Matthew Keenan

Archive for November, 2015

No school on parade day? What students really learned that day, KC Star October 2015

by on Nov.26, 2015, under Kansas City Star columns

Everyone is still talking about the Royals parade. It seems the only people complaining are those upset that school was canceled. Hordes of school districts gave everyone the day off. One letter to the editor last week expressed it this way: “With all the pressure on teachers and students to perform better, did they really need a day off for no real reason? I don’t think that sends the right message.”

Actually I do think it sends the right message. And here is why: A day at the Royals parade and rally gave every kid in the city a semester’s worth of practical, common sense life lessons. Much more than if they were stuck in geometry class learning about polygons.

So I count at least seven critical life skills imparted to students that day.

First: Your phone is worthless. Manage. For the better part of the day, cell phones had no signal. The towers were overwhelmed, and, as one fan noted with a sign, it was cell service like it was 1985. And for every high school kid, life as they knew it screeched to a halt. Nothing important to them had value. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Tinder, texting: all gone.

Thousands of dudes and iPhone lovers struggled to function in a new reality. Somewhere out there was Buffy in fits of frustration trying to cope this way:

▪ “Google what do I do with no signal. GOOGLE PLEASE RESPOND!”

▪ “OMG Siri I have an iPhone S — THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING!!!”

▪ “Siri please tell me: who is Drew Butera? I need to know!”

▪ “Siri: where can I stand to find a signal?”

▪ “Google, help me please. I’ve never been so lonely.”

This forced kids to do something new, like:

▪ Learn to walk with their heads up and eyes forward.

▪ Talk to people.

▪ Ask for directions.

▪ Remember actual phone numbers.

▪ Recall intersections where they parked their car.

▪ Stop clutching their phones like a life alert button.

Second. A lesson in the birds and the bees. We were standing at the corner of Pershing and Grand. While waiting for the parade to start we heard a call for a medic that made its way up the parade route where the police were working. Eventually the police arrived and lady near us — a nurse — went to assist. When she returned to her family she told us: “A woman over there is in labor.”

What a teachable moment for so many dudes nearby. With no ambulance and no hope one could ever arrive in less than two days, watching a baby delivered just might be the best form of birth control for the younger set. “OMG Dude! That’s sooo gross. Get me out of here.” But they couldn’t move. No one was moving. It was a mosh pit of 800,000 people. Make that 800,001. I can only assume. It was too chaotic to know for sure what really happened.

Third. Emergency preparedness. News stories reported that emergency personnel had treated 25 people for various medical ailments. But there were hundreds, maybe thousands who had no hope of getting medical professionals. Without phone service dudes were denied the chance to yell, “Anyone know the number to 911?” Instead they had to actually, well, do something. Maybe — just maybe — there was a high school kid out there who would say, “Can I help you?” Dream further that young man then said, “Ma’am you will be OK. I’m an Eagle Scout and know CPR and how to treat heat stroke. I will take care of you. Things will be OK.”

OK. Dream over. That Eagle Scout was helping a lady cross the street in Brookside.

Fourth. Search and rescue. When the championship rally was over they started to recite the names of the kids at the podium who were separated from their parents. One news report said there were eight kids displaced. Policeman to mother: What was he wearing? “Blue.” “Any other distinguishing feature?” “Yes!” “A blue hat!”

Next time, dress up in something no one else would dare wear: a Chiefs jersey.

Fifth. Advance planning. One story reported that many fans didn’t watch the parade from the ground but instead took to elevated vantage points. An expert from the city counted 80,000 people watching the parade this way, noting that some were in trees. From our viewpoint, the best views were in the trees. Kids who didn’t plan ahead looked up admiringly at those perched high above and thought, “That could be me.”

Yes, if you planned ahead, got organized and had a clue. Yes, your spot would be one in a thousand and maybe you would learn that a real tweet is what’s coming from that bird perched above you. But no you screwed around, got to the parade late and now are stuck behind Chris Young’s 7-foot-tall brother. Your photos looked like these. Sorry dude.

Sixth. Stop gulping Red Bull and Full Throttle. This is an important lesson in the word “diuretic” and how the kidneys function. You drink, you have to go. You drink things loaded with caffeine and you REALLY HAVE TO GO. By my count there was one Porta Potty for every 5,000 fans. And no place to sneak away. So you had to act like an adult and wait in line. Guess what — you just missed Hosmer and Moose! Sorry dude.

Seventh: Survival mode. The parade was a glimpse into the future and offered threads of what life would be like in an apocalypse. Think no technology, no water, no food, no shade and drivers dumping cars along the interstate. This was a real life episode in the garbage kids watch, like “The Walking Dead,” “Fear The Walking Dead,” and “The Walking Dead Who Actually Aren’t Dead Because They are Walking.” The parade is starting and you are stuck a mile away. Sorry dude.

