Friday, February 29, 2008

Passengers by Billy Collins

At the gate, I sit in a row of blue seats
with the possible company of my death,
this sprawling miscellany of people—
carry-on bags and paperbacks—

that could be gathered in a flash
into a band of pilgrims on the last open road.
Not that I think
if our plane crumpled into a mountain

we would all ascend together,
holding hands like a ring of skydivers,
into a sudden gasp of brightness,
or that there would be some common place

for us to reunite to jubilize the moment,
some spaceless, pillarless Greece
where we could, at the count of three,
toss our ashes into the sunny air.

It's just that the way that man has his briefcase
so carefully arranged,
the way that girl is cooling her tea,
and the flow of the comb that woman

passes through her daughter's hair . . .
and when you consider the altitude,
the secret parts of the engines,
and all the hard water and the deep canyons below . . .

well, I just think it would be good if one of us
maybe stood up and said a few words,
or, so as not to involve the police,
at least quietly wrote something down.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Nostos by Louise Glück

There was an apple tree in the yard —
this would have been
forty years ago — behind,
only meadows. Drifts
off crocus in the damp grass.
I stood at that window:
late April. Spring
flowers in the neighbor's yard.
How many times, really, did the tree
flower on my birthday,
the exact day, not
before, not after? Substitution
of the immutable
for the shifting, the evolving.
Substitution of the image
for relentless earth. What
do I know of this place,
the role of the tree for decades
taken by a bonsai, voices
rising from tennis courts —
Fields. Smell of the tall grass, new cut.
As one expects of a lyric poet.
We look at the world once, in childhood.
The rest is memory.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Yes, we can!

If you are still on the fence about whether Clinton or Obama would make the better president, take a few minutes to read up on their Senate records, including bills authored and introduced, in the last year.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It's cold out there, kiddies! It's cold out there every day!

If you haven't noticed, it's really, really, really cold outside today. I've been looking forward to getting home from work, putting on my fuzzy robe, cooking some phosotto (with asparagus instead of peas), and watching the first disc of season five of The Shield. I seriously can't wait. This has the makings of a perfect evening.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Something's fishy here.

I am totally ordering this. It looks like "sew" much fun. Ha! I crack myself up.

Ode: Intimations of Immortality by William Wordsworth

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight
To me did seem
Apparell'd in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it has been of yore; —
Turn wheresoe'er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more!
The rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the rose;
The moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare;
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where'er I go,
That there hath pass'd away a glory from the earth.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Giving the devil his due.

I've been keeping this blog in one form or another for almost five years now. When I began, I didn't really know what I wanted to say with my blog, if anything at all. I saw it mostly as a place to collect the interesting bits of minutiae I stumbled upon while perusing the Web, a place where sometimes, if I felt especially verbose or thoughtful or brave, I could even give my own opinions about said minutiae and maybe someone, somewhere, might find my brain drippings via a Google search or something. (I didn't actually believe this last bit, by the way - it's just something I told myself so I could pretend I was talking to someone other than me.)

As I put more of myself out into the world, I began to wonder what others had to say about their worlds, too. I figured I might as well stick with the semi-familiar, so I searched out people from my own neck of the woods to see what they had put out there for all the world to see. It didn't take much searching to find Tony's Kansas City.

Tony was the first person to link to my blog, and I have to admit - I felt a little proud and excited the first time I saw my blog in that sidebar. I damn near choked on my coffee the first time he linked to an actual story of mine. On that day, I almost felt famous. Laugh if you want to, but that's a feeling I don't think I'll ever forget. It ranks right below being published in an obscure Victorian literary journal. Maybe it's tied.

Why am I writing about Tony? Because, for better or for worse, he's the first Kansas City blog I head to every morning. He's introduced me to almost every local blog that I read, and he's constantly steering me towards new ones or forgotten ones. He may joke about living in his mother's basement (which may or may not be an actual joke), but that living arrangement gives him plenty of time to scour the local blogosphere for items he sees as fitting pieces of minutiae for his blog. And while I may not agree with everything he says or how he says it, I won't ever fail to acknowledge the service he does for the blogging community in general by being the megaphone for the rest of us. For that, he gets a big "thank you."

