Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ten Radio Programs That Will Make Me Donate Money

1. Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me—My favorite newsies are Roxanne Roberts, Adam Felber, and Charlie Pierce. It's an IQ show for eggheads. But funny.

2. Only a Game—Did I mention Charlie Pierce? One of the funniest and most insightful sports commentators on radio today? And Bill Littlefield. It’s not just sports, it’s FUN! They covered the Library Book Cart competition in Anaheim. You can HEAR these guys smile.

3. Up to DateSteve Kraske’s gimlet-eyed view of all things Kansas City gives me something to think about every time he’s on the air. I like his thoughtful comments on his topics. He’s always prepared. Not like those clowns on…

4. The Walt Bodine Show’s Book Doctors segment—I can say that because every once in a while the producer slips up and invites me on the air with some frighteningly smart reader/critics like Mark Luce and John Mark Eberhart and Steve Paul. Listen to the December 2007 show for Mark, John Mark and me totally winging it and having a blast.

5. This American Life—it’s like Twitter, but with more than 160 characters per post.

6. New Letters on the AirAngela Elam’s voice sucks me into the program as much as the writers suck me into their work. I will always treasure her interview with Tomas Riley.

7. Night Tides—soothing lullabies for adults.

8. KC Currents—I enjoying hearing the voices with the names in the news on the local front.

9. StarDate—satisfies my inner science-geek without subjecting me to a long multi-syllabic lecture. Bite-sized astronomy; the Milky Way chocolate bar of radio.

10. Thistle & Shamrock—I defy ANYONE not to attempt a jig while listening to this show.

Rejuvenating Juvenile Games

Ten Best

I used to play this game as a kid called “Ten Best”. I’d make lists of all kinds of things: Ten Best Foods to have in the House When the Power Goes Out; Ten Best People to go to the Carnival With; Ten Best Candies to get on Halloween; Ten Best Sugared Cereals My Mother Won’t Let me Eat.

I’m going to try to revive that game this year. Please note that as I am a sporadic blogger, esoteric in taste, and probably downright wrong about some things, this won’t be a regular activity. But it’ll be fun while it lasts. For me, anyway.

And it's Spyder's fault that I'm doing this. Her link is making me stay current with this blog.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Goodbye Season

I love summer and I love fall. Summer evenings on my porch, listening to the cicadian symphony accompanied by the occasional timpani yowl of a neighborhood cat, watching the dusk turn gently to night , I can feel time stopping to listen and watch along with me. Autumn mornings stir my blood. Walking quickly to the bus stop through the crispy cool air, breathing hard to watch the small clouds of steam, and avoiding dewy grass, I am almost fooled into thinking my bus will be yellow and not green when it finally pulls up.

But like many of us, I don’t tolerate sudden change easily. For me, last week’s cold snap wasn’t a harbinger of more, but different, enjoyable weather. It reminded me that summer is coming to a close and I need to prepare for that, mentally, physically, spiritually. It was a forced period of transition and I balked. Those in-between days are my “goodbye season.” It didn’t last long, but I realized I wasn’t quite ready for summer to be over, even though I have many wonderful things in the fall to look forward to.

I’m not ready to abandon my garden. Folks in my neighborhood already think I’ve abandoned it, but now that the beds are ready and I have some weekend time, I want to plant sweet alyssum and snap dragons and lambs’ ear and cone flowers. It’s too late for that, yet I always thought I’d have plenty of time whenever I walked past the bare plots.

I’m not ready to say goodbye to my summer wardrobe. I don’t want to swap out my tank tops and flip flops for stockings and pumps. I don’t want to pull out all my jeans and fold up my shorts, or dig through drawers, ignoring cotton shortie pajamas and silky nighties, looking for flannel pants and thermal tops.

I’m not ready to winterize my house by putting the crocheted afghans and Mexican striped throws on the couch and tucking away the tiny pillows. Or making a choice between flannel sheets and soft cotton ones. Replacing the colorful summer quilt with the heavy down comforter. I can’t bear to tell my plants they can no longer spend their days outside on the porch, sunbathing. They must now come inside and fight for window spots, dropping leaves in protest at being cooped up, and leaving water rings of disapproval on wooden table tops.

