New Year’s in Kansas City

Vivian and I spent another New Year’s Eve in Kansas City, a town we’re both growing increasingly fond of, and not just because it’s the home to our two comic friends Vort & Michelle (who actually live in Independence).

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We beat a nasty snow and ice storm and headed down a day early to stay at the Sheraton next to the decked out Country Club Plaza. We’d visited the Plaza a few times before, but we’d never seen it dressed up for Christmas. It was quite lovely to walk around in the not-quite-freezing weather and enjoy a piece of cheesecake down by the Cheesecake Factory before bedtime.

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We had a fun-filled time the next day seeing a few new sights around Kansas City, which mostly included food. After a greasy breakfast at the Waffle House, we dropped into the Better Cheddar, which is quickly becoming one of Vivian’s favorite haunts, to spend a small fortune on cheese, jellies, and various sauces. We also dropped by the World Market for more off-shore goodies before having some barbecue lunch up at Arthur Bryant’s, which was a favorite of my dad’s when we lived in Warrensburg. It was a fairly typical (albeit famous) KC barbecue joint, though Jack Stack is still going to be our favorite for some time.

Afterward, we had time to gawk at the ruins of the Wheatley Provident Hospital, which had apparently been the first black hospital built in Kansas City. We rounded out the day by visiting Union Station, KC’s old train station which has since been remodeled as a kind of large museum (not unlike the Durham). Most of the exhibits were closed, but we did drop into the Build a Dino workshop to create our very own Santa Saurus. The holidays will never be the same. ROAR!

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Our next stop was Vort and Michelle’s home down over in Independence. We had dinner and killed some time cracking up to Jeff Dunham talking to his puppets and playing Kirby’s Epic Yarn on the Wii. Once Fading Aura arrived from Colombia and then made a quick trip up to Walmart to buy ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies before midnight. We rang in the New Year with sparkling white wine and grape juice and then played a game called Outbreak as the first dark hours of 2011 unfolded before us.

P1020597On the first day of the new year, I went “geo-caching” with Fading Aura down around Watts Mill near the Indian Creek Bike Trail. Geo-caching is a bit like a treasure hunt, where you find hidden items using GPS and record it in a log book both at the site and online (mostly for bragging rights). It was sunny, windy, and unexpectedly frigid outside, but we managed to find our cache and check out the ruins of the old Watts Mill before retreating to the warmth of the car.

Among the other ruins we expected that day was the quite dead Bannister Mall up the road. It was built back in 1980 and the main structure had been torn down about two years ago. All that was left were rows and rows of vacant strip malls that looked like something out of a post-apocalyptic zombie film.

The mall wasn’t completely dead (though it is featured at There was a “GenX” clothing store still open, along with a Burlington Coat Factory that felt it was necessary to hang a banner and remind everyone “Yes, We are still open!!!” The rest of the facility was just a sad example of suburban blight, with bizarre details like boarded-up windows and bleached-white stop signs to remind us how long it had been since anyone cared about this property.

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Back at the house, Fading Aura made some of his delicious trademark waffles for a late breakfast, and then we introduced Vivian to Doctor Who by firing up the first episode of Season One (from 2005). It was much easier to follow than I expected, and we might wind up watching more.

Before we said goodbye, we headed down to the local Steak and Shake for lunch. They don’t have one of these in Omaha, and as a “burger snob” I was eager to give it a try. The chain has been around for some seventy years now and has the distinction of being both a fast-food drive-thru and a sit-down, wait-you-at-your-table restaurant. It was definitely a step above most other burger restaurants I’d visited. We spent the rest of our afternoon eating and drawing together before Vivian and I headed on back to Nebraska.

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