Today the world is a better place now that kids received an important tutorial on that day. Here’s to another parade next year. Look for me in the trees.

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Antiquing? Get your storage unit first, KC Star column, Nov 2015

by on Nov.26, 2015, under Kansas City Star columns

Someone once declared that diamonds are a woman’s best friend. That man never drove his wife past an antique store advertising vintage sterling candlesticks and heard her shriek “stop!” The truth is that there is an empty space in every woman’s heart. And sooner or later it will be filled with an English pine armoire.

Women love antiques. That’s not an opinion. I’m talking sterling silver place settings, tea cups, porcelain teapots and anything made in England. I could list more “must haves” antiquities but this column has a word limit. There is a reason why Ebay shows 2.7 million antiques on sale. And that doesn’t count the priceless goods offered on specialty websites like Pinterest,,, and some sites where experts confirm the authenticity of the items sold, like The New York Times recently wrote that these sites are red hot.

Most antiques have three things in common. 1) No matter how valuable they are, someone wants to part with them. Go figure. 2) Antiques are never priced at retail. They are always 20 percent reduced and when purchased with cash, you get another 10 percent off. And if you have a dolly to move it in five minutes, you save another 10 percent. 3) They have immediate utility but first need to be stored in Belton.

Guys, I’m going to give you a tutorial on how to cope with this reality.

First, when your wife says she is going “antiquing,” drop the remote, get off the couch and join her in the car. I’d recommend you bring some reading material. “War and Peace” might keep you occupied long enough. Because when it comes to these kinds of topics with your wife, they fall into two categories. Those you fight and lose. And those you don’t even bother fighting. Hang on. It’s going to be a long day.

Second, when the shop she enters boasts antique furniture, pray the store doesn’t have a grandfather clock. I’ve seen those. I’ve lifted those. Just ask my chiropractor. Every grandfather clock can only tell time correctly twice each day. And once you understand how terrible your day can actually be, you might suddenly support that $75 19th-century Chippendale cat and dog salt and pepper shakers.

Third, don’t confuse antiques with collectibles. The former are priceless and require talent to evaluate, scrutinize and determine their true value. The latter share none of these qualities. That’s why your wife never collected Beanie Babies or Longaberger baskets. Sure, at one time she owned a Pet Rock. That was a long time ago. Don’t mention it. And also avoid discussing your sister in-law’s Cabbage Patch collection in Branson. If you go there, have a good divorce attorney on speed dial.

Fourth, there are other topics you cannot touch, like the third rail in politics. For instance, do not bring up your baseball card collection that disappeared one time when you were fishing with your old college roommate. Likewise, when your wife is closely examining a marble male bust of Mark Twain, do not abruptly say: “Whatever happened to my Sports Illustrated swimsuit collection?” You just ruined the moment. Plus, your wife sold those magazines at a garage sale while you were on that golfing trip last year. The buyer then promptly made a killing reselling them.

Fifth, this is your fault. You wasted money on Chiefs season tickets and fantasy football teams that consume twelve hours every Sunday. Still confused? Remember that large tab you ran up at Buffalo Wild Wings watching soccer teams from Spain? Did you forget about that pay-per-view bill for a boxing match no one watched? Except you. And then you lost your new iPhone on that “business trip” to Las Vegas. So pipe down. Or else your next stop will be Cordell & Cordell.

But the universe of antiquing often includes women who go from collecting antiquities to selling them. Question: “Do you know how to make a million dollars selling antiques?” Answer: “Start with two million.” I’m there.

This means I’ve been spending considerable time at the Mission Road Antique Mall at 83rd and Mission in Prairie Village. This business has some 300 dealers, each with separate shops but there is one in particular that stands out. It’s called Front Porch — ask around and you will find it. This booth has priceless collectibles that are on their way to “Antiques Roadshow.” Maybe you saw the guy on A.R. who had Chinese rhinoceros horn cups suddenly found to be worth $1 million to $1.5 million.

This booth features those. Cups I mean. It has books too. Not just any books. I mean books authored by columnists for the 913 section of The Kansas City Star. But wait, there’s more. There also timeless furnishings, decorative accessories, jewelry, lamps, light fixtures, pottery and seasonal decorations. Do you like silver-plated silverware, vintage Christmas decor and priceless furniture imported from exotic locations? Bingo. And, I know this will shock you, but everything is on sale.

Stop by on a Saturday and you’ll see an army of supportive spouses biding their time, like me. I’ll be reading “War and Peace.”


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