Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Chris Utter, 1975-2009

Well, I figured my first post this week was going to be about the move and how excited we are about our new place. It's not about that.

It's partially because we're having severely mixed emotions about that.

But mostly, it's because I lost a friend and classmate.

Christopher Allen Utter, 34, of Kansas City, KS, died Saturday, June 27, 2009. Graveside Services will be 10:00 A.M. Thursday, July 2, at Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens. Friends may call 5-8:00 P.M. Wednesday at the Porter Funeral Home, 1835 Minnesota Ave., Kansas City, KS. Memorial contributions may be made to Wayside Waifs, 3901 Martha Truman Rd., Kansas City, MO 64137. Christopher was born February 18, 1975, in Kansas City, KS. He was a Funding Coordinator for Advacare Medical Equipment. Christopher had a huge part in the softball community in the Kansas City area. He is survived by his wife, Nicolette C. Utter, mother and step-father Debra and Howard Swafford, grandmothers Erma Leach, Maxine Swafford, sister Stacy and her husband Troy Ray, step-sister Angel Simpson, step-brother Joel Swafford, niece Jesslyn Buie, nephews Frank Buie, Donovan Christopher Buie, and Wesly Allen Butler, and his 3 furry cats: Al, Josie, and Cleo. Condolences may be expressed at: www.porterfuneralhome.com. Arrangements: Porter Funeral Home & Crematory, 1835 Minnesota Ave., Kansas City, KS; (913) 621-6400.

Chris Utter was big, kind, funny, strong as an ox, and one of the most well-liked people in my class.

He was a tremendous athlete, somehow managing to participate in baseball AND track even though they happened concurrently.

He was sort of quiet, but in that mischievous way that always made you feel like he was one step or one joke ahead of you.

He drank from 2-liter bottles of Dr. Pepper with the label ripped off (to use the coupon that was perpetually stamped on the side).

He was friendly to everyone, not just those who enhanced his social status.

I'm still trying to get my head around this, especially the circumstances under which he died. It makes no sense to me. I simply don't understand.

May you rest in peace, Chris.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Live Music Galore

I've been looking around at listings, and HOLY CRAP is there a lot of music happening tomorrow night.

The Gaslights and American Catastrophe at Davey's.

Cherry Tree Parade, 68 Comeback, and Softee (featuring Tantrum fan Sarah Anderson) at the Brick.

Jackie Greene at Crosstown Station.

Nas and Damian (Jr. Gong) Marley, which is now at the BEAUMONT.

Little Brazil, Audiovox, and Mr. History at Czar Bar.

Summer Breeze (a '70s and '80s Yacht Rock Tribute) at recordBar. This is also drummer Billy Brimblecom and wife Allie's farewell to Kansas City show; they're moving to Nashville. I caught them last time, and I guarantee you will enjoy it.

And there's some Stevie Wonder guy at Starlight.

Add in the Lenexa BBQ Battle, and we've got ourselves an embarrassment of riches.

Here's hoping there are enough fans to go around.

(Sorry, no links. I'm lazy today.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Midwest Airlines' Death Rattle? (updated)

I got an email from Southwest Airlines today: they are adding service to Milwaukee. This is not good news for Midwest Airlines, which at one time was KCI's second-largest carrier.

Starting November 1, you can fly non-stop on Southwest to Milwaukee’s Mitchell International from six destinations: Kansas City, Baltimore, Tampa, Las Vegas, Orlando, and Phoenix.

Midwest Airlines, which is based in Milwaukee, flies these same routes non-stop (with the exception of Baltimore). With more direct competition on these routes, Midwest will almost surely be forced to cut prices.

Additionally, Southwest already serves nearly every major airport served by Midwest--plus dozens more. This means competition on nearly every route Midwest flies out of Milwaukee.

Now factor in that Midwest has struggled mightily over the last few years, cutting a huge percentage of its capacity systemwide. Kansas City almost looked like a second hub for them not long ago; now there’s slim pickens for flights.

Southwest is in a very strong position considering their history of profitability (a few recent quarters aside), and they are poised to play the role of bully. More and more airport gates are vacant, meaning Southwest can fill them at a discount. Let's face it: Southwest is about the airline capable of adding capacity, which gives them incredible leverage.

