Friday, July 30, 2010

Trampled Underfoot

We nearly were. Roger and I went out Tuesday night to hear a blues band that he's heard people raving about. They were playing at B B's Lawnside Barbecue. There ain't no lawn though. Just a red brick rectangle in a beaten-down part of town, next to a used car lot. They do have a little wood deck out front for fresh air fiends.

When we pulled up, the parking lot was overflowing. The guy at the door said it was standing room only. I hesitated, unsure I was ready to endure a sea of bodies and a frazzled waitstaff that would be e'er squeezing past me, but too swamped to fetch me a beer. Roger was willing to go to Jardines instead, to see the Beach Nuts, a really good surf and retro Americana band. We had been torn between the two choices anyway. But then I heard a female voice pouring out of B'B's, all gutsy and soulful. And I thought, "Am I gonna pass this up?" Hearing live blues in a dive with an enthusiastic crowd is part of what I signed up for, when I joined this earth ride. So we paid the cover and went inside.

There was barely any place to stand. We were wedged in front of someone's table, blocking their view. I wondered about the fire code. And I was right about not getting any beer.

The band was aptly named Trampled Underfoot, and they were not what you'd expect from a well-reputed blues band that had traveled around Europe and won international competitions. They were young, in their 20's, two brothers and their sister, with the last name of Schnebelen. Both the brothers looked clean cut in a way that seemed incongruous with the gritty groove they were putting down. The drummer could have been a computer store clerk. The guitarist wore a clean white cotton shirt and gel-touseled hair. But these guys played honest-to-goodness blues with no grandstanding. They played like they had studied the greats who had come before them.
Danielle, their sister, played bass and belted out a blues that seemed beyond her years. She seemed unconcerned about anything but the music. She let the long waves of her unkempt hair fall across her face, and either wasn't wearing make-up, or had sweated it all off.

Here's a fun fact about the band: both Danielle and her brother the guitarist play left-handed.

We finally got seats during the break, at one of the long tables covered with red-checked oilcloth. The seating makes the place feel like a noisy indoor picnic, or an uncomfortable family reunion where you don't know a soul. At last I was able to order a Boulevard Pale Ale.

The last song we heard was a metal number, "Rock and Roll" by Led Zeppelin. The band wailed with righteous rock energy, stirring the crowd. One shaggy-haired dude raised his tatooed arm, his hand fisted high in solidarity. After that we left. The moon was up and glowing yellow as we turned and headed west for the state line.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Excellent Junkyard Egyptian West-Bottomed Patty-Melted Weekend

Last Friday evening Roger and I went to the Nelson to see the new Egyptian exhibit. We saw an actual mummy, and an unbelievable sarcophagus, that has been very well preserved. It was decorated with colorful painted images (at left).

We drifted through the museum until it closed at 9:00. Then we went to see Micmacs à Tire-Larigot, (Non-stop shenanigans), a French movie that was very quirky and funny.

The movie isn't for everyone, as its looniness gets out of control and very far-fetched at times, but I loved the originality of it. And the junkyard, where the main characters lived. (See below).

Here we see Slammer and Bazil, at the door which leads down to a fabulous cavern underneath the junkyard, where the walls are entirely covered with odd scraps of metal.

Saturday morning I met Marc for coffee at Crossroads Coffee. It used to be Coffee Girls, but Coffee Girls relocated to Waldo. I think this was the first time either of us had been to the place since it changed ownership. We both noticed it lacked the coziness it had had before. The interior seemed like an empty shell, without the personal touches that had made Coffee Girls feel inviting. And on top of that, there was a long table with a lot of loud men yakking away. Just completely ruined the atmosphere. Felt more like we were in a cafeteria.

After we we finished our coffee, we went over to the West Bottoms, to go to a thrift/vintage clothing store named Reruns. The store is in an old, old red brick building from Kansas City's industrial yesteryear, that has the words "Columbia Burlap Bag Co." painted at the very top. To reach Reruns, you climb a lonnngg set of dusty stairs up to the top floor. The place is organized by decade. Upon entering Reruns you step into the 80's and 90's. Through a closed door, if you dare to venture, are the 70's, 60's, 50's and 40's, maybe even 30's. The rooms seem to go on forever. It feels like you could get lost in another decade and never find your way out.

