Happy In Bag

Friday, December 29, 2006

Buffalo Gals

I grilled buffalo for dinner a couple days ago. Ever since I had a nice chat with a guy who owns a local organic bison company I'd been meaning to buy his product at Hen House or Whole Foods. He impressed me with his willingness to discuss the slaughterhouses in western Kansas, one of my favorite cocktail party topics. I've been spending money like a drunken sailor, so I grabbed a couple frozen steaks from a grocer without even glancing at the prohibitive price. How'd it taste? It's slightly more flavorful than beef.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Dollar Bill

I had the most awful revelation as I lay awake last night at 3 a.m.

At the risk of exposing myself to endless ridicule, I'll share my secret with you. I suppose that it's better that you hear it directly from me, rather than someone else first uttering the obvious. My visage is famous. I'm on every one dollar bill. That's right- I look exactly like the familiar portrait of George Washington.

Gee whiz, I'll never live this down.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Spot the Cow

Internet connectivity problems. Lost data dilemnas. Lack of sleep issues. And then there's the usual post-holiday stuff that all of us go through. Consequently, I'm reduced to posting a random picture and whining.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Apple Colored Glasses

Disaster struck yesterday.

All the computers in my home network collapsed. They were crippled by one too many viruses, I suppose. It's going to be a bear to retrieve all my data from the infected machines.

So I did the unthinkable. In a fit of desperate rage, I bought a Mac Mini at the Apple store on the Plaza. It feels like I'm learning to ride a bicycle, or being forced to write by holding a pen with my toes.

Everything looks and feels entirely different as I attempt my first Apple-derived Blogger post.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Puddles of Mud

So Denver gets whacked with a blizzard and all we get a few hundred miles to the west are puddles of mud? Kansas City looks about as festive as a Guantanamo Bay prison. C'mon, Santa- we're pulling for a white Christmas.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Post Holing

Kansas doesn’t have mountains, seaside beaches, stately islands or Great Lakes. Few movie stars or celebrated writers roam its plains. At least Kansans can boast about their limestone quarries.

My favorite application of Kansas limestone is fence posts. They’re rugged and handsome, even when they only serve as property markers like the lonely sentinel pictured here.

Limestone fence posts are uncommon in Kansas City, but as one travels west the use of limestone increases. And because there are seemingly more limestone quarries than trees in western Kansas, most old fences are made with the cut rock.

Best of all, there’s even a museum dedicated to their use.

Monday, December 18, 2006

I Am Not a Blogger. I Am a Human Being!

That was weird.

I had three blogger-derived social interactions last weekend.

It all began several months ago. I invited Happy In Bag readers to meet me at Mike’s Tavern for a jazz matinee. One guy actually showed up, and we’ve since become friends. We met up again for lunch on Friday.

On Saturday afternoon, I attended a function with several music geeks. I’d previously known many of them only through a music message board. They were all great guys. A few were actually accompanied by their lovely wives.

I drove to a stranger’s house that evening. Sure, we’d exchanged a few emails, but it was a remarkable leap of faith for him to invite me to his annual holiday party. While I knew he’d be cool- the guy posts pictures of himself and his family at his site- he had no idea what he was getting himself into when he asked me over.

As I’d anticipated, his friends and family were uniformly gracious, accommodating and extraordinarily attractive. Although this made me the odd man out, I had a nice time.

It's remarkable that typing myopic musings into a computer can lead to such wonderful, real-world encounters. Even so, I’ll never feel comfortable having people identify me by my blog names as they introduce me to others.

Holiday Hotel

When the south facing of the downtown Marriott began its gaudy seasonal light show a few years ago I was initially taken aback by its tastelessness. How silly of me.

I should have immediately realized that Kansas City’s downtown can always use more light and festive cheer.

As long as I’m not trying to sleep inside one of the hotel’s rooms as flashing colored lights pierce my eyelids, I’m all for it.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Hootie's Hearse

It wasn’t just the hood of Jay McShann’s hearse that shone under the Gem Theater’s marquee. Everyone present at the jazz giant’s visitation service last night seemed to glow in the reflected glory of the jazz giant’s life.

“Jay ‘Hootie’ McShann was one of a kind. He had his own language, his own walk and his own talk,” saxophonist Ahmad Alaadeen said in his moving tribute to McShann. And his spot-on impression of the nasal country twang of McShann’s speaking voice filled the Gem with affectionate laughter.

Perhaps the theater was packed earlier. But by the time I arrived, only a couple hundred people were still there to pay their respects.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


The Northeast Johnson County Sun hit my driveway at a random time this morning.

I’m one of the few people I know who actually reads the free weekly newspaper. I know that most of my friends and neighbors toss the paper straight into their trash cans and recycling bins. One person likes to tell me about her ongoing efforts to stop the paper from being delivered. (It’s impossible.)

I truly relish reading about tension on the Fairway City Council board. I dig learning about zoning code violations. I appreciate the Sun’s analysis of high school basketball teams.

But the first thing I read is Steve Rose’s column. For better or worse, Rose speaks for Johnson County’s "silent majority." Predictably, today’s essay tears into the voter apathy that led to Phill Kline’s new job as county attorney general.

