Thursday, November 5, 2009

KC Trip Day Three Part 3

kinda got a late start today, but I made it! over 6,700 words under by belt 43,000 more to go!

The Blue Room is a little memorabilia-filled night club in the same building as the Jazz Museum in Kansas City. Although not near the place she got her hair done, it didn’t take long to realize this would be another leg of the journey her spouse would consider sketchy. She parked her trusty, rusty thirteen year old car at the curb around the corner from the front door and hiked in the cooling night air to the entrance.

The sign was a clever and very visible marquee shaped like a baby grand, with the neon blue name flashing pleasantly in the gloom. No doubt, she had found exactly the kind of place she was hoping for that evening. When travelling, she preferred local color to tourist traps. She preferred the intimate to the massive. And she liked her music up close and personal.

She had arrived a half hour later than planned, but an hour before the performance began. Her friend, without a cell phone for more frequent updates, had let her know before she left home that it might yet be awhile. She settled at an interesting round table that was a heavy glass top over a collection of blues and jazz memorabilia. The scrapbooker in her was immediately intrigued. In perusing the items in her particular table she realized that jazz and blues are two parts of music history she had not really studied. She loved the mood the music set, she had a few favorites from more recent years, having thoroughly enjoyed the Buddy Guy and B.B. King concerts she had attended, but the history of both of these American music movements were a mystery to her. She made a mental note to consult her brother upon her return home—his knowledge of all things musical was nearly encyclopedic, although he was quick to deny this, and he would be a great help in getting her started on learning more.

The band members were setting up, some of the staff helping out, and it was clear this was a group of men comfortable with each other and with their music. She settled in with anticipation of the night of good music she knew was to come. Wine or beer did not seem the right accompaniment to the evening, pop a harsh slap in the face, so she opted for an old favorite, gin and tonic. Of course there were options on that; tall or short, Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray or 10—apparently a smoother offering by the Tanqueray distillers, who have also produced Tanqueray Rangpur—she didn’t expect to receive an education in white liquors along with her free admission to the club. It was a night to reach for new experiences, so she chose 10 and short and filed that information away to bring out when a rough patch in a party called for some clever, distracting discussion.

Half way through her drink, eavesdropping on the two men keeping the barmaid company, she decided not to wait alone any longer and headed for the stool between the man that could be her son and the man that could be her father, except for the pigment of their skin, and settled herself with the lame opening line of, “I’m bored.” They kindly drew her in to their conversation, introduced themselves and soon we were a cozy little foursome talking Prince stories and exchanging business cards. I called the barmaid Apollonia, and she was mine for the taking from there on out. It really was no stretch at all, her beautiful butterscotch skin, her long gorgeous dark hair and the comical image of her as she popped out of the cupboard from the backroom was something that only someone of Apollonia Kotero’s diminutive five foot four height could have so easily accomplished. When conversation switched to “their” lost child after she called the little spitfire this, she realized that in terms of their Prince knowledge they were wannabes, as even she knew he never had a child with Apollonia, and it was Mayte Garcia’s child with him that died shortly after he was born. Nonetheless, “Trey” talked in a gushing manner about his time working backup for Prince in Vegas, and she could tell he was falling into a well-worn groove of a story when he told her about how his beautiful hair had apparently intimidated The Symbol when he was asked point blank to cut it off. He bought her a drink, a thank you for knowing Prince’s work well enough to be impressed by his interactions with him, and for the simple fact of being from Minnesota. She accepted the offering, but then carefully calculated that since she was operating on no lunch, and she didn’t have as much drinking experience as must gals her age, that if she didn’t eat something soon she would be falling off said barstool in a matter of minutes. The other gentleman, the older one named Pye, heartily recommended the catfish at The Redvine, a Cajun saloon just a block down the street. She had her eye on Harper’s, which was directly across from the Blue Room. I asked about it and no one had much to say. Harper’s caught her attention because she had read about it in the Visit KC magazine as a soul food venue that prided itself on using mostly local produce. It just sounded unique and like the kind of place you’d go with a girlfriend and not with your traditional meat eater spouse or pizza and taco nine year old.

Armed with her options, she darted across the street, asking Apollonia to fill Chris in on where to meet her if she arrived suddenly, and rushed in through the front door. There was a buffet style setup in the small, comfortably decorated room and it had the feel of the recently opened. Her entrance did not garner the attention of any employee of the establishment, but several of the patrons, all women, stopped mid-conversation and looked up at her. Curious. The smells were delightful and as she continued to wait by the door to be officially acknowledged, she sensed this was just the perfect find on this day filled with charming discoveries. Her high hopes evaporated when a server came to greet her and explained that a private party was under way, and that another party was expected later in the evening. Harper’s was closed to the general public that night. She held his eyes for a moment and without a word from her he volunteered to check with the chef about accommodating the two, since it was to be such a small party. She toyed with the idea of giving him extra ammunition, she was from out of town, she was really hoping for just this type of experience, she would be willing to eat whatever Ms. Chef had already chosen to prepare. In the end she merely waited and received the final word that there was no room at this particular inn tonight. Back across the street to wait more at the Blue Room, and the Redvine it was to be. When Chris arrived a few minutes later she introduced Chris around and then they said their goodbyes and headed out for some fresh catfish.

It was still early, and the place was nearly empty, so they again sat at the bar, drawing up next to a handsome older man nursing a drink, the tilt of his bus driver’s hat jauntily announcing he was now off duty. She introduced herself and her friend Chris and found out his name was Ed Johnson. He’d been working his routes for over 30 years, has father before him, and today had been a middlin’ sort of day. After ordering the catfish (“You want the whole thing honey?”) she asked him about his worst day on the job, and he admitted it was the day a gun was pulled. He chuckled serenely and said, “Actually, that was more than one day.” He lived upstairs of this fine establishment, which clearly had either recently opened or recently been redone. The televisions were turned to sports of one sort or another. They talked grandchildren and retirement and he admitted he hoped to own this bar in a couple of years with the help of his brother who lived in Dallas. He’d been saving and this was exactly the kind of thing he’d like to be doing upon retirement. He’d continue to live upstairs and keep a close eye on the place—he could tell it had real potential. She vowed to come back for catfish in a couple of years to check on his progress toward the dream.

While this conversation wandered on, Pye stepped through the door, coming to wish us good night as he was heading out to play some cards. Didn’t want us to come back to the Blue and find he’d left without saying farewell. We wished him the best, shook his hand and off he went into the night. Even with the delicious breaded catfish settling into her belly, the gin had gotten its hold first, and she knew she’d have to drink slower the rest of the evening in order to balance things out. It was time to head back for the music at the Blue.

The sky was now dark and although still heavy with clouds, the air had cleared somewhat and there was a feeling of weightlessness. Half way down the block on the other side was the Gem Theatre, its marquee also lit up and causing the whole beautiful storefront to glow. A photographer was settling his camera on its tripod and the girls stopped to admire his choice of subjects, wishing for their own cameras that had been left at home. And then they were back. The room was partially filled now, and the music had already begun. Apollonia was busy, but as soon as she could free herself, she brought over “the drink I was saving for you” and with coats now off, they settled in to enjoy the tunes.

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