The trump card for Midwest, of course, used to be the actual flying experience. Their Boeing 707s were configured with extra-wide, extra-comfortable 2x2 seating instead of the standard 2x3 you’d find on other carriers' 707s. Basically the whole plane was like a first class cabin. The scent of freshly baked cookies wafted through the cabin, and you used to even get a flute of champagne. And the food was free…and really damn good.

As costs increased, the wide seats, champagne, and free meals disappeared. All that is left are the cookies, and they simply aren’t enough to pull me away from another, less expensive carrier with more flight options.

It looks to me like Midwest’s days are numbered. I’ll remember them fondly.

UPDATE (/nod m.v.):

Midwest Airlines Sold

Jon Byman
MILWAUKEE - Milwaukee will no longer have a hometown airline if the planned sale of Midwest Airlines to Republic Airways goes through.
Republic announced Tuesday its intention to buy Midwest.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Boulevard Tour

Last Saturday, we took our first tour of Boulevard Brewing Company.

Yes, our first.

How can someone who a) has lived in Kansas City his whole life, and b) loves beer have just taken his first tour?

It comes down to two things. The first (and smaller) reason is that I don't tend to enjoy drinking in the afternoon. Free beer samples are a rather attractive carrot to dangle, and it's the reason the tours tend to be booked so far in advance.

And that's the real reason this was our first tour--we booked on March 23rd. The first Saturday time available was June 13th. Yep, nearly 3 months later.

[We asked if there was a way around this (there is) so we filed that away for future reference.]

The tour was informative, and our guide was very enthusiastic about the product. It is, by far, the cleanest brewery I've ever toured. It was spotless, which takes some diligence when practicing such a potentially messy craft.

For those who keep up with such things: There were oak barrels aging in one room, and they were labeled "6th" (new batch of BBQ, perhaps?), "RED", "Rye", and "Imperial Stout". I can only guess these will be the next special-release Smokestacks.

We got to see the original brewery before being led across the parking lot to the expansion. Great architectural details, and the employee bar and event room lend a nice view of downtown. The bottling line was operating (rare for a Saturday), which was very impressive to watch. Overall, I was thoroughly impressed with the facilities.

After about 40 minutes, we returned to the sample room. I've always heard about the brewers' experimental beers showing up on tap there, so I was hoping for some sort of whiskey porter or imperial red or something. No such luck. The only unreleased beer on tap was Tank 7. It's a dry-hopped Belgian golden ale, which makes for a bold and unusual mix of flavors. I like Belgians, and I like hops, but I didn't care for this particular blend.

That is where I'm at with Boulevard overall. I want so badly to love their beer, but I find it all to be just okay. They don't do anything poorly, but there's nothing that strikes me as great either. I can't remember the last time I bought a six-pack of Boulevard, because there's always something else I'd rather have. I've dutifully bought all the Smokestack beers (regular and seasonal), and I've enjoyed them--but I damn well better for $8 to $15 per bottle.

I know this isn't a popular opinion in Kansas City. I wish I felt differently.

Friday, June 19, 2009


So the Pitch reports that the KCMO city council has voted to spend $500,000 to fund a study as to the viability/need for a "convention" hotel.

Apparently the answer to having too many vacant hotel rooms is to build more hotel rooms.

David Martin articulates this far better and more factually than I ever could, but I have to ask:

WTF are you thinking?

You are borderline BANKRUPT as a city, slashing jobs by the hundreds, and you do not have emergency provisions for the economic disaster that is the Power & Light district written into next year's budget.

And you're going to spend half a mil for someone to tell you what you want to hear--that you need a 1,055 room hotel or else the Unified Funeral Directors of America are taking their caskets to Jacksonville? Because you ALREADY KNOW that's what they're going to say!

And once you get this news, how exactly are you going to try to fund this hotel? You're broke. You have nothing left to tax.

Learn from your mistakes for once. Hell, do something--ANYTHING--right for once.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

New Stuff To Read

I have added a few new blogs to the roll (strangely, all of them begin with “M”).

The first is Made in Uganda. Rodney Muhumuza is a press fellow working at the KC Star. A native of Uganda, Rodney writes about cultural and political issues as well as his experiences and observations about America. Rodney has an exceptionally elegant writing style and is certainly worth a read.

