Archive for the ‘Kansas City’ Category

Let me preface this by just saying it… I’m pissed off.

At what point, exactly, did this generation of parents turn into total incompetent morons? For a demographic who is constantly in need to be in the top tier of knowledge when it comes to technology (don’t even get me started on Apple fanboys/fangirls), there is ZERO knowledge when it comes to common sense.

This topic has been festering in my mind for a while, but the event that proved to be the catalyst for this blog was a completely preventable and unnecessary crime that took place within walking distance (by my standards) from my residence. A car, parked and unlocked with the engine running, with a 5 month old child in the car. Both parents were outside of the car, although within eyesight of the car.

What happened next, you can probably figure out on your own. THIS IS NOT OKAY. Thankfully, the vehicle was parked and abandoned a short time later across the state line in Waldo. The parents are LUCKY that their child was able to be returned to them safe and unharmed.

Luck is for losers.

From my in-car dashcam: the scene of the auto theft is 200 yards down, and occurred less than 3 minutes later

From my in-car dashcam: the scene of the auto theft is 200 yards down, and occurred less than 3 minutes later

I understand that, at times, it’s a flat-out inconvenience to have to lug your kid(s) around and deal with the concept of taking them into places with you, when leaving them in the car for a minute might be much easier. But here’s the thing – making sure you have your kids with you is called accountability. Nay, it’s called RESPONSIBLE PARENTING. If you’re not capable of this, perhaps you shouldn’t be a parent.

I can’t count the number of occasions where I’d label the situation as an inconvenience when it comes to being out and about with my daughter, and needing to stop someplace to run an errand and need to take her in with me. Especially if inclement weather happens to be involved. Here’s the thing, though. I’m more than willing to deal with that inconvenience if it assures me the ability to be back home with her and playing together later.

There are two things that I do not do. I don’t leave my car unattended with the keys in it, and I don’t leave my car unattended with my daughter in it. I can’t prevent someone from breaking into my car – if they want to break a window and enter the vehicle, they’re going to do it. What I can prevent, however, is their ability to get away with the car and the ability to have access to anything more than material possessions that can be replaced. Rest assured that if your home windows are rattling because of the police/news helicopters overhead, it won’t be because of me.

We’ll go ahead and preface this entire entry under the label of “humblebrag”. Over the years, as a fan of various interests (music, sports, etc), I’ve been fortunate to meet a number of people involved in those interests. Plenty of wrestlers. Many musicians. Heck, somewhere out in the interwebz is a photo of myself alongside Vern Troyer (Mini-Me from the Austin Powers movies). If you’ll excuse me for a moment, I need to pick up that name I just dropped.

Very rarely have I ever found myself starstruck at the meeting of anyone – I can easily count those occurrences on one hand. Arguably the most bizarre occurrence was meeting at-the-time-editor of Metal Edge magazine, Paul Gargano. The funny part about it is that it wasn’t even a coincidental or unexpected meeting. We were in Los Angeles for a concert, and he was the interim manager for the band I flew out there for. This was a band whose members I had effectively become friends with over time, so I knew for sure that I would end up meeting Paul. Nonetheless, a tap on the shoulder while in the lower “basement” area of the Viper Room leading to an introduction from him caught me off-guard, and for a brief moment, I didn’t know what to say. Go figure.

Another one of those moments was yesterday. The local alt-rock station here in Kansas City – 96.5 The Buzz – does an occasional event known as “Kegs & Eggs”, where a musician/band will play a short set early in the morning while fans enjoy breakfast and drinks. In this case, the performer was singer/songwriter Meg Myers, who was in town for a show the night before. I’ve been a fan for a while, very familiar with her EPs, had listened to her on a few podcasts (her laughter is contagious), but had never seen her live. Having said that, it was a no-brainer for me to take a few hours off of work to go down and fix that.

I’m not sure at what point they reached capacity at The Tank Room, but I know there was minimal room remaining when I got there, which was about 7am. Meg went on-stage around 9:30, and even with only playing five songs (the K&E performances are usually never full sets), blew the audience away. She has been compared to artists like Fiona Apple, which is not a bad thing at all. Small in stature, but deep with her words & song lyric subjects, and boasting a powerful voice to back them up (look up her song “Heart Heart Head”, and absorb her lyrical delivery almost become Siren-ish towards the end).