Come to think of it, its unpredictable delivery schedule is the only thing I don’t like about the publication.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Free Parking

Each time I mock my Johnson County home a handful of people get offended. The excesses of the relatively affluent area are an easy and predictable target. So today I’m letting you in on my little secret, even though it reads like a Chamber of Commerce blurb. Public school system aside, Johnson County’s plentiful parks and trails are its single best asset. It’s possible to get yourself under a tree with no one else in sight or on the bed of a creek with only ducks and herons for company within a ten minute trek of anywhere in the county. It's how I stay (semi) functional.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

It's Hard To Hug a Christmas Tree

As an avowed tree-hugger, I cringe at the prospect of dragging my dead evergreen to the park to be recycled into mulch after Christmas. But decorating a ficus or crafting a poinsettia display just doesn’t spread the appropriate holiday cheer. I’d love to have a yard full of healthy Christmas trees from years gone by, but the live trees I’ve purchased and later replanted died immediately. Oh well- I suppose glittery mulch is kind of festive.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Totally Nude

It's not just the performers featured in the establishment on the right of this image that are indecently exposed. The interior of the Sprint Center gapes immodestly. It's a fascinating glimpse at the future home of Kansas City's new WNBA team. (The NHL and NBA are pipe dreams.) I'm pleased that the structure looks just like the initial architect's rendering.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Jay McShann, 1906-2006

Jay McShann- Hootie Blues
Jay McShann- Hand's Off
Jay McShann- Say Forward, I'll March

Jay McShann died yesterday. The Kansas City blues and jazz legend was 90. The Kansas City Star has a nice survey of his career.

Although we lived in the same city, I never knew McShann beyond shaking his hand a couple times. It always frustrated me that I only saw him perform in concert halls and at festivals. I would have given anything to see him play in a small nightclub. I'll nod in approval if you want to call it art, but his good-time party music is meant to be heard in a smoky room with a drink in your hand. For the last twenty years I kept hoping that I'd stumble into him at a jam session or that a jazz bar would book him for an extended run. It never happened.

I collected McShann's recordings to compensate for that absence. Given the general level of disinterest in the history of seminal jazz, it's not surprising that large swaths of McShann's catalog are unavailable today. I can recommend his recent recordings for the fine Stony Plain label, but I'll highlight three of my favorites from McShann's youth.

Blues From Kansas City: The Original Decca Recordings contains terrific remastered versions of his essential material. Alas, it's out-of-print. Yes, that's Charlie Parker on the alto solo at the beginning of "Hootie Blues." My favorite McShann session is contained on the out-of-print Roll 'Em CD. It's a low-down 1969 French recording with guitarist T-Bone Walker. McShann reprises one of his classics, "Say Forward, I'll March," on 1972's Going To Kansas City. It's a friendly saxophone battle between Buddy Tate and Julian Dash, but McShann puts them both to shame with his jaunty solo at the 1:45 mark.

Farewell, Hootie.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I'm a Cranky Old Man

Several months ago I asked a teenager at a movie theater’s concession counter for a free refill on my popcorn. She looked at me as if I had lost my mind. I go to movies so infrequently that I didn’t realize that complimentary refills are a thing of the past. Similarly, even as full-service gas stations faded, you could always add air to your tires for no charge. Earlier this week I had to drop three quarters into this machine to prop up a leaky tire.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


I am rightfully proud of my accomplishments. But do I bask in the warm glow of my life’s best works? Of course not.

Instead, I beat myself up over the inevitable failures, disappointments and petty indignities that are part and parcel of this mortal coil.

So when I visited the Lansing Correctional Facility yesterday, I thought, "Well, at least I’ve never been locked up."

That’s my pathetic consolation prize.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Not Dark Yet

Around this time last year, I whined like a big crybaby about the way winter’s early darkness altered my mood. A reader pointed out that the psych community has a name for the ominous sense of gloom I described- Seasonal Affective Disorder. Maybe it’s just knowing that while I may be a weirdo, I’m not a freakish weirdo. Whatever the reason, I’m not at all "S.A.D." this winter.

No Beef On Bun

There’s no beef on bun. And you won’t find a yammer pie, either.

Even though much of Ohana Hawaiian BBQ’s menu may be unfamiliar to Kansas City diners, area meat eaters should find all of it delicious. The restaurant is an organic orange’s throw from Whole Foods at 91st and Metcalf.

I’ve never been to Hawaii and won’t presume to call Ohana’s glazed and grilled food authentic. Yet I can report with authority that each of the offerings on the featured menu item, the "Hawaiian BBQ Mix" plate, is sweet and tasty.

The catch is that the California-based chain is situated in that difficult terrain between fast food and fine dining. After drinks are factored in, it’s not difficult to spend close to $10.00 for a meal. That’s a lot for a place with counter service.

Only Gates and Bryants get away with that here. I hope Ohana joins that elite club.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Put It In Reverse

I drove by Reverse on the Plaza as the season's first snow fell. As inviting as those sidewalk chairs look, I think I'll take a seat indoors.