Tuesday, November 29, 2005


I feel like I ate a whole pie. Or something. Yesterday, I consumed about 1,000 calories of Spaghetti-O's (with the freaky meatballs) for breakfast/lunch and included a Dr. Pepper (2.5 servings in one bottle=250 calories).

Dinner involved the staple blue corn chips and Mama S. salsa. That was a tide-over until the Maneschewitz bean soup was done, mid-way through the beginning of the season finale of "Prison Break."

Today, nearly noon, two eggrolls are in mi'belly and I'm bored enough to consider eating a huge can of ravioli.

I'm off the Monday hook until March. That's when "Prison Break" returns to FOX. My hopes are not high, since every show I like gets cancelled: "Futurama," "King of the Hill," "Greg the Bunny," "North Shore," "Arrested Development," etc. FOX did not respond to an inquiry about getting the beach show put down on DVD. The FAQs on their Web site offer that the company does not market recordings of its shows and that "you should check to see if a friend taped it."

I can hardly conjure the name of the actor on "Prison Break," but recognized one principle as one of the guys George Kastanza hired to help him rig up and move the Frogger machine that had his high score. Yes, that would be another television reference.

The guy playing Michael Schofield is quite charming.

Three friends of mine do not watch television. I used to be like them, but then I got a husband, and my ex-boyfriend gave us a leftover television. I gave my husband's leftover television to my brother; it does not get much of a picture and only when its input is from video.

Guess I better be a friend and tape network shows for him, eh? The guy in the jail show reminds me of him.

Food and television go together. If you're running around, you can't eat. If you're cleaning, you can't eat. If you're at any kind of screen, however, like a television or a work-computer or heck, even a damn book, eating is quite feasible, comes off as desirable and ends up becoming an inextricable part of the whole experience.

Noon is not a time of thinking.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Blind Improvement

I think this speaks for itself.

New light, bigger and swooping over the intersection of 31st and Gillham, fine, whatever.

New sign on light, explaining when one may not turn left, ridiculously tiny.

Old sign on right has times posted clearly in a font drivers might actually be able to read. In fact, you almost can read it on your screen.

From the car, I couldn't read the sign on top, except for the big, red, no-left arrow. Without the pressure of time and traffic, later I figured out what was going on: "4-6" is not enough, signs must be explicit, even if unreadable at a glance, and include the requisite extras, hence "4:00 TO 6:00 PM." This must be to address the case of someone who might think turn is legal at 3:39 p.m. or that turns in the middle of the dark morning hours are also forbidden.

We all know it's important for drivers to spend as much time as possible looking away from the road to read long signs.

Even with my glasses on, the whole thing just looks like a bunch of O's.

I love good oversight of city-funded contractors, especially when this is not an isolated example of bad new turn signal signage in my city. I think I shall turn left here every day at 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. and see what the courts do when I cite ignorance with "the sign, it's too tiny to read!"

Go ahead and submit this document as evidence, then, and I shall pay my fine and be held also in contempt for lying. It will be fun.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Gun Smoke and Mirrors

One fun benefit of working at a smaller newspaper is getting to know your local cops.

You get to ask anything you want, and many of them - being "real people" and never in jerk-mode because, face it, we're talking as peers and not as Enforcement and Suspect - are quite frank.

For example, this is something I found out: there is a caveat of Missouri's new concealed-and-carry weapons law that apparently "bad guys" know about and the rest of us don't. If I were going home for Thanksgiving, I'd ask my hunter-clan uncles in this light deer harvest season whether before the new law they had any trouble carrying weapons in their cars.

Before the change, before you could register to carry a loaded firearm on your person in this state, it was illegal to have a loaded, readily-accessible concealed weapon in your car. I say "loaded," but the correct term would be "capable of lethal force." So, the typical hunting rifle, if not in plain view on that rear-window gun rack, could legally be tucked away with the rest of your deer-getting gear and not be a problem.

Now, it doesn't matter.

If you are 21 years old and don't have any felony convictions, you're cool to carry a concealed weapon on your person while in the car or just to have the weapon sitting there in your car, period. This is meant to apply to legal, registered gun owners who don't want to go through the hassle of getting that additional license.

That means that if you are a "pre-criminal," you are in the clear. You get some concealed-and-carry benefits, too.

The cops may still take your weapon away if you get taken in on warrants during a traffic stop. But you'll get the piece back as your property when you're released. That's as long as the thing doesn't show up as stolen or is proved to have been used in a previous crime.

It also means that you can have a gun, someone like me, for example, legally or just because I happen to be holding it or whatever, in the car in Missouri at any time. No one checks on who it belongs to, just that the you are not an ex-convict who shouldn't be messing with Project CeaseFire.

It means any gun owner can be packing from behind the wheel. Passengers, too. Not just hunters who may have been inconvenienced somehow before the "loophole" part of concealed-carry.