Twenty seven minutes and five songs later, her performance was complete, and the crowd let out a collective exhale to catch its breath. I stuck around for a short while to catch up with a few members of the radio station, and at one point, had mentioned that I loved the show but was hoping that Meg would have stuck around after the performance. I was informed that she was still in the building, and asked if I would like to go say hello (YES). As I was walked down towards the back room she was in, I was mentally preparing myself for a scenario of her being in the room, perhaps carrying on casual conversation with a handful of people. Maybe there were already a bunch of people behind the door just waiting to meet her. As it would turn out, my mind couldn’t properly prepare myself for what awaited.

As the door opened to let me into the room, I saw her. All alone. Completely lost in her emotions as she sat there playing piano. One one hand, I wanted to say hello in the worst way and compliment her on her music and the performance. On the other hand, I could have stood there and watched her play piano for hours. Finally, I got the words “Excuse me, Meg?” to leave my mouth, and had a very brief exchange. Many thanks were said – from her to me for coming out to the show and supporting her, and from me to her for being an incredible artist who is amazing at putting mood to music. Our conversation was maybe two minutes at most, but I got lost in time.

To Meg: If you should happen to see this – Thank you again for putting out some of the best albums I’ve heard in quite some time, for being an even better live performer, and for giving up a couple minutes of your personal/alone time to talk with a fan who found himself lost within thoughts and almost struggling at times to convey those thoughts into words.

With Meg Myers (and the piano to the left), 7/23/2014 at The Tank Room in Kansas City MO

With Meg Myers (and the piano to the left), 7/23/2014 at The Tank Room in Kansas City MO

(the open atrium/courtyard of Metro North. To the left, at its prime. To the right, during its demise)

(the open atrium/courtyard of Metro North. To the left, at its prime. To the right, during its demise)

The closing of Kansas City’s Metro North Mall earlier this week sparked up plenty of nostalgia. After all, it was among the very first malls in this area that I became with familiar with, even before I moved out here full-time. Over the years, I had a lot of good times in Metro North. Browsing inside Shark’s Surf Shop. Enjoying the sounds coming from the games inside the Fun Factory arcade. Grabbed plenty of bites to eat there including Kelso’s Pizza, the Gold Fortune (chinese buffet), Amigo’s (mexican), a meal or two at Greaser’s Diner, and even had my very first In-A-Tub experience there. I bought my first Chiefs merchandise in that mall, stocked up on Topsy’s popcorn, and even met several WWE wrestlers over the years. I also got my hair cut by a girl who would take care of WWE’s John Cena whenever he was in town and needed a quick clean-up. I visited a touring animal sanctuary exhibit that stopped in to the mall, and got to hold and cuddle a baby tiger. I admired the open atrium/courtyard with a water layout, complete with inflated balloons that would rise up and down mimicking hot air balloons. During the holidays, a train was set up that would take children around a loop, and volunteers were set up to offer gift wrapping to shoppers. There was an older gentleman who operated an awesome tablet setup near that courtyard that had all sorts of vintage tin/metal signs and related memorabilia. So many great little details could be found within that mall.

The writing was already on the wall by the time I first set foot through its doors, though. The in-mall AMC movie theater had already shut down by my first visit, and they’d opened up the outer-mall facility (which only remained in operation for a handful of years). The long-term vision of a food court never came to fruition. Over time, businesses (including anchor tenants) started to disappear from the mall as new locations opened up east at Shoal Creek, and west at Zona Rosa. In its final years, Metro North seemed to be a better place for people to go for indoor walking/powerwalking than it did to shop. Now, 38 years after opening its doors for the first time, they’re closed for good.