McCoy’s Public House is now blogging. This site will keep fans of McCoy’s / The Foundry / one80 apprised of the latest events, news, food, and brew happenings at the corner of Westport and Pennsylvania.

Millspaz is an artist, musician, left fielder extraordinaire, and all-around cool guy. Whether he’s doing graphic design, playing swingin’ blues with Red Lefty, or repairing his man purse, he’s always into something creative. Check him out sometime.

Monday, June 15, 2009

On The Market

We listed our house Saturday morning.

I had no idea how hard it would be.

Don’t get me wrong—the process was simple enough: look at some comps, set a price (which I changed later), sign a couple documents.

It’s just that after the real estate agents left, the weight of it all left me feeling steamrolled.

I broke down once I started thinking about the nine years I’ve spent there. I’ve come so far in those nine years. I’ve learned so much…I’ve changed so much in those nine years. I’ve become an honest-to-goodness adult in those nine years.

There are lots of memories in that house. Thinking about leaving tears me up, even though I know full well that I’m moving to a place that is better in every way.

When I think about how much time we spent tiling, laying floors, selecting light fixtures, hauling 5 tons of landscaping rock around the perimeter…there’s just so much of me and us in that place.

This modest house has allowed me to live comfortably while saving for the future. It allowed my fiancée to go to grad school full time. It is, simply, home.

We have only 12 more nights under that roof.

I am so thankful for that roof, in so many ways.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Massive Tassel (Also on Friday)

Improv not your thing? Massive Tassel Bellydance will perform twice (at 8:30 and again at 9:30) Friday night as part of the relaunch of PIQUE magazine at Mosaic.

Who knows? With Samantha Ronson on the bill, you might even get to witness Lindsay Lohan spiral out of control once and for all! Open bar from 8pm-10pm.

The Magic, Mystery, and Lust begins June 12th at PIQUE’s ARABIAN NIGHTS

PIQUE presents an experiential fashion event designed to tantalite the senses and leave you begging for more. Join the fashion team that is changing the way you think about style for ‘Arabian Nights’, June 12th at Mosaic Lounge.

At 8pm Vesuvius Tribe kicks off the night with a red hot Red Carpet unlike any other. Then the journey begins, featuring: NYC Award Winning DJ Brenda Black and the infamous DJ Samantha Ronson, the mesmerizing hip vibrations of Massive Tassel Bellydance, vocal siren Toshia, the aerial artistry of Voler: Thieves of Flight, and more

PIQUE: Arabian Nights - 6.12.09 - Mosaic Lounge

Experience the spellbinding Runway featuring hair artistry from Belle Époque, special musical guests, hot and steamy Male Harem, Genies galore, and models to adore. PIQUE is pulling out all the stops for an event unlike any other. Open Bar from 8-10pm.

Purchase your tickets today! This event will sellout fast.

Bringing you the best from the West, East, and Midwest, ARABIAN NIGHTS is unlike an event you have experienced before.

‘Arabian Nights, like Arabian days; More often than not, are hotter than hot; In a lot of good ways’

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tantrum - Friday, June 12 with Star Trek novelist Kevin Dilmore

Come see Tantrum Friday, June 12 with special guest STAR TREK novelist Kevin Dilmore!

If you’ve seen Star Trek novelist Kevin Dilmore perform with Tantrum, you know exactly why we’re bringing him back.In our last show, he talked about bat'leths…smuggling liquor in cargo pants…and what really goes on at sci-fi conventions. Now—after a couple of intense months of attending Star Trek previews and comic-cons—he’s back with all new stories. To get Kevin started, you’ll shout out topics you want to hear about. He can respond with anything he wants to—as long as it’s true. Then Tantrum takes over, twisting and turning his tales into a series of scenes.

Friday, June 12


Westport Coffeehouse Theatre

4010 Pennsylvania

$10 all seats (cash at the door)

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Hypothetical Situation: Your Thoughts?

Let’s say you go to the gym on your lunch hour.

Let’s assume they have a lat pull machine like the one below, and hey, lat pulls are on your list of exercises to do today so you have a seat.
Now, bear with me here--let’s say there is a seated leg press machine directly to the right of the lat pull machine. It’s a little nicer than the one below because it’s “gym quality”, but the image gives you a visual that will be more useful in a moment.

