Friday, October 31, 2014

"We're not in Kansas anymore." "Thank God." -- Homestore Part Five

August 15, 1999 -- Topeka, Kansas

The Atlas E 65 Series was the first ICBM developed and deployed in the United States. Built at the height of the Cold War, the Atlas was 100 times more powerful than the atomic bomb exploded over Nagasaki. During the 1960's the Atlas missiles, launched by satellite relay, were hidden underground in silos scattered throughout the heartland of America.

After the Cold war, the missiles were decommissioned and the sites were auctioned off to adventurous homeowners.

Including Ed and Diane Peden, who turned an abandoned 7 story underground silo into their home.

The Missile Home was our fourth installment for Home Movie; the previous three have been discussed earlier this week.

As a fan of history and someone who has taken great interest in the conflicts of the 19th century, I was extremely excited about visiting this now-vacated missile silo. It was odd to think that at one time several high ranking Soviet officers had targeted this are for destruction in a possible pre-emptive first strike.

Had the Russians visited the place they would scrapped those plans and said to hell with them, anyone who wants to live in Topeka has already been damned by the devil.

And by that, I mean it was HOT.

I grew up in Upstate New York and knew of all kinds of heat and humidity. But Topeka, Kansas, in the middle of summer, on a windy day, was something unto its own. This was God's own convection pizza oven.

Frankly, I expected the surrounding fields of wheat to burst into spontaneous combustion.

The only relief was to get out of the searing wind. And the only way to do that was to get in the elevator with our host, Mr. Peden and go underground.

Here, he and his wife, spent thousands of dollars and thousands of man hours tearing out the ancient analog computers and military paraphernalia and replacing them with wicker furniture and LaZ-Boy recliners.

Surreal doesn't even begin to describe the experience. Feeling like you were buried alive is a much more accurate description. It was claustrophobic. It was dark. And it was dank.

I've come to understand the word dank has been appropriated by stoners and hipsters and has come to mean something of unusually high quality. But I am using the word dank in its original form, meaning clammy, unaired and musty.

As if that were not unpleasant enough, our hosts, who were very sweet Midwesterners, insisted we stay for one of the rituals they conducted every week in the basement (an odd term to use considering the whole house was a basement) -- The Eastern Kansas Peace Drum Circle.

I'm going to assume you know enough about me to ascertain my disposition towards drum circles.

And so it went.

Above ground, 130 degrees of whipping wind and scorching sun. Below ground, a modern day catacomb accompanied by the endless pounding of rhythm-less white people on bongo drums. Two sides of the coin otherwise known as Hell.

Side note: Topeka, Kansas is the home of the late Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church Fame. Is it any wonder why that man was so damn angry?

Coming up tomorrow, the dream of every copywriter and art director who have ever worked in advertising -- OPEN ON A TROPICAL ISLE IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC.

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