Friday, May 29, 2009

Reasons Yesterday Rocked

1. I locked in our mortgage rate 1/8 of a percentage point HIGHER than it was the day before. How could this possibly rock? Because it was a full ¼ point higher than that by the end of the day. Bond prices crashed, which boosted interest rates nationwide as a result. Another lender we were considering went from 4.75% to 5.625% in 48 hours.

2. I received yet another ticket on Southwest. I now have four in my account, if you’re counting at home.

3. I found out my car’s air conditioning compressor was NOT seized up; it had simply run out of coolant due to a slow leak in the system. Leak is repaired, system is charged, just in time for summer. I’m out $66 instead of $1000.

4. My garage door, which failed quite violently Tuesday night, is being repaired right now. The person who took down my information scheduled me for yesterday by mistake, which left them overbooked at the time listed on their schedule. In the meantime, another person I had called for a quote called me back and gave me a $75 lower estimate. Needless to say, I simply cancelled the first appointment.

5. The much-predicted rain never materialized, allowing us to actually start our summer softball season on time. We won both games, and I didn't get hurt (which, as I age, is becoming more of a victory than saying "I hit the shit out of the ball".)

Life can be pretty sweet when it wants to be.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Places To Eat Lunch

No, I am absolutely NOT stepping on the DLC’s toes, as you will see by the relative brevity of these posts. This is more/less just a brain dump of places I’ve been in the last two months that I felt were worth mentioning if you work in central-ish JoCo.

Bates City BBQ, 65th and Quivira: Better than most barbecue places in Johnson County. It’s one of those places that doesn’t do anything brilliant, but doesn’t do anything bad either. They seem to run about 4 different specials every day, listed among the other hand-written signs and slogans on the left. You can get out of there for about $7 with a drink. It’s not a destination barbecue joint, but is plenty satisfying for a quick lunch.

Nordstrom Café, Oak Park Mall: I had no clue there was a restaurant in Nordstrom until a co-worker took us there. Anyone who is hunting for a wealthy divorcee who likes to get tipsy will find the crème de la crème at this place. The crowd is 25% older women and 70% well-heeled women in their late 30s to early 50s wearing $150 jeans and $150 haircuts dining on salads, pizzas, panini...and wine. (The other 5% are people like me who had no clue the place existed.) There was nothing wrong with the food, but you’re looking at a $15 lunch. Unless you rationalize that about $7 of that amount is admission to one of the more interesting people-watching experiences in town, don’t bother.

Tienda Casa Paloma, 82nd and Metcalf: I had three delicious authentic tacos here at this half store/half restaurant (I think I did carnitas, barbacoa, and carne asada). They even have a salsa bar to dress them up however you’d like. I also suffered from absolutely explosive gastrointestinal distress as a result. It went from being a place sure to make it into my rotation to a place I’ll likely never try again.

Villa Capri, 81st and Metcalf: Way old-school Italian joint. I really wanted to like the place, but it felt more sad than anything. I had an Italian steak and salad, both of which were filling but uninspired. The place has been there for many decades. From what I understand they have a boatload of regulars, but the day I was there only two other tables were occupied. Average food + some character still does not = $10, which was the cost of my lunch before tip.

I have a few more that I’ll share later.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Done Deal

The house is officially ours; more accurately, neither party can now legally back out of the deal. We signed the "Inspection Notice" and "Resolution of Unacceptable Conditions Amendment" yesterday, which basically confirm that yes, we had the house inspected, and yes, we have a couple things that could stand fixing if you would be willing to take care of it Mr. Seller (he was).

All we need is to get CapFed up to speed and get our loan cleared, and we close on June 25.

We're really excited. The discussions of our pending cargo van adventure to IKEA have already commenced. There's obviously a long list of stuff we have to do, from getting utilities set up to getting an insurance policy, but those are probably small potatoes compared to the biggie:

Selling our current house.

My optimism regarding what we can get for the house waxes and wanes on a near-hourly basis. We have a couple family members who might be interested, which would save us agent commission but they probably wouldn't pay us full price. Of course, what the hell is full price?

It's going to be tough to tell since there are few good comps for our house. The quirks: Our house is at least 20 years newer than any 2BR/1BA house in the area. It's next to an interstate (yay access, boo noise). It's got a very large yard. It's has better landscaping than a lot of homes. It's better decorated than almost anything I've seen in the area. It's in a convenient location. It's not in a great location.

We can just list it with an agent and not worry much about it until we get an offer, but I always fret about how much my best interests would be taken into account by an agent (I thought I was the only one who felt that way until I read Freakonomics).

