Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Will the last person leaving catch the light?

I made my first move to the Midtown area in the late seventies. It was a completely different place in time than it is now. Make no mistake, it was a seedy area , in many ways far worse than it is today, in many ways better. Main street jumped and crackled at night, it was a living breathing entity. From the Club Royale, where fake cowboys and cowgirls gathered, north to 31st street where the drag queens hung out at the Jewel Box, Main Street was like no other stretch of road in this city. I'd say I was about 18 or 19 when I first moved here. I had a one room apartment on Warner Plaza, a street that no longer exists. My single window looked out over main. On warm summer nights, I'd open the window and watch the nightly show unfold. It was always the same, and it was always a little different. Hookers milled about on the corner right below my window. So close that I could hear every word of their conversations. I watched the older women school the younger new girls. Tricks would pull up to the curb and the women sometimes a dozen or more would crowd around the car. The car would pull away then return 10 minutes later depositing a hooker at the curb.


Miltons Jazz and Juice was also right below my window. The sounds from the little joint mixed with the traffic, the hookers, the pimps, the drunks and the occasional crazy person, it was the soundtrack to my life back then, it was music to my ears. I was already well on my way to being a major fuck up, a misfit, and a criminal, so there was no better place to be in the city than where I was. The couple who managed the building I lived in, Warner Arms, were right out of central casting. The husband had a day job, looked like he jumped from the pages of a Furry freak Brothers comic. He had the big white guy Afro, wire rimmed John Lennon glasses, a tall skinny guy who also peddled weed and heroin to the buildings occupants. His wife had a fake English accent, drank constantly, and invited me inside a few times to listen to the same Neil Diamond album over and over, until she would get drunk enough to show me what she really invited me in for.


It was a different time and place, before drive by shootings, gang killings, before crack cocaine, before aids, before there was a McDonald's on every corner, or a Starbucks. I drank back then, a vice that took hold for several years, turned me more than a little mean and a lot stupid. Id sit in Miltons, under age but nobody cared, the place was dark, shelves lined the wall behind the bar with old 78's and 33's, music made by black men, black women, drug addicts, criminals, and drunks. I never really liked jazz, still don't, but in Miltons it seemed right. Miltons is long gone, so is Warner Plaza, the drunk land lady, the hookers no longer stroll on main st, the entire area has changed into something else, progress.


I've kept returning to Midtown through the years. Trying to recapture some of the glory days of my misspent youth, but it has eluded me, just smoke and mirrors with an occasional moment of nostalgia thrown in. Just enough to keep me coming back.


And now it is time to move away, one last time. This time for good. I'm leaving Midtown. To most people that statement will draw a quizzical look and a resounding "who gives a fuck". To me it's a big deal because I really do love this city, especially the Midtown area. I'm not moving out of the country, or even out of the state, hell I'm not even moving out of the Metro area. I'll be 10 or 15 minutes away, but it won't be the same, and really it hasn't been the same for a very long time. I'm no longer the kid who was content to sit in a window and watch the grimy melodrama unfold in the street below. I'm the middle aged guy surrounded by kids who think they are doing something original, rebellious, a little dangerous, when really they don't have a clue. Gentrification, commercialization, progress, have all combined to water Midtown down to something that no longer seems familiar. I've been missing Midtown for years now, even though I've been living right in the center of it. People tell me I'm just being overly sentimental. They tell me I can always come back to visit, Midtown will always be here. They are wrong, the Midtown I knew has been gone a long time now.


Starting next week I'll be taking a couple of weeks off to move, get situated. I don't know how the new surroundings will effect this blog, my writing, what I write about. Everything changes and I don't suppose I'm immune to change either. Despite the somber tone to this post, I'm looking forward to the new start. I've got the girlfriend who tolerates my often surly attitude and pessimistic outlook. I've got the dogs who let me know I'm not as hardened as I like to think. My people are happy to see me move to a nicer part of town, they'll sleep a little better. And there are a few hundred people who take a few minutes out of their day to listen to me foam at the mouth. Other than no gainful employment life is treating me okay, I can't complain. But you know I will.

29 comments:

  1. Well, don't change the name of your blog, whatever you do. Since you've spent so many years in Midtown, the name still seems right.

    "You can take the guy outta midtown, but you can't take the midtown outta the guy."

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  2. We were in our early twenties. One night our husbands took us out on the town. I was from Wisconsin and we had only lived here a year or so. Well, anyhow, I was "very" young and naive. The place we went to that night was the Jewel Box. We were escorted to the front row of tables. Within moments, this "performer" came over and sat on my husband's lap, all huggie kissie. I couldn't believe my eyes or my ears and I know I turned deep red. Everybody was laughing their asses off, including my husband.

    Husband didn't get any that night..from anybody.

    That was my one and only trip to the Jewel Box.

    Great post as usual. Have a happy move.

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  3. I'm thinking south KC, Liberty, Parkville?

