Happy In Bag

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Leaning Tower

Sometimes it seems that serving pizza and beer is a license to print money.

The fine, flaky-crusted pizza and cold beer Pizza Shoppe serves packs ‘em in. The regional chain’s pink, Thousand Island-style salad dressing is their only distinctive "specialty."

Can it really be that easy? Anyone want to start a pizza joint with me?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Why won’t that black pickup truck let me merge? That black SUV just blew by at 85 miles per hour! Look at the black truck tailgate that Lincoln!

It seems to me that the drivers of black pickups and SUVs are disproportionately obnoxious drivers. I theorize that jerks tend to favor big black vehicles in some sort of compensatory Darth Vader/Oakland Raider-style anti-societal statement.

Of course, not every driver of a black truck or SUV is a creep. And there are certainly plenty of reprobates driving other types of vehicles. But they'd prefer something in black.

Monday, November 27, 2006

My Worst Nightmare

Longtime readers of Happy In Bag are very familiar with my loathing of tree rats. So you can only imagine my disgust when I spotted these two squirrels in an intimate embrace yesterday.

You should be thankful for the poor resolution of the photo- I took this shot through a screened window before I ran outside to shoot at them with a pellet gun.

Not to worry, misguided animal lovers- the critters are much smarter and quicker than me, even when they’re feeling amorous.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Norte Del Rio

Housed in what appears to be a former pancake house, El Cerro Grande is a humble Mexican restaurant. Homemade salsa, quick service and sharp prices are the draw at the informal joint near the intersection of Vivion and Antioch. It’s never going to win any awards, but El Cerro Grande contains everything that’s absent from the adequate but lifeless chain restaurants surrounding it.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving Toast

I don’t recall ever being so hot on Thanksgiving night at the Plaza lighting ceremony. The crowd was undeniably smaller this year, but I still had to park about a mile away, and the hike down Brookside Boulevard drenched me.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Weighing On Me

As I was hanging out at a food court the other day I watched a couple of obese women driving electric shopping carts. The wheelchair-like devices offer mobility to people who have trouble walking.

These two gals drove over to A&W for root beer floats. Then they cruised to The Great Steak and Potato Company for fries before picking up crab rangoon at the Chinese counter.

I didn’t feel disgust or pity. Instead, I was filled with admiration at their gumption. "These are my sisters," I thought as I resisted the urge to join them.

"I’d like extra ranch dressing with my buffalo wings, ladies."

Monday, November 20, 2006

Screen Time

I’m sure Hearne Christopher will be all over this, but I still can’t resist providing an update on the movie theater in the Ranch Mart shopping center at 95th and Mission. It appears that it’ll be open for business this week. This is what it looked like on Monday. If that bowling alley would also reopen I’d be a happy man. And yes, Happy In Bag-obsessives (as if!), I realize that my image is reflected in the glass.

Not Quite Great, Yet Not So Plain

I recently made my annual trek to The Great Mall of the Great Plains. And things are finally getting interesting out in Olathe.

New anchor Steve & Barry’s adds much-needed vitality to the aging mall. And while mainstays like Burlington Coat Factory are still doing big business, more esoteric mom-and-pop outfits are encroaching on the standard fare. Try on a sari at an Indian clothier. Drink a beer at a Mexican cantina. Or if you don’t roll like that, how about making a Christian scrapbook?

Fill up the gas tank; I’m planning to return soon.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Stay On the Wagon


Along with a few schoolteachers and preachers, generations of my family in Kansas were small-time farmers.

My Scottish and German kin began settling in Kansas about 150 years ago. I don’t know what compelled them to stop their westward journey in what are now towns like Hutchinson, Ellsworth and Zenith. Did they run out of money? Were they simply exhausted? Was winter setting in? Or is it conceivable that the endless prairie felt like home?

