Happy In Bag

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Moo Goo Mac and Cheese

Sometimes the only thing that can properly satisfy my appetite is a Chinese buffet. Lucky Chinese Buffet on State Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas, scratched that itch for me earlier this week. In addition to all the staples, the restaurant offers fried chicken, onion rings and macaroni and cheese. I discovered that extra General Tso's chicken sauce is a perfect companion for the latter dish.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Penny Whistle

I went to Kennedy's in Waldo last Saturday afternoon to get a taste of a Celtic music jam session. The musicians crowded into a small alcove at the front of the Waldo tavern, leaving no extra room for non-participants. Consequently, bar chatter and the music competed for my attention. An instrumental reel was transformed into a dialogue about mortgages. A jig became a discussion of Notre Dame athletics. The next time I drop in I'll take an instrument just so I can claim a better seat. I think this informal event takes place every other week; these nice people could provide further details.

My favorite basketball player humiliated himself on this failed dunk attempt. I share his shame.

An Alternative To Fury

What's the proper response to evil?

My weak, impulsive reaction plays directly into the hands of these demons. I first encountered them outside a funeral at my church several years ago. I flew into a rage and had to be restrained.

They attempted to desecrate the funeral of a slain serviceman not far from my home Friday morning. By the time I arrived to witness the atrocity, they'd departed, leaving behind a large police presence and the citizens on motorcycles pictured here. I understand that they were they to honor the dead man and his grieving family.

I found this simple vigil heroic.

(Note: I did absolutely no fact-checking in preparation of this post.)

Friday, January 26, 2007

What "Happily Ever After" Really Means

Children know that they're constantly fed lies. The Book of Lost Things imagines the logical conclusion of such deceptions.

During the London bombings of World War II, a child is transported to a land ruled by the fears and desires of neglected children. His worst suspicions are confirmed.

After befriending the seven dwarfs, David, the protagonist, learns that Goldilocks met a brutal end after incurring the wrath of the three bears.

...what about 'happily ever after'? asked David, a little uncertainly. "What does that mean?" "Eaten quickly," said Brother Number One.

Author John Connolly is a successful crime fiction writer and his loss-of-innocence allegory is often gruesome. And although David doesn't exactly live happily ever after, the book concludes with a glimmer of hope.

Everyone seems to be eager to toss out ideas for improving Kansas City. All I want to see is a competitive UMKC men's basketball team.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Going Down the Road Feeling Bad

I was doing sixty on a busy highway near downtown when my car stalled a couple days ago. The stretch of 670 just didn't have a place to pull over. My car rapidly decelerated and irritated drivers began flashing their lights at me, honking and worse. They seemed to think that my lack of speed was a deliberate choice. Gee, thanks for your guidance.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Starbucks of State Avenue

The bright new construction around the racetrack a few miles to the west hasn't had much of an impact on the old scruffy stretch of State Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas. It's not blighted but it's still far from prosperous.

Maybe that's why the recent remodeling of a McDonalds restaurant at 75th and State has received so much positive attention. The fast food outlet now features flat screen televisions, semi-comfortable booths and a dedicated cleaning crew.

Somewhat incongruously, the televisions were tuned to a VH1 program that seemed to be about Lindsay Lohan's breasts while I ate there yesterday morning. Delish!

Sleep deprivation is the new Vicodin.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Tracks of My Fears

Regular readers know that I don't like squirrels. They annoy me beyond measure. But at least I'm not afraid of them. A few years ago a terrifying monster lived in the earth underneath my home. It looked exactly like this. Sure, I could take him in a death cage match, but probably not before some damage was inflicted on my extremities. My old fears were renewed after I recently noticed a distinctive musty odor emanating from the beast's hideout. The recent snow provided a clue about the identity of the mystery inhabitant. I spotted these tracks around the dark lair. It's just a big rabbit. I think.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Luke, John and (David De)Jesus

Baseball in January? Millionaires and beer? Those combinations were too appealing to pass up. Along with a couple hundred other fawning baseball dweebs, I walked through the door of the 810 Zone in Leawood on Friday to get a gander at Royals players past and present. Luke Hudson, John Buck and David DeJesus were the star attractions. Although he retired twenty years ago, grizzled pitcher Dennis Leonard had twice the charisma of the current players.

I once mocked the geezers who'd drop dead while clearing snow from their driveways. Not any more. The snow I shoveled Sunday morning felt as heavy as plutonium. And based on the ache in my right knee and left bicep, it might have been toxic.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Bigger Than Yours

Did you see the TV commercial in which two men in a locker room discuss the merits of their cell phones? One guy brags that his device can be used as a weapon. He then hurls it at his adversary. I do that all the time.