(Metro North Mall's lower fountain. Behind it, on the corner, was Original Pizza. To its left, The Whig Shoppe. To its right, the Fun Factory arcade)

(Metro North Mall’s lower fountain. Behind it, on the corner, was Original Pizza. To its left, The Whig Shoppe. To its right, the Fun Factory arcade)

Metro North became the latest mall to join my memories as nothing more than that – memories. Two years ago, only a handful of miles away, Antioch Center suffered the same fate and was demolished. My only solid memories of Antioch were the standout design of their food court and seating area, and the FooKee Chinese buffet. Sorry, Antioch – I never really got to know you. (FUN FACT: The very first ShowBiz Pizza location was opened in Antioch Center on March 3, 1980, and the Rock-afire Explosion band made their debut)

Of course, many memories of mine will be tied to places from back home, such as Northwest Plaza in St. Ann MO. I’ll always remember that mall best for the time I spent in its massive lower-level arcade and entertainment facility, “Tilt!”. It’s also where I went with my best friend Adam to get myself a pager back in the day. In its later years, it went downhill quickly. Businesses bolted. Crime went up. Structural integrity was compromised. At the least, parts of it are nothing more than rubble and remnants – I’m not sure if any of it still remains, but I plan to drive by its site when I’m out that way next weekend.

Jamestown Mall in Florissant MO is likely to be the next. It’s in the middle of its own dilapidation, including shutdowns in both November and December of 2013 due to low temperatures/no heat. My best entertaining moment of my times in Jamestown Mall was going into KB Toys to buy my Nintendo N64, leaving from there to go over to Adam’s parents house, and immediately realizing that the store still had my card (it was recovered the next day).

Times change, and so does everything that exists within time, although memories remain. My earliest mall memories are split between two places, one of which I know still exists, and the other I can’t confirm, but am fairly certain is long gone. The first of those two is Chesterfield Mall, which was my first real mall experience (well before Mid Rivers Mall ever existed), and I remember the ramped walkways, the fountains highlighted by multi-colored lighting, and the food court that I’d enjoyed places like Burger Chef, and my very first Chick-Fil-A. It’s been a while since I’ve spent time inside Chesterfield Mall (my most recent visit there was to the attached Cheeburger Cheeburger restaurant), but it’s still thriving to this day. For that matter, upon Northwest Plaza’s closing, it became the largest indoor mall in the St. Louis area. Upon Metro North Mall’s closing two days ago, Chesterfield Mall took over as the largest indoor mall in all of Missouri.

The other of those two oldest memory banks was Cottonwood Station, in Glen Carbon IL. It wasn’t the biggest by any means – 2 floors, essentially a ground floor and basement from what I remember – and I don’t think I ever recall it being at more than maybe 40% capacity. My parents and I would go out there periodically to do lunch with my grandparents (it was located close to halfway between where we lived and where they lived), and we’d always go to this good-sized restaurant and buffet, and then go wander the mall area afterwards. I know we’d go and visit several different stores in there, but the only two that I really remember were a pet store, and a small arcade by the stairwell. I also remember my father always looking for a parking spot underneath one of the large trees on the edge of the lot so that the car would be in as little sunlight as possible.

It feels like the only time that my mind isn’t red-lining with thought is when I’m asleep, and even then it’s not guaranteed. It seems to specialize in holding on to memories of what may seem like the most trivial of things. If it’s details of trips to shopping malls, so be it.

With 2013 coming to a (very quick, to me) end, it’s time to sit back and reflect on what the last 365 days have brought me. Some good, some bad, some elation, some heartbreak. Lots of lessons learned, and lots of new friends and acquaintances made. Here are a handful of the year’s highlights…

I don’t go out to concerts nearly as much these days as I did during my single/non-family days, but I did get the opportunity to catch two shows this year that were both monumental to me. In April Amy and I took in a performance by the living legend of St. Louis, Chuck Berry, at the legendary Blueberry Hill. Even at age 86 (87 now), the man still handles his business, and sounds as good as ever. That was a bucket list item for me. The opener for that show was the Andy Timmons Band (Timmons, formerly of Danger Danger, has done a multitude of studio sessions with great musicians, and his solo work is stellar).

The other concert for me this year was, also at Blueberry Hill, the 25th anniversary tour of the “Vivid” album from Living Colour. I’ve been a fan for years, and that album in particular is one that I hold in high regard within the category of “No-skips”.  I can let it play from the opening second of track 1 to the closing seconds of track 11, and not feel the need to skip over anything inbetween. An added plus was the opening act, the Steve Ewing Band (side project of the lead singer from The Urge).

