The Daily AAR
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01/13/2021 (Kansas City)
After reading about it in The Pitch (a local K.C. newsmagazine) we visited Los Alamos Market y Cocina, a 20-year old tradition on the Westside. After ordering at the counter we sat down and engaged the owner Agustin (Gus, pronounced Goose) in conversation. After proudly mentioning that he ran a traditional Mexican restaurant. He asked me "You know how you can tell?". I thought that it might be something about the quality or type of food, but Gus was quick to answer by saying "Tableclothes", as "real Mexican restaurants don't waste money on tablecloths, decorations, or menus". And I had to agree, as the best Mexican food I have ever eaten, which now includes Los Alamos Market y Cocina, has been off of bare tables in very modest settings ordered by pointing to food in a display case.
We discussed with Gus the evolving Westside neighborhood and how some residents of this historically Hispanic neighborhood aren't welcoming to "newcomers". Gus wasn't having any of it, as a Mexican-American and as a restauranteur, he felt his duty was to feed one and all. He told us that those that were not welcoming were "Chicanos". Until our conversation, I didn't understand the difference. Now I do.
01/01/2021 (Kansas City) Happy New Year!
So on December 18, the wife and I are having a coffee and a nosh at Fervere bakery (highly recommended). There is a sign in the window advertising a nearby house for rent. Since we were looking for a rental, the Missus followed up with the cashier, who as it turns out is the owner of this rental, and winds up showing us the place 20 minutes later. It's a modest two-bedroom place, rather plain, for $1,650/mo.
When we're done with our tour, the Missus specifically asked the owner for his contact details, which he provided verbally. It then dawned on me that the owner who had actually spent the time, effort, money and stress, to build this rental house a few years earlier, could not be bothered to create the most basic of brochures, that might include his phone number, photo(s), features, and benefits of his rental home. One that could be given to prospective renters (like me).
It all reminded me of my time selling for Mobil Oil and the importance of not selling empty-handed. Mobil Oil created numerous and beautiful brochures so that after you spoke with a customer you could leave him with a piece of paper so he could remember you, what was talked about and how if you selected Mobil Oil, we would save you money.
BTW: The house in question is still for rent.
12/16/2020 (Kansas City)
Every now and then we like to have a cup of joe at Mildred's (Crossroads). Due to its hot coffee, comfortable chairs, delicious oatmeal cookie, and modern but relaxing vibe we are frequent patrons. It has a pleasant back room that has no windows per se, but large openings with jail bars and a crankin' natural gas-fired fire pit, which in this age of Covid is quite welcoming. It is an AAR Must Coffee.
It was in this back room we met a young businessman named Jay and enjoyed an interesting conversation. Jay was meeting his new boss tonight for the first time and was expectantly concerned about making a good first impression. So concerned that he discussed with us, his "drink plan". Drink plan you say? Well, that's what I said. Jay then explained that he planned to have four drinks that night with his boss, starting with an Old Fashioned. When I brought all my worldly business knowledge to bear on this issue and mentioned that maybe four to include an Old Fashioned was possibly a little "optimistic" - maybe he should start off with a beer (a craft beer, of course, nothing as coarse as a Bud Light). Jay cooly replied that he was 225 lbs and could handle it, he used to be in the Army and maybe he would switch to a beer after the first drink. I wasn't impressed (definately not with him being in the Army*) with his "plan", as even at 225, it didn't seem prudent to aspire to a mini-bender with his brand new boss.
All this talk of business made me give him my business card. He did not reciprocate, which was quite unfortunate as I really wanted to find out how it all went.
* I'd only be impressed with that if I had been in the Air Force.
12/10/2020 (Kansas City) - The World is so Unknowable
The best part of travel is meeting interesting people, but it can be difficult to meet people when traveling. My wife is the more genuine, outgoing, and fearless of the two of us and therefore generally the conduit to us getting to know interesting people.
I try my best but am frequently disappointed in my efforts and results. But after reading an article at the Humble Dollar titled "About Tomorrow" I realized that maybe I'm not so bad. In the article, the author, a former banker, admits that when meeting a "young couple . . . that didn’t have jobs, had little money and held to a philosophy that emphasized living in the moment", he would "pass along financial advice", that included to "show the power of compounding" and "be sure to reinvest the [stock] dividends".
In the end, though, it was a feel-good article, in that I felt good that I wasn't that guy.
