Happy In Bag

Monday, April 30, 2007

Villa O.P.

Food is better now. Produce is fresher and the selection is more varied. Meat and potatoes once ruled a region in which even Italian fare was considered marginally exotic. And before chain restaurants dominated the landscape, mom-and-pop operators were the norm. A few vestiges of the old days remain. Villa Capri on Metcalf is one such holdout. It's exactly the type of place my family would have frequented on occasion when I was a kid. These observations aren't meant to slight the adamantly old-school Villa Capri. It holds plenty of charm and character- qualities often absent in these modern times.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

"What If" At Ward Parkway

Two people very close to me were at Ward Parkway Shopping Center when Sunday's terrible events transpired. They were completing a transaction at T.J. Maxx when they saw police rushing by the store's exterior windows. The pair retreated to the back of the store. They'd spend the next ninety minutes there during a lockdown. I'm told that the T.J. Maxx staff were exceptionally gracious hosts. The store sells food items, which were opened and offered to the approximately 100 captive customers. The staff also passed out cups of water drawn from the employee cooler. The store manager shared official updates from the police over the store's intercom. Police eventually interviewed each customer before escorting them individually to their vehicles. My people were parked about 25 yards away from the shooter's car.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Sprint To the Finish

I like it. It's now easy to discern what the Sprint Center will look like upon completion later this year. What's most surprising is how small it seems. The arena's floor must be well below street level.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Blurry Vision

Even as someone who enjoys an occasional adult beverage, I must say that the very concept of drive-thru liquor stores is disconcerting. It likely enables tipplers who are unable to stagger but can still manage to get behind a wheel. I wonder if this Leavenworth operation is the only business of its kind in the Kansas City area.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

No Deal

I'm not much of a shopper even on the best of days. Still, I wanted to purchase a couple discretionary items yesterday. I was driving by the gargantuan retailer in Kansas City, KS, and I figured I'd save a few bucks. I should have retreated when I spotted the helicopter hovering overhead. The full parking lot provided a second ominous clue. What's going on? The wrapped bus pictured here indicates that the huge attraction was a casting call for a television game show. Although the store had been open for thirty minutes, a long admittance line still snaked around the building. No deal.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Bird Slash People Conflicts

Notes from an amateur birdwatcher:

*I'd love to watch a video of hand-to-beak battles between Canadian geese and terrified toddlers. That'd be fierce entertainment. (I apologize for the bloody video link- I just don't care for the way this species is pushing out less predatory waterfowl.)

*I was inordinately dismayed when a vehicle (a black SUV, of course) failed to yield to a turkey vulture scavenging squirrel roadkill near my home on Sunday. How could anyone not skid to a halt in shock upon spotting the prehistoric, reptilian creature on an otherwise bland suburban street? The slow-moving beast barely avoided a nasty demise.

*It turns out that the animal I consider my personal pet, a male Northern flicker, owns a horrific voice. His call is straight out of the Amazon. It's really annoying.

Bike Tree

Maybe there's no bicycle rack near 40th and Main. It's probably just more fun to hang your bike on a tree. About a dozen patrons of Embassy, a new club between the grocery store and Clint's Comics, decided it would be a good idea to park their vehicles in the beleaguered plant last Friday night. The difficult process of securing and harvesting the bikes made for good street entertainment. The main attraction for the cyclists was noise band Lightning Bolt. And I don't use the word lightly; I do mean noise.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Down On Main Street

I was impressed by the level of activity at the sometimes desolate intersection of 39th and Main Street last Friday night. The line at the pizza joint never stopped. The barbershop and the tax preparer's office were both full. The Grand Emporium hosted a sold-out performance. The Unicorn was dark- their current show is at the Gem- but salsa night at the Madrid attracted a well-dressed crowd. While no one was about to confuse it with Times Square, the corner felt like part of a vital, energetic city.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Good and Gristly

Weeds and trash litter the parking lot. The building is sagging and faded. Would you eat here? I did, and it was one of the best meals I've had in recent months. I can't stop thinking about the memorable sandwich. It seemed as if a frantic chef, unprepared for an actual customer, tossed random ingredients between two slices of toasted bread. Fat tomato slices, onion chunks and a Tabasco-laced sauce covered an enormous slab of breaded mystery meat. It looked inedible. It was delicious. The only drawback, aside from the sauce stains on my clothes, was the occasional mouthful of bony gristle. At least that's what I hope it was. I'm not proud, Blue Parkway restaurant. I'll be back.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sculpture Park

A lot of people- myself included- were amused by this story. The saga contains several compelling elements- a turf war, power plays and a major snafu. The cities of Leawood and Prairie Village were skirmishing over the possible placement of a sculpture at the intersection of Somerset and Lee. (It's near 79th and State Line.) The devilishly handsome Emaw satirized the situation. The small patch of grass in question is pictured here. Neither the story nor Emaw's response addresses my primary concern- a sculpture would obstruct the view. The relatively busy intersection has both a stoplight and a yield sign. I've never seen an accident there, perhaps largely because drivers can make eye contact with one another. I cast my lot with the naysayers.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Tuning Pianos

I was a horse-and-buggy salesman. An expert in typewriter repair. A piano tuner. For years I made my living in jobs that no longer exist. It was even lucrative for a while. Most of my former employers have filed for bankruptcy. Because I loved my job and my industry, I stuck with it even after the writing on the wall had dried. I'm not especially bitter about getting trapped behind the curve. The same technology and everything-is-free concepts- things like this- that did me in are great for consumers. It's just tough on us piano tuners.

