Happy In Bag

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Marco Polo

I shouldn't be allowed to complain. Sure, I have problems. Who doesn't? But check it out- this is my neighborhood public pool. It's not the Beverly Hills Hotel, but it's not too shabby. Sting me with a wet towel the next time I start whining.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Pancakes Vs. Pad Thai

Sweat-drenched and hungry, I found myself at 64th and I-29 during the lunch hour earlier this week. An IHOP and a recently opened Thai Place share the lot overlooking the northland highway. Eggs, bacon and flapjacks sounded good. But Thai Place played a large role in increasing the quality and the quantity of Thai food in Kansas City. Loyalty sealed the deal. I realized I might have erred when I studied the menu in the largely empty Thai Place. It was going to be hard to escape for under ten dollars unless I stiffed the waiter. The cheapest option, pad Thai and a salad, was surely better than anything at IHOP. Still, ten dollars buys a lot of pancakes.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Gospel

All seven of my readers will probably be surprised to learn that I wanted to be a preacher since I was a young teen. I have the spirituality, vision and organizational skills to qualify for the role. But my temperment is ill-suited for attending to the daily personal needs of a large congregation. I sometimes speculate about how I'd stack up against today's great voices of my faith. I'd love to be like T.D. Jakes, but that's just not me. I'm more like Emanuel Cleaver. His deceptively laconic approach makes him one of Kansas City's best stylists. Earlier this week I heard Fred Craddock, the most celebrated voice of my denomination. Though physically unimposing, he's a truly inspired scholar. Everybody say "Amen."

Monday, June 25, 2007

Look At Me

Of all the impulses exhibited by people at public events, the most baffling is the apparently overwhelming desire of some to see their image projected on a massive video screen. Perhaps having a large crowd view your likeness for a few moments at a concert or ballgame serves as a sort of validation. Maybe if I was more attractive I'd understand the appeal. (For the record, the lovely woman pictured here wasn't looking for attention when a video camera focused on her. Yet when it happened, she responded with grace and good humor.)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

She's Not Gorgeous

She's not gorgeous. She's Gorges- Cara Renee Gorges. The current Miss Kansas is a terrific sport. I'm very grateful she didn't call security when a scary-looking man asked to take her picture Saturday afternoon.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Remembering: A Proposal

A gas station clerk was killed in a robbery at this business a few years ago. It really bugs me that there's no trace of that terrible incident at the site. I'd feel better if a small bronze plaque with the victim's name and date of death was set in the pavement. Such a tribute would serve two primary purposes. Aside from honoring the dead, it would remind customers and employees that something awful once occurred at that spot. Imagine the effect these modest memorials might have if they were permanently installed at the location of every homicide. The heightened awareness might result in a public outcry that could eventually result in reduced crime.

UPDATE: Since Crime Scene KC has linked to my mere seed of a concept, I felt obligated to invest some additional thought in my proposal. It seems disrespectful at best and morally irresponsible at worst not to acknowledge murder sites. As someone wrote at Crime Scene KC, "there were five murders on the single block on Forest where I grew up. To think today that none of the current residents have any idea..." The plaque I have in mind would be something like 10 by 4 inches- unobtrusive, but large enough for pedestrians to spot as they pass it. As an anonymous poster commented here, I was wrong to imply that the government should get involved. Instead, this proposal would work best if the community at large supported the project and brought pressure to bear on property owners at each site. A respected guy like Alvin Brooks could bring the appropriate type of grassroots support to this project. Funding might come from individual or even corporate donors.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Strawberry Wine

I hosted a small party at my place a few weeks ago. It was an informal BYOB affair, and not just because I'm cheap. I wanted guests to know that they were free to indulge in whatever they fancied. Many people left their extra beverages behind and I've been methodically drinking down these leftovers. I finally worked up the courage to taste the remnants of an enormous bottle of strawberry wine. In the same artificial way that Big Macs and Krispy Kreme donuts are delicious, this odd concoction is disarmingly tasty. It's my new official drink of the summer.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Unsolicited Restaurant Concept

I recently paid over seven dollars for lunch at Hardee's. Rather than learning to work the ins-and-outs of dollar menus, I've come up with a far more compelling concept. The most ambitious of the countless independent Chinese restaurants across America should launch a "lunch for $6.00" coalition. Tips would be included in that price. Diners would get a meal like the one I paid $4.95 for yesterday at China Inn in Leavenworth- a main dish, eggroll and egg drop soup. Every member of this loose association would be required to have separate identical menus with ten $6.00 entree choices. They'd be obligated to spend a certain portion of marketing dollars to promote the concept. In exchange, they'd be allowed to place the association membership logo prominently outside their restaurant so passerby could identify the establishment as part of the "lunch for $6.00" coalition. It might put a little dent in the hamburger racket.