I balk at taking leave of dining and drinking al fresco, easily my most favorite summer activity. I can’t bear to turn away from salads, popsicles, outdoor grilled catfish and red peppers, fresh vegetables from my neighbor’s garden, lazy beers on Venus’ deck, iced mochas on Muddy’s patio, brunch mimosas under Classic Cup umbrellas.

I don’t know how I’ll pack up my summer reading. All those adrenaline-pumping thrillers, friendship-filled chick lit novels, baseball, NASCAR, and Olympic expose’s, the whimsical and escapist fantasy and science fiction, the chill-inducing horror (only read during the hottest days).

I want my ballet, Shakespeare and baseball in the park. I want to hear the pulsing beat of the blues at a street festival, watch the buskers on the Plaza sidewalks, cheer the reckless drivers at the demolition derby, judge corn and pigs, and battle the exhilarating fear at the top of the ferris wheel at the county fair.

How could I say goodbye to all that? But I will. If not graciously, then sulkily, but only for a moment. Until I warmly greet all the bounty and beauty that is autumn.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Literary Lions Lost

It was a hard weekend in the book world. Two of its most respected and revered authors turned the last page.

Award-winning crime novelist, George Mcdonald, passed away Sunday. Mcdonald is the creator of the Edgar worthy Fletch novels which also made the successful leap to the movie screen. Mcdonald honed his appreciation for cynical and witty characters and outrageous situations at the Boston Globe as a reporter and editor. He took these experiences and crafted one of the first comic-mysteries with Fletch, an educated beach bum with a snappy comeback and reckless nature. These books are still popular with readers who are fans of the sardonic tarnished detective-knight who carefully guards the small piece of gold buried in his heart.

A master of experimental fiction, David Foster Wallace, committed suicide Friday night. Wallace accumulated a cult following for his darkly comic and innovative novels and short stories. His first novel, Broom of the System, grew out of his senior thesis. Wallace is best known for his expansive, thought-provoking and occasionally frustrating novel, Infinite Jest.

Oh, sure, there'll always be another wise-acre detective and some fresh kid pushing the boundaries of fiction, but it won't be the same without Mcdonald and Wallace, whose influence will live on.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

#9 in the Transit Epiphanies Series

This is going to be a multi-ride pass of bus stories I never got around to blogging:

1/20/2007--the coldest day I ever waited for a bus. There's a wild snowstorm that attacked the city around 1 pm and the Library has closed early. I am very glad I had the foresight that morning to wear my boots to work, but I'm a little irked that I felt the need to wear a skirt. Like everyone else, I exodus to the bus at 5 pm, hoping to get out of downtown within a couple of hours, traffic and snow being what it is.

I'm waiting at the bus stop and the 55 never comes. A young, cheerful guy is waiting with me. Everyone else is cranky, cold and occasionally mustering up the energy to state the bloomin' obvious, "the bus is late." It's been over 40 minutes and I begin to count the buses that go by. This is the second 38 I've seen, the third 24 and the third 71. I make a joke to my transit pal, "We're playing Texas Hold'em with buses!" He laughs and sez, "Yeah, we are! Check it out, I got two of a kind!" as a 71 whizzes past. We start taking serious note of the bus numbers. I'm up to two pair and he has five of a kind before a winner is declared. The winner is the person whose bus arrives first.

A couple of days later, I catch the last 55 heading south. We don't get more than three blocks when the bus stops abruptly in the middle of Main Street. No one pays any attention as we wait. But after about three minutes, passengers begin craning to see what the hold up is and we notice the bus driver getting agitated. Seems there's a car stopped in the middle of Main. And all the honking, yelling and obscene gestures can't get this blind, deaf, and idiotic auto-bovine to move.

