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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Levy Tag Safari

I've been on this levy before. Corinna had billed it as 'bike and hike,' and I didn't realize that meant carrying my fully loaded bike (I had my CPAP on the rack in addition to my usual TMS) over rocks and under bridges.

There is so much great tag art in this town. I remember one time, I was setting up a shot to light paint, Scribe's Billy Goat, aka 'ReSoundFields,' and Corinna commented that I couldn't shoot all the tags in town.

I think I said something like, 'Watch me.' And as luck has it, I got what may be my favorite photo of over 90,000 I've taken these past five years.

The levy didn't stress me out this time. It was daytime, plus I knew what I was in for.

In fact, it was my idea to go there. I wanted, in particular, to try to shoot Shakey, Mpulse and Femme by daylight. I should have made it a morning trip, these tags are on walls on the west side of the Kansas River, and late afternoon in October meant the sun was going down behind my subjects.

I didn't really get Shakey. If that's what that tag even says, I'm not sure. It's so big, I'm pretty sure it can be seen from space. How big? I guess it's bigger than Mpulse and Femme combined, since I could get those two in frame and couldn't get more than a third of Shakey at once.

Here's Corinna with part of the 'H' in this massive tag:

Of course there are tags on top of tags, and some tags are clever but they can't all be.

Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

After visiting the 99%ers, I tried to get some good night shots of the Liberty Memorial. I'm rarely there at night with enough time to try it, and it was a beautiful evening.

My camera really isn't the man for the job, but I managed some. I was mildly worried that the security guard was going to try and run us off, but apparently the monument doesn't really close so much as they try to keep close enough tabs on you to make sure you're not tagging up or copulating.

I don't remember ever seeing graffiti at the Liberty Memorial, but I do remember when it had the reputation of being the cruisiest gay pickup spot in a thousand miles.

I got a cool shot of Corinna with shadows that suggest angel wings.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


We stopped off to see the Occupy KC crew on the way home. I'm frustrated with what I see on this front in many ways, but I'm glad to see them there.

I'm not convinced it qualifies as an occupation, it's more of a party from what I can see.* Which makes it a huge improvement over the Tea Party, another ideological mishmash of folks who mean well, get some things right, and offer almost nothing I can buy as a solution. The Tea Party, though, seems short on partying.

At least these folks know how to have fun camping in the park, and that's something. I know I anger my liberal friends with my cynicism about the 'occupation,' but as with all my Tea Party friends, the likeliest outcome I see is they'll be useful idiots for the powers that be. Your choice: be a tool of the Rupert Murdochs of the world, or carry water for George Soros and Warren Buffet.

Either way, 99% of us are going to get it up the tailpipe.

The labeling of fascism as 'capitalism' by this group is probably one of the biggest problems I have embracing it fully. Nothing resembling free market capitalism has existed in my lifetime, and they do get it right that business and government are in collusion and that this is a shitty way to do things, but calls to 'tax the rich' and 'end corporate greed' don't even show a grasp of the situation.

Which is to say this group reminds me a whole lot of me circa 1991. I'm still a Libertarian, but back then I thought the LP could actually save America. After being exposed to the inner workings of the local party, including running for Jackson County Legislature (I came in third place in a two person race after the Republican, who never campaigned, moved out of the district weeks before the election), I realized that with a few exceptions, Libertarians can't get elected and worse, once elected they can't really get the things they say done.

I still consistently vote Libertarian, there's no reason to cast a vote for the Republican and Democratic marketing machines of the ruling fascist establishment. But I don't kid myself about what that vote accomplishes. Less than Poujadism, and that didn't accomplish a whole lot.

Unlike OccupyKC, the Libertarian Party has a complete, more or less coherent platform, enjoys wide ballot access and still can't organize a one-float parade.

*I'm speaking of the Kansas City edition of this protest. This isn't Oakland.

Pub & Pedal

We missed the actual race, but got in on some of the action. It was an alleycat race starting from the old Osco drug on Main and ending at Buzzard Beach in Westport. As the 'Pub & Pedal' name implies, it had a boozey theme, with a manifest sending cyclists to bars all over town.

Really all over town, including a biker (as in motorcycle) bar out in the middle of KCK. Would have been fun to do: I'm not very fast, but I'm getting to know good routes for getting between some of these places, and routing is winning in alleycats.

