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I was struggling to come up with a third topic of interest today when the Kansas City Royals came through for me.

So here is that breaking news, along with a couple of other stories that caught my attention.

:: Mercifully, the Royals have traded Jorge Soler, one of the most annoying baseball players I’ve ever seen. This afternoon, less than an hour before the 3 p.m. trading deadline, the Royals sent Soler to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for minor-league pitching prospect.

One reason I’ve watched so few Royals’ games this year (besides the fact that they’re very bad) is that it pains me to watch Soler. Not only is he a terrible hitter (batting average .192, which is less than two hits for every 10 at-bats) but, as I’ve said before, it looks to me like he’s not very interested. He has zero intensity, makes an adventure out of playing the outfield and, then, of course, there’s his ridiculous insistence on keeping his back left pants pocket turned inside out. He’s bush league all the way, and it’s great that we won’t have to watch him any longer.

We can all be thankful that Soler’s bat got hot the last week or so and that he hit a bunch of home runs. Had that not happened, no team probably would have been tempted. Before today, I thought majority owner John Sherman would very likely fire General Manager Dayton Moore at season’s end. That still could happen, but at least this is an admission by Moore that the acquisition of Soler from the Chicago Cubs in 2016 (for Wade Davis) was a huge mistake. Although Moore and Royals’ fans are catching a break with Soler’s departure, it might be too late for Moore.

Dayton Moore (left) and John Sherman

:: While waiting in a doctor’s office this morning, I was reading a New York Times story about former Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick having been charged with sexually assaulting a teenage boy in 1974. Suddenly, a line brought me to a halt. The line was: “Mr. McCarrick, who now lives in Missouri, was charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person age 14 or over and is expected to appear for arraignment on Sept. 3.”

Now you know what startled me: the 91-year-old McCarrick lives lives among us in Missouri. I put down the paper and quickly began Googling McCarrick and Missouri. A few stories in, I found a USA Today story that said McCarrick lives at the St. John Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, MO. Next, I Googlemapped Dittmer and found that it’s about 30 miles southwest of St. Louis…At least he’s not in our area!

The USA Today story said the renewal center was a home for “troubled priests” and “clerics who have committed sexual abuse.” It said eight registered sex offenders live at the center. A story I read later on the BishopAccountability.org website referred to the center as “Club Ped” and said it is run by an order of Catholic priests called the Servants of the Paraclete.

Now, McCarrick was a high-profile pedophile before these criminal charges were brought, having been expelled from the priesthood in 2019. Yet, here he is living in Missouri, with the church still providing him room and board and a nice lifestyle. The website said, “Residents enjoy an outdoor Jacuzzi, hiking trails, picnic tables, basketball hoops, satellite TV, maid service and cooking staff.”

That just makes you sick, doesn’t it? All I can say is that if you ever get a solicitation from the Servants of the Paraclete, put it straight into the recycling.

:: I don’t write about or read The Star very much these day because, like Soler, it’s bad and annoying.

In recent days, though, I found myself scouring the website for news and commentary about the ground-breaking story of Texas and Oklahoma jumping from the Big 12 (actually 10) to the superpower SEC. The sports side of the paper has eroded slower than the news side, and I thought columnists Vahe Gregorian and Sam Mellinger, or at least longtime college reporter Blair Kerkhoff, would bring some enlightenment. Hasn’t happened. To the best of my knowledge, neither Gregorian nor Mellinger has devoted a column to it, and I’ve only seen one Kerkhoff story on the subject.

Picking up the slack has been Kellis Robinett, who covers K-State for The Star. And his stuff hasn’t been particularly insightful.

The most authoritative reports I’ve seen have come from Dennis Dodd, a former Star sports reporter, who has been with the CBS Sports since 1998. From The Star, I remember Dodd as an intense young man with a head of black hair. Now he’s mellowed and, like me, is bald. (Funny how it’s shocking for me to see his bald head but not for me to see mine.)

Dennis Dodd

Dodd, who still lives in the KC area, says he thinks the Longhorns and Sooners will join the SEC by the year 2023, even though they are contracted to stay through 2024-’25. He says he expects the two teams to be met with “a lot of rancor and a lot of bitterness” when they go up against the remaining Big 12 teams in sporting contests before they depart. “The more they play in this conference, the uglier it’s going to get,” he said.

And as for the Big 12, he’s not bullish on its future as a stand-alone conference. “I think the dominoes are going to start falling quickly,” he said.

…That’s it for today, readers. Have a nice weekend, slow down on the roads and pray for rain.

My favorite street in the Kansas City area, by far, is State Line Road.

First of all, how many cities have a State Line Road? Ours is the only one I’ve ever heard of. On top of that, it’s so damned interesting, cleaving through several cities and featuring all manner of residences; at least one park and one golf course; a wide range of businesses; and one massive institution.

But let me clarify something: When I say State Line Road is my favorite street, I’m not talking about all of it. I’m talking only about the two-lane part that starts at 75th on the south and trails off at Eaton Street on the north, near 35th Terrace.

South of 75th, where it becomes four lanes, it’s just another big road taking you where you need to go. And the north bookend, where it resumes in the West Bottoms, has little to commend it.

