Happy In Bag

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Real KC Friday

My Friday on the town last week was probably better than yours. And I was home by 8:15 p.m. I started my carousing at the Musicial Musicians Foundation. I wrote about it at Plastic Sax, my jazz blog. Then I headed to Westport for The Loose Cannon Brass Band. Here's what I thought. Other obligations may keep me away from both places this Friday, so you'll have to thank me later.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Wave Goodbye To Westport

I'm not against change or progress. Nor am I particularly nostalgic for the Westport of yesterday. It's clear, however, that very few vestiges of the Westport known by Kansas Citians over the age of thirty will remain once the condo development is completed. The feel of the entertainment district has been changing with increasing rapidity. The bank sign in the foreground and the new building on Pennsylvania it make official- the old Westport is no more.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


I felt sorry for Barry Bonds as he rounded third base after hitting a home run in a March 20, 2007, spring training game in Surprise, Arizona. The way fans, opponents and his own teammates treated him saddened me. Even in this meaningless pre-season game, the burden of his celebrity (and his supposed personality flaws) isolated him. I watched the great slugger attempt to kid around and relax with other players during the game; their responses were forced and artificial. Bonds will be alone when he reaches the most significant record in sports.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Down With Dwight

I was an unsuspecting high school kid when I pulled a few Miles Davis albums from a 3-for-$10.00 bin at Penny Lane Records in Westport. I'd read that the trumpeter was pretty good. Spotting my purchase, this man insisted that I also buy a wacky homemade cassette by his band Black Crack Review. It changed everything. I couldn't believe that such anarchic jazz music existed, let alone that the guy behind the mysterious noise worked in a Kansas City record store. I soon learned that B.C.R. were under the spell of Sun Ra, a bandleader from Saturn. I captured this image of Dwight Frizzell immediately before B.C.R.'s performance yesterday at the Fringe Festival. The band travels the spaceways again at 9:30 tonight. Additional photos and notes are posted at my jazz blog.

Squeeze Play

The big crowds on hand to see the Royals battle the Yankees this week might be disappointed by more than just the good guys getting walloped. With the exception of special events like opening day and series against popular teams, there's been plenty of elbow room in Kauffman Stadium this season. A full house, however, means that patrons are forced to sit in adjacent seats. And they're simply not big enough to accommodate Kansas City-sized patrons. The unfortunate fellow in the white shirt isn't undersized- his buddies are the new enormous norm. "The K" is a great venue. But a $12 ticket certainly didn't buy this guy any breathing room.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Is it just me, or does anyone else battle the urge to run through fields of corn? Many crops are well over eight feet tall now, and it takes a lot of willpower not to park my car by the side of the road to enjoy an irresponsible stroll through a farmer's achievement. I only succumb to the temptation a couple times a year. I never take any ears; being amidst the cornucopia just fills me with giddy optimism.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Scourge of Baseball

I'll admit to being a fan of Roger Clemens. It was worth enduring the presence of thousands of reprehensible Yankees fans to witness the legendary pitcher's fine work Monday night in Kansas City. The Rocket's older than me but he can still dominate an opponent. Too bad about his uniform.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


I blame Lee. It's my friend's fault that I've launched yet another blog.

You see, I've been desperately pining for a vibrant, regularly updated web site dedicated to jazz in Kansas City. I figured Lee was just the man for the job. He's certainly smarter, funnier and more attractive than me. But Lee doesn't post nearly enough at The New Low Down, and his overly generous praise of yours truly in his July 21 post doesn't entirely pacify me.

This isn't going to be easy. I attend live jazz performances just a few times a month. My affection for the music is no greater than my love of other genres, including indie rock, honky tonk and hip hop. And traditionalists will despise my catholic definition of jazz. Swinging wedding singers and nasty purveyors of noise are featured alongside more conventional jazz musicians at Plastic Sax. I also know from bitter experience that the jazz community is fraught with petty infighting and mean-spirited attacks. I'm setting myself up for plenty of abuse.

The good news is that I've already done some important work. The 150 jazz-related links at Plastic Sax are the most comprehensive collection of local sites ever assembled. It may never be complete- a few of the area's most important musicians and venues simply have virtually no web presence.

Until Lee or one of the couple dozen other more qualified people decide to relieve me of this burden, I'll bring much of the same dogged perseverance that characterizes Happy In Bag and There Stands the Glass to Plastic Sax.

Wish me luck.

Nerd Night

I've attended debates, chess club meetings and a William Hung performance. I've seen a lot of nerds in my day, and I scowl at a very familiar specimen every time I pass a mirror. Yet I'd never witnessed anything like the multitude of gleeful nerds present at last night's Harry Potter sales party at Borders. I loved it.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Murder In Prairie Village

Oh, the vegetation! The indiscriminate killing of mature trees rankles me. I don't know the story behind this particular victim, but the screams of wood chippers, stump grinders and saws have been unavoidable in recent days.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I Like Art

If great art compels the viewer to reexamine each of his or her most fundamental beliefs, then these creepy, subhuman figures in a fountain are an accomplishment of the highest order. They have forced me to ask difficult questions. Is life worth living? Why bother with an umbrella? And how can God allow such suffering?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Back To the Country

My occasional yearning to move back to the country has been rekindled. Finding myself in a rural setting the last several days reminded me of the appeal of living in a small, isolated town, or better yet, a few acres in the middle of nowhere. With the advent of satellite internet, radio and television, the concept has never been more feasible. After all, it's in my blood- I'm just two generations removed from the farm.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Go Roe

It may not look like much, but this is a beautiful sight to me. Roe had been closed for several months during construction at the site of the old Mission Mall. A small detour to the west cost me about fifteen minutes a week. Accordingly, I now feel just a little freer.