We were coming from the Water Fire show on the Plaza, so it was just a hop up the hill. We'd already had enough being jammed in with a crowd of people, though, and the after-party was a crowded one. Lots of sexy Oktoberfest costumes, and not just on Brian Gallmeyer, either.

I told Jones, the organizer of this event, about my idea for Race to the Bottom, a cocktail themed alleycat where everyone buys ingredients for a cocktail (all eligible drinks would have an identical number of ingredients), but each ingredient has to come from a different municipality or zip code or something like that. Then, at the finish line, we have a contest to see who makes the best margarita, side car, etc. You have prizes for the race itself, then the cocktail contest, everyone wins.

When the organizer of race that ends with an hour of free beer looks at you like you're out of your mind to organize such an alcoholocaust...

I guess I have some kinks to iron out in this idea, because I can see his point.

We didn't stay for the free beer, though. If I'm going to be confined in chaos and noise, I want to be confined with these people: it's good to see a bar parking lot packed with pedal-powered vehicles, plus someone bought the homeless guy in the alley a plate of bratwurst from the post-race buffet.

Friday, October 28, 2011


I guess they do this every year, but it was news to me. They float a bunch of braziers on Flush Creek and light them up at dusk. It's really cool, even if it was insanely crowded.

It was a hard event to photograph, but I tried.

It was an easy event to reach by bicycle, though. They had some of the streets on the Plaza blocked off to car traffic and the rest were bumper to bumper.

There were kids sliding down the grassy slopes around the creek, and Corinna joined them in it. It was like sledding except without the props and snow.

Quixotic was performing, but by the time we figured out where and when, we'd both had our fill and it would be a 45 minute wait for the performance. So we headed up to Westport.

You know it's a mob when you'll go to Westport on a Saturday night to escape the crowd.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

After Glow

After the Joe Lovano concert, we rode by the new Kauffman Center, which was letting out from the Tom Sawyer ballet.

We rode up the wrong way on the valet drive, got some good shots of the place and the city, and tried to video Corinna's Tallgrass poem with her sitting in some tall grass. It's an installation (the grass, not the poem), supposedly the native stuff. But between it being dark (we used our the Niteriders on our helmets for stage lights) and the incessant racket of cars, we might as well have tried to shoot the poem in a tent on the field in a NASCAR race.

I learned a lesson about hauling beer. I was uncharacteristically sans panniers that evening, and I tried to lash a sixer of the beer that made Milt Famey* walk us onto the rack. Going down the Twelfth Street bridge, my ankles got chilly and wet as one can leaked its goodness out; a second can blew before we were out of the haunted house district in the West Bottoms.

Someone who bore a striking resemblance to the love of my life tried to tell me not to lash the beers down on their sides. I could have listened, but that's a dangerous precedent to set.

This guy was playing with flaming nunchucks (or whatever you'd call them) in front of one of the haunted houses.

You know what they say, right? Play with fire, you end up on my blog. Okay, maybe they don't say that, but they will, someday. You'll see.

*Really old, really long joke, sorry about that if you took the time to Google it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


This is why I always have my camera with me. You never know when you'll be parking a car and see someone driving sled-dogs up the street without a snowflake in 400 miles.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Joe Lovano & Esperanza Spalding (Us Five)

I managed to get tickets to see Joe Lovano and Us Five at the Gem. According to the Kansas City Scar's review, all eyes were on Esperanza, and I can understand why he said that.

When I saw her at the Folly a couple of years ago, I got in the autograph line and proposed to her. She said no, she was married to her bass (and I realized that this particular question didn't come up all the time), and I said, 'Well, then, an autograph?'

But she was the headliner that evening. She played, she sang, she worked the room. If charisma were breasts, she would have been Morganna the Kissing Bandit.

The Us Five set was maybe not quite as accessible to someone exposed to jazz primarily through the band at Blue Room poetry slams. When I realized Joe was announcing the band because it was the end of the show, I was like, Not already! But it was 9:35, and the band had been on stage for around ninety minutes.

A fast ninety minutes, but a mix of straight ahead and free jazz that wouldn't probably be the gateway drug for someone who spent the years I spent in jazz band and music theory classes on the judo mat. She said she enjoyed it, but she also said, 'I thought you said she sang.'