Our bus driver angrily puts the bus in park and stomps off the bus. Those of us up front watch him walk to the driver's side of the stopped car and point angrily at the bus and then shake his finger in the driver's face. We watch our driver storm back to the bus, get back on and sit down heavily. He smacks his hands on the large steering wheel, then grips it tightly for a moment. His hands loosen on the wheel and the bus driver lets go. He quietly open the door again and steps off the bus. This time, he hails a cop, points to the obstinate driver and then returns to his bus.

The cop takes it from there. He saunters over to the reason for the by now cacophonous traffic jam and pleasantly addresses the driver. The driver still doesn't move. The cop leisurely pulls out his pad and issues the nuisance a ticket. The bus passengers cheer, the bus driver pastes a self-satisfied smile on his face and the inducer of road rage moves his car to the side of the road. Seems he's there to pick someone up from work and he's waiting for the person to arrive.

As the 55 starts making its way south, some of the passengers begin a conversation about evolution and road rage. I can't see the correlation myself, and go back to the book in my iPod.

8/20/08--I get the afternoon off for having worked a 14 hour day the night before. I'm boarding the 57 South Oak, which isn't a bad bus to ride and usually more interesting than the 55. Right after I board, a very strange, but nice enough man gets on. He's wearing a short sleeve shirt and khaki pants. Around his shin is tied a blue bandanna. It's a strange fashion statement, but, hey, could be seen on Project Runway next week.

The man sits down and greets the person next to him, a Metro bus driver on his way to pick up his next run, with, "Hey there Metro man, Metro Dan metro!". Loquacious Bandannaleg starts digging through his belongings, "I know it's here, I know I have it. My transfer is in my pants. My transfer is in my box. I'm on my tenth cigarette. I sit right here next to the metro bus man." The resting driver doesn't even look at his seatmate who continues the running commentary on In Search of...Bus Transfers.

"Bless yer heart. It's here, it's right here. What? Yes, sir, kind man. I'll sit down and shut up. It's in my bag. It's in my pants. There's my cigarettes! Oh, here it is. Here you are, sir." It's about five stops since Bandannaleg boarded and he holds out his bus pass to the driver and the driver points to the fare box. Bandannaleg gets up from his seat, clutching his pants and says, "Bless yer heart, man. Thank you. Thanks for your driving, Mr. Metro Driver Man, Driver Dan, Metro Man."

It's no wonder I'm not getting any reading done any more on the bus.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bus du Freak

#78 in in the Transit Epiphanies

I've been riding the bus regularly, green girl that I am, but it's a very boring bus line. Nothing interesting happens on the 55. Everybody reads, though. I spend my rides craning my neck and straining my eyeballs trying to readsdrop on my fellow passengers.

But occasionally I have to take the Max. Last Tuesday, I had to pull an unexpected 14 hour day at la libraire. The work part doesn't suk, but the not-having-anything-to-gnosh-for-dinner and having-to-take-the-bus -home-at-9:30pm parts kinda do.

I was dog tired when I climbed on the 9:22 Max at Petticoat Lane. And my mood didn't improve when I spotted the smart-mouthed Vietnam vet from a couple of bus rides ago. He's very chatty and a bit of a pushy wanker who wants to talk to everyone. He gives me the hairy eyeball and I glare back with my best "keep it to your effing self, slimebag" look.

But one of my favorite passengers is on the bus. A very large and jolly African-American man who carries a pink boom box with him and at least three pieces of luggage. He's never any trouble. Just talks to himself or any rider who'll chat back. But it's obvious he's not having a good day today. He's sitting in the seat behind the bus driver and staring at his reflection in the window. He's saying, "Talk about food. Talk about chicks. Talk about the...Not today. Gotta go. Not on the phone. Not today." He shakes his finger at his reflection and says, "Not today. Gotta go."

The mouthy vet starts bitching about how hot it is on the bus. It's about 67 degrees outside and the driver, bless her, has turned off the AC. Having just come from the Arctically-temped library I'm not interested in the vet's kvetching. But he turns to me and sez, rudely, "Hey! Ainchu hot? Ain't it hot in here? How 'bout some AC, huh?" I say, loudly, "I'm not warm." No one else says anything. It's a crowded bus, but everyone is eerily quiet, as if they're waiting for something to surface. One of the downtown CID bike officers sits in the seat behind me.