Older Isn't Always Better, But...

Older isn't always better, but it's usually more interesting. That's true both of people and of architecture. It seems that the days are numbered for the odd structure at the southeast corner of 75th and Metcalf in Overland Park. It's currently anchored by CVS. Another national pharmacy outlet is just across the street in a generic new building that has none of this location's quirky charm. As a businessman, I'd far prefer the new site. From a passive aesthetic perspective, however, it's no contest. Old and weird wins out every time.

Friday, April 13, 2007


The absurdly cold Kansas City weather has me looking back at my recent trip to Arizona, where I was introduced to the blissful decadence of the "lazy river." A man-made water track allows people to float effortlessly as they stare vacantly into the sky. Presuming the absence of rowdy teens, it's heavenly.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

When Pain Is Good

Just as advertising can work miracles, it can just as easily backfire. The campaign for the Pain Is Good line of salsa and spice products by Original Juan irritates me. I deliberately avoided trying the Kansas City, KS, company's goods for over a year. When I finally succumbed a few months ago, I was astonished by what I'd been missing. Most prepared salsas are pretty good; even the inexpensive generic store brands at local groceries are tasty. But Original Juan's offerings are at an entirely different level. The fiery T-Bones and mild Jamaican Pineapple flavors are my current favorites. (And no, the company didn't contact me about this endorsement, although they're welcome to ship me a few cases.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Lewis and Clark Had No Idea

"...last night one of the Sentinals challenged either a man or beast, which run off, all prepared for action." William Clark, July 1, 1804; Leavenworth, KS

"...thought I'd eat lunch by the banks of the river. A shirtless man with an exotic sports car approached me. He was seeking a romantic encounter. I ran off, unprepared for action." Happy In Bag, March 28, 2007; Leavenworth, KS

Monday, April 09, 2007

Cantina Cantina

There was a time when La Cocina Del Puerco was really good. It had lost some of its appeal in recent years. A new sign at the Overland Park restaurant compelled me to stop in for a bite last weekend. A waitress told me that the name had changed to Austin's Cantina a day earlier. She added that the ownership group operates a couple other area restaurants under the Austin's name. The food I tried was solid but unremarkable. A minor detail reveals a lot about the restaurant: the canned lite rock playing in the dining room was almost drowned out by Ranchera music blasting from the kitchen.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Eerie Easter

Spiritual concerns make Easter my favorite holiday. It's a bonus that the day signals the imminent removal of this terribly disturbing creature from its seasonal home on the Plaza. The giant rabbits are ominous enough; this tortoise has been creeping me out for years.

Friday, April 06, 2007


One of my personal credos states that attending Major League Baseball games is always fun. In spite of the frigid temperature, Thursday's game was one of the most entertaining spectacles I've witnessed at Kauffman Stadium. Daisuke Matsuzaka's debut was stellar; his gyroball made the Royals look like chumps. And Zach Greinke's fragile constitution didn't let the Royals' pitcher down. Better still was the tremendous display of kawaii in the stands. Dozens of young ladies like the two pictured here brought signs to the game. I don't know if they were Dice-K fans or if they simply hoped to be featured on the live Japanese broadcast. I do know, however, why local boys found them irresistible.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Got Lipo With Your Money

I ate carrots instead of ice cream as a snack last night. So why do I still have a gut? I walked up six flights of stairs this morning- it's not fair that my pants are still too tight. Like many other Americans, I demand instant gratification. I've been without alcohol and sugary foods since February 21 and I'm frustrated that I'm still chunky. It's just not fair that 319 days of gluttony can't be erased in 46 days. I used to mock this business on Nall in Overland Park. I'm a little more sympathetic now. The site boasts that "people call it 'lunchtime lipo.'" Financing available!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Hey Hey Hayes

The counter staff at Hayes Hamburger & Chili seem to have taken lessons in tactfulness at Gates and Sons B-B-Q. While I sat in the tiny north-of-the-river diner yesterday I witnessed a steady stream of customers get rushed, taunted and mocked. Because I was already in a snit when I entered, I had no trouble turning the tables, so to speak. I immediately saw that the rude demeanor is just an act. And I left the busy restaurant a happy man.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


It's not easy to photograph military aircraft from a seat in an athletic stadium, so I'm pleased to have captured this image of a B-2 stealth bomber beyond the left field foul pole at opening day yesterday. The Red Sox might also be reeling from the Royals' refreshingly strong surprise attack.