I further submerged myself in the mix of St. Louis radio this year, in due part to several gentlemen. After a station/format rebrand, I (re) familarized myself with the group of Brian McKenna, Jeff Burton (formerly of 105.7 The Point), and John Edwards as Midday Mayhem on 590 The Man. Meanwhile, over on the internet radio broadcast side of things, a 3-man operation consisting of Ron Godier, Wade Trent, and Joe Cochran on TalkSTL.com created general shenanigans on their (scheduled) daily broadcast of WTF. In late June, they took their show on the road, for two days of broadcasts in Topeka KS at the Equality House (directly across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church). After joining them for both days, I left with a greater understanding and appreciation for everything the Equality House & Planting Peace Peace do, along with having made a number of new friends and contacts. Wade is out of radio now, having had his work as a musician really take off in the past few months, and Godier & Cochran are now on nights on 920AM along with the incomparable Brad Mulholland as The Daily Wrap.

My passion for mixed martial arts (MMA) grew by leaps and bounds this year, largely in part to the long-awaited and much-deserved UFC debut of Kansas City’s own “The” James Krause. He parlayed his success in the octagon this year into success with his business ventures, and bought into co-ownership of his gym, GrindHouse MMA, in Lee’s Summit (Jennah and I went out to visit the gym early last month; their setup is simplistic, yet phenomenal). I’ve also been able to familiarize myself with a number of other local/regional fighters, both professional and amateur.

The year brought a fair amount of success for various sports teams I follow.

– The St. Louis Blues returned to the playoffs for the 2012/2013 season, although they made a quiet and relatively uneventful exit. Prior to today’s game vs Minnesota, the Blues already have accumulated 26 wins on the 2013/2014 season – the first time in franchise history that they’d have more than 25 wins at the end of the calendar year.

– The Kansas City Chiefs rebounded from a forgettable 2012 season (both in terms of schedule/standings, and the stigma of a player murder/suicide) with a successful 2013, earning themselves a solid wild card slot, and travel to Indianapolis for playoffs this weekend.

– The New Orleans Saints will also return to the playoffs, clinching a wild card position this past weekend, and will visit Philadelphia to face the Eagles.

– The St. Louis Rams… well, they ALMOST finished with an 8-8 record.

– The St. Louis Cardinals returned to the World Series, and were two games away from being 12-time champions.

– The Kansas City Royals finished 5 games over .500 (their best season finish since 1989), and look to be in reasonably good shape going into the 2014 season.

– The Florida State Seminoles (my dad’s alma mater) returns to the national championship picture, undefeated, slated to go against Auburn next week.

The best of the best in my sports world, for 2013, was Sporting Kansas City. If you haven’t known me for a long time, this statement won’t ring as true to you as it will with those who have known me for years or grew up with me, but my passion for Sporting parallels that for the Cardinals (I can probably go three weeks without repeating a single Cardinals shirt or jersey – I’m quickly catching up with SKC gear). As the Kansas City Wizards, they came a long way from a team that nearly moved out of Kansas City a decade ago, to a team in 2010 who pulled off a huge upset victory in a friendly against EPL powerhouse Manchester United. 2011 marked the debut of the franchise rebrand, now known as Sporting Kansas City, along with their new stadium. They’ve made playoffs in all three seasons since then, culminating 2013 with winning their second MLS Cup.

2013 was not without its personal losses.  March brought the passing of my aunt Gail, who finally was overwhelmed in her battle with cancer. Although anticipated, especially with her final weeks being spent in home hospice, her death still hit me hard. I’m beyond appreciative of my daughter, for she was my rock during a very difficult time. She embraced and carried around the stuffed sheep my parents bought her to keep her occupied during the visitation, and she gave much-needed hugs and cuddles. She held my hand at the graveside service, only being momentarily distracted upon hearing a train passing by a little less than a mile away.

At the end of November, my parents faced the difficult (but correct) decision of putting one of their two cats down after he suffered multiple seizures, the later of which Phenobarbital was unable to control. Of the two (Simon and Garfunkel), Garf was the shy one, but would love you unconditionally once he got to know you. The first time I visited back home after their adoption, I didn’t see Garf for the better part of the first two days. Over time, and future visits, he warmed up to me and would remember me each time I came back home to visit, and was a total softy. I/we don’t have any scheduled trips back home to St. Louis anytime soon, but I face the fact that sometime between now and that next trip, I need to find a way to somehow explain to Jennah that her play buddy won’t be around anymore.