The most variegated part is that 40-block stretch I’m talking about, where it’s two lanes and bordered by seven cities, by my count. (Besides KCMO, the bordering cities are Prairie Village; Mission Hills; Westwood Hills, KS; Westwood, MO; Westwood, KS; and Kansas City, KS.)

So, are you ready for a tour? Alright, then, hop in the hybrid, put on your seatbelt and let’s go!

I admit it doesn’t start off in very good fashion at 75th, where, on the Missouri side, there are two convenience stores. (Both were charging the same price, $2.89, for a gallon of gas today.)
Just south of 64th Terrace, on the Missouri side, is what is known as “the Bixby House,” because it was commissioned by the late Walter E. Bixby Sr., who helped establish Kansas City Life. The house was the setting for some scenes from the 1990 movie “Mr. and Mrs. Bridge,” which starred Paul Newman and his wife Joanne Woodward. The house, which we in the neighborhood call “The Ship,” was for sale for more than a year before being purchased within the last few months. It has been gutted, and a remodeling is underway.
On the southwest corner of 63rd Terrace — in Mission Hills — is the First Lutheran Church.
North of the church, across 63rd Terrace, which becomes Tomahawk, is Mission Hills City Hall. (No identification sign needed; this is Mission Hills.)
At Mission Drive, just south of Shawnee Mission Parkway, there are two private clubs. One is Mission Hills Country Club. Other than attending a golf tournament there once, this is as close as I ever get to the course.
On the Missouri side is the Carriage Club. I’ve been to one or two events inside the clubhouse, and I once ice skated on their rink, but I’ve never played on their tennis courts or swum in their pool.
Shawnee Mission Parkway is the biggest intersection, by far, that this stretch of State Line Road crosses. On the southwest corner is the Mission Hills branch of Country Club Bank. Across from the bank is the “The Barney Building,” a.k.a., the Karbank Real Estate building, named for company founder Barney A. Karbank, who died in 2005.
On the northeast corner of Shawnee Mission Parkway is Pembroke Hill School, one of the most exclusive private schools in the KC area.

At 50th Street are the Westwood Hills shops, anchored, if you will, by Annedore’s Fine Chocolates (first awning at right). Another claim to fame for these shops is that George Brett’s wife Leslie once operated a business out of one of these store fronts.
On the northeast corner of 47th Street is Westwood (MO) Park. On the Kansas side, 47th Place goes up a steep hill to the Woodside club, formerly Woodside Racquet Club. I played there many times years ago and was a member for a year or two.
At 43rd Avenue, which picks up where Westport Road ends, is the Twin City Tavern, so named because it is in KCMO but borders KCK. As much time as I’ve spent on Westport Road, I’ve never been inside Twin City Tavern, at least not that I remember. For several years after I arrived in Kansas City, I drank a lot, and I cannot recall all my explorations during those years.
Approaching 39th Street (39th Avenue on the Kansas side), the University of Kansas Health System commands the ground and the sky. The “campus” continues north of 39th, enveloping the northwest corner of 39th Avenue and State Line Road. A block or so to the west, the campus snakes down the hill on Rainbow Boulevard. When I arrived in Kansas City in 1969, about all there was to KU Med Center was the main building on the southeast corner of 39th and Rainbow.
Now here’s one of my old haunts. When I first came to Kansas City, one of the first bars I went to was Jimmy’s Jigger, on the southeast corner of 39th Street. For years, all it consisted of was the bar and several booths on the westernmost wall (to the right of the front door). In the ’70s, it began expanding to the east, and a dance floor, a small stage and an upper bar were added. I remember meeting a very nice girl there — name was Nancy Gillespie — who was crazy about me and which I failed to appreciate until it was too late…The place is now called Papa Vic’s Jigger. For many of us, The Jigger it will always be.
North of 39th, State Line Road starts petering out. All of a sudden, there’s far less traffic and not much to look at. Past 35th Terrace, the road curves to the left and becomes Eaton Street. (Eaton starts a few car lengths north of where the white vehicle is.) It’s an anticlimactic but fitting interruption point for a singular road.

A Republican judge in Cole County and our small-town, pea-brain state legislators got their comeuppance today.

In case you haven’t heard, the Missouri Supreme Court unanimously reversed a lower court decision nullifying a voter-approve Constitutional amendment expanding Medicaid to low-income residents.

The court’s 14-page decision said eligibility criteria for the expanded program “are valid and now in effect.”

That puts the state in a position to receive a 90-percent match from the federal government to help pay for the added coverage.

At this year’s legislative session, as most of you know, the Republican-and-hick-dominated Missouri General Assembly refused to authorize funds to finance the expansion, which voters approved by a 53-to-47 percent ratio…Refused to authorize funding, I might add, despite the state sitting on a $2 billion surplus when the 2020-2021 fiscal year ended June 30.

Despite the August 2020 voter mandate — and having plenty of money — Missouri has been one of only about a dozen states that had refused to expand Medicaid to low-income residents.

