Happy In Bag

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Primordial Prairie Village

I took a two-and-a-half hour vacation Tuesday evening.

It began when I stepped into my backyard to polish off the newspaper. As I’d worked up a healthy sweat in the kitchen, I didn’t mind the bright, muggy conditions.

But I didn’t get up after reading about tragedy in Indonesia, the woes of the Royals and the antics of Bucky Katt in Get Fuzzy. I just sat.

I saw that the sky was slowing graying. I hadn’t checked in with the apocalyptic soothsaying of Katie Horner, my favorite weatherperson. I didn’t know if a storm was expected. So I sat and watched. And with no electronic devices or further reading material to distract me, I sat some more. I didn’t pull weeds or pick up debris. It was just me, the rabbits, the birds and the mosquitos.

Occasional rolling thunder interrupted the hum of children playing, street traffic, and the chatter of birds and dogs. A light mist didn’t keep me from discovering that the woodpecker feeder I’d written off as ineffective was actually attracting four or five skittish downys. I realized that I could eat well for a week if I harvested the monstrous hares in my yard.

Aside from stirring a simmering pot in the kitchen once or twice and taking the attached picture, nothing distracted me from my zen-like trance. The sun reemerged a couple times but was ultimately replaced by quick streaks of lightning. When steady rain finally arrived it felt like a baptism.

I didn’t move until I was drenched, alone in the darkness.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

And They Poop On Our Sidewalks

I alerted you to the influx of these dangerous illegal aliens several weeks ago. Now look- we’re being overrun by their offspring. They’re taking our ponds. Some of them may be terrorists. They refuse to speak English. We can not offer them a path to citizenship; deporting them would help our economy. We’ve got to build a fence along the border.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day

I'm fairly certain that prior to seventy-five years ago, no one in my family spent a lazy afternoon lounging at a public pool's opening day festivities, or even was allowed the luxury of relaxing for more than a minute or two under a dusty farm's lone elm tree. I'd like to acknowledge that their efforts- along with their ability to procreate- allow this decadence. And thanks too, for the sacrifices of all the men and women in law enforcement and the military that allow such tranquility.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Rough Sledding

If bone-rattling jackhammers and other jarring construction noises have therapeutic value, then the patients at KU Medical Center and at St. Luke's Hospital should be experiencing miraculous recoveries. I pity wheelchair users in this St. Luke's parking lot.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The 100 Best Music Videos At YouTube

I posted a list of The 100 Best Music Videos at YouTube over at my music blog, and I'm compelled to share it with you normal folk as well.

I'll point out for locals that Kansas City artists Iris Dement, Big Joe Turner and Mac Lethal made my list. I also came across the great work of a guy named Steve who has a number of Kansas City-related films up at YouTube, including live footage of bands like the Sin City Disciples and the Gadgits.


My Terrorist Friend

A few Kansas City-area bloggers have posted about the unsettling revelation that one of their co-workers is the primary suspect in a recent murder. It reminded me of my brush with evil.

In the late ‘90s, I worked for a large entertainment distribution company based in the Sacramento area. The information technology guy assigned to my home office in Kansas City was named Ali. Unlike the stereotypical IT guy, Ali was affable and responsive. When I had occasion to call him with a computer question, we’d gossip about our mutual acquaintances and laugh at the antics of the company’s quirky founder.

Before I left on a business trip in ‘98, I shipped my desktop computer to Ali so that he could fix a few bugs and install new software. A box containing the updated computer was on my doorstep when I returned. Before I could even plug it in, I got a call from my boss telling me that Ali had been summoned to New York to testify at a trial. He was subsequently arrested and accused of involvement with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

My pal was Ali A. Mohamed, a.k.a. "Mohamed the American," a key figure in Al-Qaida, and one of Osama bin Laden’s primary confidants. This detailed newspaper investigation is titled "Bin Laden's Man In Silicon Valley." I shudder when I consider possible scenarios, such as Ali whispering, "Osama, I’ve got to put you on hold. That moronic infidel in Kansas City is calling me again."

Ali was convicted but was never sentenced; he may have cooperated with the United States. His whereabouts are unknown. The computer still works well, but I wish I could ask Ali about that annoying ticking sound.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I'm Totally Gay For the WNBA

By the time I turned on my television last night the action in the NBA playoffs and in Major League Baseball had ended. I didn’t mind- ESPN was broadcasting a WNBA game. I was delighted to see two of my favorite players, Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, even though they played poorly.

