Saturday, February 12, 2011

Something new to talk about.

It has been too long since my last entry. Since I have no further comments concerning local restaurants I believe it is time to end that subject. I will give someone else the chance to write about Columbia's restaurants while I try something different. I have been thinking about my next subject and what items that could draw attention to this blog. I thought politics but that alienates too many people (thanks Jeff). I love to talk about economics but most people run from that subject. So I have picked my number one interest, movies, because almost everyone watches them and always seems to have opinions. I will write about films I have seen and put them in different categories. These categories will be updated as I watch additional movies for my list. Now I want to thank my friends Ted, Randy and Brad who first got me started on movie lists way back in 1980. All of us would sit around the table at the Cork and Dart Pub writing lists of movies on napkins while drinking until the place closed. We had lists on individual stars, movies that actors vomited (?) and movies we would love to see made among other subjects. This was before all of us had VCRs so we had to use our memories from television or theatre showings. So you movie lovers, I hope you enjoy or at least read the entries. Be sure to leave a comment as it helps the entertainment value.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Haden House - Please send me your memories

Some of my friends and several of my blog readers have mentioned that I should share my memories of the Haden House but I am drawing mostly blanks. This is why I need the teeming masses to share memories of their experiences at the Haden House. My own memories are vague but I remember good food, excellent wine and an interesting decor. I think I ate there about half a dozen times but I have hardly any memories of the events. I was in college then and eating at the Haden House was a big event financially as I paid out some serious bucks (for a college student that is). I do remember trying escargot for the first time, not a very good memory if I remember correctly. Help me out people! Please send in your experiences and perhaps it will spark more memories from my grey matter. I thank you for your help.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Spinning tires in Columbia MO

Wow, it has been a long time since I last wrote something for this blog. I regret not taking time to add my thoughts and comments to the site but man, it is hard to start when there is so much to do. I find life can be like spinning tires, busy at home and on the job, working hard at both but seemingly not going anywhere. But I have had some observations lately and would like to share them with the teeming masses.

I always take the kids to school on my days off. With teenagers I do what I can to spend time with them and try to get some sort of conversation going. Usually in the morning they are arguing about something so stupid you want to pull over and push them out of the vehicle, but anyway. This particular time I stopped at McDonald's on the Business Loop thinking we could get a fast meal. There were only a few people at the counter and the drive thru was busy. Once inside we could not get anyone to take our order because all the staff was gathering orders for the drive thru. We waited patiently until someone finally took our order and of course it took a while to make. I watched the clock because I did not want to drop them off late and almost said something before the cashier gave us our order. We had to eat it on the run but everyone got to school on time.

In another case, several times in the last month I stopped in at the new Starbucks on Broadway where the new HyVee is being developed on Conley Rd. I prefer the downtown location but there is no parking that late in the morning. The drive thru was packed so I go inside and find no customers. Wow, I can get a coffee right away. Wrong! I had to wait until the three employees got the drive thru orders out of the way. I felt like I was disturbing the Starbucks staff so I left knowing I would not go there again. Other people I know have had similiar incidents and shared them with everyone. This location will fail if they do not take care of walkins.

Here you have two companies, one that has fairly good food (McDonalds) and the other great coffee (Starbucks). In these two cases I should have talked to a manager or owner or someone who would listen. If you do not have enough staff to handle both the walk in crowd and a drive thru simply close one. Lock the doors, put up a sign that says "Not enough help, please use the drive thru." We are continuing the era of bad customer service which will affect the big chain stores and open up possibilities for smaller independent stores. Here are some hopes:

I took the kids to El Rancho, a Mexican restaurant downtown on Broadway for a quick meal. We got our food fast and it was great. These people come from Mexico and open up a great little restaurant which I believe now has a location in Kansas City. After the great meal at El Rancho I stopped in at Day Light Donuts to try their donuts. These East Indian or Pakistani gentlemen (don't know for sure but I will find out) have started this business next to the Papa Johns on Broadway and believe me the donuts are great, better than Krispy Kreme. I loved it, the kids loved it and the prices were great.

Two businesses trying to make it during tough times opened by newcomers from other countries. They will get my business whenever possible because they are taking the chances; I consider these people brave and hope the best for their businesses.

