Happy In Bag

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Powdered Cheese

Contrary to popular opinion, Happy In Bag wasn't raised by a pack of dysfunctional wolves. One of the best aspects of the upbringing provided by my human mother was that I didn't taste candy or dessert until I entered grade school. I have no appetite for sweets to this day. Grease and salt are a different matter. That's why In-A-Tub is my penultimate guilty pleasure. Deep fried fatty foods infused with powdered cheese? Oh yeah.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You

Both the suddenness and severity of Tuesday afternoon's storm caught me by surprise. I was over twenty miles from home when I almost became stuck on an access road in Platte Woods. Rather than offering brief "hello"s as I went about my business, I asked a dozen people a playful but somewhat serious question. "Can I spend the night at your home?" Even though they scarcely knew me, all assented without a moment's hesitation. A couple women even took it a step further. "'l'll keep you warm, baby," one promised. That's why I love this town.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

If a Sax Honks In a Forest

I know a handful of people who love soccer. Each time I see a member of this esoteric group I'm compelled to inform them that I'm largely indifferent to the game.

As I grow wearier of people telling me that they don't care about jazz, I know what a jerk I've been to my soccer-crazed pals.

So I apologize for regularly referencing my jazz site in this forum. But I'm just killing it over there. And as I write in my most recent post, if I really wanted to be more popular I'd curate a site about collecting antique toenail clippers.

Friday, January 25, 2008

No Regrets Coyote

After a couple associates spotted the critter on a nearby undeveloped tract of land, I trespassed on the property to see for myself. The animal had disappeared, but I was able to track its distinctive footprints from a creek bed to a hollow under an oak tree. It seems so unlikely. But why not? God knows there's an unlimited supply of squirrel and rabbit meat in Prairie Village. If the coyote manages to avoid devouring lap dogs, he or she might be allowed to stick around. This is my idea of a good neighbor.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Back when I was working over eighty hours a week nothing filled me with terror more than the task of organizing performances by touring bands at retailers. So many things could go wrong that each successful event felt like a minor miracle. I only had a few Spinal Tap moments, including an awkward Roomful of Blues signing at the Music Exchange in Westport. Now that I'm unencumbered by such responsibilities, I relish allowing other people to sweat the details. Last night I caught popular jam band .moe at a Borders store in Overland Park. Artie Fufkin would have been pleased.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"We Need Extremists"

The Martin Luther King Day celebration at the Kansas City Art Institute was pleasant enough. The keynote speaker riffed on the merits of so-called extremism. Singers sang and dancers danced. But it was the open forum segment that was most compelling. I paraphrase:

"When will I receive my reparations check?" a man in a work uniform demanded. "How can I make other suburbanites as gloriously unbiased as I am?" a white woman trilled. Even more annoying was a shrill attack on hip hop culture, including a rant on "sagging."

What was it Dr. King said about discrimination?

(The work of Kansas artist Robert Reed, who was in attendance Monday, is on display at the institute.)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Save That Time

My weekend revolved around honoring the legacy of the great vocalist Gregory Hickman-Williams. I document the experience at my jazz site.

Friday, January 18, 2008

What's the First Thing You Know?

Ol' Jed's a millionaire, of course. Intending to mock my affinity for unsophisticated fare, a relative gave me a The Beverly Hillbillies DVD set for Christmas. Maybe she has a point. I see myself in virtuous Jed, dull Jethro, prim Miss Jane, scrappy Granny and the oily banker Mr. Drysdale. Much like The Wire, another definitive television series, the '60s comedy is an accurate distillation of the American psyche. Both document our often dubious aspirations and gritty, heroic stoicism.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Wireless fences, also known as "pet containment," are one of the most remarkable accomplishments of the modern age. An enhanced collar provides negative reinforcement encouraging dogs to remain in their yards. I'm intrigued by the untapped human applications. I'd be a much better person if I could program one for myself. If I tuned in to American Idol I'd immediately get hit with a painful jolt of electricity. When I whine about my knee hurting- zap! If I get too close to a fast food restaurant- pow!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Spoonful of Sugar

Perhaps it's the spiritual component central to Food For Life that keeps the Kansas City, Kansas, restaurant a secret. It's "focused on promoting the best in natural health through utilizing Food as Medicine combined with Holistic Healing Modalities." They call it medicine; I call it delicious.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Differential Tie-Breaker