In addition to the General Assembly defying the clear will of the voters, our governor, “Farmer” Mike Parson did not stand up to the legislature but went along with the good-ol’-boys and withdrew an application with the federal government for the expanded program.

Then, after three women who would have been eligible for the more inclusive program sued, Parson and pals found a friend in Cole County Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetem, who ruled the ballot initiative was not “validly enacted” in the first place because the amendment did not include language that provided for funding of the expanded program.

Circuit Judge Jon Beetem

It will come as no surprise to you that Beetem is a Republican. He was first elected in 2006 and re-elected in 2012 and 2018.

But good-ol’-boy, winky-dinky politics only carried Parson and his legislative collaborators only so far.

Just as former President Donald Trump discovered when his absurd, stolen-election assertion reached the U.S. Supreme Court, Parson and Co. found their road blocked when they got to the highest level of the Missouri court system.

Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul C. Wilson of Columbia

…And in case your wondering, three judges on the high court were appointed by Democratic governors and four by Republican governors.

What we will likely see now is the General Assembly go to the bob-and-weave, game-delay defense. It seems almost certain, however, that whatever games the legislators and governor might play, they will get smacked down by the courts. (As a side note, it is unlikely the U.S. Supreme Court would take this case because it is a state-based constitutional issue, not federal.)

Before any more legislative legerdemain unfolds, however, the matter will go back to a chastened and humbled Jon Beetem, whose task it is to direct the Department of Social Services to start preparing to expand Medicaid coverage. About 275,000 additional Missouri adults will be eligible.

**

I read the St. Louis Post Dispatch’s coverage of the Supreme Court ruling and enjoyed some of the comments posted by more than 80 readers.

Here’s a sample:

Susan Nuetzel, Green Bay, WI: “As usual, the Republican-inspired ruling was not only obviously wrong, but cruel. Overruled.

Derek Plummer (no city listed): “Missouri Republican legislators’ sphincters just violently contracted at this news.”

Terry Knies, Balwin, MO: “Winning their little obstructionist victories is more important than serving the people.”

Susie Simmons, St. Louis County: “(T)hanks to the yahoos in Jeff City who felt they did not need to obey the will of the voters, we had to go through this exercise.

Bob Feld (no city listed): “No surprise here. Even a first-year law student would have known the ballot initiative was constitutional.”

From the way a City Councilwoman and the attorney for Casino KC gushed in a news story about a $40-million renovation to the former Isle of Capri Casino, you would think this was one of the most outstanding redevelopments projects Kansas City has seen in a long time.

In a CitySceneKC article, Jerry Riffel, attorney for Casino KC, was quoted as saying:

“This casino has a long history in Kansas City; it was one of the first in Missouri…It’s very clear based on the history of the casino and incredible progress we’ve made on the riverfront that this is a huge step forward.”

“This is a fabulous project,” chimed in Councilwoman Teresa Loar.

Even the story’s author, Kevin Collison, a friend and former colleague at The Star, contributed to the enthusiastic tone, writing, “The $40 million Casino KC upgrade comes at a time when the downtown riverfront has seen a boom in development after decades of dormancy.”

Well, this project might generate more “gaming taxes” for the city, and it might boost the casino’s overall “economic impact,” but let’s be clear about something: Behind the bells, whistles and flashing colors, the casino business is pretty grimy, and it preys, for the most part, on the addicts and those who can least afford to lose.

I am familiar with a regular casino goer. He’s a middle-aged African American man who assists the man who cuts my grass. The assistant goes by either of two first names, Charles or Larry. Patty and I just call him Charles-Larry.

The only other thing I know about him is that he goes to a casino (I believe Casino KC) every day. One day, when my lawn guy, Jimmie, arrived later than usual, he was without Charles-Larry. When I asked Jimmie where he was, Jimmie said, “Oh, this time of day he’s at his office” — meaning, of course, the casino.

Now, Jimmie says he doesn’t know if Charles-Larry wins or loses, but when you go to the casino every day, there’s only one way you can come out in the long term. So, here’s Charles-Larry, earning what must be a fairly low hourly salary, taking his money to the casino…every day.

And, of course, Charles-Larry is the typical casino patron.

An article in The Pitch back in the year 2000 captured the tenor of casinos, and the nature of the players, in a beautiful turn of phrase, calling them a “place to chain-smoke and salivate over spinning lemons.”

(Yes, Charles-Larry is a smoker.)

**

When I was at The Star, I was always proud that our editorial board took a strong stand against casino gambling and that on both the news and editorial sides we refused to use the euphemism “gaming.”

Sometimes the editorial board members were even rude to casino promoters who came in for meetings, which bothered me a bit, but the board’s hostility toward casino gambling proved to be prescient.

I remember vivdly the 1993 pitched battle for who would get the rights to build the first casino in Kansas City. It was a high-stakes competition, to be decided by what was then the Kansas City Port Authority (now PortKC).

On one side was Hilton Gaming Corp., which proposed building in a difficult-to-get-to location at the foot of Grand Boulevard, next to the steam plant. The front man for Hilton was a short guy with a French accent named Marc Rousseau. Rousseau famously told the Port Authority members Hilton would do or pay “whatever it takes” to win the rights to KC’s first casino.