She does when she's the headliner. This show actually showcased her virtuosity on the bass a bit better.

Anyway, a great show, and just so I'm not claiming to be too sophisticated about jazz, it was ten minutes in before I realized there were two drum sets on the stage. Not a drum kit and a Latin percussionist, two regular drum sets. I haven't seen that, I don't think, since Frank Zappa played the Uptown in 1984.

They're great musicians, though, they never step on each other's toes, trading off between color commentary and play-by-play duties.

And yeah, we rode there. In case you wondered. The Gem doesn't have much in the way of a bicycle rack, not even a Hersey Meter I could see, but we locked up to Flossie the Guard Cow.

It's Like it's August in October

I finally had my first (and likely last) BLTs for 2011. In October.

I did find a deal on bacon: the Burgers' Smokehouse bacon that I like because it's not injected with brine sells five pound packages of odds & ends for a little less than half what their center-cut bacon costs. It doesn't have as many full-length slices, and it's probably got a bit less meat to it, so more of it cooks away, but still, a deal.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pink Pizza

Being as it's October and all, I made the pizza dough pink this time. Grilled chicken with Alfredo sauce was one pie, the other being the same idea but with hot Italian sausage instead of chicken.

I didn't raise any money for research or anything else that might actually be helpful in the quest to save the ta-tas. Which always sounds like a frivolously fun cause unless, say, you have a friend who's roughly your age, even a couple years younger, fighting for her life.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

'Tis the Season

So I was riding past the Edge of Hell the other evening. I love the way that sounds, by the way.

Anyway, I stopped to take a picture of this zombie they had working out front. When he realized I was trying to shoot him, he stepped up, into the light, and reached into his pocket to produce a rat.

A real, live rat. He then proceeded to put the rat in his mouth and let it dangle.

So I asked him, does the rat ever bite back?

"Yeah," he said. "But that's okay, I like it."

Gotta love Halloween.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Worlds of Fun

This is one of my favorite things to do with my kids, but I hadn't been since August of 2008.

At the time, I thought about maybe a season passport for the following year. Instead of one big, long marathon day, make it something we hit once a month or a little more than that. If all the out-of-pocket for the day was parking and we took a picnic (they have an area for that, in fact) it'd be doable.

My only reservation was, really, if we went too often it'd quit seeming special. Like I say, that was August of 2008, and the recession hadn't really hit me—yet.

I have nothing to complain about in the past three years, not compared to a lot of people I know. I didn't get laid off, though I had my hours cut by 20% for seven or eight months, meaning my income was about what it'd be on unemployment except that I still had health insurance. Season passports to Worlds of Fun weren't on the menu, though.

2010 was a better year economically, but the Ghost of Refinances Past was rattling the chains loudly around my house and my personal financial situation was more and more a Christian Scientist suffering appendicitis: did I want an ineffective cure or an unpalatable one?

But that's not really what I came to talk to you about, as Arlo Guthrie would say. I came to talk about what a great day I had with my daughters and fiancé getting a major fix of thrill rides.

I'd been planning this trip sooner, actually. I had $85 in an envelope earmarked for it in the center console of my car when it Bermuda triangulated. The cash was easier to replace, of course, than the car. And while I still haven't got my transportation situation ironed out, my inner child made an executive decision.

Worlds of Fun would be open two more weekends that I had my kids, and that would be it for this year. And the weather last weekend was stellar; no guarantee about the last weekend of the month. And I've skipped every carnival ride opportunity all year: JoCo Fair, Santa-Cali-Gon, Old Shawnee Days, etc.

You can often buy unlimited ride wristbands at those affairs for $20 or so, and we love carnival rides (I think things like the Zipper seem all the more thrilling for being maintained on the road by alcoholics and drug addicts), but $60 for ride wristbands is about half way to a day at Worlds of Fun and nowhere near the value.

The deal I got was the same I got back in '08. You book in advance for a specific date, no refunds, but it's ten bucks cheaper than the regular gate and includes a very good, all-you-can-eat buffet meal in mid-afternoon. Which, if you price grub out there, makes it more like a $20 discount, maybe a little better than that even.