When I wrote of my experience with Photographx Unlimited, I had a strong suspicion that Tony would link to it, which would give it way more exposure than my average post about shaving my cat or poetry. As I was writing, I had the thought in the back of my head that those poor saps at that store had no idea what they had unleashed, that hell hath no fury like a blogger scorned. My story wouldn't just reach me, it would reach the entire city, and they would lose way more than my business. And the cool thing is, Tony totally got it. Not only did he link to the post, he read between the lines and got exactly what I was trying to do, in his usual tongue-in-cheek fashion:
What Sitstay goes on to describe is a classic Kansas City instance of "screwing over the wrong person." And I've got to admit that I'll probably avoid the retailer she mentions.

And while bloggers have had virtually no impact on local politics, media or community organizing it's still nice that local business people might show a little bit more respect to clients with an ax to grind behind the safety of a computer screen...

Exactly. Ex-actly! For the record, I don't consider Tony's a "joke blog." I prefer. "blog with jokes."

I've had more comments on my post about Photographx Unlimited than on any other post in the almost-five-year history of my blog. It's both exciting and humbling to know people actually read this thing, and even more so to know that we have connections and that we can affect more than just Internet traffic. I'm both glad and sad to know others have had similiar experiences at that camera shop, or at other types of speciality retailers. My hope is that some of these offending mom-and-pop shops read the post and the comments and take a look at what it is they're doing that is potentially killing their business. I don't want local businesses to shut down. I like and prefer local businesses to big-box stores. But I also have a budget, and a low tolerance for being treated like I'm stupid.

So anyway, thanks to everyone who reads my blog. I love doing it, and I'll keep it up until I run out of things to say.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Through the looking-glass.

Yesterday, I had a somewhat unfortunate experience with a local Kansas City business. Let me preface my story by saying that I try to support locally-run businesses whenever possible. However, I am not made of money, so I also like to get the most for my money when making a purchase.

As a Valentine's Day "together" gift, we wanted to invest in a new lens for our camera. After much research (yay for Mr. Awesome's research skills), we decided on the Tamron SP AF17-50 lens. Mr. Awesome called Wolf Camera, since it was the closest to us, and asked if they had the lens, and how much it costs. The girl we talked to was really great - she told us that her store didn't have it, but that the store at 110th and Metcalf did, and quoted us a price that sounded perfect.

But I like to support the "little" guy when I can, right? There's a local camera shop up north called Photographx Unlimited that we knew had an excellent selection, and since we'd had positive experiences buying equipment from them in the past, we called and asked if they had the lens in stock and what their price was. It was $50 more expensive than from Wolf. So I asked the guy if he would match the price, since we wanted to buy it from them, and we wanted to buy some other accessories at the same time. The guy puts me on hold for about a minute.

He comes back, and I hear another guy in the background laughing pretty hard. The guy I was talking to is kind of snickering, and he says, "Um, yeah, we can't do that." He keeps snickering. The other guy is still laughing at something apparently hilarious, and it's getting obvious at this point that they really don't give a shit about making any money off of me at all. I ask, "Really? Because we would like to get it from you, but $50 is a pretty big difference. We'd like to buy some other stuff from you, too." He says, "Yeah, alright," then hangs up on me. It's at this point that I decide we're not buying anything from them again.

I start to think about the other experiences we'd had purchasing stuff from Photographx Unlimited, and looking back, they pretty much always made us feel like we were some sort of photography noobs, which we are, but Jesus Christ on a cracker, don't make someone feel inferior when they are trying to learn something. So I don't know what type of lens or flash or tripod I need - that's why I'm asking you, the experts, the supposedly-friendly neighborhood camera guys. Customer service tip: Remember that your expertise in a particular field doesn't give you free license to sigh, roll eyes, act irritated, etc. when people ask you about it when you work in a store that specializes in said field. If you only want to talk to people who know about cameras, hang a sign in the window that reads, "Photography experts and professionals only. All others stay out."

