Hampton Stevens is a freelance writer. His work has appeared in a range of national and international publications; including The Atlantic and ESPN the Magazine, and has been excerpted in Time, Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal. A fifth generation Kansas Citian, he lives in midtown with his rednose pitbull, Ginger.
What makes Kansas City a great place for creativity and innovation?
This is a place where the arts matter. They always have, since the city's earliest days –— whether it was the jazz at 18th and Vine or fine arts at the Nelson-Atkins now. And you have the KC Art Institute, too. They have been training people to make life beautiful for decades, and just pumping them out into the city. So there's this long tradition of creativity — a passion for looking at things in new ways is part of the culture here. That energy infuses the whole city.
When and where are you happiest?
The moment of inspiration. It usually comes while sitting at my desk after many exhausting hours of doing nothing. The writing process itself, going from thought to expression, is always a grind. That's doubly true for a clumsy typist like me. But that instant when the synapses pop and a good idea hits, and you suddenly see how the whole project lays out? That's always exciting.
What is your favorite place in Kansas City?
So many. Arrowhead on game day. Driving down Ward Parkway in the fall, Helzberg Hall, all those little ethnic enclaves popping up on Independence Avenue. But I'll say underneath it. Tunnels fascinate me, and "Boss Tom" Pendergast built some beauties under this town.
Where's your favorite place outside of Kansas City?
Paris. The one in France, not Texas.
What's your most treasured personal possession?
A few years ago, there was a flood in basement where I had a bunch of stuff stored. A lot of whatever possessions I treasured were destroyed. Since then, I've worked hard to care less about all the objects in my life — whether they are of material or sentimental value. Beyond that, though? My pointlessly large collection of hats.
Who's your favorite fictional hero?
Nick Carraway narrator of 'The Great Gatsby.' Because I, too, returned from the East Coast wanting 'no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart.' How dumb is it to have kids read that book in high school? No one can fully appreciate Gatsby until they turn 30, and see 'the portentous, menacing road of a new decade' stretching before them.
Who do you most admire in real-life?
My mom, Teddy Roosevelt, and, you may have guessed, F. Scott Fitzgerald. But, really, I find almost any display of competence at the mundane business of daily life impressive. Anyone who manages to keep up with the laundry, pay their bills on time, and not spend half their walking hours looking for lost keys always draws stunned admiration from me.