The weather was absolutely perfect. If you've seen Defending Your Life, it was Judgment City weather.

I think the first ride we got in line for was the Detonator. Em won't ride it, for some reason, but it's Corinna's favorite and I'd have to say it's probably my favorite if you exclude roller coasters.

If you've never ridden this one, you strap in to a seat on a 180 foot tall tower. You do zero-to-45mph in roughly a second up, get weightless for a split second, then kind of bounce back down. Four and a half G's, it's a very astronautical experience.

I thought the Mamba was my favorite coaster: so fast and smooth. And I always think I'm going to get decapitated in the turn, even though I know those supports are probably ten feet out of reach. I try, but I can't take that turn without ducking.

I kept seeing these Rastafarian bananas. Several sizes, some bigger than me. I wondered how much they cost, but it turns out their price isn't fixed: you have to win them. Meaning you can get one for a buck or spend $150 failing to get a softball to land in a dairy canister and never get one.

I admit, I ponied up six dollars in an effort to win one, though with the four of us and Corinna's bike in her Corolla, I'm not sure how we'd have gotten him home. I'm pretty sure tying a six foot banana with dread locks to the fender of your car will get you pulled over on the interstate.

We'd arrived at 11:00 a.m. and thought it seemed like a busy day. The ride lines weren't exactly epic, but there was a wait.

Then, as it got into the evening hours, somebody unleashed a sort of teenaged humanitarian crisis on the park. I gather it was a record attendance, and it was back to back, belly to belly.

Very cool in all this mayhem to recognize a familiar face. I knew Gretchen was going to be out there with her family the same day, and I'd wondered if I'd see them. But it's a big park, lots of people. At one point, I thought I saw her daughter waiting in line at a concession stand next to me, but I've only met the kid once and that was a couple of years ago.

The Amazon waiting in line while I waited to refill Snoopy (they got me on an $11 souvenir cup because refills are a buck) was far too tall to be Gretchen's kid. I don't know why I thought that, Gretchen is tall by Gen X standards, as is her husband.

It was her daughter, of course, and when I saw the whole family together, she took a pic of us with my camera.

I wished I could introduce Corinna but she and Em were waiting two and a half hours for one of the haunted house attractions.

I'd never been out to Worlds of Fun for their Halloween themed stuff, but it's pretty cool. Not exactly scary, the chainsaw guy you can hear a quarter mile off and you know they wouldn't let him have a saw with teeth in it.

The smoke machines were going full bore, and they have all sorts of lights up, it really becomes a spooky-poo wonderland of sorts.

Actually, I'd never been in the dark. Ridden roller coasters in the dark. I think me and Mo waited around 80 minutes for the Prowler, but that is one freakish ride in the dark. I think it only goes about 50 mph, much slower than the Mamba's 75 mph, but the way it shifts directions and twists, and the racket of the wood, makes it an intense ride.

As I felt my brain pushing against my skull, I realized that as much as they might like to market roller coasters and thrill rides as the most extreme yet, they really can't push them much farther without inflicting traumatic brain injury on the average rider.

That goes double for the Timberwolf in the dark. That's a violent ride anyway, and in the dark you can't see where you're at in the park as well. I thought it was almost over, then realized we were at the half-way speed check.

At one point, earlier in the day, Em had gotten cranky and I told her that we wouldn't have our money's worth until everyone was exhausted and hating each other. "I'm about there," she said. And I replied, "But the rest of us are still fine, so we're not done yet."

Believe it or not, that actually worked, and she got back into the groove all the way into the dark. But by the time she and Corinna were done with the haunted house, Mo was on strike. We'd gotten in line for the Mamba yet again, and she'd been grabbing at her feet and ankles and saying 'ouch' a lot in line for the Prowler. And trying to sit on the middle bar of the railings.

After maybe a minute in the Mamba line that reached all the way down to what is supposed to be an open area unrelated to the ride, she bolted from the line and sat on a park bench a few feet away.

A twelve hour shift is a long shift, even if you're playing and riding roller coasters.

The amazing thing was, besides the epic crowds in the park, as we left, nearly midnight in the car, there was a stream of cars a mile long still trying to get into the park. A park that would be closed by the time the ones at the end could get parked and pay the gate.