I have to get back there this fall and shop for some vintage sweaters. As Marc drove me back to my car, we saw the Town Topic on Broadway up ahead. I asked Marc if he'd ever eaten there. He said no, and as a matter of fact, he was hungry. So we just had to stop. I told Marc that they made a mean patty melt, but he went and ordered a regular ol' burger. So I ordered a patty melt myself and let him have a taste. He liked it, so I gave him the entire half. It does a body good to introduce a newbie to the joys of the Town Topic patty melt.

Friday, July 23, 2010

High On Chai

I just found out about this place yesterday. They opened a few weeks ago. I can't wait to try it!

They serve authentic masala chai tea. How cool is that? Now I don't have to order a whole meal at an Indian restaurant to get some.

They also serve Pakistani and Indian street food, like samosas, mango lassi, skun-jabeen, which is a spiced lemonade, rooh afza, a summer beverage with fruit syrups and rosewater, kava, which is black tea leaves brewed with cardamom and spices, and pink chai, a traditional drink from the Kashmir region, in which green tea leaves are brewed with milk in a process that turns the tea pink. All this and wi-fi too.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

This morning when I walked into work, my phone was ringing. It was a publisher I'd tried to reach yesterday, whose customer service rep was based in the U.K. The customer service rep had the most lovely, lovely, British accent, a sweet and lilting voice in soft tones. It was all hollyhocks and blue bells. My own voice felt crude and bludgeon-like by comparison. Seriously, every time it was my turn to speak, my voice echoed hard and course in my ears. I found myself trying to sound softer and more lilting. But then I had to ask her a couple of questions about an invoice, and my voice got all hard and course again. Like a chunk of tar next to a sculpted piece of sparkling crystal.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


As part of my recent outing and abouting, I met Laura for coffee Sunday morning. I was glad she suggested a place downtown, near the City Market. I don't get down there often enough. In fact I get down there never. That whole pocket north of I-35 and east of Broadway is a big mystery to me. Calls for some exploring.

We went to K City Coffee House, and it was a pleasant balance of urban and cozy. We sat in the window and a little bird peeked in at us. It's funny, when I'm that far downtown I have this weird sensation that I'm WAY HIGH above the rest of the metro, as if we were up on a concrete mountainside overlooking a suburban valley.

It's so good for me to get away from Johnson County, where I now live and work, I can't even tell you. Little coffeeshops with character are scarce out there. It's all franchises with their slick, market-researched logos.

I finally found a cool little coffeeshop not far from my work, but it took a long time for me to stumble across it. For over a year after the college moved from its funky environs near Troost and Brookside, to the surburban blandness of Greater Caucasia and its gleaming office parks, I despaired of finding any independent, hole-in-the-wall coffeeshops. I took short, exploratory drives through the surrounding strip malls and found nothing.

Then one day, after another round of desperate Googling, I found a listing for Revocup, across from Johnson County Community College. I checked it out, and found a dark, cool oasis of coffeeshop nirvana. The place is dimly lit, which I like, with local artwork on the wall. No forced cheeriness here. The owners, who are often behind the counter, are from Ethiopia. They are polite and gracious, in a genuine way. Revo stands for revolution, and they want to be revolutionary in using single-origin coffee beans, and giving back to the coffee farmers in their homeland.

From their website:

"We give back 10 cents for every cup of coffee and $1.00 for every pound of coffee sold in our retail store. This is a very exciting time for us, and we are determined to serve customers a range of coffee that has never been offered by the industry and in the meantime help our native country by giving back a portion of the revenue to tackle poverty."

I went to Revocup recently on a very hot day. It was like stepping into a cave. Despite the heat outside, my appetite for a hot chai was instantly revived. Since they pride themselves on their coffee beans, I feel I should try their coffee once in a while. But their chai lattes are consistently spicy and somehow they have figured out how to steam soy milk so that it's creamy. Now that's revolutionary.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mony At Large

The sun is high and I've been getting out. That's what summer's all about. On July 8th I went to the Blue Room to see Roger's trio play. Roger was playing Thelonius Monk when I walked in. Thelo Mo is my favorite jazz pianist of all time. After Roger, of course. Roger's trio killed.

