Happy In Bag

Monday, October 30, 2006

Advanced Life Forms

Nice people keep spoiling my commitment to misanthropy.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I needed to replace a car headlight bulb. When I walked into an Advanced Auto Parts outlet this afternoon the guy behind the counter greeted me, quickly found the part I required, and gave me detailed instructions about how to get the job done. I was stunned.

Of course, nothing’s that easy. I’d been fumbling under the hood in my driveway for twenty minutes. My hands were too big to access the headlight bulb lock and I wasn't sure what I was doing anyway. I realized that I needed someone smaller, stronger and smarter than me. My next door neighbor pulled into his driveway at that very moment. Ten minutes later, the job was done.

It’s wonderful being wrong.

One Headlight

I was pulled over by the police Sunday night. Twice.

Because I drive like a retired schoolteacher I haven’t received a ticket in years. Last night I was headed west on K-10 toward Lawrence when I passed a car that was going even more slowly than me.

Sure enough, blue and red lights lit up my rear view.

"Did you know that your right headlight is out?" the officer asked when he strolled up to my window.

No, I didn’t know that, sir.

"Have you been drinking?"

No, not a drop. (True.)

"Are you sure?"

Yes. (Sure enough, you pulled over the rare sports fan who doesn't drink on Sunday afternoons.)

"May I see your driver’s license?"

(It’s at this point that I wished that the photo on my license didn't resemble a roadie for the Allman Brothers Band.)

"Why are you eyes red and bloodshot?"

I don’t know. (Because I’m exhausted. Motorhead rattled my cranium last night and I spent the afternoon raking leaves.)

A lengthy session of follow-the-flashlight-with-your-eyes followed. I had nothing to hide, and he let me off.

The same thing- without the sobriety test- happened on my drive back to Kansas City three hours later.

The experience taught me a few things. First, you can’t see a thing when a police lights are immediately behind you at night. Secondly, even though I’m mortified of the police, they’re even more afraid of me. I made certain I telegraphed my every move, lest I get shot by a nervous officer. "I’m going to open my glove compartment now- is that alright?" And my life would be so much easier if I modeled my appearance on Phill Kline or Jim Talent.

Finally, I learned that one headlight works pretty darn well.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

What a Drag It Is Getting Old

Flu shots are serious business for old folks. The grim faces of the elderly people lined up for injections at a Price Chopper yesterday told the story. It’s literally a life-and-death procedure for people in their eighties. We should all be so (un)lucky.


I'm an eager observer of pop culture yet I've failed to get my head around this scrapbooking phenomenon.

It's difficult to turn around without encountering a retailer like this Westport Road establishment. You can't pick up a remote control without finding television programming dedicated to the concept.

What gives? Can't an old lady simply walk out of a Wal*Mart with a photo album, scissors and tape? She can even buy a bit of ribbon when she wants to walk on the wild side.

I'm clearly missing something. Maybe there's some kind of secret glue-sniffing component to the hobby. That would explain everything.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sweet Land of Liberty

One side of an imagined encounter on State Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas:

"How ya doin’ this morning? How much can you gimme for this wedding ring? $50.00? You’re cheating me! Where’s Little Joe? He wouldn’t do me like that. That’s better."

"Nah, I don’t need to put it on lay-away."

"Yeah, so I’m gonna want one of those guns. Whatever's cheapest. Can you throw in some ammo for me? That’ll work."

"And how about a pint of Jim Beam?"

"Nah, I don’t need a receipt."

Monday, October 23, 2006

Go Go

Every rock’n’roll band should have burlesque dancers doing their thing at the front of the stage. Andre Williams’ show at the Record Bar Saturday night was made memorable not so much for the innovator’s own work, but for his ridiculously adept backing band and the two local gals who added a tremendous amount of levity and fun to the proceedings. My review is here.

It Depends On How You Look At It

Is Lemony Snicket, the chronicler of A Series of Unfortunate Events, the most masterful author of children’s literature since Lewis Carroll, or is he a unimaginative hack prone to endlessly repeating himself in the thirteen-book saga?

It depends on how you look at it.

That’s one of the amusing catchphrases of The End, the recently published volume that concludes the series. AlthoughThe End’s plot and final resolution are disappointing, the book is somewhat salvaged by Snicket’s verbal wordplay. This passage is typical: "...and so you are in fact in the dark about being in the dark, even though you are not in the dark about being in the dark..."

I'm deeply disappointed that The Reading Reptile or Rainy Day Books has not secured a local appearance by Snicket for what’s presumably his final series of unfortunate (book tour) events.

Friday, October 20, 2006

No Way, C.J.

Tim McCarver and C.J. Giles’ personal problems notwithstanding, it’s my favorite time of the year in sports. College basketball starts just after the Tigers finish beating up the Cardinals in the World Series. And it doesn’t hurt when your basketball team is on the cover of every preseason forecast magazine. Sports- the sweetest opiate of all.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Holds It...Holds It...Holds It!