Sports fans in Kansas City are anticipating the arrival of an NBA or NHL team to anchor the new Sprint Center arena. I don’t have any inside information, but common sense tells me that won’t happen. I’ve written about the last time Kansas City had an NBA team, and there’s virtually no fan base for hockey in this town.

If I’m right, Sprint Center management will need to come up with something to demonstrate that the tens of millions of dollars spent on the arena weren’t in vain. So we’ll get an WNBA team. The Chiefs-loving crowd will not be enthused. Support will come from backers of Kansas State, which has placed a few players in the WNBA, the thousands of girls who play on their school’s basketball teams, and from the women’s community.

Additionally, the WNBA will soon feature a superstar who may make the sport palatable to the American public. Candace Parker is pretty. And she can dunk.

I can't wait.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

My Provincial, Petty Prejudice

My preacher’s Sunday sermon dealt with Jesus’ defiance of a "provincial, petty prejudice" in His encounter with the Samarian woman at the well. Rather than absorbing a deeper message, I immediately pondered my own provincial, petty prejudice.

I don’t like southern Johnson County. I live right on the boundary of what’s now considered the county’s old and new development. Yet forty years ago my house was located in what was then the hinterlands.

Yes, I’m a hypocrite.

The south’s overwhelming blandness and soulless development irk me. And I swear that drivers become incrementally ruder the further south I drive. I get it- humans lose their spirit when there’s no sense of place. This intersection of Blue Valley Parkway and 119th Street is typical. It’s indistinguishable from suburban Denver, Dallas or Sacramento.

Maybe I’m just jealous of nice sidewalks, basements that don’t smell like mausoleums and bathrooms big enough to contain two people.

Forgive me, Jesus.

Monday, May 22, 2006

That's Purty

Now I know how I’ll spend my waning days if I'm still in Kansas City when I'm an old man.

I visited the Overland Park Arboretum for the first time Sunday. The giant garden at 179th and Antioch features acres of beautiful plants and water displays. It’s tranquil but not too fussy; a normal amount of weeds has infiltrated the greenery and crawdad shells were rotting on a creek bed.

As a bird nerd, I was thrilled to spot a number of fresh feathers for the first time this year, including the stunning Eastern Bluebirds that refuse to visit my backyard. I just wish that whatever keeps the rabbits at bay would be applied to mosquitos. The blood-suckers drained so much fluid that I became lightheaded.

I’ll come prepared when I’m an old man.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Buttoned Up

Attractive women were checking me out at the grocery store yesterday.

A blonde offered me a captivating smile in the parking lot. A good-looking mom did a double take as she watched me select vegetables.

"Gee," I thought, "I've got it going on today."

A woman in tight sweat pants gave me the once over in frozen foods and a tall gal stared at me as I selected a loaf of bread. By the time the male cashier smirked at me, I figured he was just jealous of my undeniable appeal.

I couldn’t resist a peak in the mirror when I returned home. I saw that I’d missed a button on my shirt, exposing my white gut to the ladies of Johnson County.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

First We Take Panera

I’m considering becoming a soccer hooligan.

Yesterday’s Champion’s League Final, one of the world’s biggest sporting events, inspired me. Barcelona beat Arsenal in a nasty game in Paris. (Not that the Star bothered to cover it with more than a one-inch box score.)

A couple things must transpire before I can commit to this new life. First, the United States must make a good showing at this summer’s World Cup. Major League Soccer is still considered to be a second-tier league; I’m not prepared to change the course of my life for the equivalent of the Kansas City T-Bones. Secondly, the Wizards must relocate to a new stadium in Johnson County.

That’s when the insanity begins.

I’ll lead a band of disaffected paunchy men and angry soccer moms on game-day rallies. When those namby-pamby Columbus Crew fans come to town we’ll be ready for them. We’ll take all the donuts from their continental breakfasts at the Hampton Inn! We’ll put Wizards stickers on their rental cars! They’ll beg for mercy.

And Johnson County has never seen the likes of the riots we’ll have after each Wizards game. First, we’ll take Panera- we’ll demand extra onions on our turkey artichoke Panini sandwiches! Then we’ll hit Starbucks, where we’ll force the staff to take off that sissy Norah Jones music. That’s right- we Wizards fans love to crank up Sheryl Crow.

Are you with me? Heck yeah!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I'm a Spammobile

I used to think I was a nice guy.

