Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Of Westport, History and the Journey Uptown

or Change is good?

My time in college was spent in and around the Plaza and Westport.
As I have mentioned, the Conservatory of Music was spread across various parts of central KC. Epperson house, on the main campus was mostly the center of the instrumentalists. (Epperson is a mansion, in every sense of the term. Mr. Epperson had a little contest with Mr. Nelson as to who could build the most impressive place. The winner got to build the new art museum. The Nelson-Atkins Museum is the result, standing on the site of the rival house.) The Dance Studio was South on Troost at about 60th or so. But most of my time was spent at 44th and Warwick. Grant Hall, RS (the former Stover mansion) with the percussion department in the old carriage house.

Three blocks South and one West was the Plaza. Back then their were more apartments surrounding the shopping area and the Western area did have grocery and drug stores, along with a Sears. Still the Plaza was, and still remains 'upscale' shopping. By definition, not the place to go on a student's income.

No, that was Westport.

Kansas City has become what it is because of railroads. (The subject of future posts, I'm sure.) But in the beginning, before the bridge was built and the iron-horse started it's trek across the plains, changing the West forever, there was Westport.

Up the mighty MO they would travel, aboard the steam-boats. And disembark in Independence or slightly further upstream at Westport Landing. Then travel slightly South to purchase a wagon and supplies for the trip West along the three trails. On to Santa-Fe, California and Oregon.

Fast-forward 100 years or so, and some of that time still remains. Kelly's Bar, at the corner of Westport Rd. and Pennsylvania is the oldest commercial building in KC. The plaques throughout the local streets still commemorate the Civil War battle that bears the area's name. And a little further East more 19th century buildings that survived the carnage are still standing.

In the 1970's Kelly's was surrounded by an eclectic blend of bars, restaurants and shops. Just caty-corner to Kelly's was the Earth Shoe store.

Back when Corner Cafe at Westport and Broadway still served dinner, I would always stop at least once during Opera rehearsals. But, alas, that treat ended a few years back. I assume their excellent meat-loaf and black bean burrito are still on the menu. And they have always had the best B & G in town.

Today, I had the occasion to venture into Westport, in search of Seussical the Musical. (Coming next year to LSN PAC.) Back in the day, Classical Westport also carried cast albums. Wandered about, but apparently it did not remain behind when The Classic Cup, a Westport staple of old, made the move to the Plaza.

Funny thing, seems I'm not the only one who had changed. Much, I already knew. The old bread plant is now converted to retail and theatrical space. The 'Largest' Art House in town made the transition to bigger digs a few years back. Even if they still had the late Saturday night showings of Rocky Horror it just would not be the same.

I did not have to try SteetSide Records for the CD, as I received word by cell that Cathy had found it at Barnes and Noble. (I suppose my assumption that StreetSide would still have a wide selection would be as erroneous as the one the Classical Westport would still exist.)

This just ain't the same. Man, change is a bitch.

Did a bit of wardriving. Westport Coffee House, as promised, had a AP, but I was unable to connect from curbside and didn't have time to stop in for a cup. The drive around the block revealed another seven signals. Another 'target rich' environment.

I will definitely be back in the near future, as I stumbled onto the new Half Price Books location @ Westport
& Southwest Trafficway. Will have to get out for a browse and a cup 'O joe at the WCH.

I started a new log in Netstumbler as I drove back to the office.
One hit at the McDonald's, where I stopped for some bunless double-cheeseburgers.

Passed by the Uptown Theater (Once the home of the Lyric Opera.) and what used to be known as the Twilight-Zone Safeway. (Now it's an Apple Market.) Further up Broadway is the Kansas City Life building. I remember laughing my head off watching a butcher from the Safeway chase a shoplifter all across that lawn, as the idiot dumped off cuts of meat left and right, trying to get the meat-cutter to give up pursuit and retrieve his goods. (There's a REASON we called it the Twilight Zone Safeway...)

Passed the St. Paul's cathedral, site of the biggest production of my wedding singer career.

Not another signal until I split off onto I-35. Probably one of the 'lofty' local inhabitants. Have to try war-driving the new loft district, although bunless Town Topics are hardly worth the effort.

Is all this improvement? Ehhhh, mostly, I guess. There are plenty of outlets to purchase classical and broadway, and in the 'burbs. There are plenty of people who live in the city, but in the name of progress it is beginning to look more and more like the suburbs they disdain...

All in all, like the wise man said:

You can't go home again