On the other side was Boyd Gaming, which later changed its name to Sam’s Town Casino. Boyd’s front man was one of the Boyds, the family that founded and owned the company.

Both companies hired local p.r. firms and/or attorneys with strong political connections. The p.r. firm representing Boyd Gaming was called Sherman, Bergfalk, Goeltz. “SBG,” as it was known, had helped Emanuel Cleaver II get elected mayor in 1991, and one of the SBG principals, Peter Goeltz, was particularly close to Cleaver.

Because of the Cleaver connection, the betting odds were decidedly with Boyd.

Ah, but on the day of decision, no one in the audience knew the fix was in.

The meeting room — I don’t remember where it was — was packed, and there was no joking around or light banter; it was all business; the stakes were very high. Both sides made presentations to the five-member Port Authority, which was headed by a guy named Elbert Anderson. When it came time for the vote, two members voted for Boyd and two for Hilton, leaving Anderson to cast the deciding vote.

Most people in the room were holding their breath when Anderson said, “Hilton.”

And then, in the weeks and months that followed, it all fell apart. A criminal investigation was launched to try to determine if Hilton had bribed Anderson. Charges were never filed because law enforcement officials could not establish that a payoff actually took place, although there was a very suspicious $250,000 payment to a company with close ties to Anderson.

But Anderson didn’t slip the noose: He was later convicted of bribing a City Councilwoman, D. Jeanne Robinson, and a county legislator, the Reverend James Tindall, to steer business to his public relations firm, and he was sentenced to two years in prison.

After Anderson was released from prison, he worked for a while as manager of the Peachtree Buffet restaurant when it had a location at The Landing, 63rd and Troost.

**

There were two other offshoots to this story.

One is that Anderson helped the feds in their bribery investigation, and Hilton ended up surrendering its state gaming license and paying $650,000 in fines.

The other is that not long after winning the casino rights, Hilton switched gears and decided the foot of Grand Boulevard was a bad location. So, when the Hilton Flamingo casino opened in 1996, it was at the site Boyd had proposed, below the Paseo Bridge. In 2000, the Hilton Flamingo became the Isle of Capri, and now it’s Casino KC, about to get a $40 million facelift.

No problem for Bally, the new owner of Casino KC. It probably will get that money back in a few years…at the expense of the thousands of Charles-Larry’s out there.

And Jerry Riffel was right about one thing: Casino KC sure does have “a long history in Kansas City.”

Outside the casino entrance this afternoon

I took a trip back into the mid-20th Century today.

After attending the 9 a.m. service at Country Club Christian Church, where I’ve been a member several years, I attended the 11:30 a.m. Mass at St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Catholic Church on Rainbow Boulevard in Westwood, KS.

St. Rose Philippine parish is perhaps the only Catholic parish in the Kansas City area where all Masses are celebrated in Latin.

What prompted me to attend was Pope Francis’ recent apostolic letter, which placed new restrictions on where and by whom the traditional Latin Mass can be celebrated.

From news stories about the letter, it appeared the celebration of the Latin Mass might be significantly reduced. A story in The New York Times said: “Many analysts see Francis’ pontificate as the restoration of engagement with the modern world after three decades of leadership by conservative popes.”

However, the letter contained an important escape clause for Latin Mass advocates: Such Masses can continue to be take place with the approval of local bishops.

The bishop in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas is Joseph Naumann, one of many conservative bishops in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and I knew Naumann would not be putting a halt to Latin Masses.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann

Nevertheless, I felt sure the issue would be addressed at Sunday Masses at St. Rose Philippine, and I wanted to hear what the reaction was.

I was a Catholic from birth until about 12 to 15 years ago, and I was an altar boy in parochial grade school, so l knew about what to expect.

When I got to the church (below) at about 11:20, the pews were filling up, and people were sitting or kneeling very quietly. The crowd consisted of young, old and middle-aged people, families and singles. The women had their heads covered with either hats or veils, mostly veils. Along the right wall, next to the pews, a line of people, mostly young, stood stone faced. I couldn’t understand why they were standing when seats were available, but concluded it was because they were prepared to stand throughout the Mass in case the pews filled completely.

Ultimately, the pews did nearly fill up, and I would estimate about 300 people were on hand. When the priest came out, he was wearing a green robe with gold trim and a black biretta, which is a square cap with peaks and a tuft on top. Accompanying him were two altar boys in black cassocks and white stoles and about 10 smaller, younger altar boys, also outfitted in black and white.

The priest, the Rev. Jonathan Heinricy, a slim man with a goatee, got things started by walking down the center aisle sprinkling the congregants with ample amounts of holy water.

Father Heinricy and the two other priests at St. Rose Philippine are members of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), which is active in 39 dioceses in the United States and seven in Canada. After the sprinkling, Father Heinricy removed his hat and began the business of performing Mass in Latin, facing the altar, with an altar boy kneeling on either side of him.

Even though I had a “missal” with the Latin-to-English translation, it was very difficult for me to keep track of where the priest was in the text. The Latin rolled off his lips like it was his first language, and very seldom did I hear a phrase I could identify.