What if, and this is a big “what if”, there’s a 20-something girl doing leg presses.

For shits and grins, let’s say she’s wearing shorts that are as short as the ones in the picture…but they’re not form-fitting.

By random chance, her form happens to be less than optimal so that with each rep, her legs spread as much as they bend.

To further the hypothesis, you are temporarily unable to do your lat pulls.

Why? Because you just saw…you know…”it”.

Did you really? You check yep sure enough you did now look away dammit.

You stare at the floor to your left until your peripheral vision tells you she’s done with her set.

Just when you think it’s safe, your eyes slide right to make sure you’ve got the “all clear”, but she’s still sitting there, legs open, resting before her next set.

You half-heartedly slide the pin up about 4 plates, do the quickest, most half-assed set you can do, and get the hell out of there.

You do the rest of your lifting, wondering to yourself whether you should say something.

When you go to do your cardio, let’s say she ends up on the machine next to you.

You’ve already been thinking about whether you should say something. But how the hell do you…what do you…how?

I considered saying, as kindly, discreetly, and privately as possible, “I wavered on whether I should say this, but thinking about it, I would want to know. I’ll just say that you might not want to do leg presses while wearing those particular shorts.”

But I didn’t. I couldn’t.

What would you have said? Would you have said anything?

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Few More Places to Eat Lunch

The rest of my brain dump...

Grinders West, 18th and Locust: Great place to go for lunch (or dinner). They have lots of deli sandwiches and salads (you can build them from scratch if you choose) in a more upscale environment than its sister restaurant to the east; it’s still a unique place to eat with artist-designed tables and a cool LED light installation. I had pastrami on rye, and it was fantastic. You can also order everything from the menu next door--including beers off their extensive list. So whether you’re feeling like a cheesesteak, pizza, or salad with goat cheese and slivered almonds, you’re covered. Highly recommended.

Holy Land Café, 87th and Monrovia: A very pleasant surprise. A non-descript Middle Eastern restaurant in a strip mall, obscured from view by a Taco Bell has some really tasty food inside. They have a great lunch menu; the gyro meat is fabulous. If you’re in the neighborhood and like that type of food, stop in—they do a nice job with both the food and the prices.

Chefburger, Power and Light: One of the few locally-owned places in the P&L. I liked the food but did not like the wait, the crowd, the seating arrangement, or the prices. Also, my fiancée’s chicken sandwich was horseshit small. If I’m going to drop $15 on a burger meal, I’ll go to Blanc (or wait for happy hour at Bluestem and spend less than $10).

Saints Pub and Patio (“Gastropub”), 97th and Quivira: Used to be an Old Chicago, then a faux Irish pub. I put “gastropub” in quotes because I don’t want to give anyone the idea that this place remotely resembles a true example of one. They have an okay (for JoCo) beer selection, and their food really isn’t bad--it’s just that if you put this on your menu...

“Gastropub - An innovative new term for a pub that puts as much thought into the food it serves as the beer and spirits it offers”

...I’m going to expect more out of you. If you just billed yourself Saints “Bar and Grill”, I would have nothing negative to say, because that’s what you are. Don’t go raising my hopes just because you serve (undercooked) garlic fries or add a balsamic vinegar reduction to my Panini. You have waitresses in short shorts serving decent bar food. Be who you is.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Remedial Math

I receive alerts from Wells Fargo when mortgage rates fluctuate.

I find it odd and a bit disturbing that people are still offering 40-year mortgages. I know no one actually stays in a home for even the traditional 30-year term; that’s not the point.

There’s a reason your typical mortgage maxes out at 30 years: it is the point at which diminishing returns really start to rear their head.

Example: For a $200,000 loan at 5.5% (the current 20- and 30-year rate), here are your payments.

20 year term - $1375.77
30 year term – $1135.58 (savings of $240.19 per month, or 17.5% from 20 year term)
40 year term - $1031.54 (savings of $104.04 per month, or 9.2% from 30 year term)

Going to 40 doesn’t help much, does it?