Now, add the fact that the real estate market in KCK has taken a nosedive much worse than most surrounding areas. Too many foreclosures and derelict properties have made my "blue collar" (read: poor) hometown a sporadic jungle of overgrown yards and broken windows.

Should be interesting.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


What’s been happening:

-Two weekends ago we got to visit our friends Corey and Mo in Chicago. We had a fantastic time, saw the current incarnation of The Union, and enjoyed a beautiful Chicago day on Saturday.

Some recommendations: go to Hot Doug’s (featured yesterday on CBS Sunday Morning) for some yummy encased meats. Choose whatever you want, but make sure you also get a corn dog. On Friday and Saturday, they offer French Fries fried in duck fat. Also, unless you have some time on your hands, don’t bother showing up between 11am and 2pm. It’s a popular place.

Edmund Fitzgerald Porter is delicious, and it goes great with sketch comedy at a BYOB theater. The beer selection in Chicago puts ours in KC to shame, as their geography puts them in the distribution networks of all the East and West Coast breweries.

Speaking of, try the Hopleaf on Clark to satisfy your beer geekery needs. They focus on Belgian styles, but their beer menu is a 16-page pamphlet of all things hoppy, malty, and happy. From Dogfish Head to Urthel, any beer lover will find plenty to like there.

We had outstanding Indian food at Viceroy. Located on Devon Street, which is packed with Indian businesses, Viceroy served up some delightful cuisine. We sampled over a dozen things among us and we liked them all.

And go to Millennium Park. Just go.

-This weekend, we remodeled our bathroom. It’s amazing what a couple hundred bucks in paint, flooring, and lighting can do to a room. Now that the house is exactly as we want it, it’s time to sell it. From what I understand, that’s the way it always is.

-The Red X wine tasting never fails to satisfy. We attended with our friends Alan and Amy (it was Amy’s first time) and had a great time. And Stone Canyon Pizza does a really good job.

-We ate at Blue Koi last night with a group of friends and had a great time catching up. Try their current special—“Spicy Buns”. You’ll feel dirty ordering them and happy eating them.

-Wyoming. I went there last week (no ex-girlfriend sightings); I'll be there once a month through September. *sigh*

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Event of the DECADE - Red X Wine Tasting, May 21

A little good ol' fashioned Riverside hyperbole is in order, because once again it is Red X wine tasting time.

Thursday, May 21, 5-7pm.

If you've never been, you owe it to yourself to give it a shot. Jury's still out as to whether I'll be attending, but you don't need me there--just show up and let the osmosis begin. You'll be absorbing the awesome in no time.

Here is what I wrote last year to describe the Red X Wine Tasting in all its magnificent fluorescence:

My mind has officially been blown.

I have rarely experienced so many layers of fascination in one place.

Friends, I’m speaking of the Red X wine tasting EVENT.

If you’ve never witnessed the Riverside Red X, it is everything to love about America under one roof. Groceries. Cigarettes by the CASE. Every type of lottery ticket ever invented. A hardware store. A dollar store. A museum with statues of animals AND a suit of armor.

Oh - and booze. Lots and lots of booze.

That’s great, JJS, but I have a liquor store near my house.

I’m sure you do. But it doesn’t have a SUIT OF ARMOR and FUNHOUSE MIRRORS!

Point taken. But I’ve been to wine tastings before at other places, and they were kind of a drag – you know, kinda snobby.

I’m talking about the Red X, fool! There’s no place for snobbery. And what did your wine tasting have, 4 bottles to try? 8? Red X opened AT LEAST 80 different wines.

Wow. 80?

At least. And no, I did not try them all.

That SOUNDS cool, but I’m a little intimidated by the whole “wine scene”.

Your fellow tasters will include guys in NASCAR shirts and mullets asking to try the “SEER-uh”. That makes it 95% less intimidating and 9500% more glorious.


Great! Sounds like you’re in! The next one takes place:

Thursday, May 21


Riverside Red X

Yes, it’s early, but that leaves plenty of time to go get dinner afterward at the Corner Café or Stone Canyon Pizza (where they have, ironically, 1/2 price bottles of wine).

Let’s do this.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

House Hunting = DONE

We bought a house last night.

It's still sinking in.

It's wonderful.

I don't know how it happened so quickly. At 5pm we walked into a house for a showing, and by 8pm we were under contract.

We had some luck along the way, some circumstances that fell into place just right.

For example, the house was scheduled to be open for viewing Sunday, but the date turned out to be a clerical error. We went to said open house, called the agent, who didn't answer her phone, and left disappointed that we were pretty much stuck with an hour to kill.