This apparently is the kind of thing you learn when you go to jail.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


While sitting in a bath tub, my friends came to some conclusions in Eureka Springs, Ark. One could be that I do not care to take baths that are not scalding. Ditto for hot tubs outdoors. They enjoyed themselves enough, though in the water, and I am delighted and full o'gratitude for the 86 hours of life away from life.

It's been so long.

Renewed by counting hawks along the highways, walking up and down steep-pitched hills and playing with three beautiful women-bodied souls, I didn't even get irritated when one of the paper's columnists called Monday to simply say "hi."

He and his cat were looking out the window. Pretty nice for a Monday afternoon; I was not facing any windows, but scrambling to write a bland, no-source story to fill a hole in the paper at 2 p.m. (We had left for Arkansas on Friday, and I drove two hours to meet them to drive five hours to get there, so Sunday night I got home at 9 p.m. Work started at 5 a.m.)

Do not expect to find springs in Eureka Springs, though at one time there were 62 or so. What remains are Victorian houses perched along a series of switchback loops along a slight mountainside. It seemed that half of the homes were operated as bed and breakfasts, and that half of those were for sale.

I am exaggerating, just as I did when the jets in the bathtub sprayed water all over the place and I repeatedly exclaimed, "It's a tragedy!" while wiping up the floor. We laughed supremely then, which makes finding out that Manuela keeps a really clean floor more than worth the wet clothes. (Manuela: the cryptic printed signature under the crooked printed sentence "Gratuities are always appreciated" on an envelope on the dressing table.)

On Friday night we set out after dark on foot and had no idea where we were going. There seemed to be no one around, and it's accurate to say the town is quite quiet. The trolley bus is loud, but that's about it. Deer wander though every evening.

Over the next two days, more walks and a couple of drives would unfold the town's structural mystery. Eureka Springs still has a bit of mysterious charm. It's a fairy town, a European trinket set down in the middle of the upper United States south. There were a few Confederate flags to be seen, and of course, the giant Jesus of the Ozarks statue, towering arms outstretched over the trees in the distance.

That first night, in the first few minutes of our moonlit ramble, two of my friends crossed a street to a candle shop. Becky and I were 15 feet or so behind them, drawn along as if attached. They disappeared through the door, and, as if the thread were snapped, Becky and I suddenly stopped in our tracks and were left alone in the darkness.

What did we see?

Two skulking figures, clad in trench coats and with ski masks pulled over their faces, came out from the shadowy sidewalk by the store. They began doing stage whispers, "Do they see us? Do you think they have the stuff?" but not before a too-long pause and a thousand scenarios of fear whipping through my little head. We said nothing.

Were they pretending to be robbers? Were they going to try it on us? It was surreal; to encounter a masked person - two in this case, teenagers and perhaps coed - outside of Halloween is frightening. They continued across our path and we scurried into the candle place when they were half up the hill.

It was an odd introduction.

Some of the sidewalks in Eureka Springs are time-worn limestone. Some would launch you over the edge of a cliff if you missed a step.

There are spas, there is a liberal bookstore, there is a biker bar, a former cancer hospital converted back to a hotel, room 214 haunted by the first worker who fell and died during that construction. There is a puppet shop, restaurants, Bath Junkie, a hippie store that sells hermit crabs, incense, statuettes and jewelry, and a place that specializes in stones.

Becky's main goal, besides a change of scenery, travel and love, was to get new minerals and rocks. We followed along, and I spent money shamelessly on things mined from the ground shamelessly. They are not priced to reflect the damage extraction does to the earth. Labor involved is not well-paid, I read. However, the chemical arrangements created by unthinkable pressure, time and heat are inspiring. People use them for meditation, therapy, decoration, energy, etc.

Pictured above is just some Flourite. It bothered me to look at it, so I got it. I got some "calming" amethyst for my co-workers and gave my boss a chunk of Selenite, which is said to help one advance in business.

I gave my husband Aragonite, orange psuedohexigonal branches, said to help with focusing creativity.

In two days we'll be eating turkey bird and wishing on a bone that "the holidays" come and go without bother.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


I drove through downtown today to get to work, northeast of downtown.

Usually, I head east first, taking the "scenic" route of urban decay. Downtown, directly north of my home, used to be mostly decay as well. Now, there's a loft-glut (in my opinion, being of the income that can't afford to pay a lease of $1,000/mo. for half as much space as we have now for which we pay less than half that), and a couple of new, big and expensive things are being built in place of lingering, little old-fashioned "blighted" ones (an arena and an "entertainment district," to be precise). The old downtown I shall miss. The one that was "ours" because no one else went there. I enjoy false solitude, you know.

Remember, though, we're not alone!

Driving up Broadway, one passes something Catholic. It's attached to or an integral part of the main cathedral, which has a golden-roof tower. Did I see metal letters or was it mere paint: "Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us?"

