to the Delmar/University Loop area. We walked around Wash U's campus, then through the city park and the (free!) art museum. And after a wonderful dinner at a local Thai restaurant, we saw ::drum roll:: MILK. Yes, that movie which is at the same time subject to both great acclaim and abysmal accessibility. Having been unable to see MILK at a theater nearer than 2.5 hours distant, we decided St. Louis provided the perfect opportunity for viewing it. MILK is a blog post in-and-of itself, so I will merely state here that it was worth the wait.

After a brief lunch in Kansas City, we hopped over to Topeka. Now, no offense to Kansas, but it might want to consider getting a new state capital. This low-lying city sprawls in all directions, a drab city where even the Capitol building is dismal due to renovation. Ask yourself what there is to see in the city, and you'll probably be at a loss.

Or almost. There is one thing that we associate with Topeka: the Phelps family and Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). You may have heard of them through, or maybe through, or maybe through the BBC documentary "The most hated family in America" (click here to see the first of eight parts on YouTube). So with the help of Google Maps, we headed to WBC to see the operation and to take a few photos.

The place announces itself from the road with a huge inviting sign, "" stretched across the face of WBC. Some enterprising passerby must have felt a response was necessary, spray-painting "God hates the Phelps family" on their announcement board.

The Phelps not only say God hates America, but they're willing to display their America-hate on their flag poles. The tallest of their three flag poles (shown below) contained two flags. In their first insult to the U.S., the Canadian flag was placed above the American flag on the flag pole (note: don't take this as a sign that the Phelps venerate Canada. Rather, they also believe it is a doomed nation due to it's pro-gay policies). In their second insult, both flags were flow upside-down. A shorter flag pole contained the Kansas state flag, likewise upside-down.

Many houses in the neighborhood were up for sale. Why anyone wouldn't want to see this everyday is a mystery. Afterall, it's so uplifting, eh?

But the creme de la creme of the visit was yet to come. Walking around the block back to our car, we saw none other than Shirly Phelps-Roper herself, standing on a driveway talking to one her fellow parishoners. Her eyes covered with impenetrable black sunglasses, she gave us a glance as we strolled on by at a distance of about 20 feet. Reaching the car, we were like teenage girls who'd just had a brush with a famous actor. After all, we were floored that we had seen the infamous Shirley!

We hit the road again, arriving in Wichita which, in comparison to Topeka, is like manna from heaven: sure, you'll get tired of it after a while, but you'll eat anything after having nothing while wandering the wilderness. Staying at the Broadview Hotel (which was amazing, you must stay there if you're in town), we spent a lot of time with friends from my undergraduate school. The wedding (my first Catholic wedding) went splendidly, and after some more time with friends, we were ready to hit the road for home.

The only sad part is that going home meant we had to split up again, after being together for almost two full weeks. The bed has been quite lonely this week, and I've been so cold without another's heat that socks and an extra blanket became necessities. As you might imagine, I cannot wait to see Jonas again this weekend!

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