Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Bird, Kansas City, and Lots and Lots of History

Southwest threw out their $30 each way trip and we picked up the drippings with tissue. Everything was sold out - including New Orleans which was our first choice. Since we didn't jump the bandwagon early, we ended up in Kansas City, MO. I gotta say, I'd never been asked, "What's there?" so many times. "Charlie Parker," I'd say. Again, the blank look.

The Blue Room where Charlie Parker played was first on our list. I had this image of smoky, body-to-body-crowded jazzio, and the Bird playing Ko-Ko with "Lady Face", his legendary alto saxophone. Instead, a group mostly comprised of white jazz players performed the Saturday night we came. I counted five minorities and the rest looked like bored gangs of sorority and fraternity waiting for the song to be over. So I closed my eyes and took painful sips of martini which I thought was cool since James Bond liked it so much. Drinking the stuff was like downing rubbing alcohol. I imagined the footage I'd seen on Ken Burns' Jazz and tried to conjure the man who brought back improvisational playing that bands like Glen Miller killed. I touched my stool, tapped the table I imagined Parker got drunk on. I waved away the nagging voice that said, "The table's newish, you dummy."

It was a great experience though. After we left the club, we walked around 18th and Vine where clubs, movie theaters, and the magic of jazz still existed. Kansas City and other cities in Missouri were good to us. Jesse James, Pony Express. Just a throw away in Kansas there were Amelia Earhart's childhood home and Topeka's monument to the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. Great weekend trip. Truly.

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