Dust Devil

We're surrounded and imbued by unseen forces. My belief was reinforced over the weekend as I watched dust devils dance across a gravel parking lot. The miniature tornadoes would rise twenty to thirty feet from the ground, inspiring kids to chase them until the twisters lost momentum. The phenomenon is invisible on paved surfaces. A person walking down a street could pass right through a dust devil and think that it was just a sudden gust of wind.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Beyond the Fence

Plentiful free summer concerts are one of the Kansas City area's finest traditions. I fondly recall the Sunday evening jazz concert series sponsored by Kansas City, MO. It exposed me to Stan Getz, Pat Metheny and Phil Woods. Jazz pianist Sir Roland Hanna made an impression on me at a free show at Crown Center. The legacy continues in Olathe tonight, later this summer at Crown Center and on a smaller scale in communities throughout the metropolis. A new twist has been added to the concept this summer. It's possible to sit beyond the fences at many of the area's ticketed outdoor shows to hear- if not see- popular concerts.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


These chairs represent my childhood. The ridiculous plastic seats are preserved in a corner of Union Station as a reminder of the aesthetic horrors of the 1970s. The Day-Glo throwback is completely out of place in the grand old train station. Having spent my formative years in Toughskins pants and wood-paneled station wagons, spotting these symbols from my past can be jarring. I prefer tomorrow to yesterday anyway.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Hash It Out

Only at the end of the day did I fully appreciate my breakfast at Hash House a Go Go. The upscale restaurant opened in Kansas City, KS, three weeks ago. I was agitated as I sat in the shiny dining room. Loud construction sounds and a music rotation of Coldplay, R.E.M. and Sting made the long wait on the kitchen seem intolerable. And I couldn't believe I was spending $13 on breakfast. I started to see the attraction when my enormous skillet of meatloaf, potatoes, eggs and a biscuit arrived. It was clearly much better than what's on tap at Denny's or Perkins, but not beyond the scope of what an ambitious cook could toss together at home. Even as a big eater I could only down half the food. The contents of my carry-out box would become my dinner. (I was too full to eat lunch.)

Monday, July 09, 2007

Blocking Out the Scenery

If you've driven west on 75th Street toward Wornall during the evening rush hour this summer, you surely detest this billboard. Each of the hundreds of reflective spangles surrounding the words "all the best" can seem like little needles in the back of your eye sockets when the sun hits them at the proper angle. It's breaking my mind.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Show Me Your...

An annotated set of pictures I took at last month's Rockfest is here. Hundreds of superior photos can be viewed at the sponsoring radio station's site. I thought I'd also post this image at Happy In Bag, as it's of interest to people outside the metal community. One of Rockfest's "attractions" is the disconcerting number of women eager to flash their breasts. While I'm far from noble, I still refused to photograph this sordid behavior. I was touched, however, to see this guy's buddies lift him up so that he might enjoy the scenery.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Anywhere But Here

Their faces study phones as they text friends. They're contantly worrying about what happened earlier, or planning for what might happen next. When they're at lunch, they're thinking about work. When they're at work, they're thinking about lunch. Many people- myself included- often fail to appreciate the present. One of my companions has a phrase for this form of hiding from life- "Anywhwere But Here." I'm working on embracing the moment.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


American history aside, my favorite part of Fourth of July celebrations is the blatant disregard of the law in the form of amateur fireworks. Cars and pedestrians had to run a gauntlet of firecrackers and projectiles in my neighborhood yesterday. The lack of a breeze allowed a thick haze of sulphuric smoke to accumulate in the muggy air.

I posted a few pictures of my June vacation here.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Virtue Itself Turns Vice

Alack! The production of Romeo and Juliet at the Shakespeare Festival is shockingly vulgar. And I like it. I've seen the play previously but I don't recall anything resembling the near-constant sexual emphasis of this version. It's so lusty that I found myself alternately blushing and laughing out loud. "Eyes, look your last!"- the season ends July 8.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Lush Life

The new July calendar distracted me as I sat in a dark corner of Jardine's on Saturday afternoon. A terrific female flugelhorn player had joined Luqman Hamza and Tommy Ruskin on the tiny stage but only a couple dozen people were on hand to hear her. As I looked over the club's stellar lineup for the next four weeks, I vowed to shill for the joint come Monday. While I don't get anything out of this endorsement, would it kill the bar staff to smile at me just once? A few nights look especially promising. I adore the weekly Saturday afternoon jam sessions. And local favorite Ida McBeth plays every Saturday night. Unheralded trumpet genius Gary Sivils performs July 8. Bram Wijnands- one of the few local jazz musicians with a decent web presence- revives prime Kansas City jazz on July 11. Young chanteuse Megan Birdsall sings on July 25. And the seasoned Wild Women of Kansas City play July 29.