Now, I know that part of supporting local businesses includes paying a bit more. I'm okay with that in alot of cases, but when I know that they are going to make a huge profit even when the do knock some off the price, when they know I'm going to potentially spend way more on their products in the future, then I think it's okay to expect a wee bit of give and take. I don't think my request to Photographx Unlimited was out of line.

So I called Wolf Camera on Metcalf and they had one in stock, which they graciously held for us until we picked it up yesterday evening. The guy that helped us at Wolf were incredibly nice and really knew their stuff. Guess where we will be going in the future?

The good news is that our lens is just as great as we hoped it would be. Lots of photos to come in the future.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Not-so stupid cupid.

I used to be one of those people. You know, the type that vehemently avoided Valentines' Day and all the corporate bullshit it represents, the type that glared and audibly snickered at the saps purchasing Valentine's Day cards with cute pictures of Snoopy or babies dressed like grown-ups (not to be confused with adults dressed like babies - seriously, do not google that) on them. I suppose, to a certain extent, I still am one of those people, but my attitudes towards Valentine's Day and all it represents have mellowed at bit in the last few years.

I agree with Shane when he says that, "I don’t think that people should need a special day every year to tell those they love how much they mean to them. That’s something you should do every day." But I and Shane are incredibly lucky - we are both married to people who make us want to celebrate how much we love them every single day. It's a sad fact that many married people don't have this type of relationship, and so for them, Valentine's Day can serve as a reminder that it is important to celebrate the love in your life. I don't agree that the celebration has to or even should involve the spending of copious amounts of cash. But, as with all gift-giving opportunities, thoughtfulness is key, so really think about what it is you want to say to your loved one and how best to say it. (Full disclaimer here - last year, Mr. Awesome gave me this for Valentine's Day. I didn't even hint that I wanted such a gift, but my old one was literally falling apart so this was perfect.)

On a recent episode of House, one of the doctors has a discussion about love with a man who recently married a woman he had only just met. It was an arranged marriage, and the doctor was trying to understand how a marriage could work that way. The man asks the doctor, "Do you love your wife?" The doctor tells him, "I love her as much as the day we were married." The man replies, "You should love her more."

Almost daily, I apologize to Mr. Awesome. I tell him I am sorry that I don't love him today as much as I will tomorrow.

So I don't agree with the application of Valentine's Day, but I do agree with the sentiment. Every day I celebrate my incredible luck and joy at being married to my best friend. But on Valentine's Day, we can remember that we're lucky for being able to celebrate our love every day, that we don't need a special day or card or ring or candy to remind each other how important we are to each other, and how incredible our lives are because we get to be together.

I did get him a gift, by the way. Last year he got me one, this year it was my turn:

Hmm... I wonder what it could be?



Ah, yes... nothing says "I love you" like a Wusthof knife set.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Venetian Air by Thomas Moore

Row gently here, my gondolier; so softly wake the tide,
That not an ear on earth may hear, but hers to whom we glide.
Had Heaven but tongues to speak, as well as starry eyes to see,
Oh! think what tales 'twould have to tell of wandering youths
like me!

Now rest thee here, my gondolier; hush, hush, for up I go,
To climb yon light balcòny's height, while thou keep'st watch
below.
Ah! did we take for Heaven above but half such pains as we
Take day and night for woman's love, what angels we should
be!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Sixth of January by David Budbill

The cat sits on the back of the sofa looking
out the window through the softly falling snow
at the last bit of gray light.

I can't say the sun is going down.
We haven't seen the sun for two months.
Who cares?

I am sitting in the blue chair listening to this stillness.
The only sound: the occasional gurgle of tea
coming out of the pot and into the cup.

How can this be?
Such calm, such peace, such solitude
in this world of woe.

Stupid kangaroos.

But I am le tired.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

If you ain't got no money, take your broke ass home.

They really should have asked her to spell "tasty."

Color your world.

The Library of Congress has a huge collection of color photographs from the 30s and 40s. There's a Flickr stream here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/sets/72157603671370361/

A few years ago, a small fraction of these were published in a book (and I can't for the life of me remember the title), but this Flickr collection is much, much better. Make sure to view "All sizes" to see larger, more detailed versions. I've only made it through a handful of the photos, but so far I really like this one:

Image

Those clothes are fabulous!