About once a week I say something hideously insensitive. I’m oblivious to the hurtful nature of the words when they leave my mouth, but I quickly realize that a normal person would construe them as demeaning and cruel. The damage is immediate, and an apology can’t remedy the pain. It haunts me.

Is this a normal part of the human condition, or am I just like an incongruous Spammobile parked in front of Crown Center?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Smaller. Sillier. Shoddier.

The Kansas City Star unveiled their new look today. The classified and entertainment sections are now "Bolder-Brighter-Better."

The sections feature more color. And they’re 20% smaller. It’s just like a small town version of USA Today. These changes wouldn’t merit much consideration, but the Star’s marketing campaign has been so overbearing and relentless that I hear their "stargazing" radio ads in my sleep.

Here’s the kicker. Today’s Star informs us that its reduced size makes the paper "easier to handle." The Star must think their readers just fell off a turnip truck.

Monday, May 15, 2006

When Worlds Collide

I’m being forced out of the closet.

It’s delusional to pretend that anyone but me cares, but it’s still dispiriting that I’m slowly being outed.

I’ve been posting all sorts of silliness at this space for almost a year. It was liberating that only a handful of people knew of this little blogging pastime. Without any fear of repercussion, I’ve been able to write whatever captured my fancy as I sipped my second cup of morning coffee.

But Kansas City is a small town and the wall of anonymity, much like this convenience store on Rainbow, took a few hits last week.

So in that spirit, feel free to join me at the Grand Emporium tonight. Gomez, one of my favorite bands, is playing, and I intend to get crunk. My preview of the show is over at Patchchord. A song by Gomez for you to sample is available at There Stands the Glass. It’s an expensive ticket, but it’s a fair price to pay for one of the best acts in popular music.

I’ll be the fool with bad hair and an awkward limp.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Your Favorite Building

What’s your favorite building in Kansas City?

It may be the gorgeous structure on 9th Street that’s currently serving as Aquila’s home. Historians and drinkers alike may automatically think of the rickety building at the northwest corner of Pennsylvania and Westport. Sports nuts may go with Arrowhead Stadium. Residents of Valentine and Hyde Park would naturally pick their own homes.

The Livestock Exchange building in the West Bottoms is my pick. It encapsulates this town’s progress and subsequent stagnation. Sure, its massive size is impressive, but you can’t fully appreciate the building until you’re inside. And no, the old-school bar at the steakhouse doesn’t really count. The weight of history, along with thousands of real or imagined spirits, press on you as you roam its halls.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Close Enough For Jazz, Revisited

This week's Pitch follows through on a piece I wrote about neglect at The Blue Room in October. Justin Kendall's research and commentary are outstanding. And for what it's worth, within two weeks of my initial post two people told me that they had alerted a Blue Room staff member about the status of the exhibit. These sources told me that their reports were met with indifference.

Rhino Bucket

Rhino Bucket are the world’s worst rock band. No, wait- they’re the greatest. After seeing them perform at Mike’s Tavern Tuesday night, I’m less certain than ever.

The Los Angeles band knows exactly how they want to look and sound, and they’ve been executing that formula flawlessly for over fifteen years.

That’s the dilemma. Rhino Bucket emulates AC/DC, circa 1978. Yet don’t mistake them for a cover band. Instead of performing "Whole Lotta Rosie" and "Highway To Hell," they offer original material that’s just as catchy and crunchy as anything in the metallic catalog of their inspirations. Brand new headbanger "Hammer & Nail" rocks with credible power while older favorites like "Blood, Sweat and Beers" are just as worthy as any AC/DC anthem.

Rhino Bucket’s ringer is vocalist Georg Delivo. His sinister rasp sounds exactly like the late Bon Scott’s. Brian Forsythe, a founding member of Kix, now shreds guitar for the Los Angeles-based Bucket.

I expected Mike’s to be packed with bikers and fans from the transgender community. (Drummer Liam Jason is now Jackie Enx.) But only about a dozen people showed up to catch Rhino Bucket. Excellent opening act Whiskey Boots, comprised of Heather Lofflin on guitar and Amy Farrand on drums, attracted another dozen people. Consummate pros, the mighty Rhino worked as if they were playing to the back row of Kemper Arena instead for 25 people in a college bar on Troost Avenue.