On Saturday July 10th the girls and I drove up to Excelsior Springs to hear Laura perform outdoors at the Fence Stile Winery. You can take your own snacks, so we packed up a big picnic basket. Lilah wanted to take a can of sardines. YES. I've introduced her to the briny joys of that fishy treat. We like the boneless, skinless kind, swimming in olive oil. Lilah convinced Tim to try the sardines. In return, she has agreed that someday she must taste the OCTOPUS SALAD that Tim buys at City Market. Octopus salad with visible TENTACLES and SUCKERS. I think Tim got the easy end of this deal.

It's always nice to hear Laura sing, but the setting at the winery was especially pleasant. You can get a glass of wine and bring it outside to the patio, and sit and chillax. The winery is only reachable by making a lot of confusing twists and turns way out in the Missouri countryside, to throw off your bearings so that by the time you find it, you have no clear idea of its locale. But this works, because it gives you a pleasing sense that you have left the world behind and can never be found.

On Sunday, July 11th, I went to the Record Bar to see Roger play with the People's Liberation Big Band, my favorite big band of all time. At the bar I ordered a mystery ale. It really was called that --the Magic Hat Mystery Ale #9. It was dark and rich and good.

The People's Liberation Big Band was in rare form, their music a bodacious blast of bohemian bounty. Lessee...they performed a crazified Who medley, performed against a screen showing a clip from the Who's Superbowl appearance...they did a tune in which all the band members strode off the stage and onto the floor of the bar, and as they milled about the audience, they each launched into a monologue about their formative experiences that led them to playing music...they presided over a mock wedding-by-proxy, in which audience members were invited to stand in and be "married" for couples that couldn't get married in their lifetime, namely Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky and Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklias. I stood in for Allen Ginsberg, since he was a close associate of Jack Kerouac. Roger hopped off the band stand and joined me. Jeff Harshbarger had us recite the vows he had constructed out of lyrics from Michael Jackson songs. "Repeat after me, all you pretty, young, things..." he began.

This past Saturday was Annabelle's last day of Girl Scout day camp. We had to drop her off at the bus at 8:00 am, so Roger and I decided to leave from there and go to the City Market. We met up with Laura and Tim, and followed them around the fruit and veggie stalls for a little while, until we got serious about buying produce and then parted ways. We bought tomatoes, corn, zuchinni, cilantro, watermelon, peaches and eggplant. We also bought a high-falutin' pasta that is supposed to taste like lime-cilantro.

There were four characters dressed up in elaborate period clothing prancing around. We weren't sure if they were there to promote the Renaissance Festival that happens in September, or there purely to prance around.

Saturday evening, the girls and I drove up to Weston, Missouri, where Roger was playing for a community theatre production of Winesburg, Ohio. Roger has played for this community theater group the last three summers, when they did Seussical, Guys and Dolls, and High School Musical. All of those are light and frothy, typical musical theater fare. Winesburg, Ohio is much heavier, darker material. Roger and I saw the KC Rep theater do it, and I loved the complex emotions and personalities the KC Rep actors portrayed. I applaud Weston Community Theater for taking on this challenging play and kudos to their players for tackling the material head-on. There were moments where they really shined. I also must say, however, that now more than ever, I truly appreciate professional theater.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Little Artists

Annabelle likes to freeze videos on YouTube and try to draw the cartoon characters. One of her favorite cartoons right now is Phineas and Ferb. She has a strong drawing arm and can draw bold, continuous lines.

Here is Ferb:

And Jeremy Johnson:

Here are some dragons she drew one night, during a thunderstorm. At the top of the page is a mommy dragon with its baby on top. She drew these out of her own head.

Lilah draws occasionally too. She reproduces scenes from Archie comic books.
She drew this freehand:

And this:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Summer Saturday Morning

Wake up. Reach for Tony Hillerman book. No, should sit quietly for a moment first, just listening. Just resting the mind. Hear sounds of truck passing by. Flash goes off inside head. We need to move our cars. The guy moving the piano is coming.

Roger is still comatose, so I move the cars. We're getting rid of our piano because Roger's parents are sending their piano our way. It's much nicer.

I should wash last night's dishes. The girls and I had a movie night, and just let them sit. Cheri looks at me expectantly. No, I should take the dog for a walk. I'm just getting her leash as the piano guys pull up in the drive.

