We push past sheets of rusting corrugated sheet metal and improperly stowed two-by-fours with rusted nails jutting out. Later I would learn that allegedly the very man who stowed this urban flotsam and jetsam also cut the hole in the fence to the highway. He would also one day attempt to destroy the idea I was about to conceive from this wondrous view of sparkling lights.
“Watch your step,” Kitty calls back to me. “It's a slippery slope up here.” How true her words would prove to be.
I step out onto the steep 45-degree grade above the 670 highway in downtown Kansas City and am dumbstruck by the sheer beauty of our city.
“Pretty amazing, right?” She smiles up from a makeshift bench made by resting a two-by-six on two cinderblocks. “Now wave to the Feds!” She waves across the highway while sparking two cigarettes. Handing me one, she takes a long, deep drag and exhales. “See the F.B.I. building across the highway?”
I cast my eyes to the ominous white building across the highway. My mother told me that there were once houses there where families she knew lived. Developers and bureaucrats moved in and bulldozed the area in the name of progress and security. I then cast my eyes down in disdain, but suddenly I see a new hope under our feet. LAND!
How could I have missed it? The vast expanse of land running parallel to the highway—in need of only terracing and cultivation!
“Kitty,” I look to her with both calm and elation. “I think I know where we can put that garden.”
“Right here, under our feet. I mean look at this place!” I take off without a word, running downstairs, outside, then in a large figure eight across the stretch of green like an excited dog after a long car trip. I finish my figure eight and excitedly exhale, “Right here!”
I started to ponder the use of public land. I decide I’m justified in using the land only if the lion's share of the yield was given to the less fortunate. Later I would decide that 100 percent would have to be given to the less fortunate.
This would take planning, of course. I had access to some stone I could use to terrace the slope. I would have to procure a land catch to prevent the stone from rolling down onto the highway. I knew I could use some of the many plants I already had growing under the fluorescents. The only thing I was lacking was extra hands to help make my idea a reality. That would take time and sowing a different type of seed.