I wish I could somehow reach out to them as they made their fateful decisions. "Don’t stop!" I’d plead. "California is the promised land. Keep moving."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Terrorist Teddy

Is the teddy bear really a terrorist? In his new fable Winkie, Clifford Chase challenges the prevailing American attitudes about war, the legal system, nature and faith. Even though it’s filled with Big Ideas and an Agenda, I loved it. I’d file the animistic novel in the humor section, although its careful meditation on the nature of consciousness is anything but trivial.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Out By the Track

I remember a time when driving to Kansas City, Kansas, for recreational purposes meant frequenting strip clubs. And when Nebraska Furniture Mart and the minor league ballpark were built a few years ago, they stood virtually alone in the middle of nowhere. Now you have to battle for a parking spot when visiting the dozens of retailers and restaurants that surround them. The Legends has become just as viable a shopping destination this holiday season as anywhere in the metropolis.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Authentic Hand Raked

Lawn services, leaf blowers, and tarps are cheating. And I can’t even get my lawnmower started. These bags were filled the old fashioned way- with a rake and two hands. Am I jealous and bitter? Don’t you just know it.

Monday, November 13, 2006


My favorite music isn’t made by humans. There’s no sweeter sound than rain. I love listening to its arrhythmic patter from inside a car at night. It’s a reassuring sound, even as it evokes old memories and life's unanswered questions.

Friday, November 10, 2006


A few years ago trend spotters predicted that we’d all have the opportunity to sell space on our vehicles to the highest bidder. It never happened.

Liquor companies, along with punk rock and hip hop record labels, seem to be the only active buyers of the "wrap" concept. This van is promoting the new release by Kansas City hip hop innovator Tech N9ne.

It’s too bad. I had been looking forward to making a few dollars by converting my old jalopy into a mobile billboard. I figured that my perfect sponsors would be pain relief drugs, used car dealers or local diner Town Topic.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Big Blue Bastion

The enormous blue residential building at the intersection of Wornal Road and Meyer Boulevard has been there as long as I can remember. And each time I see it I marvel at its unlikely color and its incongruous location. I know it’s unpopular with residents of Brookside but for me it’s a familiar and useful landmark.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Grease Is the New Alcohol

Everybody knows that talking on the telephone while behind the wheel is the new drunk driving. I’m incapable of doing both simultaneously and try not to touch my phone inside a car. But I’m guilty of an even more noxious offense. That’s right- I snarf fast food as I navigate the roads of the metropolis. My grease-stained shirts testify to my careless ways.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Duty Calls

Election night is bigger the Super Bowl and New Year’s Eve combined for nerds like me. Alas, duty calls and I’ll miss all of tonight’s wonkery. At least I don’t live in Missouri, sparing me the obligation to cast a vote in that Senate race. I can’t recall two less attractive candidates competing for the same seat. And that’s really saying something.

Mixed Nuts

I’m surprised they even let me through the door.

The Cashew was swarming with beautiful people on both occasions I’ve been inside the tavern at 20th and Grand in recent weeks.

The typical patron of The Cashew isn’t necessarily part of the "in-crowd." He or she is above such petty distinctions. Rather, the youthful drinker is likely to be flush with success and giddy with the promise of even greater things to come.

Where’s my tweed jacket?

Friday, November 03, 2006

TV Dinner

Well before microwave appliances became commonplace, TV dinners were heated in conventional ovens. The frozen blocks of food were packaged in heavy aluminum foil. It was awful, but the novelty of the concept held tremendous appeal. We’ve come a long way. As further proof that the quality of life here in the U.S.A. just keeps getting better, products like this delicious "heat and eat" Indian dish are available on Wal*Mart store shelves.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Sugar Low

I can’t even recall what happened. It could have been a series of small slights. Or maybe it was a single devastating disappointment. Either way, a traumatic event in my early childhood now causes me to be filled with sadness when I spot candy and novelty vending machines in the entrances to retail establishments.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Forget political yard signs. The real issue is how the residents of each house in my neighborhood handle their leaves.

It’s an integrated area. That is, most people work on their yards themselves, but about one out of four pay others to do it for them. I’d been staying on top of my leaves, diligently bagging them a couple times a week. I even gloated after receiving approving nods from the compulsive guy across the street who works on his yard every day.

He must despise me now. The last couple of gusty days have put me far behind in the battle. At this point, I envy those privileged few who pay a lawn service to vacuum their lawns with industrial equipment the day the last leaf falls.