One phrase I did recognize was, “Dominus vobiscum,” which means, “The Lord be with you.”

The response from the congregation was, “Et cum spiritu tuo,” i.e., “And with your spirit.”

For the most part, though, the congregants listened and mumbled a few muted responses. The priest and the ritual were the central elements of the goings-on.

The only respite from the Latin was the Epistle, the first reading, and the Gospel. Both were read by another priest, Rev. Joshua Houck. After the readings, Father Houck addressed the papal letter and said that Archbishop Naumann had sent a letter to the parish insuring that the Fraternity of St. Peter’s order could continue providing pastoral care in the archdiocese, “especially to those who desire to participate in the Latin Mass.”

In other words, Father Houck said, “I think it’s reasonable to assume things will continue to go along as they have been.”

The congregants gave little reaction, although the woman sitting in front of me turned to her male partner and smiled softly.

When it was time for communion, the congregants began filing up to the altar rail and kneeling as Father Heinricy placed the hosts on their extended tongues. To his right, an altar boy held a gold-colored paten under the recipients’ chins. After each pass down the row, Father Heinricy walked quickly back to the head of the row, where a fresh line of people were supplanting those getting up and heading back to the pews.

After communion, there was a lengthy clean-up on the altar, and then Father Heinricy turned to the congregants and said, “Ite missa est” — “Go, you are dismissed.”

The congregation responded, “Deo gratias” — “Thanks be to God.”

I thought it was over, but, no, Father Heinricy again kneeled facing the altar and started in on some final prayers, but this time in English.

The first was the Hail Mary, which, with the Our Father, is the most common Catholic prayer.

When Father Heinricy finished the lead-in to the Hail Mary, “…blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus,” I was astounded at the congregants’ full-throated response: “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

It was as if, after an hour of their voices being stifled, the congregants had been given a signal to cut loose. I almost expected a few veils to be thrown into the air, but, of course, that would have been heretical.

After a few more prayers in English, Father Heinricy walked briskly off the altar, exiting right, the flock of altar boys in his wake.

Then and only then did people began slowly leaving the pews and walking down the center aisle.

There’s one and only one way to end this post…

Pax vobiscum.

I was on the real-estate-development beat yesterday with an update on the new KCI, so I’m going to stay on it one more day with an equally fascinating, if less significant, story about a longstanding eyesore in Waldo.

Many of you, I’m sure, are familiar with the old BrandsMart building on the southwest corner of Gregory and Wyandotte. If you can’t place it from the name, I’m sure you’ll recognize it from this photo…

I have no idea when this monstrosity was built, but it is a classic white elephant, owned by a relatively small-time developer named Nicholas Abnos. Abnos redevelops residential and commercial properties under the name Abdiana Properties.

To his credit, Abnos has some successes under his belt, including apartment buildings in Waldo and the Plaza. He also owns the historic Firestone Building at 20th and Grand, which has a few commercial tenants.

But the BrandsMart building is another story…a very long-running story.

Two years ago, The Star’s Joyce Smith wrote that Abnos had purchased the building in 2005, “with big plans to renovate it for retail, restaurants and residential.”

With more than a touch of irony, Smith said: “He’s still at it.”

And now, two more years have passed, and, of course, he’s still at it.

I see this building a lot because I frequent the Post Office on the southeast corner of the intersection, as well as some nearby businesses, including Sutherlands, a block south on Wornall.

For years, nothing was happening at the building, but then, a couple of months ago, I noticed that several workers were at the site, moving things around, digging holes and such. It was unclear, however, what the objective was.

So yesterday, when I drove by the building to take a photo (below), I saw a couple of workers on the east side of the building (the Post Office side). After getting back in the car and preparing to go, I saw one of the workers walking toward me. I concluded it was Abnos, even though I had never met him.

When he got within several yards, I yelled out the car window, “What is it going to be?”

“A Turkish whorehouse,” the man shouted back, with a broad smile.

I yelled back, “You’re Abnos!

“No,” he replied.

“Yes, you’re Abnos!” I repeated.

Still smiling, he motioned for me to get out of the car and said, “Come. I’ll show you.”

Well now, that was an offer I couldn’t resist, so I parked the car and walked over to him.

“What’s your name?” he said.

“Fitzpatrick,” I said. “Jim Fitzpatrick.”

“Oh,” he said, “I know you.”

“I was with The Star for many years,” I said.

“I know,” he said. “I read your stories.”

“What’s your first name?” I asked.

“Nicholas,” he replied, confirming my educated guess.

With that, he put his hand on my shoulder and proceeded to give me a 20-minute tour of the building.

The real plan, he said, was to develop seven spaces for retail on the ground floor and 14 apartments on the upper levels.

Although he and his crew have done quite a bit of work inside, it’s still very rough. The metal framing is up for the apartments, and some fancy tubs are standing around, but living units are a long way from a reality.

As you might have gathered from our initial exchange, Abnos is quite the personality and quite a charmer. At 72, he’s also quite nimble. As we wove through the building’s narrow corridors and across its largely unfinished floors, he maintained a brisk pace. It was a bit dark in some places, and I stepped carefully and rather slowly. At one point, as we were traversing uneven flooring, he gently took my hand and led me along.