She called back yesterday and apologized for the mix-up (someone put the wrong date online) and offered to show the house that evening. It's a good thing--we put in an offer then and there because we've walked through enough houses to know it's not going to get any better than this.

Right after we left the house, she called the owner and he accepted.

This was quite fortunate for us because by the time she got back to the office another offer (which was slightly higher) had been faxed in.

It's got absolutely everything we need; in fact, we were downright stunned by how great the layout is and how little work will be required.

The basement is nicely finished, there's a 2-story fireplace in the living room (which is open to the kitchen and dining room), and the master suite is literally half the size of our entire freaking (admittedly small) existing house.

Pending inspection and all that paperwork, we will officially be residents of Merriam, KS on June 19th.


Now I've just got to figure out what to do with the title of the blog.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Relocation Project

We are officially looking for a new house.

The place where we currently reside technically meets our needs, as demonstrated by the 2-1/2 years we’ve shared the place. However, this “starter home”* is missing something.

*And it is truly a starter home—2 bed, 1 bath, 1 car garage. I bought it 9 years ago just after I got out of college. I will backhand anyone who refers to their 3 bedroom, 2-1/2 bath, 2100 square foot house as a starter home. For real.

So from a space standpoint, we could use a little more. But that’s not what’s missing, at least for me.

We have done some really nice things to the house, both inside and out, and “made it ours”. So that’s not it either.

It’s the location.

From a physical standpoint, our lot backs up to I-70. As you may guess, that makes it LOUD. Inside the house isn’t bad, but outside it’s nearly impossible to enjoy a peaceful meal or conversation.

Also, the hill between our driveway and the street is a magnet for litterbugs. For whatever reason, assholes throw their trash out the windows of their cars for us to pick up on a near-daily basis. It’s a beautiful sight to wake up to every morning.

Geographically, we’re not really far from anything…but we’re not close to anything either. There are very few non-fast-food dining options near us. We’re almost 15 minutes from a nice grocery store. We have to drive further than that to get to any of the bars we like (which is a distinct disadvantage when visiting a bar). Our friends don’t visit us often because by their perception we may as well live in Lawrence.

But more than anything, KCK is just…depressing.

The wanna-be thug who starts yelling at my fiancée (in broad daylight, no less) because she dared to chuckle at his advances while she’s pumping gas. He: probably 20, in plain white T with pube-like mustache. She: very attractive 30-something in business suit. I mean, why wouldn’t he think he had a chance?

The adults—ADULTS—who are having a conversation a good sixty feet apart in the grocery store. This is painful when you’re only 3 feet from one of them.

The carhop at Sonic who came out and told me, after waiting 28 minutes for my order, that next time I needed to hit the button again and ask “where the f—k my food at”.

I won't get started on the murder last week a block from my parents' house or the one two months ago that was 1/4 mile from mine.

This is where I live. This is my hometown. No one knows how to act. And these are NOT isolated incidents. Shit like this happens more often than not when we try to patronize local businesses.

It’s worn me down. I always wanted to be the guy who stayed around even when everyone left, who would be an example of someone who achieved some modicum of career success but stayed put by choice. I always wanted to be the guy who gave back, who had thoughts of even running for office some day.

Screw that.

I’m no martyr.

I have given back.

But what the hell has KCK given ME?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Scan Me

Barcode? Nope. I play softball.
More specifically, I play 3rd base on a field that uses a coarse-grade kitty-litter-like substance to dry out the fields (which themselves, I'm convinced, are pure concrete).
Unfortunately, standing about 65 feet from batters who can hit the ball upwards of 90mph leaves little in the way of reaction time.
Couple that with the random edges of the kitty litter and every grounder, every hop, is an adventure.
This adventure ended with a 7-1/2 seam softball imprint on the inside of my left knee. I think that's a personal record.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Improv: Come See Tantrum Friday Night!

We'll be back in Westport tomorrow (Friday) night. Stop by if, you know, you wanna laugh and stuff.

Tantrum calls career coach in for second session

There’s only one place where you can see some of KC’s most interesting personalities live, unscripted and uncensored. This Friday, Tantrum puts Cindy Weiner in front of the microphone and lets the audience tell her what to talk about.

Cindy Weiner, professional career coach and one of Radio's Most Influential Women,
returns for an encore performance after her hilarious debut in Tantrum's Talking Out Of Turn series at the KC Public Library,

To get her started, the audience shouts out topics they want to hear about. Cindy can respond with anything she wants to—as long as it’s true. Then Tantrum takes over, twisting and turning her tales into a series of scenes.