12/5/2020 (Kansas City) - The World is so Unknowable II
We are talking a walk and come across a delightful looking place called the Blue Bird Cafe and go inside for a drink. We sit at the bar and order a variation of a Flackhattan (me) and a bottle of Boulevard KC Pils (her). The bartender then disappears only to return a couple of minutes later with a six-pack of beer, from which he removes two bottles and thrusts them into a cooler filled with crushed ice under the bar. "We didn't have any that were cold" he states "so we'll give 'em a few minutes". So I turn to my wife and say "If I were you I change my order", to which she replies "No kidding" (she actually used different wording than this).
I still can't believe that a professional bartender would do this. 🤯
PS: Reminds me of the "magic grits" from My Cousin Vinny.
11/28/2020 (Kansas City)
The Arrow Cross Airbnb (see below) we are staying at had a leaky kitchen sink. The owner tried to adjust the P Trap, but it still leaked, so the Missus decided to fix the leak herself. The problem was the sink drain strainer, so she went to the hardware store bought a new one, and replaced it. Today's lesson: If you want something done right . . .
Note: If you have a leaky kitchen sink drain strainer that you want to repair yourself, then Suzie Plumber recommends watching this video.
11/26/2020 (Kansas City)
Getting my 11,000 steps on a Covid-filled Thanksgiving Day offered a distilled version of downtown KC and by that I mean the only people I met on my walk were homeless. One gent I met outside a Sinclair gas station offered me some money and asked if I would buy some cigarettes, I replied that "I don't smoke, it's bad for you!", he replied, "It's not for you man, but for me!". Not sure what he said next as when walking downtown during a covid-filled Thanksgiving Day it is important to keep moving, you don't want to lose your momentum. About 20 feet down another gent asked me if the previous gent had been "disrespectful". "No" I replied, not sure what he said next as . . .
11/25/2020 (Kansas City)
Besides fascist symbology (see below), staying at our current place reminds me of the disconnect between Airbnb's marketing and reality. The company markets itself as a "global travel community" that "celebrates humanity", and offers "imaginative stays" in among other places, a Mongolian Yurt. And when I first stayed at an Airbnb 15 years ago, in a way, it was: A room in Philly, with hosts that interacted with us (we even made Mint Juleps for them, using mint procured from the nearby Edgar Allen Poe House) and served us homemade bread and coffee for breakfast. If you have never stayed in an Airbnb, this is how you may fantasize it: renting lodgings from cool, hip hosts who not only provide a fully outfitted kitchen but the name of a speakeasy (and bartender) just around the corner and a six-pack of a local craft beer in the fridge. Well, things have changed over the last 15 years with it moving away from a "global travel community" and towards a website that rents short term apartments. I used to really appreciate the idea of staying in an individual owner's cool, hip, well-located condo. It allowed more options than staying at a corporate hotel. The idea still resonates with me (I'm staying in one as I type), but much of the romance is gone as the lack of kitchenware, cleanliness, customer service, and soundproofing are starting to work my last nerve. Can't I stay in a noncorporate apartment that comes with a pasta pot (and ice cube trays), a host who doesn't have to apologize for the lack of cleanliness by saying "sometimes my cleaning people leave something to be desired", a leaky kitchen sink drain that gets repaired immediately, and the ability not to hear neighbors sprint up the stairs (and he's a big boy)?
Hey, it's not just me, but this guy too. Don't want to read the whole article, I get that, just skip to paragraph nine where he mentions "requesting refunds for the corpse they had just found in their rentals".
11/24/2020 (Kansas City)
We're staying in a 1 BD/1 BA airbnb in a 100-year-old building in the western section of the Crossroads neighborhood of Kansas City, MO. After moving in, two things struck me about the place:
1. The owner mentioned that he had remodeled the place himself using youtube videos (and it certainly explains the leaky sink and the drafty windows). Now I'm all for the educational value of youtube, but do you really want to tell that to your guests?
2. There are two light-green, wooden crosses whose arms end in arrowheads, that have been used to decorate the place. This shape is called a "cross barby" or "cross barbée" in the traditional terminology of heraldry. In Christian use, the ends of this cross resemble the barbs of fish hooks or fish spears. This alludes to the Ichthys symbol of Christ and is suggestive of the "fishers of men" theme in the Gospel. See linked photo.
They both appear to have been made by the owner and unfortunately appear to look identical to crosses I'd previously seen in a museum in Budapest, Hungary. I had only seen this cross in a museum because they are outlawed in Hungary, as they are the symbol of the Arrow Cross party, a fascist party that ruled Hungary as a Nazi puppet state from 15 October 1944 to 28 March 1945. A similar symbol, the Crosstar, is used by the Nationalist Movement, a white supremacist group based in the United States.
Should I inform the owner that his arts & craft project has Nazi overtones?