I've been carrying the pictured silver phone for over three years. It's essentially featureless. But I've learned that it can withstand being repeatedly dropped and thrown. I've even used it as a hammer. Better yet, I've never seen a bill. My former employer covers me. It's nice to know that goodwill still exists in this world.

Sure, I covet the iPhone. But almost every person I know with a fancy phone complains about its fragility. The only thing more durable than my silver model is my first cell phone. Isn't she a beauty?

Record stores around the country are staying open late Monday night to sell the highly anticipated new release by The Shins. I hope I'm wrong, but I don't believe any retailer is doing this in Kansas City.

Is it my imagination, or are sidewalks, streets adn driveways becoming increasingly slippery?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Where the Wild Things Are

Not a week goes by when I don't eagerly check my doorstep for a shipment from an electronic retailer like Amazon. The endless inventories they offer are just the same for residents of Topeka and San Francisco. It takes a savvy, hardy and lucky independent bricks-and-mortar shop to survive in this environment. One of my favorites is The Reading Reptile. The defiantly funky children's bookstore moved to Brookside from Westport several years ago. Their carefully selected stock is dwarfed by the competition, but this editorial screening process seems to work to the Reptile's advantage. Let the wild rumpus start.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


What a hangover!

This pain isn't alcohol-related. Instead, it's the aftermath of the winter storm that's inflicting misery.

Little can be done about the thick sheets of ice clinging to sidewalks, driveways and parking lots. These surfaces seem to be getting more treacherous each day. And where there's not ice, there's dirty slush.

Just like a whiskey bender, snow and sleet are a laugh riot while they're coming down, but there's hell to pay on the back end.

C'mon sun!

Best game ever? Last night's triple overtime men's basketball battle between Oklahoma State and Texas was epic.

Local sports radio hosts spent much of yesterday chiding Kansas and Missouri fans for being "short-sighted" about the results of Monday's game. They fail to realize that these rivalry events mean almost as much as the the entire season.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Grand Slam

I've always liked Denny's.

I like the fact that the smoking section is bigger than the non-smoking section. It's comforting that the delicious pancakes and bacon are exactly the same in Amarillo, Long Beach and Overland Park. I know from experience that I can stumble out of a motel room, buy a local newspaper, and collapse into a sticky booth at Denny's without the need to open my eyes.

If only I could get some service. It seems that most every Denny's is understaffed. The wait to place an order can be an ordeal. Paying the tab can be an insurmountable challenge. That's part of the Denny's experience.

The highly publicized problems Denny's once had with racial discrimination were no doubt based on horrific events. Even at this late date, racism is pervasive. But that doesn't mean that Denny's now runs smoothly.

Who do I have to smack to get a refill on my coffee?

Here in northern Johnson County, snowplows are dutifully motoring up and down the streets. It's impressive, even if they're merely redistributing the same inch of icy sludge.

Snowflakes seem to be flying upwards at the moment. I love it when that happens.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Doggone It!

I don't like dogs. They're moronic heaps of dirt, drool and stench. Their constant neediness is a drain not only on their owners, but also on anyone who interacts with their owners. Dogs recklessly defecate in public, leave paw prints on pants and step in front of cars. They constantly yip and yap just to hear themselves bark. And they sometimes bite.

I'm late to the It's Over party. I hope to make one of their four scheduled Kansas City shows during the next five weeks.

This snowy three-day weekend has a lot of potential.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Playing Chicken

Chick-Fil-A ranks somewhere between Wendy's and Baja Fresh on my personal palate preference chart of fast food chains. I'd sometimes fill up at their outlets while traveling but it wasn't until the franchise entered the Kansas City market that I learned that Chic-Fil-A enjoyed a fanatical cult following. Last night I visited the new location at Ward Parkway Shopping Center. It was good enough to inspire the mess pictured here. Yet the most memorable thing about the experience was witnessing the lengthy traffic jam wind its way through the drive-through lane. The Colonel can't be pleased.

I don't get worked up about format changes at radio stations. It used to be different. The old 61 Country was one of the few stations that was dedicated to locally-oriented programming. The DJs spoke directly to listeners in a calm, neighborly fashion. While it was theoretically a country music station, they'd mix it up with bluegrass, Elvis, Ray Charles and Irish music. It felt like home. That friendly vibe ended several years ago when WDAF was moved to the FM band. And this week the station switched to the nationally-programmed "The Wolf" format.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Identify That Arena

Here's an exclusive view from inside Kansas City's new Sprint Center.