Someone attempted to bribe me.

That person should have known that Happy In Bag's principles are not purchased as easily as a bag of cheeseburgers at Winstead’s. I will continue to retain the integrity of the Happy In Bag blog on behalf of all six of my readers.

I know a handful of people involved in what’s officially termed the "Johnson County Youth Recreational Soccer Park" proposal. And I will not endorse either side of that $75 million dollar bond issue on the November ballot in this forum.

I will suggest, however, that the initiative is in trouble. While I haven’t seen an official poll, I take great stock in the handmade signs mocking the soccer plan that are popping up with increasing frequency. Additionally, the recent shenanigans related to the Jackson County sports complex only increase the perception that the professional sports franchises, along with the political community, are taking unfair advantage of area sports fans.

(And yes, the title of this post is a reference to the best Simpsons episode ever.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

We Missed All the Fun

Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to Bebop- A History is just as much about the story of our town as it is a study of jazz music. Authors Frank Driggs and Chuck Haddix take special pleasure in recounting lurid details of our past. Today's strip joints have nothing on Kansas City's sin palaces during the Pendergast era. And the book's passages on the glory days of the Pla-Mor Ballroom, Fairyland Park and the El Torreon are riveting. I would gladly hand over my money if Chuck would offer a guided tour of these sites.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Pleased To Meet You

I’ve spent a lot of time in bars lately. And I haven’t been drinking. I really don’t mind being amidst a bunch of drunks. In fact, I kind of like the drama. Even so, there’s no ignoring this kind of filth when you’re clean and sober. Kudos to the freak who recognizes this facility.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Out of Bounds

I’m no different than most University of Kansas sports fans. It’s all about basketball. So it’s remarkable that I even bothered to attend a KU football game Saturday. It was fun, I guess, but when I walked to the back row of the stadium and peeked over the edge, I saw that the real party was happening outside the turnstiles. Thousands of fans don’t even bother with tickets. They just guzzle beer and play catch in yards, driveways and alleys surrounding Memorial Stadium. And given the Jayhawks’ collapse Saturday afternoon, that’s obviously the best strategy.

Friday, October 13, 2006

My Place On the Island of Misfit Toys

I cringe when I’m called a hippie. Nothing against hippies, but I don’t include myself among their numbers.

It’s true that I go months between haircuts and that I give less thought to my clothes than to the moon cycle. I’m indifferent to the material possessions that many people prize, unless it’s a new Bob Dylan CD or a draft beer at a baseball game. And while I’m not an especially noble person, my sporadic acts of true Christian spirit scare people who are afraid of getting their hands dirty.

On the other hand, I’m not much for the Grateful Dead, tie-dye or patchouli. I’ve never been interested in illicit drugs. My politics are unconventional, but that doesn’t mean I voted for John Kerry.

In Berkeley I’d be tagged as a hopeless square. Yet friends and family regularly hit me with the hippie tag. Just because my surroundings are dominated by cupcakes doesn’t mean I’m a flag burning freak.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"Pita Palace" Must Have Been Taken

Subway and McDonalds better watch their backs. Pita Pit, a national fast food chain, is expanding rapidly. For better or worse, Pita Pit outlets take the potential randomness out of walking into a mom-and-pop Mediterranean restaurant. Will America bite? You betcha! Only so many burritos, burgers and subs can be stomached before desperation sets in. Pita Pit is a contender.

The Ill-Fated History of Tower Records in Kansas City

Tower Records came very close to establishing a major presence in Kansas City. Here’s the story.

In the late ‘80s I toiled for a troubled independent record label distribution business. Hal, the company's owner, was frantically trying to find a buyer.

The most interested party was Tower Records. They realized that operating a centrally-located distribution company would give them a tremendous competitive advantage. The storied California-based retail chain was renowned for stocking deep inventory on even the most esoteric titles. Owning a distribution company with top independent labels like Alligator, Rounder and SST would greatly enhance Tower’s ability to make additional margin on titles by the likes of Albert Collins and Husker Du.

Stan, Tower’s CEO, visited Kansas City after he struck a preliminary deal with Hal. Because I was Hal's flunky, I squired Stan around town. Stan liked what he saw and was clearly excited about the possibility of owning a distribution company.

"We’ll have to open a store in Kansas City," he declared one afternoon. Stan grilled me about the area’s demographics and neighborhoods. Although Tower stores were "destinations," Stan wanted the store to be located near the hub of the gay, student, downtown and nightlife populations. Stan decided that the ideal spot for a Tower store was on Main Street between 30th and 40th. This building is one of three that Stan targeted.