I asked him why the redevelopment was taking so long and why the building had sat virtually unattended for years. His answer: It was all because the owner of an automotive shop (a former car dealership) next door had sued him over a sewer line, and the case had lasted nine years.

To tell you the truth, I made no attempt to verify that, so I have no idea if there was a lawsuit and if it persisted for nine years. When I asked him how the case had finally been resolved, he flashed a proud grin and said: “I won. He had to pay me.”

Along the way, Abnos kept saying, “I’m a small guy,” to distinguish himself from the big-time developers, those who routinely seek TIF assistance and property tax abatements.

“I’ve got no loans; it’s all me,” he said, tapping his chest animatedly.

He admitted that he was embarrassed about the long delay and the lack of progress but insisted all would work out.

“At the end of the day,” he said, “I’m going to do something nice.”

**

To my great regret, Abnos would not let me take his photo. Twice I asked, and twice he waved me off.

Only time will tell if, in regard to this project, Abnos is a con man, a dreamer or a visionary.

Like the residents of Waldo, I hope it’s the latter, but I fear it’s more likely one of the former.

**

Correction: This story originally said Abnos had redeveloped the Firestone Building into apartments, but that was incorrect. Kevin Collison, proprietor of the CitySceneKC wewbsite told me it remains fairly empty, with just a few commercial tenants.

I’ve wanted to get a close look — as close as possible, anyway — at construction progress on the $1.5 billion Kansas City International terminal for a long time, but I’d never had the occasion or the time to roam around the development site.

That changed this morning, when I took Patty to the airport for a trip to New York.

After I dropped her off at Terminal C, I thought I might as well roam around the airport grounds and see how close I could get to the construction area. Surprisingly, I did pretty well.

My first stop was the main construction entrance on Bogota Avenue, which is north of the existing terminals. Here’s what greeted me there.

This is as far as I went because all those signs say something like, “Authorized Vehicles Only,” and my Camry hybrid was not such a one.

Nevertheless, you can see the multi-level parking garage on the left and the shell of the terminal building, with the Y-shaped support beams.

For comparison’s sake, here is a rendering of what the terminal is supposed to look like when it’s finished.

Now, I was afraid I might not be able to get any closer than the “authorized vehicles only” entrance, but, being an adventurer, I pushed on, going farther along Bogota Avenue.

After about a quarter of a mile, I reached an open gate that was clearly restricted to authorized vehicles, but there was no security, so I parked across the street and walked through the gate. I didn’t go very far but far enough to get this photo of the back side of the terminal, with the KCI tower in the background…

To the right of the white truck, I saw the long corridor that people will go down to get to their gates.

One thing I can tell you for sure is work is going on in earnest. I saw dozens of workers and dozens of vehicles going into and moving around the site. It was impressive.

Outside the gate where I took the photos were two cement storage silos owned by Clarkson Construction Co., a longtime Kansas City company that is one of the four main contractors on the job. (The upraised truck — owned by a St. Joseph, MO, company — also contains cement, I believe.)

Clarkson is a family-owned firm that was founded by G.G. (George) Clarkson in the 1880s and is now run by Bill Clarkson Jr., whose father, William E. Clarkson, oversaw construction of the Truman Sports Complex for Jackson County.

The bulk of Clarkson’s business is highway and bridge building and asphalt work.

The other three main construction companies involved in the job are Edgemoor Infrastructure and Real Estate of Bethesda, MD; Clark Construction Group, which is affiliated with Edgemoor; and The Weitz Co. of Des Moines.

Through the city’s one-percent-for-art program, about $5.5 million will be spent on art projects in and around the terminal. One of the art projects is a digital fountain, called Fountain of Resonance, that will capture and reflect natural light in the retail area near Concourse A. Here’s a rendering of the make-believe fountain.

…From a distance and from renderings, the new terminal looks good. I hope it’s more than good; I hope it’s jaw dropping. We won’t know, though, until at least early 2023, the projected completion date.

If you’re compulsive, like me and many others, you know how hard it is to get to a place where you feel at peace, enveloped in a sense of well-being, anxiety having drifted away.

For the first time in a long time I got to that place yesterday. And it carried over to today.

Here’s how it unfolded…

For the month of June, I’d been sick — struck low by a cold virus and sore throat I thought would never end. The symptoms finally started passing a week or so ago with the help of antibiotics and steroids.

So, as the Fourth of July weekend approached, I was in a fairly negative frame of mind, even though I was feeling better and thinking I might actually return to normal.

In addition to feeling subpar, I do not like fireworks…especially the loud, obnoxious, amateurish stuff that envelops Kansas City every Independence Day. So, there it was coming at us again — more haze, endless ka-booms! and worrying about how to calm the dog.

But a few days before the big day, we caught a break: Good friends Jim and Julie, who live in Midtown, asked us if we wanted to join them at their 100-acre “farm” in northern Missouri, west of Bethany and a mile or two from New Hampton, population 280.