But now let’s put in the ACTUAL 40-year rate—a big fat 6.75%:

30 years at 5.5% - $1135.58
40 years at 6.75% - $1206.71

Yes, a 40-year mortgage actually costs more each month than a 30-year mortgage.

Why is this even an option?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

100th Post

It’s a minor milestone, but a milestone nonetheless. I started off writing this blog in December 2008 as a creative outlet; my original intent was to never tell anyone about it. Seriously. (That lasted about 2 weeks.)

Now it’s something I look forward to, both as a journal and as a way of keeping a couple dozen of you (or, when I get linked at The Pitch, four dozen of you) apprised of things I like to keep people apprised of.

It’s random and has no singular focus. This sentence describes both this blog and its author quite well.

More people would probably read this if I devoted myself to something on a more in-depth basis…but building readership has never been a goal of mine. I’d rather tell you about a business or restaurant you should patronize, a beer you should try, an event you should attend, or an experience that may give you pause or make you chuckle. You know—the good stuff in life. I intentionally keep most of the heavier, issue-driven stuff to myself, as I have little interest in hosting an argument symposium.

So, with that out of the way, as I reach Post #100 I want to say to everyone: whether you link to this blog or have followed a link to this blog, whether you read it regularly or sporadically, whether you have left comments or kept your thoughts to yourself, I thank you. It’s been a lot of fun.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ghosts of Merriam

Turns out the man suspected of killing George Tiller in Wichita lived next door to some land we considered buying. I saw Bev Chapman from KMBC-TV standing there with a satellite van on my way home from work last night.

View Larger Map

The house on the left was his former residence.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Beer Roundup

A few beers, since it’s been a while:

Reverend Quadrupel (Avery): If you like this style (and I really do), you’ll enjoy this beer. It pours a beautiful reddish-orange that starts sweet and finishes spicy with nice alcohol warmth. That last part tends to happen when a beer comes in at 10% ABV. Definitely a sipper, not a gulper.

Black Hook Porter (Red Hook): This is a straight-forward porter with the usual hints of chocolate and coffee. Lightly hopped; the aftertaste is a little metallic. In my opinion, it’s an okay beer but a below-average porter. There are just too many other good choices in this style to justify me buying this one again.

Fifteen (Avery): This one’s crazy. It’s a muddy-looking pale farmhouse ale (a dirty blonde?) with more flavors than I know what to do with. The gimmick is, Avery’s 15th anniversary, brewed with 15 spices, 15.0% ABV, fermented with unpredictable brettanomyces yeast. After the first couple sips I thought, “This is interesting”, but after that I just got annoyed. Too much going on, like someone took every herb, spice, and flower in a garden and ground them into my bottle. Some people dig this sort of thing, but I don’t. The brett yeast just added to the barnyard vibe, which again isn’t my bag.

Pranqster (North Coast): A golden Belgian-style ale. I’ve yet to taste a North Coast beer I don’t like. This one is big and flavorful, with the bright fruity and caramelly finish I love about this type of brew. However, it’s still light and refreshing enough to drink as the weather gets warm. It looks like your average lager in a glass, but it beats the crap out of that lager in flavor (and alcohol – 7.6%).

Small Beer (Anchor): This is produced from a second fermentation of the mash used to brew Old Foghorn, which is Anchor’s barleywine. Question: Have you ever tried to reuse coffee grounds? Even if you used the Roasterie’s Full Vengance, the second pot you tried to squeeze out of those grounds is weak as hell. I think you see what I’m getting at.

Red Ale (O’Dell): This is a pleasant red, medium-hopped and flavorful. This would be a nice beer to bring to a cookout: it’s satisfying to those who actually like to taste their beer, yet crowd-pleasing enough that most people would dig it. I can’t give it my full endorsement because it’s only my second-favorite red produced in Ft. Collins, CO (see: Retro Red from Fort Collins Brewery).

Single-Wide IPA (Boulevard): Yeah, this has been out for months, but I just got around to drinking one. Why? Because I’m not really into IPAs. To paraphrase The Killers: I like hops, but I’m not a hophead. Overall, I just find IPAs kinda boring. There’s always something else on the menu I’d rather have. Boulevard’s version hit me the same way as most other IPAs: sip one, this isn’t bad; sip three, still not too shabby; sip six, *yawn*.