Here's another gem from the LoC Flickr set:

Image

These kids are hardcore - for one thing, the lake doesn't look frozen enough. For another, I think the kid in the right foreground is dragging one of his fallen comrades across the ice. That's gotta be cold!

Okay... one more... Consider this one the precursor to Digg or Reddit, 1940's style:

Image

Monday, February 11, 2008

Pot Roast by Mark Strand

I gaze upon the roast,
that is sliced and laid out
on my plate
and over it
I spoon the juices
of carrot and onion.
And for once I do not regret
The passage of time.

I sit by a window
that looks
on the soot-stained brick of buildings
and do not care that I see
no living thing—not a bird,
not a branch in bloom,
not a soul moving
in the rooms
behind the dark panes.
These days when there is little
to love or to praise
one could do worse
than yield
to the power of food.
So I bend

to inhale
the steam that rises
from my plate, and I think
of the first time
I tasted a roast
like this.
It was years ago
in Seabright,
Nova Scotia;
my mother leaned
over my dish and filled it
and when I finished
filled it again.
I remember the gravy,
its odor of garlic and celery,
and sopping it up
with pieces of bread.

And now
I taste it again.
The meat of memory.
The meat of no change.
I raise my fork in praise,
and I eat.

Can you see me now?

We aren't nearly as interesting as we think we are.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Searchable.

In the last week, I noticed that someone managed to come across my blog by searching for "advice where to sit at music hall kansas city." I don't really have a post that gives that advice, but in the interest of public service, I'll make one now. Here's my brief tour of where to sit at the Kansas City Music Hall.

My favorite place to sit is the mezzanine. That's the first, smaller balcony just below the cheaper seats in the balcony. You're high enough to take in all the action, but not so far away from the stage that you're squinting to see human shapes. I sat in the mezzanine when Hairspray was here a couple of years ago, and had a perfect view of everything.

When we saw Sweeney Todd, we were on the floor level, way to the left, about 15 rows back. We moved further back and more toward the center after intermission, because being so far to one side blocked the view of the left 1/5 of the stage. So if you're sitting on the floor, be as centered as possible.

We sat in the upper balcony for Avenue Q. That was okay, except that we were pretty far from the stage and couldn't really see facial expressions very well. I don't know which I preferred - floor seats with a partially obstructed view, or balcony seats where we could see the whole stage, but everything was really small, like looking at a diorama. I guess it depends on the show - for Avenue Q, it was really about the puppets, so seeing the actors' expressions wasn't necessarily required.

I will say that the theater was really, really cold, so bring a coat or blanket or both. There is coffee for sale in the lobby - five bucks for a 12oz vanilla latte kind of pissed me off, but I was too cold to care at that point. It was a good latte, though.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Yes we can. Get out and vote today, people.

How to shave a cat.

Regular readers of this blog know all about Rags. For those just catching up, here he is in all his furry glory:



From time to time, Rags needs a haircut, as his massive girth and abundant fur combine to form a big, furry mess of a cat. Therefore, I have documented here, for your reading and viewing enjoyment, his latest haircut.

The tools necessary for proper cat shaving include:

  • Sheep shears - available at farm supply stores

  • A dust buster

  • A cooperative cat


Position your cat on a smooth surface. You'll be able to move your cat around, and clean up will be much easier. Once your cat is in position, pick a side and shave away.



We shave him from the shoulders back, leaving his mane, legwarmers and tail. So, when you shave your cat, you should stick primarily to the mid section to avoid an ugly confrontation.

Once side one is complete, it's time to flip your cat over and hit the other side.



Continue shaving the other side until it's roughly as shorn as the first side. At this point, you may want to give your cat a scratch on the head to remind him you don't hate him.



Once both sides are sufficiently short, you may want to let your cat move around a bit. This way, he can walk off some of his resentment and anger. Prepare for many scowls hurled in your general direction.



With the hard part over with, you can begin the clean up process. Position your cat on the floor, and run the dust buster over parts that have loose hair hanging on.



Make sure to get his undercarriage, too.



Once you've vacuumed your cat, you can clean up all the shaved hair.