Being literate, of course, seeing is reading. The words ran through the voice of my mind. Being post-Catholic, I've been told that to ask for help from anyone but the Father-God or the Jesus-part of Him/Them is blasphemy.

Is a prayer blandly read upon arbitrary encounter still a prayer?

There are faded block letters and an image of a heart on the back wall of a service station in Westport. The wall faces east, into the parking lot of another gas station, QuikTrip. It's the classic "Abortion Stops a Beating Heart."

No praying there, just a scientific fact.

What we put on walls in public view is interesting. Conception, birth, abortion, death.

I have no time to be "offended" by any of it. Apparently, I have time to blather about it, but that's the limit.

For the real things of today are nothing we'd really want to discuss.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


I hardly think there is much out there to warrant comment. Yeah, yeah, of course the world is doing its destruction thing, people are starving to death and walking through filth actual and moral.

However, I feel jaded today. If I were a rock, what color would I be? Jade comes in several.

Next weekend I'll travel with three womenfriends to Eureka Springs, Ark. for the sake of stones and sharing.

Girls, you know, they share a lot of things. When one of them is someone you have known for 13 years, you go along in love with her desire to mine crystals and commune with the geological.

I'm looking forward to it, but we can chalk it up in Dover white that the privilege of seeing my dearer friends carries a price tag I can't afford.

Along with the dodging of insurance adjusters aiming to raise my rates simply for being alive this long, the theme of overspending is destined to be worn out over these e-pages. Insurance is after all one of those "fixed expenses" law-abiders and middle-class-esque non-risk-takers curse for bank account depletion. Insurance and prescriptions.

Travel and clothing. Nothing necessary there for a middle-class woman such as I who have enough cloth stored up in my domicile to dress myself for decades. My lack of seamstress skills notwithstanding, I could be satisfied with monkish outfits. I'm not. There is no way I can erase the trails like slug slime that signify security breaches in my wanna-be Buddhist brain. I see television and look at printed material every day.

I have desire.

While I watch poverty in inaction on a near-daily basis, I don't feel compelled, not actually, to limit my own consumption. I can't stop, and it's gross and scary, and the credit card bills hover at the same level for years.

To demonstrate my surplus, my car's whole trunk is loaded with items I've discarded but with which I can't yet bear to part. I generally let the "Goodwill pile" ride around behind me like the symbolic baggage that it is for a year or so before finding the exact right day to stop at the City Union Mission store, walk around front and then back to the loading dock for them to sign it in.

Sometimes I tell myself that I will make it to the Arizona Trading Company and that they will stroke my self-esteem and pay me a few dollars for my things.

The system of waiting so long is two-fold:

On the one hand, I get to recover things I thought I hated, like my brown heels, for example, suddenly in demand again after a decade. I have brown skirts now. After all these years, I still haven't gotten "new" brown dress shoes; I hate brown shoes, but I "needed" them back to match the skirts. It's good, then, that I was crazy and kept mine even when the closet space ran out, right?

On the other hand, having a bunch of clothes, pillows and shoes in ones car at all times lends me a sense of turtle-security in "these uncertain times."

"Let's Make a Deal" has new rules - do you have an emergency kit in your car, your house, your office? I feel I am doing better than most with my boxes of clothes, the baseball, a strange length of heavy chrome pipe and bottles of very old tap water.

Look up at my office door. There is the non-gay rainbow created by Homeland Security four years ago along with its suggestions that we all prepare like Boy Scouts and be ready tape ourselves up in our homes for days on end without power or running water.

I don't have anything but a random accumulation of goods, but in a 15-year-old Toyota, it is good to have extra sweaters back there in winter, "just in case."

I entertain visions of myself hiking through the city's "east side" alone in the bitter wind, for once at one with the people I see around me every day.

My old car won't be driving down to Arkansas, to say the least. However, packed in with weather-appropriate holiday "essentials," my best friend, two other lovely women and I will be invincible, I assure you, as we drive south together in another, newer Toyota.

(by "holiday," I did not mean "that special time of year, giving, joy, shopping, etc.," but the older-fashioned sense of 1880s travel and excitement - vacation, if you will, but there is nothing vacant about this sort of thing for us. Will tell later.)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


It would be nice to be buried in an arboreal and sunny setting such as this. This park actually is a burial place, Kansas City's second oldest cemetery, Elmwood.

Sunday, I filled a digital camera card up with over 200 shots of leaves. Fall is when trees are not sought for shade but color. For some reason, verdant oxygen-makers are not as captivating as ones sporting carotine and xanthophyll.

I have nearly crashed my car several times this fall, driving with my eyes averted from the road-at-tire up to the warm light of maples, oaks and other yellow-orange and red-purple things. I imagine the conversation with the police:

"What were you doing?"

"I was looking at the leaves."

