Happy In Bag

Friday, January 30, 2009

Well Read

I used to read. Between the ages of fourteen and twenty-five, I sped through two, three and sometimes four novels a week. I recall recoiling from John Updike's insights into a world I had yet to enter. Inevitably, the increasing obligations of adult life caught up with me. The advent of the internet and cable television didn't help. I still make time for literature, but it took me all of December to plow through Great Expectations.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I'll Have the Number Three

There are many compelling restaurants in Kansas City I'd like to to try. So why do I often end up dining at tried-and-true but completely predictable Mexican restaurants? Here's how it happens. They're ubiquitous. Between fast food chains and countless independent operators, a burrito platter is never further than an intersection or strip mall away. Secondly, some establishments serve as neighborhood landmarks. When attempting to arrange a meeting, it's much easier to say "Manny's at noon" rather than suggesting "that new Thai restaurant in the alley two blocks southeast of Manny's." That's why I'm ordering the number three with shredded beef. Again.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cornel West at UMKC

Even though it was a free event, I initially balked at attending Cornel West's lecture Friday night at UMKC. By the time the presentation had ended I knew that I'd willingly buy a ticket if necessary for another opportunity to see the brilliant intellectual speak.

I had anticipated a vitriolic attack on the United States. I needn't have worried.

It's not like I agreed with all of West's views. Not even close. But West's deep Christian faith seems to temper his more extreme political perspectives.

Here's a set of quotations from West's profoundly engaging lecture. Caveat: I can't guarantee that every one of these quotes is entirely accurate. West sometimes speaks rapidly.

"I'd take a bullet for you- in the arm. I'll save my heart for my mama." - after someone in the audience of about 1,500 yelled, "We love you, Cornel."

"When I talk about brothers and sisters, I mean everybody." - on our common humanity

"The blues ain't nothing but the catastrophic autobiography of a people." - on the music's significance

"Jim Crow- that's American terrorism." - self-explanatory

"The love in Martin had to be put in him by somebody." - in tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s parents

"Don't get caught up in deodorized discourse... He wasn't no Santa Claus. He kept it funky." - on the idealization of MLK

"Thank God for the beginning of the age of Obama because it means that the era of Reagan is over." - self-explanatory

"The extension of a blues people." - a reference to Obama

"The shift from bling-bling to let freedom ring." - on the outcome of a good education

"Our people don't even know what it's like to be involved in a quest for greatness." - on his perception of the shallowness of today's youth

"Success is defined as being adjusted to injustice." - on the result of financial success

"I tell black folk all the time, 'Barack is not Jesus, you know.'" - on unrealistic expectations

"Why haven't these people created a black Al-Qaeda?" - on the restraint and "moral wisdom" of the American civil rights movement.

"He was neither optimist nor pessimist. He was a prisoner of hope." - on MLK

"We should not confuse charity with justice." - on his belief that government policy should supplant charitable work and charitable contributions

"I've never seen so many black folks with American flags." - on post-Obama patriotism.

West is also a huge music geek. Here's a partial list of artists he referenced: Rev. James Cleveland, George Clinton, John Coltrane, Lupe Fiasco, Aretha Franklin, The Gap Band, Billie Holiday, Robert Johnson, Talib Kweli, Curtis Mayfield, The Notorious B.I.G., The O'Jays, Sly Stone and Muddy Waters.

Blooze Power

For a few summers in the '80s there was only one place to be on a Saturday afternoon. The deck of what's now the Riot Room hosted an intoxicated sea of lewd behavior as the Bon Ton Soul Accordion Band performed. My interest in the local blues scene has waned as the music has since been tempered and tamed. Even so, I've already attended a couple Saturday afternoon jam sessions at B.B.'s Lawnside BBQ this year. While the music is safe and predictable, it's a smile-filled, joyous event that reminds me why I love Kansas City.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Not 'Naut

I know a guy who wants to move into JavaNaut. The coffeehouse on 39th Street allows patrons to wander throughout the sprawling structure and camp out in its various rooms. My friend thinks it's so great that he wants to permanently rent a room. I think he's nuts. The occasionally indifferent service and ongoing battles for the bathroom have me thinking McDonalds.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

In the Hunt

I've been considering dusting off my shotgun. Don't worry- I'm not going to shoot anyone. Rather, I have a sudden urge to go hunting. The sport was thrust upon me at an early age. I subscribed to Field & Stream and practiced dog signals as a second grader. I lost my taste for it after a couple unfortunate incidents. That's now behind me. The next time a pal asks me to join him on an expedition, I'll be ready.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Post No Bills

I hope our incoming president is the most successful in our nation's history. I want him- no, I need him- to succeed. These are tough times and surely every reasonable citizen is pulling for our new leader. Nevertheless, I was irritated earlier this week by the framed Obama campaign posters on the wall of an upscale Lawrence cafe. I want a respite from politics while I'm talking shop. The political position of a restaurant's staff is a pointless distraction. I don't care how you voted, but I suggest you keep it under wraps if you want me to continue buying expensive coffee.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Excuse Me, Sir

"Excuse me, sir," the young man said apprehensively as he tapped my shoulder. I smiled at the fresh-faced kid and his friends as we stood outside the Sprint Center. I immediately sensed that they were from Iowa or central Kansas and had come to Kansas City for the Lil Wayne concert. "Can you tell me what time the bars close?" So, it's come to that. Not only am I a "Sir," I also look like I'd know the answer to that kind of derelict question. "Three o'clock," I responded.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ad Astra Per Aspera

I almost threw a punch the first time I encountered the infamous hatemongers of Topeka. I'm not a creationist and I'm glad that the former attorney general is leaving the state. I'm also a proud Kansan. I take issue with Thomas Frank's What's the Matter With Kansas?. The author expresses astonishment that people sometimes vote against their personal economic self-interest. The concept that principles might outweigh dollars eludes Frank. While I don't endorse hate or ignorance, I completely embrace the deep contrarian streak and willful obstinance demonstrated by my fellow Kansans. These are my people. (Movie trailer found via Plog.)

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A Dish Served Cold

It's no secret that I love Waldo Pizza. But for thick, Chicago-style pies I recommend The Dish in Liberty. Fatties foodies need no longer take a trip on I-29 to partake. Vacuum-sealed pizzas from The Dish are now available on the frozen food aisles of local grocery stores. And they're good. But get ready for sticker shock. I can't decide which option is wiser- ordering inferior but ostensibly fresh pizza from a delivery company or going with the frozen version of the area's best deep dish pizza.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

I Wuz Framed

Look, I already told the other detective that I didn't do it. No, I don't know who killed that squirrel. It wasn't me. Of course I'm glad it's dead. So what? Just because I loathe the rodents doesn't mean I'm guilty. Did I know the victim? Well, yeah. See, the red ones don't come around as much, so they're easier to identify. And this one was huge. He was too smart to get caught in one of my traps. No! I didn't run him down, either. I realize his carcass is lying right in front of my driveway. I want to call my lawyer.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Needle

I'm an addict. My habit isn't drugs or alcohol; it's music. I've never been able to go more than three or four days without acquiring new albums and CDs. Thanks to sites like Blip.fm and a thinner wallet, however, I'm learning how to manage my compulsion. Yet I still can't help myself from hanging around Kansas City retailers 7th Heaven and Wax Factory. The insights they offer into the local scene can't be gleaned from message boards, blogs or filesharing services.

Thursday, January 01, 2009


I can't see! Each bit of additional construction at the small traffic island on Somerset Drive in Prairie Village further confirms the concerns I voiced last April. Emaw also mocked the situation. Deliberately creating a massive blind spot at a busy intersection is a recipe for disaster.