Now a short note about our economy. I know I bored everyone with my last entry but things are changing fast. Saudi Arabia has bought over 3.5 billion dollars in gold because they see things changing. OPEC has decided not to lower the production of oil because they know low oil prices will silence American ideas of higher fuel standards for cars and new energy sources. But with banks hurting and most Americans spending less, fuel consumption is down and may remain that way for a while. Guess who is hurting also?

Have we heard anything from Chavez, the president of Venezuela lately? No, because his oil revenues have fallen which is what keeps him propped up. He heavily subsidises basic needs of his people like food and gas. His nation has a murder rate which may topple his government because the Venezuelan people have finally seen what he really is and how ineffective he is. How about that president of Iran, he is quiet now because the oil revenues are needed to keep food and gas prices low for his people. By keeping food and fuel cheap he and the mullahs stay in power. He has spent so much money on terrorist organisations, Iran's military and the nuclear weapons program that the economy may be a bust sooner or later. And Russia, where is Putin. He has been quiet lately because Russia's oil revenues have fallen. They can still use oil and natural gas as a weapon against Western Europe but he is quiet now.

We Americans need to wake up and change the world one more time. I believe we can do this but that would be another time. Until next time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Happy days are here again?

I have been extremely busy over the last three weeks with no time to work on my site, but during this hiatus I have been searching for ideas to write about and share with the teeming masses. Overall the news is grim with economic chaos throughout the country, while locally my place of employment is now laying people off. It's hard to find something positive to write about but I believe we may be headed for an exciting ride that ends up changing this country and perhaps our way of life for a long time. Let me explain.

"Happy days are here again?", is based on a popular tin pan alley song that came out during the Depression around 1929. (I added the question mark myself.) Franklin D. Roosevelt used it as a campaign song in his 1932 run for the presidency and it has been identified with the Democratic Party since then. I consider myself politically as an Independent but I still like the song even though it was stolen by a political party. Anyway while I was looking around town the past few weeks I see trends that point to positive changes in our local area and the country.

First off - the economy.

Bill Clinton used the saying "It's the economy stupid!" for his campaign against the first George Bush. The nation's economy was taking a beating during the first Bush administration and the country was ripe for change after twelve years of Republican leadership. The savings and loan debacle hurt Bush and the Federal Government had to pay out billions to save the industry from itself. Even though the Feds got their money back lessons were not learned. Let us move ahead a few years. The second George Bush is in power and we are fighting several wars in the Middle East and there is an economic meltdown happening towards the end of his last year in office. Like father, like son.

At this time our friend Mr. Ed is asking "What does it have to do with local businesses?" I promise you I am getting to it but a little history lesson is in order.

Back in 1980 the Reagan administration borrowed billions to pay for a military buildup to force the Soviet Union into bankruptcy. During this time the Reagan tax cuts came about giving the Federal Government less money to spend so with less revenue and increased military spending the budget was a bust. In the 1980's credit cards went main stream meaning almost everyone could now get one. People would talk about their Gold or Platinum or even Titanium cards and their increasing credit limit. Wealth was no longer measured by money you had in the bank but what amount of credit you could get. The next president, Bush the First, had to raise some taxes to keep the country solvent but it may have cost him the election. But the ground was set with the first Reagan tax cuts as businesses started growing and international trade increased. President Clinton was a gifted politician who saw what was happening and decided it was good for the nation. No matter what the Republican congress did, any improvement in the economy was reflected on Clinton and he got the credit. The Fed kept lowering interests rates with the belief that the best way for individuals to gain wealth was to own their own house. This continued into Bush the Second's first term where we had a real estate boom due to low interest rates. Houses were being built everywhere and selling for ungodly high prices and people were buying them left and right, some to live in and some for investments. New designer home loans allowed people to buy a house with little or no down payment. Easy credit was everywhere but wages did not keep up. Personal bankruptcies increased as consumers could not control their spending and went too far into debt. A shadow was being lifted and we were going to see the results of over 25 years of deregulation and "moral hazard". The Republicans were very big is deregulating industries to make them more successful which worked to a degree but Capitalism breeds greed and we were to see it in epic scales never seen before.