I'm sure my insurance company would shudder to hear of this. We'll be testing privacy laws with this; updates as necessary.

I was walking in the cemetery, 50 rambling-looped acres or so, Sunday to take one particular photo for my job. It turned out that two photos were published, one of Sarah Rickart Barret's nondescript headstone, the other of the smashed-up wrought-iron fence, tire ditches and tossed tombstones left over from when an older man's conversion van had a mysterious temporary failing of brakes October 22. I could have been there to witness and photograph that crash myself. Chances were high I would have been, but I was traipsing through the new atrium building at a charter school upon its new classroom dedication instead.

Of course, I was late for that anyway and effectively ditched the "ceremony" part. While administrators and board-types were dedicating, I was letting myself in to the unguarded school annex and snapping artsy-silly shots of beams, sunlight and stone.

So, crazy girls break into unlocked schools and crazy men plow their vehicles down hills and across four lanes before coming to rest at the bottom of a loamy, human-filled hill.

Apparently Abraham Lincoln was rejected by his first object d'amour, too. The historian at Elmwood told me Thursday that Lincoln's approach to proposing to Sarah Rickhart had been to cite the Bible.

"You know, Sarah," he said to her sitting next to him on the porch swing in Springfield. He had watched her grow to womanhood, womanhood back in the early 1800s being 12 to 14 years old or something, while staying with Sarah's sister and brother-in-law, the Butlers, Elizabeth and William. "In the Bible, Abraham marries Sarah." I can't help but picture the delivery as a little bit smarmy. Perhaps any good Christian girl would have swooned.

As the story goes, conveyed to me by someone who actually has read history books on this subject, Sarah left the scene. What an answer. Just walk away. In later years she was said to have regretted the choice, but only because Lincoln turned out to be president and all.

Better for old Abe to have hitched up with Mary Todd; she adored him, didn't think he looked funny. It's useful in a marriage to have adoration.

The cemetery here in Kansas City is just thrilled to have a piece of the 16th presidential pie. Cherry, you think? For honesty such as was shown by our first president in his mythology?

Elmwood is buoyed up by a dedicated crew of unpaid people. Some are board people, with good connections to funds and things like free masonry repair work, and some are just concerned citizen-types, who couldn't bear to see the 1872 (inc.; 1840 burials preceded) cemetery shut its gates and become a weedlot.

In the five years since I have known about this place, the weeds have indeed been tamed to almost a park-pretty state. A Web site details those who have been the regular lawngroomers (one was called up to Iraq this summer) and sometimes mentions the special work days that bring suburban Girl Scouts and others in to trim closely around the stones, pick up sticks and learn a thing or two.

Once I overheard some of the pre-teens commenting about the frequency of emergency sirens. The cemetery is on the edge of an industrial park, steel, closed after its century of use expired with the coming of trade imbalances. The area was considered countryside, over 10 miles east of downtown, back when George Kessler gave it that "City Beautiful" touch. The neighborhood now is rough, I guess, with subsidized housing nearby. The businesses almost thrive, though, places like a trailer maintenance shop, an industrial laundry and even a theology campus established in 1900.

The original endowment for the cemetery was poorly invested and tied up in some "protective" way that made it immobile; recent fundraisers are helping. The Halloween 5K is in its third year. A few burials still take place at Elmwood, there are Memorial Day and other special remembrance ceremonies, and last year there was a wedding in Armour Chapel.

I found out that I could get a spot for my ashes there for only $500. A casket burial ends up costing thousands, but for only one grand, both my husand and I could win a permanent place in what is set to become as popular as Forest Hills Cemetery near Boston.

The vision for Elmwood is to put it on par with such places. Forest Hills describes itself as "an open-air museum," which is what Elmwood trustees would like their park to become. From what I've seen on PBS, Forest Hills is much better maintained. Elmwood's stairs, walls and mausoleums are crumbly, but Forest Hills has had an education trust in place for over a decade to help preserve its 275-acres.

Elmwood seems to be on track for unbroken improvement, so I'm confident it would be an appropriate resting place for my remains. Just think - I could be buried near such Kansas City greats as Jacob Loose of Sunshine Biscuits, Mary Atkins (whose $350,000 donation got the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art off the ground), as well as outlaws, showpeople, land-donors and others who helped build this city.

Sure, my neighbors would not be so amazing as ee cummings or Anne Sexton, but I'm not nearly that amazing either.

Is it creepy to have a "dream burial" place?

Even if I could never actually see the trees, I'd still like to know they're standing around coloring the landscape's light above my eventual grave.

There's always a bit of foolish human hope, too, one that leaves the possibility open that a ghost might actually be able to enjoy the living and the fading leaves of Elmwood Cemetery for whatever eternity there might be, pre-Armageddon, I suppose.

I'm willing to try.


Everything you ever wanted to say but couldn't really publish.