When thinking of The Plaza, the first thing that comes to my mind is Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle in MY FAIR LADY singing “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” To walk along the beautiful streets passing by high-end retailers like Armani and Burberry! Ah, compare that to our peasant shops here in Lawrence, KS, which are mainly locally owned, where people toil their lives away to eke out a humble living. Sure we have The Gap and Urban Outfitters on our little Mass. St., but Gucci? No, sir, we’ve none of that ‘ere in Larryville. Just an abundance of PBR and used (I mean “vintage”) clothes.
Sometimes it’s nice to see how the other half lives, however, to break free from the poor little village to which you’ve grown accustomed, to walk in luxury, surrounded by luxurious streets and buildings which contain luxurious things and to pretend, even if for one moment, that you could ever afford a pin-striped Gucci suit. It’s the ancient art of window shopping. To catch a glimpse at a life you could only dream of.
If Barnes and Noble is indicative of any other shop on The Plaza, they’re all impressive inside. Three stories of books, notebooks, magazines, one story of music and movies, a cafe. I bought a copy of Capote’s BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S and went on my way to brush shoulders with the glamour and luxury etched on every stone of The Plaza.
At this point, I was famished. Glamour and luxury is all well and good, but, when it’s 5 o’clock in the afternoon and the only thing you’ve eaten all day is a mediocre doughnut you picked up at the grocery store (precisely, Dillon’s on 6th St.), your mind starts turning to other things.
On the advice of a dear friend of mine, I’d set out to eat at The Cheesecake Factory. You can always tell a true friend by how acutely their advice strikes you. Cheesecake is high on my list of things I could not do without. Perhaps it was because I was in a daze of hunger, but I couldn’t find The Cheesecake Factory to save my life. I did, however, come upon Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue.
When in Rome, they say, do as the Romans. When in Kansas City, eat barbecue. Seriously. It doesn’t matter which one. Everybody’s got their favorite. Mine is Gates. Other people acknowledge that Gates is a good one but argue that Arthur Bryant’s is better. There’s Oklahoma Joe’s. There’s Danny Edward’s. There’s about as many barbecue restaurants in Kansas City as there are cathedrals in Rome. And, no matter which you go to, you won’t be disappointed. When on The Plaza, go to Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue. You won’t be disappointed.
And then you might discover, as I did, that The Cheesecake Factory is just around the corner. And you might also, as I did, discover that, no matter how full you thought you were after eating a massive helping of barbecue, there is always enough room for cheesecake. And you, as I did, might very well discover that, no matter how good the description on the menu of the dulce de leche caramel cheesecake may sound, seeing it in front of you dispels any doubt in your mind on the matter.
The cheesecake put up a good fight. Ultimately I couldn’t finish the entire thing.
Oh, and there’s an impressive fountain on the patio. By the way.
Across the street is the J. C. Nichols Memorial Fountain.
Geese and people with cameras just love this fountain. Sometimes the geese will pose for you.
Even the geese are glamorous at The Plaza.
You would think that seeing the most impressive fountain in Kansas City would make all the others pale in comparison, but I noticed more fountains on my way to Scooter’s for coffee than I had earlier, and they all seemed more impressive somehow.
Neptune, God of the Sea:
This cat face:
And there are some lovely statues.
I read around 30 pages of BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S on the patio outside Scooter’s.
During this time, a drummer was setting up a drum kit. Later, he would be joined by a DJ, a front man, a couple of female vocalists, and a small entourage of supporters. They’d perform, alternating between the DJ spinning tracks with live percussion and performances of original songs, trying to raise funds for their first professional project. A dance party would ensue, everyone having good times. All ages of people, young kids, teenagers, elderly, different races, different lives, together dancing.
I finished my coffee and went for one more walk around The Plaza before returning to Scooter’s. Every restaurant was full of people, large windows open, blurring the lines between the people dining al fresco and the people dining inside. It was dusk, and it all seemed so beautiful, as if nothing could ever go wrong there. Like being at Tiffany’s, perhaps.
A new car takes some getting used to. There’s no clutch, for one. Really weird at stop lights not having to shift gears manually. The driver’s side window rolls down. People might actually hear me singing at the top of my lungs when waiting for the light to change. The driver’s side door opens from the inside! No more reaching through the rear window to unlatch the door from the outside. The new car has a tape deck. And me with no tapes, just a new-fangled iPod which has come in handy ever since the CD player stopped working in the old car.
I learned to drive a stick shift by driving through miles and miles of Kansas country roads around my parents’ house as a teenager while listening to “Rock You Like a Hurricane” and Pearl Jam too loud. To this day, I think the best way of getting used to a new car (even if it is an automatic) is to drive it somewhere. So I put together a playlist of some of my favorite songs, hit the highway with ABBA’s “Super Trouper” blaring, and took a day trip to Westport.
Westport is probably my favorite area in Kansas City. In part, because of murals like these:
Beautiful areas like this:
If PBR Rex had taken the time to walk up those steps, he would have found himself on this street. And, if I had more money on me, I might have taken him to Korma Sutra for some fantastic Indian food and bought him a cigar at Fidel’s afterward.
While PBR Rex is probably boozing it up at McCoy’s, I’m having a coffee. Somehow, it’s just not a trip to Westport without having a cup here, sitting on one of the chairs out front, and watching the cars and people go by.
Murray’s Ice Creams and Cookies:
The Westport Coffeehouse. Less conversation and more people on computers than at The Broadway Cafe, but they have a theatre, and there’s this on one of the outside corners:
I think PBR Rex must have gone into The Beaumont for some shots and a show. But I’m sure I’ll meet up with him again; there’s not enough time to see a film at The Tivoli today. For now, a glass of iced tea sounds better than a beer on a humid afternoon, and I’ve still got half the playlist to listen to on the 45-minute drive back to Lawrence.
The new car may still take some getting used to.