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  4. Moving to Waldo? Independence? Raytown?

    You can't leave us hanging like this. We gotta know.

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  5. I agree with Donna. Midtown Miscreant is a state of mind.

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  6. I'll tell you when I get there, don't want to give the locals a heads up.

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  7. Dogpatch. Please tell us you're moving to Dogpatch. ;)

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  8. What a great entry!

    And I remember that version of Milton's fondly. They served me without question when I was a 120-pound 16-year-old.

    It worked- that's where I learned to love jazz.

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  9. If you move from Midtown to Grandview, South KC or Raytown then you should just stay where you are at.

    Actually Wait, I just posted something about some eco friendly houses on Olvie!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  10. Even though your address will change, I don't think you will that much. You'll still be that surly garrulous miscreant that points out the stupidity in life in general. It's not just about midtown anymore. It's about the entire planet. And you, sir, are our Walter Cronkite.... our Walter Winchell..... even our Walt Whitman (don't know why I got stuck on Walters, there... odd). Even if you find a full time job and adopt a dozen kids and barely even have time to read "Nancy" in the sunday papers, you'll still be here pointing your finger and shouting "Hey, look at this shit!"

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  11. I would love to see MM in SOJOCO! Welcome to where the houses are beige, the car or choice is a minivan, and everyone is "nice".

    Right.

    Are you gonna move your stuff? Or should we be on the lookout for a headline "Midtown Fire Claims several douches"(your neighbors)?

    If you need help moving, let ...um...meesha..jocosob.. and myself know. I for one would show up to load the truck, which I have experience.

    Publish a post on your first impressions of your new digs.

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  12. about me loading a truck:
    a Jew(J) shows up to work on a construction site and the boss(B)tells him to grab a shovel and dig.
    (J)Where are your motorized shovels?
    (B)I've never seen a motorized shovel
    (J)And I've never seen a Jew with a shovel!

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  13. Just wanted you to know that I enjoy the hell out of your blog. You always make me laugh out loud or pound my fist on the desk...sometimes in the same entry. I never usuall take the time to thank anybody but I really wanted to say THANK YOU!

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  14. patootey_schmatooteyThursday, April 09, 2009

    Hmm. I think what you are doing is selling out, MM.

    You're not leaving because midtown isn't cool enough. Where else would you move that is more hip in your twisted way?

    But, you want to create some blog drama about how midtown culture & ambiance has somehow failed you.

    That's not the reason you're moving, son.

    Keep up the blog drama, I enjoy it, but it takes one to know one, and you are bullshiiting us. The proverbial smoke up the ole wazzoo.

    And keep writing. I did enjoy your description of midtown in the 70's, living there now is different, and it's fatastic to have the history.

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  15. I am thinking the Dotte!! Move to WyCo, then you will continue to have great stories!!
    Don't leave us hanging too long, I am going to miss your blog while you are on a break. And as anonymous said, I too enjoy your blog a great deal...but don't post my gratitude enough!!

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  16. Hey MM, I just wanted to let you know that a panel of blog experts have reviewed your blog and deemed it worthy of a big award. And by panel of blog experts, I mean me. Congrats on your acheivement. It's the biggest honor on the internet. You can see the details on how to accept the award at http://umbrella24.blogspot.com/2009/04/golden-umbrella-winner-accidental-find.html. And I realize this sounds like a scam, but it's nothing than recognition for a job well done.

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  17. Just checked out Umbrella's blog, looks like he is giving you a reward!! Check it out MM.

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  18. Your description is exactly how I remember midtown in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

    I was a closeted gay school teacher, and I've drive down from small-town Nebraska to go to the Club Baths at 39th and Baltimore and hang out at the Dover Fox at 43rd and Main. There was nothing like Main Street in those days. You could see anything and everything in about a 10-block stretch.

    Good luck with your move.

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  19. Come back soon. I always love how you cheer up my day. Love ya!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  20. This is pathetic-the pussy virus claims another victim.

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  21. If you have somehow moved to my neighborhood... Northeast.... I have extra steel plating you can use.

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  22. what the fuck?

    You can't write and move the three large items you have at the same time? TV, sofa, and 80's style water bed with the special wave feature?

    Jesus H Christ in a purple hat, how can you consider yourself a writer in the face of this......"adversity"?

    Fuckin-A.

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  23. Yeah and the gay ghetto,now known as the Old Hyde Park Historic District, is now full of a bunch of stiff assed yuppies who frown on anyone who rents, doesn't live in a big fancy old house, isn't a pretentious queer(low income gays and straights aren't welcome there anymore)or god forbid, likes the idea of light rail! Forget having a night club or restoring a grand old restored theater, those Old Hyde Park NUTS will fight you tooth and nail! The good old days in midtown were better! Ah, the 1970s and 80s..THOSE were the days, my friend!

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  24. Miltons is gone? Ah, man.

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  25. Haven't told you lately how much I love reading you.

    You're a damn good writer.

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