Badday Jollyman continues to stare at his reflection in the window, saying, "Not today. Hey, fella. I gotta go." The vet keeps trying to start conversation with everyone on the bus, but no one's having any. He remarks on my cons, calls them PF flyers. Continues to stare. I stare back. I have perfected the blank, don'tfuckwithme stare. Anyone who wears contact lenses can do this. We stick shit in our eyes every day. We can stare down any badass on the bus.

The Vet thinks the Badday Jollyman is talking to him since he's, well, TALKING to somebody. And the Vet starts in, "Hey, man, you're freaking me out. Do not freak me out. I don't care how big you are, don't freak me out. I'll freak you up. I'm a Vietnam vet. Don't freak me out. Don't like to be freaked out."

This is what the other passengers were afraid would happen. It's just hot enough to annoy the shit out of everyone, but not so hot anyone will throw a punch or pull a switchblade.

Then the Badday Jollyman turns to the Vet and says something about Tina Turner and Luke Skywalker. He turns back to the window, points his finger at his reflection and says, "You keep that girl to yourself. Luke Skywalker was a rapper!" The Vet pipes up and says, "No, he's a producer!" Badday Jollyman replies, "Luke is nasty. Get back, Luke, that's nasty." To the window, "I said, keep back, that's nasty. Whoever you are, you have no business coming into QuickTrip."

The mugginess of the bus overtakes the Vet and the Jollyman and they fall silent. The CID officer gets off at 39th Street and says he'll see me tomorrow. He notices I've been scribbling furiously and grins. The Vet gets off at the Plaza. He leers once more at me and my notebook. I deadstare over his shoulder as he gets off the bus. Jollyman gets off at Il Centro. I miss him already.

Friday, May 16, 2008

But Will He Have a Bus Pass?

#50 in the Transit Epiphany Series

This morning the first 55 Rockhill bus is early. It's always early. It's supposed to pick me up at 6:53 but if I'm not at the stop by 6:45, I'm SOL. The bus picks me up and I settle into a seat. Then the bus stops short. The guy in the seat in front of me calls out to the driver, "Sir?" and looks out the right side of the bus.

I see a woman in a tan jacket, big gold hoop earrings and a perky caramel beret with fists full of crushed soda cans and plastic water bottles waving an arm at the bus. The driver stops and the woman strolls over to the door. She climbs the first two stairs and instead of feeding the fare box, leans into the bus, looks at all of us passengers and says, in a firm, optimistic voice, "Jesus sez there'll be murculls. Onct a month. If you claim 'em." She nods once at us, looks at the bus driver and nods again before hopping off the bus.

The bus passengers are thoughtful for a moment, stunned by this cheery message. I replay what the woman said in my mind over and over and think, "Yes, she's correct. Jesus said there'd be miracles. We claim them, when we recognize them."

I think, for a second, that woman is one of them.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Review 'em & Weep

The funniest piece of writing I have seen in a cat's age is right here.

Don't waste any time. It's got a mystery, it's got heart, it's got a snooty secretary-type, a jaded-reviewer, a craggy editor, and a loveable guy dressed as Santa with all the answers.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Wanted: Dead or Alive

Well, they found me. I thought I'd be on the lam forever, hiding in plain sight. I sailed through airport security. Took some chances blowing through red lights, ignoring stop signs, making up my own speed limits. They didn't bat an eye. 'Cause they knew where I lived.

The auto g-men have my number. $38.50 to be exact. For a parking ticket I never paid. I have been informed by the City's attorneys that a warrant may have been issued for my arrest. They are wagging a paper-encrusted finger in my direction: pay your parking ticket, young lady!

I don't have any problem paying my debt to society. Especially since they waived the late fee. Check's in the mail, feebles!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Librarian in the News

Check out Nikki's profile in today's Kansas City Star!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Dealing them off the arm

My mother always said have a backup skill in case those dreams of marrying wealthy and divorcing wealthier didn't work out. So I learned to type. Very fast. And typing was good. It paid for a trip to Ireland in my senior year of college. I couldn't believe how lazy all these student were who hadn't learned to type.