I've heard some people will buy animal hair on eBay and use it to make sweaters. Whatever floats your boat, I say. Depending on the size and furriness of your cat, you may have another source of income.

I'll get a picture of Rags with his new haircut as soon as he quits giving me the death stare.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes by Billy Collins

First, her tippet made of tulle,
easily lifted off her shoulders and laid
on the back of a wooden chair.

And her bonnet,
the bow undone with a light forward pull.

Then the long white dress, a more
complicated matter with mother-of-pearl
buttons down the back,
so tiny and numerous that it takes forever
before my hands can part the fabric,
like a swimmer's dividing water,
and slip inside.

You will want to know
that she was standing
by an open window in an upstairs bedroom,
motionless, a little wide-eyed,
looking out at the orchard below,
the white dress puddled at her feet
on the wide-board, hardwood floor.

The complexity of women's undergarments
in nineteenth-century America
is not to be waved off,
and I proceeded like a polar explorer
through clips, clasps, and moorings,
catches, straps, and whalebone stays,
sailing toward the iceberg of her nakedness.

Later, I wrote in a notebook
it was like riding a swan into the night,
but, of course, I cannot tell you everything -
the way she closed her eyes to the orchard,
how her hair tumbled free of its pins,
how there were sudden dashes
whenever we spoke.

What I can tell you is
it was terribly quiet in Amherst
that Sabbath afternoon,
nothing but a carriage passing the house,
a fly buzzing in a windowpane.

So I could plainly hear her inhale
when I undid the very top
hook-and-eye fastener of her corset

and I could hear her sigh when finally it was unloosed,
the way some readers sigh when they realize
that Hope has feathers,
that reason is a plank,
that life is a loaded gun
that looks right at you with a yellow eye.

Up against the minibar.

How do you like them apples?

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Ice House Melteth.

It's been coming down, brick by brick, for several months. For years prior, it has stood vacant and looming, a dinosaur from a bygone era when things like central air and French-door refrigerators were but a twinkle in the eyes of their creators.  This behemoth by the creek,  once provider of ice to families across the city, has stood as a shell-reminder of pre-WWII Kansas City and what changes come with the march of time.

I've been meaning to take a photo of it for years, and as the snow fell earlier this week, I figured no time was better than the present.



I can't find any information about the American Ice Co. online. I did find a good article about ice distribution in the Kansas City, Kansas area, though. From the article:
Probably the earliest use of ice was when blocks of it were cut from frozen rivers and creeks and stored in frame ice houses for use through the summer months. One of the earliest manufacturers of ice in this area was Armour and Company. Armour used ice for refrigerator railroad cars to ship meats and for its coolers.

As the demand for ice increased, several ice plants were built. Ice was used for cold storage facilities for fruit, vegetables, meats and other perishables. it was also used for icing refrigerator railroad cars.

The manufacturing capacity of Kansas City, Kan., ice and cold storage plants exceeded one thousand tons of ice per day. Among the ice companies were: The City Ice Company and its companion company, The Western Ice Service Company, with 14 plants in greater Kansas City; The Southwest Ice Company, 625 Southwest Blvd. (Rosedale); and The Railways Ice Company and Mid-West Cold Storage and Ice Corp. (Armourdale).

It's sunnier out today, and not as cold, so I got one more shot:



The demolition is both controlled and chaotic at the same time. What I mean is, the bricks are coming down, and disappearing, but I never see a wrecking mechanism, and the only people I see hauling away the bricks are what appear to be local scavengers, who snarl in my general direction when I drive by, as if I am going to steal their precious haul. It's surreal, and sad, and makes me feel sort of lonely and nostalgic and yet I anticipate what will become of the site once the building is gone.

The rumor around these parts is that the Gates family has bought up the southeast corner of 47th and Troost, south to 48th St. I don't know what will be done with the land, but I'm all for neighborhood beautification. It's just a shame when something that has character, like the American Ice Co. building, has to be destroyed rather than reused. I know, I know... it's all about the Benjamins.

P.S. Much thanks to Lee for showing off my photo so well. I'm glad to see others will miss the building, too.