On the walk, I see a pretty pink thistle flower. Is it a milk thistle or a bull thistle? Cheri finds a disgusting flattened rodent and grabs it in her mouth. We walk for 5 or 6 blocks with it hanging out of her mouth. So gross! Drop it, Cheri! Drop it now, I command you! Whenever she swings her head around, I'm afraid she's going to fling it against me. She eats a large portion of it. Ugh. That's it. You're staying outside when we get home. Your mouth is nasty and you're probably going to vomit soon.

Get home. The piano is gone. In its place, a little square of dust and and small pieces of unidentifiable debris. A marker. A solar calculator that had fallen behind the piano at some point.

Still cool enough to leave the front door open, and make a cup of tea. I sip white tea. Feel peaceful and relaxed. Think about how to balance the day.

I think of these words from a Bjork song, "It's not up to you":

How do I master
the perfect day
six glasses of water
seven phonecalls

I would like to read my Tony Hillerman book, "The Blessing Way." (I am at a very crucial point in the story! It's insane to read the characters into this critical life or death situation and then close the book. But I was too sleepy last night to go on. So I abandoned them in the hands of a ruthless killer.) I would like to do my aerobic routine. I would like to drive up to the Fence Stile Winery in Excelsior Springs and sit in a beautiful setting and sip wine while Laura plays. I need to get supplies for Annabelle's Girl Scout day camp that runs all next week. Hit the grocery store and library. Make a dent in the pile of laundry. Take a shower.

Annabelle emerges, still heavy with sleep. She curls up on the couch and stares into space. Lilah goes out the front door, takes the bike off the porch, and rides up and down the hills on either side of our house, 6 times on each hill. I can hear the buzzing whirr of her bike tires as she passes the house. Then the squeak of the brake as she pedals back up to the house.

Now the AC is on and the front door closed. My tea is gone. I must begin to assemble some sort of structure on which to pin the day. Or....I could just continue to sit here on my ass.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Natives Were Restless

Sunday night before sundown, we took a drive west of town to look at some storm clouds that were hovering darkly over the horizon. When we got back into town, the streets were absolutely deserted. You would have thought the town was dead, but you would have been wrong. All of a sudden, as we drove past the Cozy, a burst of green and gold sparks exploded overhead. A little cluster of people were setting off fireworks on the lot where the old Phillips 66 used to be. We pulled over to watch, but soon saw that there were fireworks going off all over town. Getting home was like driving through a war zone. At every turn, we ran into rogue firework displays being set off in the middle of the street. The skies were filled with shrieking and popping.

We decided to go to the high school, to watch it all from the bleachers, but it was very windy and cold, so we didn't stay there long. We went back to the house to light our own fireworks. I had bought some from the Ness City Rotary Club, which had set up a stand inside the old Auto Parts building.

I got one of those whirly-deals that you nail to a telephone pole and light it and it spins around and shoots sparks. I always thought those were cool. I got a couple of helicopters. One was a dud. The other one spun around and lifted off and buzzed off into the air. Very cool. Dang, I wished I had more of them. The lady selling fireworks had thrown in a pack of 5 roman candles for free, but they were cheapy roman candles, and were kind of boring. I had sparklers and black snakes and glow worms for the girls. The whole time we were outside, the night sky was exploding with colors and noise from other fireworks in the neighborhood. Siss! Boom! Crack! Kablooey! Sizzle! Sparks shooting, flying, raining down.

Since I've been an adult, I've mostly lived in places where fireworks are outlawed. You go take your lawn chairs to some outdoor display, sit there and "ooo" and "ahh", and then you sit in a horrendous line of cars to get out of some clogged parking lot. I can't get too excited about that. But shooting off your own fireworks in a town gone wild is something else again.

Today the girls and I played tennis, and scattered across the courts and the school yard were little scraps of burnt cardboard, the crash-landed remnants of a high-flying 4th.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Grain Elevators, Waiting

Grain Elevator in Nekoma, Kansas

Roger sat at the kitchen table this morning, bolts and nuts of all sizes spread out before him. He's trying to get more metal into his diet. Har, har. No actually, he was searching for a bolt so he could fix the hinge on my sunroof. And fix it he did. The roof stayed tightly shut even after driving 300 miles out to western Kansas, on a windy day.