Our daughter Brooks volunteered to spend the night at our house and take care of the dog and cat. So, on Sunday morning, we packed overnight bags and plenty of good food, including sausages and hot dogs from the Broadway Butcher Shop, and headed north.

We got to the farm about 1 or 1:30 and had lunch. Then we started in on the serious business — sitting on their porch and looking out at acre after acre of tall grass, stands of trees and the point on the horizon where the green melded into the blue sky. The only man-made thing in sight was the New Hampton water tower far out in the distance.

The only other human being we saw was a stocky farmer who, in late afternoon, showed up in a big tractor and began cutting the hay on the land next to Jim and Julie’s. On his first pass, he gave us a wave. He proceeded to cut for an hour or so and, after a break, he returned with a baling machine and proceeded to bale for an hour or so. Instead of being disruptive, though, the rise and fall of the droning engines seemed perfectly attuned to the setting.

We talked, of course. At one point, Julie reminisced about a family vacation when she and her brothers and sisters were young. They had gone to a rural area where there was nothing to do and one of her sisters complained about Dad having taken the family to a place where there was nothing to do but “watch the ground crack.”

So I started looking closer at the ground, at the part where the grass was cut fairly low around the cabin, to see if I could spot any fissures.

Julie, “Skipper” and Patty relaxing on July 4 in northern Missouri

We spent a lot of time talking about — and obsessing about — ticks. They were out in force, invisible of course.

Jim, who was in the grass more than the rest of us, got several. After spotting them on his skin, he would pluck them off, pull a pair of pliers out of his pocket and squish them mercilessly. Even though the area was infested with them, he felt an obligation to reduce their ranks as best he could.

Late in the afternoon, Jim fired up the charcoal grill, and we had a veritable feast built around hot dogs and sausages. (For the record, Patty had a vegetarian sausage.)

When it began to get dark, we wondered if there would be any fireworks out in the distance. A while later, at the edge of the horizon, where the trees met the nighttime sky, sporadic eruptions of coordinated colors began appearing. It was the gentlest fireworks display I’ve ever beheld: First came the splash of colors. Three to five seconds later came gentle, muted booms. We could watch, talk over it or ignore it…whatever we wished.

Then there was the all-natural nighttime show: Fireflies that winked and blinked at us from 20 yards away and a sky full of stars that did the same from millions of miles away.

I slept well last night, no ticking through “things to do” today.

When we got up this morning, we ate breakfast and started packing up pretty quickly: Jim and Julie were due at the Lake of the Ozarks in the afternoon to meet family members.

Still, I made it a point to sit down and look at the ground for a few minutes to check for signs of cracking and to make sure the long, green vista was intact and the blue picked up where the green ended.

My, my, there’s a lot of news going on pertaining to Missouri and Kansas City and the city’s two major sports franchises.

Let’s jump right in…

**

:: A Cole County Circuit Court judge ruled today that the Medicaid expansion plan that voters approved last August was unconstitutional, basically because, as proposed, the constitutional amendment did not provide for how the state would pay for the cost of expansion.

This is the second setback this year, the first, of course, being the General (Republican) Assembly’s failure to implement expansion.

Even though voters said they clearly wanted it, our head-in-sand political leaders are bent on defying the mandate.

And in the case of today’s ruling, the politicians are getting a boost from Judge Jon Beetem, who, no surprise, also flies under the GOP banner.

Not that you’d find his political affiliation noted in any news stories because, you know, it’s just not fair to question those guys and gals in those hot, intimidating black robes…is it, now?

But here it is: Beetem was first elected (as a Republican) in 2006 and re-elected (as a Republican) to new, six-year terms in 2012 and 2018. (Cole County is not one of five Missouri counties where judges are appointed as part of Missouri’s nonpartisan court plan.)

Judge Jon Beetem

Today’s ruling is not the end of the case, though, because Chuck Hatfield, an attorney for the plaintiffs said he would file an appeal. “As all observers predicted, the issues around Medicaid expansion will be decided in the Court of Appeals,” Hatfield said. “We are disappointed in today’s ruling, but believe the Court of Appeals will disagree.”

Let’s hope the appellate court puts more weight on the will of the people than a technicality over how to fund expansion…How would the state pay for the expansion? Why, out of the state budget! And, if necessary, how about a tax increase to cover the cost? Oh, I apologize, that’s anathema to our “fiscally conservative” legislative majority.

**

:: I wish the failure to expand Medicaid was the only outrage taking place at the state level, but, of course, it’s not. Before the General (Republican) Assembly adjourned last month, it failed to approve a routine bill to renew taxes that finance a large portion of the state’s current, narrow Medicaid program.

The taxes, known as the federal reimbursement allowance (FRA), are assessed on hospitals, nursing homes and other health-care providers. In the budget year starting July 1, the taxes were projected to generate $591 million for the state and $1.5 billion in federal matching funds.

Here’s the crime: During the legislative session, efforts to extend the taxes bogged down when anti-abortion lawmakers argued over proposed amendments limiting contraceptives and tying the hands of Planned Parenthood.