On a lighter, but still hard-hitting note, my car died earlier in the year. Coming home from work and daycare in early February, and the engine blew while on the highway. We were fortunate enough to be on a downhill portion of the highway at the time, and not only coasted down the offramp that was about a half-mile ahead, but lucked out with no traffic at the bottom of the ramp, allowing me to coast the car onto the street and into the parking lot of a gas station/truck stop uninterrupted, bringing the car to a stop in their lot. The process of getting the ol’ Punker back up and going again was long, stressful, and not cheap, but did get a smile out of knowing that the replacement engine that is in there now came to me from a shop along Route 66 in Illinois.

It would seem fitting that the end of the year would end up being the brightest to me, personally. Jennah is now 3 years old (3 and a half in February), and while she wasn’t quite at the age to really understand everything with Christmas last year, she was all about it this year. Helping out with decorations. Making sure the tree was on every day after daycare. Looking around for Christmas lights along the drives. No help needed from momma or daddy, she handled the unwrapping of presents all on her own this year. And I know that for as much as she enjoyed it this year (and subsequently made ME enjoy Christmas that much more), it’ll only get better next year.

I now await the conclusion of this year in its final few hours, and look forward to what 2014 brings. Here’s hoping that you (yes, you) will be a part of it.

Oh, and my New Year’s resolution? 1280 x 1024. Now you know.

Cheers.

Earlier this year, The Elms Resport & Spa in Excelsior Springs, MO, was visited by The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) for an investigation that would air on their SyFy network show “Ghost Hunters”. The Kansas City Star also wrote a solid article on the day of the episode’s airing. Earlier today, the Excelsior Springs Standard published an article detailing how the town has its allure of being haunted.

Watching this episode brought back some memories that I’ve only shared with a few people over the years. I spent nine months at the Excelsior Springs Job Corps Center (ESJCC), which has its own story regarding the buildings on its property. Prior to its purchase by the United States government and its service as ESJCC, the property was utilized as a veterans hospital. The original building on the property dates back to ownership by Colonel E.L. Morse in the 1890s. Over the years, there have been a number of documented paranormal experiences, of which a google search can elaborate upon, and a couple of which I’ll briefly touch on in a bit.

During my nine months there, I personally had two encounters. The first of which took place in the main level of the old E.L. Morse mansion building (identified as Humphrey Hall, at the time – a search on Google Maps indicates that this entire building has since been removed), which served multiple purposes including the cafeteria on the south end of the structure. I was sitting at one of the cafeteria tables with a few friends having a meal, and in the midst of conversation, my plastic tumbler of chocolate milk was moved several inches across the table. There was no condensation on the outside of the tumbler that would have created a slick surface. Through Facebook, I am still in contact with two of the people who I regularly sat with, and were likely at that table at the time. I’ll be curious to find out if they have any recollection of it.

The second incident of mine occurred in the main auditorium level of the Armstrong Social Hall. Between a set of large windows along the western wall of this area, there was a large mirror. I glanced up into the mirror, and saw a shadow/silhouette/whatever you wish to call it pass behind me. I was one of only a handful of people in that area at the time, and there was nobody directly behind me who would have been seen in the angle of the mirror’s reflection.

I’m unsure when the Humphrey Hall structure was demolished (Google Maps’ street view houses an image from July 2008 that still shows Humphrey Hall in place), but it was surely for the best. While my experience in that building was simply intriguing, there were much worse documented over the years, including an apparition that occasionally appeared standing on top of the building, and the fact that the entire upper floor of the building was blocked off with various stories as to why (although staff would never officially verify why).

I extend my thanks to the TAPS crew for re-sparking my memories of these incidents.

ESJCC-HumphreyHall

(Excelsior Springs Job Corps Center – Humphrey Hall (to the left of the breezeway) – as seen in Google Maps street view from July 2008)

One of the biggest realizations in being a sports fan is that for every bit of joy and celebration, there will also be equal parts disappointment and heartbreak. Wins and losses. Injuries and returns. Signings and releases. And in the case of soccer, loans and assignments.