If one backup skill was good, two were better. So I became a waitress, which pays much better than typing and you get drinks at the end of the day. I used to regale my friends with "service industry" stories. Like the time I waited on 30 people on Mother's Day, couldn't take any other tables because this party kept dribbling in, growing larger and more demanding and ordering food every five minutes. After two hours, 45 goddam tossed salads with the dressing on the side, constant refills of Dr. Pepper, and a $300 check, one of the wives pressed a $5 dollar bill in my hand and thanked me for a lovely job. Her nephew was in the kitchen, cooking the day's food and she wanted to show her appreciation for his coworkers. For a brief moment I thought about beating her mightily around the head and face. But instead I laughed. I tipped my bartender with that fiver on my first drink of the evening.

The Waiter has felt my pain, joy and incredulity, and written about it in a book to be published this August, Waiter Rant. I harbor a secret obsession with any memoir about the restaurant business. I've spent too many years schlepping food and owe a great deal to the dining room managers who have given me a job at the lowest points of my life. I've read Debra Ginsberg's Waiting: True Confessions of a Waitress and Service Included by Phoebe Damrosch. Those books are good. But The Waiter has perfectly captured what it is like to work the front of the house. The chapter alone on tipping and why the tip is so important to the server is priceless. I knew exactly how The Waiter's friend Allie felt after she'd delivered consummate service and was royally stiffed. It's not about the money. It's never about the money. Two tables from now, someone will over tip and make it all even for Allie. It's the insult. It's knowing that someone else has to assign a dollar value to your work and deemed it lacking when you know you turned in a top notch performance.

The Waiter understands the emotional toll serving the public can take on a human being. No matter how much he dresses it up, he understands that people who work in food service are hired servants.

With humor, wit, a liberal dose of snark and a soupcon of sentimentality, The Waiter brings the dining room into the reading room. Sometime in August, on a Monday night at the Pine Grove Inn or Tony's Villa Capri or the Airport Cafe or Friendly's or Domino's Pizza or New China or Racine's, the staff will share a drink, the tips and stories about their favorite Monday night customers--who are all in the food service industry. They will also share their impressions of Waiter Rant and none of them will find any part of the book to be lacking in verisimilitude

They also serve, who wait.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Spelz lak teem spritz

You can call a Spelling Bee a nightlife. I lived through it and it happened at night! The Boulevard Brewery/KCPL spelling team is so happy. We placed second last night in the city wide spelling bee for LiteracyKC. We had a blast and went out on ’axunge’. Yeah, you try spelling that one under hot lights in the 17th round.

Assurant Employee Benefits won on ’hypnotherapeutic’ (yeah, that’s a no brainer word, everyone knew it). It was the "get this thing over or we’ll all need to get hotel rooms" word. But the Beer/Books team didn’t mind. We were just happy to be there. Finishing second far exceeded our expectations. If you know Bernard, Nancy or Erica, get them to tell you the ’cartilage’ story. Heh.

And just to cap off the night, Nikki, Matt and Erica convinced me our next stop should be the launch party of INK magazine in the Power & Light District. Check Nikki’s blog for photos. After that, it was onto Davey’s for some wild therapeutic theremin-infused jazz with Mr. Marco’s V7s. And to pick up a new Vote No on 3 sign. Someone stole ours off our front lawn. Keep it up, clown. We got a million of ’em from Chris and Mokie.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Marian dance

Last year I wrote a chapter on RA and AV for a friend's book. I barely remember writing it! Yesterday's mail brought a copy of the book and I am Chapter 4!!

Check THAT off the "Life To-Do" list!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Calling all Jane-iacs!

You know who you are. If you're an academic, then you refer to yourself as a "Janeite." Those of us who are hip to Jane's trendster cred refer to ourselves as "Jane-iacs".

Catch a whole month of Jane-inspired programming, events, movies, book discussions and author visits at Kansas City Public Library's month long Jane-uary celebration.

Join the Jane-iac blog, too.