Every once in a while, a stranger will tell me they appreciated the way I handled the whole Funkhouser situation, the way I went from being the former mayor’s top lackey to being all over the newspaper and TV news spilling all the secrets of the administration. The kind words bring little comfort, though, because I know from experience that in Kansas City no one ever criticizes anyone to their face, and that for every compliment I’ve received, there are likely dozens and hundreds of people who think I’m schmuck, even people I’ve never met.
Now as I’m ready to leave this city, after a ten-year run that started at the Pitch and peaked with a critically-acclaimed book and marriage and a stint in the highest office in town, I feel dread everywhere I go.
When I go to Midtown, I fret about bumping into my former editor who stopped speaking to me in 2004, after I wrote a totally arrogant and stupid blog post criticizing her paper’s political coverage.
When I go to Brookside, I worry I’ll spot Funk and Gloria or any number of people I worked with in their office, or that I’ll see some business or civic leader I’ve skewered in print or behind their backs.
When I go to the Crossroads Arts District I feel despair because I was instrumental pulling several gallery owners and artists onto the Funkhouser bandwagon, and then, all at once, I was telling the whole world how badly he sucked.
Last summer, I tried to get in touch with one of those gallery owners to apologize. He wasn’t in, so I left a note with an assistant that read simply, “I’m sorry,” and included my phone number. He never called.
Now Hearne wants me to write a ten-part series about my eleven years here. And because I need the money, and despite the fact that it would probably be best for all concerned if I kept my fingers away from the keyboard, I’m doing it.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time harping on Funkhouser and his wife; I’ve already done more than enough of that, I’m sure.
Same goes for Steve Glorioso, Terry Riley, Ed Ford and a lot of the other assholes I’ve written about over the years.
And I’m not going to rant about tax incentives, not much. Nor under-funded infrastructure. Nor the lack of people out enjoying Berkley Riverfront Park, or the place where the Riverfront Heritage bike trail ends abruptly after a mere 50 feet of pavement, nor jobless teens hanging out every night at coin-operated car washes on the Eastside because they have nowhere else to go and nothing else to do, or how when I meet people from Lawrence say that they always go to the Power and Light District when they come to KC and drink at the tax-subsidized national chains instead of going to truly Kansas City places like the Crossroads or 39th Street or even the Plaza, or when I found out that the nationally famous Central High School debate squad no longer exists because an overzealous superintendent axed the measly $75,000 contract that had enabled hundreds of inner-city kids to participate in an intellectually enriching activity that suburban kids take for granted, or the smell of shit stench that wafts out of our hundred-plus-year-old open sewer system, or of when I see how beautiful everything is around Ward Parkway and compare it to how awful everything is around Benton Boulevard, and on and on and on.
Instead, I’m going to mostly just tell stories, and let whatever observations and insights and themes about Kansas City emerge from those stories.
But I want to start the whole thing here, with an acknowledgement of how badly I fucked things up for myself here in Kansas City by making some of the dumbest mistakes of my life in front of a city of one-point-however-million people.
And that sucks. For me.
Not for you, obviously, because despite all the problems, it’s a pretty kick-ass town, with just about anything you’d ever want in a city, for low, low, super low prices. And a lot of stuff you can’t find nowhere else.