Rhino Bucket is absolutely perfect. Perfectly awful or just plain perfect? Take your pick.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

High Stakes Sweepstakes

I process the mail for someone outside my household who has fallen on hard times. The threatening notices from collection agencies usually outnumber the correspondence addressed to me. Even so, new credit card solicitations keep on coming. Worse still are the duplicitous so-called "sweepstakes" tailored to capitalize on the senior citizen’s intellectual and emotional weaknesses. It makes me want to, well, go postal.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A Not So Frigid Flaco

When Flaco Jimenez launched into "Blues Eyes Crying In the Rain," the throng on the dance floor instantly evaporated. The party resumed when he and his small band followed the country standard with a traditional nortena.

It’s not easy being Flaco Jimenez. In his lengthy career as the preeminent border musician, Jimenez has enjoyed success in a variety of settings. Along with brother Santiago, he’s the successor to his famous accordionist father, has been a frequent sideman for rock acts including the Grateful Dead and the Rolling Stones, collaborated with folk artists like Peter Rowan, and was a celebrated member of Tex-Mex supergroup the Texas Tornados.

While each of these constituencies were represented among the approximately 1,000 in attendance at his performance Saturday night at the Fiesta In the Heartland festival at Crown Center in Kansas City, the vast majority were ardent fans of Jimenez’s traditional corridos. Still, Jimenez insisted on playing a bit of everything during his first set, although selections like crossover hit "Who Were You Thinking Of" clearly displeased most.

The knowledge that the stage was on the former site of an ice skating rink only added to the night’s frigid temperature. Yet Jimenez was in great spirits, joking about his drinking and warmly addressing his fans. He closed his first set with a wacky polka reading of "La Felicidad." I left on that high note, realizing that while Jimenez has many talents, he wouldn’t be able keep the temperature above fifty degrees.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Bourgeois In Brookside

I couldn’t walk twenty steps Friday night at the Brookside art fair without running into a familiar face. For someone who’s overtly anti-social, it was a remarkable achievement. Then the horrible realization hit me. This is who I am.

I’d like to consider myself a wholly unique individual. But in reality, I’m just another conventionally middle class, left-leaning Kansas Citian with a dog and a mortgage. There are exceptions among my friends and family- such as the junkie in California, the welfare mother in Texas, the brilliant scientist in Washington, and the fundamentalist Christian in Tennessee- but they’re outnumbered by the Brookside Art Fair types.

Excuse me, I’m going to chat with that impressionist painter from Santa Fe.

Friday, May 05, 2006

These Ain't Bee's Knees

Hot or not? Yes, I’m attached to these sexy knees. If you can contain your revulsion for a moment, you’ll notice that my right knee is grotesquely bloated. I sustained this sports injury in a basketball dunking exhibition last week. That’s right, I was dunking... on an eight-foot rim. Now I’m limping like Barry Bonds and putting off the inevitable knee drain.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Smack the DeJesus

Where was this talent hiding when I was ten years old? I stepped into a batting cage for the first time in twenty years a couple days ago. I smacked the DeJesus out of every pitch. My hands still sting so good. It's hard to find the humor in the little jokes life plays on us.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Hey Kids, Let's Sell Some Tickets

I saw Akeelah and the Bee Saturday afternoon at the AMC at Ward Parkway, my neighborhood movie theater. The film was released the day before, yet less than two dozen people were in the enormous theater.

The tickets were costly and I spent even more on popcorn and beverages. Still, it's no secret that DVD sales and disruptive audiences, to say nothing of the prohibitive expenses of movie-going, are damaging the business of exhibition companies like AMC.

I propose that Kansas City-based AMC experiment with an auction-style sales model, sort of a cross between eBay and Priceline. Opening day tickets to a blockbuster might sell for a premium. Entry to older films, or movies that have yet to develop a word-of-mouth following, would sell for bargain prices. It’s money that would otherwise not be realized. The idea is to reduce number the empty seats; surely any losses would be covered at the concession stand.

How about it, AMC?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

There's a New Cage In Town

Underneath the crumbling slab of concrete is a chipmunk megalopolis. My modest backyard patio and much of my house is in danger of caving in as a result of the pest’s underground construction projects. My new chipmunk-sized trap is bagging less than a rodent a day, but I’m confident that by mid-summer I’ll have reduced their number to under a thousand.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Mind-Body Conflict

I’m a big fan of "value menus" at fast food chains. At Wendy’s, a small cheeseburger, chili, salad, baked potato, and Frosty can be had for 99 cents each. My digestive system doesn’t agree with my mouth’s enthusiasm. It protests by immediately producing foul, unnatural odors.