Monday, June 18, 2007


There's an old adage that warns against angering your barber during a haircut. I must have done exactly that during a recent trim. My problematic hair is defiantly kinky and oddly colored. I need a lot of it to mask my enormous melon of a skull. I'm not sure what I did to upset my longtime stylist, but I walked into the shop with an intentionally sloppy look and I left resembling a calculating psychopath. Ever since this disastrous encounter with scissors, policmen perk up and mothers grab children when I walk down the street.


I'd be delighted to offer a unique opinion of Kansas City International airport. Yet I'm firmly among the majority who believe that while it's an easy in-and-out airport, KCI is an unattractive place to be detained. Of the mid-size and large airports at which I've killed time, only Chicago's Midway and Dallas' Love Field are less impressive. The facilities in Denver and Atlanta are so enticing that long layovers become almost attractive propositions. I recently spent about five hours in Charlotte, North Carolina's airport. The city is approximately the same size at Kansas City, yet their airport is bright, fresh and vibrant. Aside from hosting an unbelievably good barbecue restaurant, Charlotte's facility has free amenities for business travelers and thousands of white rocking chairs to help weary travelers relax.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Lost In the Clouds

I'm taking a blogger's holiday. I'll return soon.


Perhaps life is taking me to different places, but I get the impression that public displays of the Confederate flag are waning. I'd like to think that most people who wave the rebel flag- most often on vehicles and t-shirts- aren't racists. They're simply indicating their allegiance to what they perceive to be Southern self-reliance, independence from Yankee elitism and a general anti-authoritarian bent. Even so, the powerful symbol never fails to take me aback.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Looking For Clues

The usual groups of kids were on the lawns, sidewalks and streets of my Johnson County neighborhood Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning. I spotted tots on tricycles, towel-clad youths walking or riding bikes to and from the pool, and privileged teens cruising for the opposite sex as hired men maintained the lawns of their homes. But a new set of young people had joined their ranks. High school kids- most of them seemed to be the band camp type- were knocking on doors, posting flyers and chatting up everyone they encountered. Their efforts were in vain, yet I was touched by the intentions of these good Samaritans.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Beer League

Hitting a ball with a bat is really hard. I learned that bitter lesson as a third-string little league left fielder. I figured my playing days were well behind me. But recently watching grown men play slow-pitch softball has me intrigued. The trick isn't making contact with the ball; the hard part is timing pitches to avoid feeble grounders. And look- there's beer in the dugout. I wonder if it's too late to join a fat-and-old-guy league this summer?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Say It Soft

"Say it loud and there's music playing," the love song from West Side Story goes. "Say it soft and it's almost like praying." I wish Maria's, a Mexican restaurant in Platte City, inspired that sort of rapturous response from me. Perhaps a few belts from Maria's extensive tequila menu would do the trick. The chile relleno and guacamole salad I had for lunch today were maybe a couple notches above an average meal. As the car dealer's hideous ads say, the joint is "right under the Platte City water tower."

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Old Days

Funnel cakes, carnival rides, historic buildings and classic rock. Old Shawnee Days rules! Only Independence's SantaCaliGon Days rivals Shawnee's annual festival with its blend of fried foods, cheap thrills and genuine sense of place. Among this year's most compelling attractions was a performance by Edgar Winter. That's him reviving "Free Ride" on a distant stage.

Friday, June 01, 2007


The vacant lot at 75th and Washington leaves me inordinately emotional. I've seen the aftermath of other accidental fires. It's just that this location played a role in some of my formative experiences. The black and white tile floor of the theater's lobby is now exposed to the elements. Resilient flowers surrounding the site add to the poignancy.