So, on Tuesday, “Farmer” Mike Parson, our esteemed governor who hails from Bolivar (population 11,000), called a special legislative session, which started Wednesday. And now all the hicks from podunk towns like Bolivar packed their bags dragged their asses back to Jeff City to try to pass a routine tax that should never have been in jeopardy.

What a state…

**

:: Closer to home — well farther away if you take it literally — KC Chiefs’ defensive lineman Frank Clark set an amazing example for local youths when he was arrested in California Sunday for having a concealed Uzi submachine gun in his vehicle. Get this: It was the second time this year he’s been arrested for driving around and illegally concealing a weapon. The Star reported that Clark was arrested for a similar violation in March, the only difference being the first time officers found a rifle and a handgun. (A rich football star driving fancy cars and wearing lots of jewelry can’t be too careful, you know!)

Clark was booked on a felony charge after each incident and released on bond.

In an editorial published today, The Star said that “if he’s charged and convicted in the case, or pleads guilty to a lesser charge, the Chiefs should release him from the team.”

If the Chiefs had any sense, they would have released him already, but we know nothing — NOTHING — comes ahead of putting the strongest, fastest and most versatile players on the field, regardless of how they conduct themselves off.

I mean, how else can you explain Tyreek “You-need-to-be-terrified-of me-too-bitch” Hill still being on the team?

**

:: Oh, God, the Royals. What a sad sack of a team. Their two biggest power hitters, Jorge Soler and Hunter Dozier, are hitting .181 and .159 respectively, and yet both remain in the starting lineup.

Above and beyond his pitiful numbers, Soler looks like he doesn’t care. In addition, in my opinion, he disrespects the uniform by insisting on keeping his left-side back pocket turned inside out. I’ve heard that some players do that to indicate they are not pinching snuff. But I don’t care what the message is supposed to be, it’s a cornball look.

If I was the ump, I’d say, “You’re outta here!”

…And if I was John Sherman, I’d be seriously considering firing General Manager Dayton Moore. What a pathetic hand Moore has dealt Manager Mike Metheny.

**

I’m sorry I don’t have anything good to report today — like a cat plucked from a tall tree or a puppy rescued from a storm drain — but that’s the way it is this June 23, 2021.

QuikTrip management finally came to its senses: The company’s proposal of late last year to build a store adjacent to the northwest corner of 39th and Southwest Trafficway is officially dead.

I had not heard anything about the project in months, after writing two posts about the proposal last December. The company had gone silent, as had its local attorney, Patricia Jensen.

But when I noticed recently that a “for sale or rent” sign was up, I knew something was afoot because QT had had an option to buy the vacant building on the site.

Last Friday, I sent an email to Aisha Jefferson, a QT spokesperson, asking, “Has QT abandoned plans to build a store at the location?”

The answer came this morning: “Yes we have.”

This was not surprising news because nobody other than QuikTrip was in favor. Opponents included the surrounding neighborhood associations; 4th District City Council representatives Katheryn Shields and Eric Bunch; and Historic Kansas City Foundation, which is now strongly advocating a tax-incentive plan to redevelop the former Katz drugstore at Westport Road and Main Street. (The Council is expected to vote Thursday on a 10-year, 75-percent tax-abatement ordinance.)

Nevertheless, news of QT pulling the plug was a welcome relief to area residents.

Tosha Lathrom, immediate past president of the Roanoke Homes Association, told me today she had learned weeks ago about QT’s capitulation from Jackson County Legislator Scott Burnett, who lives in the area.

“We are all very happy about it,” Lathrom said. “We hope they (QT) move on farther east where there are no QuikTrips.”

That’s a nice wish but not likely to happen. QT seems to studiously avoid East Side locations. I know of at least one East Side (not very far east) location they abandoned many years ago: 75th and Holmes, which became a Conoco store and which, I believe, is now a Phillips 66.

It’s hard to argue with QT’s philosophy, however, because their formula has made them arguably the best and unarguably one of the most successful convenience-store chains in the country.

As of last year, the privately owned company was taking in more than $11 billion a year, with 850 stores in 11 states. Its strategy, stated on it website, explains why it steers clear of potentially problematic locations: It strives to be the dominant convenience/gasoline retailer in each market and to reach that level not through sheer numbers of stores but through key, high-volume locations.

And that’s precisely why it wanted to develop a big store at 39th and the Trafficway, even though it has two other locations — one on Westport Road and one on Main Street — within a few miles of the Trafficway.

The Westport Road and Mercier location

Talk about high volume…According to the Kansas City Public Works Department, the average daily traffic volume at 39th and Southwest Trafficway was 72,818 vehicles a day in 2017. That made it the busiest intersection in all of Kansas City, running about 1,500 vehicles a day ahead of the second-busiest intersection, 31st and Southwest Trafficway.

In the end, I think, it was smart of QuikTrip to back down. Had it kept pushing, it would have incurred a lot more bad publicity, and it would have sapped some of the goodwill it has enjoyed throughout much of the city, despite battles over store expansions here and there, including both the Main Street and Westport Road locations.

It’s good to know the tenor of that wonderful midtown neighborhood will now be preserved, at least for the time being, and that Missie B’s — “Kansas City’s premier gay bar” — will remain the liveliest spot in the immediate area..