Tantrum Improv with Special Guest Cindy Weiner
Friday, May 8, 8pm at the Westport Coffeehouse
Tickets: $10. Call 816-678-8886 for reservations.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


We have four special dinners per year; she selects the restaurant for my birthday and Valentine’s Day. It’s my job on her birthday and our anniversary, which was last night.

We went to Bluestem at 900 Westport Road. It’s an interesting location for a fine dining establishment: two doors down from a GameStop, next to a Sonic, and across the street from what used to be the yin/yang, porn/no-porn symbiosis of Valentine Video and Blockbuster.

We entered the restaurant through the lounge, which is decked out with couches and great lighting. (The lounge, by the way, has a great gourmet happy hour as described here by Owen @ Fat City.)

We were led through the 40-seat dining room to our table near the window. The décor is modern, but not pretentiously so—it’s a nice restaurant that doesn’t feel stuffy.

We looked at the wine list and got a bottle of Odisea Unusual Suspects, a lighter-bodied red blend which proved to be a nice match for most of our courses.

And oh, the courses.

Their menu is laid out with salads, soups, pastas, and appetizers on one side and mains on the other. Then, you select how many courses you’d like—3, 5, 7…or TWELVE. (Our waitress explained that the dinners were all roughly the same amount of food; the portions get a bit smaller the more courses you order).

We decided to each select 5 courses, knowing we would eat half of each course then trade plates. That’s how we roll.

First course: We had a mixed green salad with goat cheese truffles; also nairagi sashimi with tozazu gelee and blood orange. The salad was fine but way too tame a choice, even with the tart goat cheese. I should have tried the fava bean salad. The sashimi, however, was dynamite—lightly salty, lightly sweet with a faint hint of heat.

Second course: We had wagyu (“American Kobe” beef) tartare with homemade potato chips, black olive caramel, and giardiniera; also, troffie pasta with crab, garlic, chili, and prosciutto. Our eyes rolled into the back of our heads for both of these. I often wonder how chefs make food taste SO RICH…a lot of it is the freshness of the ingredients, but there is a special level of magic they possess to saturate some of those flavors.

Third course: We had hen from Campo Lindo farms with prosciutto, cippolini, and veal jus…and Hawaiian walu (fish) with bok choy, cilantro, and a ginger curry emulsion. The hen was very flavorful with a light sauté crust on it, and the fish was tender, fresh and delicious. Again, so many different flavors—it’s fun to taste each ingredient individually then put them all back together and try different combinations. That’s where an amateur like me just shakes his head at the skills and knowledge of a top-notch chef.

Fourth course: Strip steak (rare, of course) with horseradish potato foam, white asparagus, and green asparagus; scallops with braised bacon and spinach. Flawless, both in presentation and flavor.

Fifth course: Spiced carrot cake, cream cheese beignets, cinnamon bubbles, sweet carrot ice, toasted walnuts, candied ginger, caramel.
Sous vide caramel pineapple, brown butter rum cake, buttermilk key lime sherbet, sweet and sour feuille de brick, vanilla cream.

I wrote them out like they were written on the menu; as you may guess, both were delicious. The carrot cake was sort of a “deconstruction”, with all the elements separated on the plate and the carrot ice served in a tall shot glass.

(We were also brought petits fours and ice cream mixed with Prosecco, compliments of the restaurant for our anniversary.)

The meal was fabulous. Every course, every morsel was a hit. All the while, we received outstanding service—our server knew the menu inside and out, took great care of us, and answered every question we had.

It was also an experience that reminded us how fortunate we are to be able to treat ourselves every once in a while. If you're looking to do the same, I can't recommend Bluestem more highly.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Odds, Redux

After hearing my story about running into my high school girlfriend in Wyoming, a friend relayed the following:

A friend of mine had a business trip to New York. He was seated next to a middle-aged woman on the way there, and they talked a bit to pass the time. On the return trip a couple days later, he happened to be seated next to the same woman.

Reveling in the coincidence, the woman inevitably took on the role any meddling mother with a single daughter would inhabit when crossing paths with a guy who is by all appearances successful and witty: matchmaker.

You need to meet my daughter, she’s this, she’s that, blah blah blah.

The guy figures “what the hell” so he agrees and sets up a date to have a drink at the American Restaurant at Crown Center.

A couple nights later, it’s time to meet. He gets to the restaurant, walks to the bar…and that’s when his internal “oh shit” alarm starts going off.

The woman’s daughter was the same girl he had a one-night stand with a few weeks earlier.

After an awkward conversation and a cocktail that was certainly consumed more quickly than normal, they went their separate ways, betrayed by the smallness of this world of ours.