Those windows are pretty neat, huh? It's gonna be evem better when construction is completed.

Just kidding. This impressive structure is actually the much-reviled Kemper Arena.

It may no longer be bright and shiny, but it certainly doesn't deserve its bad reputation.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Here Comes a Regular

I'm too restless to become a regular at any one drinking establishment. But I can easily understand how a man- for this tavern is decidedly a man's place- might routinely find his way to Harry's Country Club. The bar and restaurant just north of downtown Kansas City encourages the lighting of tobacco and the generous drinking of scotch. I envy the guys who consider Harry's their second home.

Speaking of excess, I'm infatuated with the television program Intervention. The knuckleheads featured on this reality show are even more messed up than most of the addicts in my life.

My new favorite pet is the unfortunately-named red-shafted Northern Flicker that frequents my backyard. He makes my growing collection of Downys seem pedestrian.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Trick Shot

I hadn't seen the Harlem Globetrotters perform since the '70s. It was reassuring to find that their show hadn't changed much in thirty years. They jump a little higher, hip hop is now their soundtrack of choice, and they use wireless microphones so fans in the cheap seats can hear all of the clowning. But the shorts-pulling, ref-baiting and Generals-pummeling is exactly the same.

Yet what's comforting to me spells trouble for the legendary basketball troupe. New basketball attractions- like And 1 and the Streetball franchises- have usurped much of the Globetrotter's appeal. And the jaw-droppingly talented freak show of the NBA, with larger-than-life figures like A.I., Shaq, and Nash, have undeniably greater skills and show biz appeal than the anonymous cast wearing stripes shorts.

The Globetrotters drew only about 4,000 curious fans to Kemper Arena on Friday night. I fear that "Sweet Georgia Brown"'s tune is fading.

I'm far from a Kansas State backer. But I'm still upset that their star men's basketball phenom, Bill Walker, may be hurt.

I like to bait my music pals by claiming that jazz is dead. Roy Hargrove made me look like an idiot Saturday night at the Folly. The trumpeter's stunning performance was vital and innovative.

Friday, January 05, 2007

I Feel Pretty

Talk about culture shock.

Just a few steps from the hardware store at the Prairie Village Shopping Center is a window display of impossibly frilly princess and ballet outfits for little girls. I had to rub my eyes in disbelief the first couple times I encountered it.

A little research reveals that there's a method to A Fairytale Ballet's girly-girl madness.

I wonder if they'd allow me to sign up for their "Fairytale Princess Camp"?

I get geekier than usual today at There Stands the Glass.

My friend Jason quotes me here. I wish I could say that I one of the funny guys.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Teen Trouble

I didn’t think much of Towelhead as I read it.

It’s the woeful saga of an unloved 13-year-old girl in a Houston suburb in 1991. It struck me as unnecessarily prurient and overly obvious.

But Jasira, Towelhead’s beleaguered narrator, haunts me two weeks after I finished the novel.

It’s not the accurate depiction of awkward sexual encounters between willing teenagers that upset me. It's the desperation caused by Jasira’s selfish, indifferent parents. They neglect her to such as extent that the child eagerly complies with the adult men who molest her.

It’s unbearable realizing that I probably know a lot of Jasiras, and that there’s nothing I can do to help them.

A remarkably generous good samaritan helped me with my computer issues last night.

I'm distraught by the setback in Kansas City's efforts to acquire a WNBA team.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Waldo Hippo

Look out! A hippopotamus is coming right for us!

I was innocently strolling down a residential street in Waldo last week when this creature startled me from my daydreams.

The stone sculpture inhabits the front yard of a stately home. It's, well... hip.

I wonder if it scares off salemen and evangelists?

Monday, January 01, 2007

Ozark Restart


I traveled a couple hundred miles southeast for the holiday.

No television. No music. No alcohol. No resorts or boats. Just scattered trailers, Baptist churches and convenience stores. Books and good people kept me company.

I cheated on my pledge of accessing no outside media by stealing moments with fuzzy AM broadcasts from out-of-state stations, raving preachers on the FM band and the Springfield newspaper.

The peace was interrupted only by occasional gunfire from hunters.

While it would take a lot more than a couple days in the Ozarks for me to achieve tranquility, at least I’m back to “normal.”