Are you still with me? Our country's perception of wealth has changed to how much credit one could get, not by personal money saved. Since 1980 the federal government has led the way in thinking deficit spending is not only okay but the correct way to run the country. Companies and banks have learned that "moral hazard" or the knowledge that risky investments will always be bailed out by the government for the good of the country is part of the plan. Deregulation of some industries has failed. Individual citizens carry way too much debt and do not have enough saved for the future. I apologize if all this seems simplistic but it starting to come down to the local level. (Finally Mr. Ed says!)

How about something positive. Recently I stopped into two new local shops selling items I did not need but wanted. Daylight Donuts is located on Broadway next to the Papa John's Pizza outlet and sells a variety of donuts and pastries. They are scheduled to offer Broaster Chicken sometime in the future but for now they have just donuts. The other shop was Hot Box Cookies which is further down Broadway next to Cool Stuff. This place sells cookies that you design yourself. For $5.95 you can order six cookies with any toppings you want. Call ahead and they will be waiting for you. Here you have two businesses opening up during one of the worst economic times selling items we really don't need but want. I will make every effort to buy from these two businesses hoping to help them become successful. The owners are brave people and deserve our respect and business.

Another positive trend, gas prices have gone down and people are thinking. Oil prices are down because demand for gas is lower. Countries like Iran, Russia and Venezuela are now worried because the money is not flowing in and the oil money is what keeps the govenments propped up. Americans are now rethinking gas mileage and Detroit is designing higher mileage cars. I went through this in the early 70's but I think the government and private industry are in a position to change the auto industry forever.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Rethinking Columbia Mall

In my August 15th entry I made a negative comment about the Columbia Mall that I need to clarify. Compared to past malls the Columbia Mall (in my opinion) is very boring. It has become a collection of shoe stores, clothing outlets and jewelry shops while very few, if any locally owned venues are located there. Almost every store I used to shop at is gone. At one time there were stores that sold books, music, movies, toys and the place seemed to be alive. Nowadays I see shoppers in trances who appear as robots programmed to shop at a mall that looks the same as a hundred other malls with the exact some stores in each.

I cannot believe I am nostalgic for the original Columbia Mall which I hated since it's conception.
The Columbia Mall helped cause the death of Parkade and Biscayne Malls, both of which had so much character. Changing trends and mall owners who didn't seem to care or know what to do helped in the demise of Parkade and Biscayne. Developers thought bigger was better so they built this large shopping center to draw everyone to Columbia. As I watched Parkade and Biscayne Malls slowly die I was tempted to shop at this new mall. I admit I found it fascinating as the next customer and like the idea of a huge group of stores and restaurants under one roof. One stop shopping at its best but it has changed. Allow me to elaborate:

-Wal Mart went after toy shops like they did grocery stores causing many to close.

-The Internet has changed people's shopping habits as music, movies and other items are cheaper to buy online or download.

-Bad parenting had kids dropped off at the mall by their parents, unsupervised leading to bad behavior from the kids and a terrible shopping experience on Friday and Saturday evening.

-Rent at the Columbia Mall is very high which has caused most local owned businesses to go elsewhere. I am sure rent is within industry standards but the only stores that can afford it are national chains.

-Most attractions are gone. The theatre was kicked out to get Barnes and Noble in that spot. The arcade was kicked out because of the problems with kids. There is a merry-go-round located in the Cafe Court which runs almost empty most of the time.

I am sure there are other reasons for the changes at the Columbia Mall but none come to mind right now. Not all the changes are bad though. The new owners cleaned up the mall and it looks nice. Security has improved and it is no longer a chore to go there on Friday and Saturday nights. I compliment the owners for their brave decision to ban unsupervised kids on those two evenings. The biggest problem I have with the Columbia Mall is my own. I am older now and have less patience with bad service and boring surroundings. As I age I become nostalgic for places I remember, even though at the time they may have been boring also. I am sure the Columbia Mall is a good place to shop but I just try to stay away. Who knows where the next "new" mall will be located and if I am still alive I will write about my past memories of the Columbia Mall and how I missed it. Scary stuff, in my mind.

Smokin Chicks BBQ - Three times a charm!