Hundreds of tall teenage girls flocked downtown Saturday to witness a professional volleyball tour. Instead of reveling in feminine accomplishment, they were forced to account for beer-guzzling men leering at nearly naked athletes. If stitched together and stretched, the clothes worn by the female players might cover a small computer screen. (That's why I'm using this deliberately blurred image of local league play.) A lot of dreams and innocence were left behind in the Sprint Center that night.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Be Financially Successful

While I can't expect anyone to believe it at this late date, I once held a series of lucrative sales jobs. I even had a few blockbuster years characterized by the glorious sound of ka-ching. Success brought consolidation, and along with it, formal restraints. The beginning of the end of that career is represented by this document. Instead of focusing on selling more widgets to Wal-Mart, I was forced to endure endless human resources meetings about "core values." A year or two after the HR department somehow achieved supremacy over the sales force, this publicly-held business filed for bankruptcy.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Maybe Canadians Aren't So Bad After All

Because I live between two area ponds, Canadian geese frequently fly overhead. Their frantic honking, whispering wings and elegant flight formations never fail to impress me. When grounded, the year-round residents seem like horribly mutated pigeons. Avoiding their vile waste in area parks can be a challenge. And aggressive ganders pose a genuine threat to unsuspecting toddlers. Still, I've overcome my instinct to reach for a shotgun as I hear them approach.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Stop Dancing On the Ceiling

I like Lionel Richie as much as the next guy. But I'm awfully tired of getting hit with "Three Times a Lady" every time I step into a public space. The unavoidable canned music in Westport and virtually every other major outdoor shopping area is no less noxious than secondhand cigarette smoke. What's wrong with the sounds of street traffic, chirping birds and the conversation of passerby?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Mood Indigo

It's almost a criminal offense that the opening of 2008 finds 18th & Vine so barren. But what remains is pure gold. And as I've written previously, it's the best place to start a weekend.

Bouncing between the Mutual Musicians Foundation's weekly "Rush Hour" and the Blue Room's "Indigo Hour" remains one of my favorite pastimes. Drinks are cheap and the music can be top-notch.

This last Friday, an ensemble of crusty old veterans working under the misleading name Smooth Groove delighted friends and family at the Foundation. Everyone who appreciates the Scamps should be all about these guys.

A very different scene took place at the Blue Room just around the corner. A younger and more fashionable audience enjoyed mild jazz fusion from the BMW Band.

My offer remains open- catch me down there on a Friday and I'll buy you a drink. (Not this Friday, though- I'll be cranking that with Soulja Boy Tellem several blocks away.)

Friday, January 04, 2008

Mark's Song

Brian's Song made a big impression on me when I was a kid. A large part of the attraction of the story was the central role played by Gale Sayers, the great running back from the University of Kansas. I was indoctrinated in all things Jayhawk since infancy. Sayers' stint in Lawrence represented the most memorable legacy of Kansas football. That changed last night. A civilian-sized quarterback and a sofa-sized coach finally provided new cause for celebration.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Taste Test

My soup was served at room temperature. And my entree was merely good. I coveted the tofu with yellow curry the guy behind me ordered. My first experience with Tasty Thai up north was disappointingly inconclusive. The primary problem was that the single man covering the lunch hour rush yesterday was comically overworked. And it didn't help that the animated film Ratatouille was playing on a big television for a room full of adults. I really like the Thai Place, the Kansas City chain that dominates this market, but I refuse to accept that there's not a superior alternative.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Sound of Silence In Kansas City

The survival of the building pictured here offers vital perspective. Today's tattooed teens and the ghosts in the cemetery on Union Hill know it as El Torreon. Aging hippies wistfully remember the structure as the Cowtown Ballroom.

It's just one of several Kansas City spots that gave up on live music in 2007. According to a recent column by Hearne Christopher, live music has also ended in the room formerly known as the Grand Emporium. Over in the West Bottoms, Kemper Arena lies largely forsaken since the Sprint Center opened. A Christian rock show is currently the only concert on its books.

The status of the Hurricane is uncertain. And it's possible that the outdoor theater in Bonner Springs that was once called Sandstone may be permanently shuttered.

All these changes represent normal transitions. The music didn't stop; it just moved to other locations. The closing of the Phoenix, the third most important jazz venue in town, is different. I'm afraid there's little demand for what it offered.