The fanbase of Sporting Kansas City felt that heartbreak on Monday, as the news became official that Kei Kamara, one of the most recognized faces to the team, as well as a top goal scorer, was assigned to Middlesbrough FC, of England’s Football League Championship. Unlike Kamara’s loan to Norwich FC earlier this year, which did see him eventually return to the states to rejoin SKC, this departure is permanent.

When Kei joined Sporting (at that time, still the Kansas City Wizards) in 2009, he had a slightly less than stellar reputation for his attitude and approach to the game. Apparently the change of scenery made a difference, as he very quickly became one of the team’s more productive players, and arguably their most well-identified personalities both on and off the pitch (the stories of Kei and his Chipotle are endless). Having just returned from an ankle injury as an available substitution, I’m happy to know that least I was in attendance to see his final appearance with Sporting.

I had the pleasure of meeting him several months ago, right after his return to Sporting from the Norwich FC loan. Watching him interact with fans was something else; he makes each and every fan feel like he’s known them for years, but gets excited like he hasn’t seen them for several years. He happily autographed the back of my fiancee’s jersey (Kei is her favorite player), and was absolutely giddy when our daughter demonstrated his “Heart shaped hands” symbol. I’m not sure which of the two of them enjoyed that moment more.

Ultimately, if you’re a soccer player and you want to be the best in the world at what you do, Europe is where you want to be. While I’m heartbroken as a fan to see him leave Sporting, I’m happy for him for getting this advancement in his career.

This is my heart shaped farewell to you, Kei. Thank you so much for everything you’ve given to us, both on the pitch and around the city.

20130530_181113

(with Kei Kamara at Kansas Sampler – 5/30/2013)

The topic of this month’s breakfast for the Social Media Club of Kansas City (SMCKC) was “Social Media Burnout”. I tuned in late to the ustream feed, so I’ll have to catch what I missed when the broadcast is uploaded for on-demand, but what I did see hit home in a lot of ways. Conversation about burnout/fatigue, and how to work with it, from both members of businesses and from casual social media users.

Panelists for the forum included Ramsey Mohsen (@rm), Brooke Beason (@brookebeason), Doug Weinbrenner (@dougweinbrenner), Shea Sylvia Carter (@sheasylvia), and Mike Brown (@brainzooming), and Alexis Ceuele (@alexisceuele). All of whom are prominent among the Kansas City social media scene in various ways. All of whom had their own unique perspectives as to how they handle their social media use, and how to prevent/react to the concept of burnout.

The topic is not something unfamiliar to me. Especially after becoming a father. My balance among social media shifts at times, and nothing is a constant. I’ve backed off of certain aspects of it, and shifted more towards other aspects. I’ve had my stints of semi-regular blogging, as well as blog drought (or as was labeled within the panel, “mental constipation”). I have several blogs that are mid-progress right now, for planned release at specific points in time, and those specific blogs have been easier to work with because it’s a different building process. If the thought crosses my mind, I open them up and add a few lines, save, and get out. Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s far different from trying to write off the cuff, as I am right now. They also require less time, ultimately, because I don’t find myself stuck mid-paragraph trying to figure out where my mental train derailed.

Twitter and Facebook are a different, but not unrelated, topic. I’ve backed off of Twitter considerably as of late, especially with the final death and burial of Tweetdeck. I still throw tweets out every now and then to see what floats and what sinks in regards to potential interaction and engagement. I’ll occasionally do searches for specific topics (i.e. my sports teams, current news events, or in this morning’s case, the conversation amongst the #SMCKC feed). These days, my usage is more on Facebook, as it just feels easier to manage without feeling overconsuming.

I’ve also learned to back off from the amount of time spent on social media apps on my phone. If my phone is out while I’m around home when we’re all awake and spending time together, it’s more likely to be on a game (probably either Words With Friends or Mini Golf Match-Up, and odds are decent that I’m playing against my other half) than on Twitter or Facebook. When I lay down with our daughter to get her to go to sleep at night, that’s usually when I’ll actually take time to peruse through my twitter timeline without looking for anything specific.

This is my first published blog effort in exactly one month, and all it took was a speakers’ panel discussing the exact thing I’ve been attempting to balance on my own.