I had to drop the kids off at the Necropolis last night so I decided to check out the Roots, Blues and BBQ Festival downtown while I waited for their call to be picked up. What perfect weather, I am sure the festival planners were rejoicing about the cool, clear evening. The crowds were large and well behaved but the lines to the BBQ vendors were long so I waited to see what the two kids would want to eat. When they finally called I asked them to walk downtown (the car was a mile away) and check out the festival. When we met up they walked around the event for an half hour and seemed bored. They were both hungry so my daughter wanted to go to Smokin Chicks to get a pulled pork sandwich. I thought this to be strange because she has often informed me about her dislike of BBQ but off we went to the Ninth St. location so we could sit down for a while.

This was my third visit to Smokin Chicks and they did not disappoint. The kids both had sandwiches, my daughter had her favorite pulled pork while my son ate a pulled chicken sandwich. This time they bought the large size which was scary looking because of the huge amount of meat on a large bun. (I wondered how are they going to eat all that!) With a generous slathering of the sweet BBQ sauce both kids ate their sandwiches in very few bites. I should not be amazed since teenagers eat their weight in food everyday but it is so rare that they like the same restaurants I do. So my hats off to Smokin Chicks for excellent food.

They are now my favorite BBQ place in Columbia for pulled pork and chicken sandwiches. Their meat has a wonderful light smoked flavor that doesn't even need a sauce. The meat is so tender and the burnt ends explode with flavor. There is a selection of sauces on the table with our favorite being the Sweet sauce. I do not know if the make their own sauces but they compliment the sandwiches very well.

Over the past few months I have been hitting the BBQ places. Lampert's Plush Pig has excellent side dishes (The waitress says they make all their own Cole slaw, baked beans and potato salad from scratch.) but the smoked meat was just okay. Bandana's smoke flavor always gave me heartburn but their boiled peanuts are awesome. Buckingham's which was my favorite moved to South Columbia and since I am too lazy to drive down there I just don't go. I was the only one in my family who liked Buckingham's so we didn't eat there much. I wonder what happened to their plans to open a location near the Harley Davidson shop because that would be just walking distance for me.

Anyway, back to Smokin Chicks. I shall encourage everyone to try this place out as I believe they are local owners that put out a great sandwich. In fact I may go out today and buy a pulled chicken sandwich and maybe try their sausage that has a strange name. Great flavor, huge portions and contentment, this place may be a portal to Nirvana. Give them a try.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Twilight Festival's Last Gleaming

Thursday evening I dropped my daughter off downtown for Columbia's Twilight Festival. Since this would be the second to the last of the festivals I decided to walk around town and see what was going on. The first thing I noticed was the number of people walking around, a lot less then in previous Twilight evenings. The other thing I noticed was the number of music venues were reduced to a decent level that did not crowd the airwaves with unnecessary noise. There were still enough people and musical acts to attract a decent crowd but with 9th Street not being closed, the sidewalks were full. Most of the teenagers were congregating in Peace Park and there seemed to be fewer gangs of young people running around harassing everyone. And with the weather being clear and cool the evening my walk downtown was quite nice.

I walked all the streets to get a feel for the crowd which seemed happy but sparse in some areas. There were very few information booths set up and only a handful of people handing out flyer's. My first stop was Gumby's to say hello to a friend who is the evening manager. Gumby's is over the now famous Sapphire Lounge which has been in the news lately for unruly crowds and people taking pot shots at police. The lounge was closed so I had a beer at Gumby's, an ice cold Negra Modelo from Mexico. They only charged two bucks which is a great price. All of the customers in Gumby's seemed like Junior High students there for the cheap pizza. They kept looking my way like I was a plain clothes cop or a dirty old man. My friend was busy so I left after one beer. I soon ran into a old Columbia College school mate of mine. We talked politics for a good half hour with strangers joining in or just listening. I had conversations with the Libertarians and the Obama workers of which I changed my positions several times to see what theirs were.

Around 8PM I went to Smoking Chicks BBQ on 9th Street to get a sandwich. I highly recommend their pulled pork sandwich as it was tender and flavorful but not too smokey. I liked their Cole slaw which has horseradish in it but it was dry and could be a little creamier. After eating I walked the streets one more time to see what was going on. Little bands of young people were showing up so I decided it was time to leave. I used to enjoy the Twilight Festivals but it became a hassle dealing with the rude kids and at the time of this writing I do not know if I will go to the last one this next Thursday. I am sure Columbia will come up with something new to entertain it's populace.