Hal, Stan and I unveiled Tower’s plan to buy our distribution company at an industry convention soon after Stan’s trip to Kansas City. The labels revolted. They professed shock at the very concept of effectively selling directly to the retail giant. The deal was nixed, and with it, the idea of a Tower store in Kansas City died.

There’s no doubt that a Tower location in Kansas City, along with a healthy distribution company, would have been an enormous asset to the city’s music and business communities. The presence of a Tower store would have brought more touring acts to Kansas City and local artists would have enjoyed a much stronger foundation.

Even so, none of this would likely have prevented Tower’s final bankruptcy this week.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Calling Out the Cauldron

Everyone in "The Yard" was having a good time at the Wizards game Saturday night.

The weather was ideal, beer was flowing and families were enjoying each other’s company in the Arrowhead Stadium endzone, where the least expensive seats are located.

The home team was playing Chivas USA, a team affiliated with a Mexican franchise. Most of the fans in The Yard were Spanish-speaking Chivas loyalists. Many waved Mexican flags and were bedecked in Chivas gear.

Everyone ignored the silly antics of "The Cauldron," a blue-shirted set of Wizards supporters who chant and sing in unison throughout the game. In the second half, however, the Cauldron directed their attention to the nearby fans in the endzone.

They began chanting "Chivas sucks" and seemingly pointed at the Mexican flags. Most members of "The Cauldron" quickly ceased their vulgar cheer once they realized that they were causing a tremendous uproar. A few guys, however, continued. Their faces were filled with rage. It was apparent that it wasn’t Chivas that they hated. Only when these knuckleheads realized they were in real danger did they back down.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Buck O'Neil, 1911-2006

Buck O'Neil has died. I took this photograph on January 8, and I wrote about the message he delivered that day here.

Friday, October 06, 2006

If I Were a Carpenter

House construction sites fill me with renewed optimism.

I associate the smell of lumber with the chance for a fresh start. As I step over power tools, I imagine life in the brand new home. The delicious meals I could prepare in this kitchen! I could spend days in this lavish media room! This looks like a perfect master bedroom!

My daydreams about new beginnings often end abruptly. A goon grabs my arm, the word "trespassing" is bandied about, and I’m impolitely escorted off the property.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

An Enterprising Young Man

I drive an old car because I don’t put miles on it. I can’t put miles on my car because it’s old.

For over a decade I’ve rented cars for regular trips to Amarillo, Bentonville, Denver, Omaha and St. Louis. I didn’t want to rack up miles on my personal vehicle. It’s allowed the car to survive well beyond its expiration date. But I don’t trust it to survive trips beyond Lawrence or St. Joseph. So now I’m obligated rent cars for extended trips.

Unlimited miles, indeed.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Arach Attack

I suspect the science fiction movies of the last couple decades are correct when they depict alien life in hideous spider-like forms. The superior body structure of arachnids, along with their freakish talent for spinning webs, makes their presence elsewhere in the universe seem likely.

I admire spiders so much that I’m reluctant to exterminate them when I encounter them in my home. I’ll quickly smash a black widow if it brazenly scuttles across the floor in plain sight. And any creature that dares approach my bed is slaughtered without mercy.

Yet I’m reluctant to murder the spiders I find in remote corners of my home. I figure that a spider doing business in my attic or unfinished basement might be helping the cause by eating crickets and rolly polly bugs.

Maybe the evil aliens will take that into account when they finally attack Earth.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I'm King Geek

I won. And it’s terribly unsatisfying.

My fantasy league baseball team pulled into first place in the dog days of August. And after a close battle with an anonymous foe, I came out on top when the season ended Sunday.

It’s the first time I’ve won a fantasy competition. And I get nothing for my achievement. I told myself that if I could pull off a victory in 2006 I’d buy into a money league in 2007.

Winning is a major time commitment. The pitching rotation needs to be monitored daily and studying box scores every summer morning is essential. My opening day team was solid, but I had no way of knowing that Carl Crawford, Derek Jeter, Justin Morneau and Amaris Ramirez would have career years. I’ll give myself credit for nabbing new sensations Jonathan Papelbon and Dan Uggla in May. And after another manager tired of Ken Griffey’s first half injuries, I snatched Junior and kept him on the bench for weeks until he recovered in time for a monstrous second half.

Now I know that all the effort just isn't worth it. Unless, of course, I pocket some serious change, which I intend to do next year.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Pronto Fast

One of the signs at this new Mexican restaurant in Westport claims that it’s "pronto fast." Westport revelers should be thankful that it isn’t true. I dropped by Cancun Fiesta Fresh, located on Pennsylvania Street across the street from The Westport Beach Club, for a Friday night snack. Even though I was the only patron in the modest joint, my small order took five minutes. A fish taco, prepared from scratch, was one of the best I’ve had in KC. The next time I’m in need of quick, inexpensive, late-night fuel in Westport, I’ll know to bypass the street vendors and barroom pizza for Cancun Fiesta.