It was a good drive. We were shepherded across the plains by a big gang of fat clouds that kept the sun at bay. We took the dam road, and stopped at the Sports Haven near Cedar Bluff to get cold drinks. Someone was parked at the pump, gassing up their boat. Ah, summer. West of Brownell, we saw someone out in a combine, cutting wheat. But Mom says that harvest around Ness is over.

When we got to Mom's, I was hot and tired from the drive. So I was cheered to find a bottle of Ad Astra Ale that Marc had left behind, waiting for me in the fridge. Brewed and bottled by the Free State Brewery in Lawrence. It hit the spot. I unpacked a little paperback of Haikus by Jack Kerouac. I needed some relaxing words to rest my eyes on, and now seemed the perfect time to crack open this book.

I found the following haiku, which fit my drive today:

Grain elevators, waiting
for the road
to approach them

Here are a few more I like:

Glow worm sleeping
on this flower
Your light's on!

Quiet moonlit night
Neighbor boy studying
By telescope; ------"Ooo!"

Wooden house
raw gray---
pink light in the window

Friday, July 2, 2010

Is That Bjork In Your Pocket, Or Are You Just Glad To See Me?

This happened to me this morning:

As a special Friday treat, I stopped by a coffeeshop on the way to work. While I was waiting for my latte, I became aware of music playing. I soon realized that I recognized the singer. "Ahh, how cool. They're playing Bjork," I thought. A lesser-known tune from her Post cd. As I waited, I decided to call Julie at work to see if she wanted me to bring her anything. I pulled out my phone, and it was then that I realized that I was the one playing Bjork. I'd bumped the phone inside my pocket and turned the music player on. I hadn't even realized the music was coming from me, pouring out of my hip.

How many times has this happened to me, and yet I still don't catch on when the music starts? My phone is a little candy bar Nokia. I got it for $16 when I renewed my contract last year. It feels like I'm holding a Nestle's Crunch Bar up to my ear, but I can download music on to it. It's kind of like an Ipod, only better, because it has a speaker that lets me hear the music without wearing earphones. The problem is, when it gets bumped it unlocks and the phone starts pocket dialing, texting, playing music, you name it.

The dude who was foaming my soy milk seemed amused and relieved when he saw me fooling with my phone and realized where the music was coming from. We both had heard the sudden gush of Bjork, and he apparently had wondered about it, but had just sort of shrugged and gone on with his barista routine.

Another time I was out walking around somewhere, at some outdoor hoo-haw, and I heard some old Bob Dylan playing, and I thought, "Cool! They're playing some vintage Bob Dylan!!" Somehow the music always sounds like it's coming from some external speaker, and not from me. And each time, I'm like, "Garsh! I can't believe they're playing that! They're playing an obscure tune that I have in my own collection!"

It's no wonder my American Indian friends call me, "She Who Is Easily Surprised."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Free Floating Phantasm

Okay, I've given myself a month to fart around and just be free. Now I should look for something writerly to plug myself into. Like becoming a member of The Writer's Place.

The members meet in this castle-looking building, with dark, gloomy clouds overhead.

Tonight they're having a Write-in. I should go.

Here's how they describe it:


Bring a notebook or laptop and join fellow writers in lessening the loneliness of writing. Everyone from beginner to experienced is welcome to this open writing session.

But they picked kind of a crummy time --at 6:00. Right after work, in the middle of the supper hour, when the dog needs to be walked and there are hungry kids waiting at home. So I guess I'll just have to stay home and write all by myself in loneliness.

Later this month, they are going to pay homage to Rumi, the Sufi poet of love. But I'll be attending a graduation party being held in my honor that night. As always, saying yes to one thing means saying no to something else.

Perhaps I should join a writing group. Here is what the Writer's Place website says about writing groups:

The Writers Place is in the process of creating new writing groups. If you’d like to join a writing group, please send some samples of your writing so that TWP can pair you with an appropriate writing group.

A little intimidating. How will they decide what group I fall into?

Also, I'm just not sure. Do I really want to commit to showing up for something? Add a new obligation to my routine? Floating free has its advantages.