Posts Tagged ‘kansas city’

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.

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.

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(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.

A victorious James Krause, having just submitted Sam Stout in UFC161’s preliminary broadcast

As I touched on with the previous blog, this past Saturday night was UFC 161, and its FX-broadcasted undercard portion featured the UFC debut of local Kansas City area fighter James Krause. I’m happy to say that his debut could not have gone much better than it did.

Krause, and opponent Sam “Hands of Stone” Stout, nearly went the full 15 minutes in their fight. James dominated the first round, including a perfectly-placed kick that opened up Stout near his right eye. The second round was much closer – James likely edged out Sam for round 2, but his corner with the mentality of losing that round (fight took place in Canada, against a Canadian opponent, never leave it to the judges’ decision if possible). The third and final round was closely contested, and in the final minute, Stout went in for a takedown to try and steal the round, and possibly the fight. Krause was ready for it, transitioned into a guillotine choke, and forced a tapout with 13 seconds remaining in the fight.

Their battle earned both Krause and Stout bonuses of $50,000 each for Fight of the Night honor, and Krause picked up an additional $50,000 bonus for Submission of the Night. Not a bad way to get your first UFC fight under your belt.

Krause and his fight camp returned back to Kansas City yesterday evening, and he is back at work today, having called in to SportsRadio 810 from his gym (Grindhouse MMA) to talk with The Border Patrol. 8/28/2013 is quickly approaching, and the UFC on Fox Sports 1 event will have a fight with 24-9 fighter Bobby Voelker.  In addition to Voelker and Krause, GrindHouse also features several other fighters with UFC experience, including Tim Elliott (who will fight 8/31/2013 at UFC 164) and Zak Cummings (member of Team Sonnen for the Sonnen/Jones season of UFC’s “The Ultimate Fighter”).

There are also many other GKHC fighters with MMA experience in other companies/promotions – Sherdog has some information on fighter association by camp. Feel free to get to know them.

As the old saying goes, there’s no rest for the wicked. With great sacrifice comes great reward, and the countless hours of sacrifice that these fighters have collectively put in have already earned rewards. As much as I may hype James Krause, don’t blink an eye at any of the other fighters out of Grindhouse. Additionally, if you’re around the Kansas City area and looking to train in virtually any aspect of MMA, don’t hesitate to reach out to Grindhouse and check out their class schedule.

Engage with me for a little story, if you will. If you know me at all, you know I’m an avid MMA fan. This blog is going to center on a fighter by the name of James Krause.

The very first time I saw James fight was June 7th, 2009. My fiancee and I were out at Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner, and on one of the projector screens was WEC 41. We were casually paying attention, and then saw the on-screen graphic detailing him as fighting out of Lee’s Summit MO (via Grindhouse MMA). That got my attention instantly. Unfortunately, he’d lose via rear-naked choke to Donald Cerrone in what would be the first loss on his professional record (he was 10-0 before this event). After tweeting about the fight, James actually beat me to the punch (no pun intended) and followed me on Twitter before I’d had a chance to search for him and follow him. I thought that was pretty cool, and I haven’t forgotten that.

Here we are, four years later, and I’ve followed him through various promotions – WEC, Titan Fighting Championships, Bellator, and most recently, Resurrection Fighting Alliance. Last year, he was one of the 32 finalists picked to go to Las Vegas and fight to enter the house on that season of UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter. Unfortunately, he lost his fight and never made it into the house for the season. After that, he’d go on a 4-0 streak with RFA to improve his professional record to 19-4.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him on a few occasions, including one to purchase and pick up one of his walkout shirts for my fiancee as a Christmas present instead of doing the order-and-ship method. He couldn’t be a nicer guy, and although I’ve yet to meet her, his wife seems to be a perfect match for him in personality and character (and they’re THAT couple that look so ridiculously cute together that you’d want to hate them if you didn’t know them).

Tomorrow night, James’ career-long dream comes true, as he’ll make his UFC debut on the undercard of their UFC 161 pay-per-view event. He’ll be fighting in the Lightweight (155lb) division against UFC veteran Sam “Hands Of Stone” Stout. The fight will air live on FX as part of their undercard broadcast from 8pm-10pm EST.

I’m ready for the rest of the world to see what I’ve already known about the face of Poster Boy Clothing, James Krause: with relentless drive and motivation and a refusal to settle for less, hard work eventually pays off – both in life, and in career.

(with James Krause – while wearing his RFA1 walkout shirt – December 2010)

Every now and then, you hear a bit of news that immediately makes you stop what you’re doing and forget what it was you were doing, or about to do. Last night, sadly, was one of those nights.

I was at Jiffy Lube getting a headlamp replaced on my car, and one of their techs came out to tell the tech who was working on my car, “I hope you don’t like JJ’s on the Plaza. It’s gone”. Neither of the two of us really had any logical reaction – the car was good to go a few minutes later, and as soon as I got back home, turned on the living room tv. What I saw at that point was pretty surreal, as KMBC was showing split-screen footage of the fire at its start as well as real-time video of the rubble still smoldering next to a broken gas line that was still spewing fire into the air.

JJ’s was a 27-year old establishment in Kansas City, boasting one of the world’s largest and most diverse wine selections (listed on their website at 1,800). The popularity of their restaurant cannot be emphasized enough, both as a place for friends and family to go for meals, and businesses to take associates/clients. Their weekday happy hour and dinner schedule began at 5pm, so for this explosion to occur shortly after 6pm and to currently have no known fatalities is nothing short of incredible.

I cannot give enough credit and respect to the KCPD and KCFD, including Chief Berardi, for their handlng of the entire situation. Kansas City’s mayor Sly James has been a beacon of calm and reason during everything, and continues to do an amazing job keeping the public informed and updated on details – including a briefing shortly after 6am today that I caught before leaving for work. Also, respect to the Q Hotel in Westport, who kindly offered up free hotel rooms for the night to anyone who was displaced as a result of the explosion and fire. KCATA parked several buses just outside of the PD/FD perimeter for victims and evacuees to get on board and stay warm. This is community involvement and outreach at its best, in my opinion.

Alas, with all good will also come some bad. With the fire being as much of an issue as it was last night, local news stations remained on-air to provide coverage and updates, and therefore preempted scheduled network programming. GOD FORBID YOU MISS A BRAND NEW EPISODE OF RAISING HOPE. What we quickly learned last night is that the viewer base for The Bachelor and NCIS (locally, at least), are among the biggest batch of knuckledraggers around. Erica Smith (@ericasmith) compiled a screenshot list of some of the complaints last night, and put them together in a quick one-shot piece. This was only a sample of what was out there last night. Ladies and gentlemen, SHIT HAPPENS. Programs get rescheduled. Representatives for all the local network affiliates (KMBC, WDAF, KSHB, KCTV) were quick to communicate when said network programming would end up being aired. Deal with it. Pay attention to their information. Get a Hulu Plus account to watch on demand. Just don’t be a dick.

Speaking of dicks, there was a local user of social media last night (I won’t give his name, he doesn’t deserve the credit) who posted the following: “I heard that the Country Club Plaza is having a huge bonfire tonight. I heard that you can see it for blocks. Bring the smores and hot dogs and stay warm. Hurry before the fire department puts the fire out.”. You, sir, are an asshole (He’s now claiming that his account was hacked, which is the cool thing to do when you’re an asshole but don’t want to own up to your assholery ways). Stop. Just stop.

The important thing to take away from all of this is that in a time of tragedy, a community came together to help out, and while over a dozen people were hospitalized with various injuries, only a couple of them were serious/critical and there have been zero reported fatalities. Human life will always be more important than who ends up being given the rose on your Tuesday night boob tube viewing.

(updated 10:50am 2/20/2013) – Kansas City Fire Chief Paul Berardi and Mayor Sly James have just announced at a press update that a body has been recovered in the bar area of JJ’s; no positive identification yet, no gender determined. 15 others remain listed as injured – 6 still hospitalized, 3 in critical condition. Per Mayor James, this number is a “moving target”. Crews remain at the scene and will continue working until the snowstorm arrives. Next update with Mayor James and Chief Berardi will be at 4:45pm.

(updated 4:45pm 2/20/2013) – per WDAF Fox 4’s website, the recovered body has been identified as 46 year old Megan Cramer, who was a server at JJ’s Italian Restaurant. Thoughts and prayers are with her family in this difficult time.