One of these days, I'm going to get on Facebook and nobody I'm friends with will have posted or tagged or liked anything related to Port Fonda, and on that day, I will put on my coat and hat, get into my 1998 Nissan Altima, drive to Westport, and eat what will undoubtedly be a delicious meal of upscale Mexican food.
I was a frequent customer of the Airstream-trailer Port Fonda, and based on everything I've heard and read about the brick-and-mortar version at 4141 Pennsylvania, it's shaping up to be a home run. But holy guacamole, has there ever been this much hype around a restaurant in Kansas City? I suspect that a great time was had by all at last weekend's opening festivities — my moles tell me that it was wall-to-wall inside and that the mescal cocktails were first-rate. And I'm certain that it would have been tremendous fun to write a column poking fun at all the self-satisfied creative young professionals who turned up for it. But sometimes, after a long week, you just want to eat a chicken-finger platter at the Houlihan's in Fairway with your parents. You feel me, midtown?
I did make it to Westport on Friday, though, for the regional Air Guitar Championships at the Beaumont Club. An air-guitar competition is exactly what it sounds like, for better or worse. One by one, the participants tromp onstage, a song is cued (usually classic rock or metal) and there ensues, for 90 seconds, much dancing and pantomiming of guitar licks. Then the judges — on Friday, The Pitch's Justin Kendall, KCUR 89.3's Andrea Silenzi, and Federation of Horsepower's Gregg Todt — rate their performances based on technical skills, stage presence and "airness."
"Airness is like pornography," said Hammerlord's Stevie Cruz, who was probably too drunk to be hosting the event. I believe he meant to reference the quote from former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, who famously said, of pornography, that he couldn't define it but he knew it when he saw it. But Cruz just kind of trailed off and left it open to interpretation. Five minutes later, rifling through his notes onstage, he repeated the analogy, again without context, having apparently forgotten that he'd already explained the rules to the audience. It seemed possible that at any moment, a long cane might appear and yank Cruz off the stage.
Eventually, we made it past the main chunk of Cruz' emcee duties, and the show began. I was generally disappointed in the lack of technical skills. A surprising number of performers did not synchronize left-hand fretwork with the notes of the song. Showmanship can carry you only so far, Guy in the Cape Who Did a Back Flip.
One of my favorite acts was Dyin' Cletus, who wore braids, jorts and a tie-dyed T-shirt that read, "Redneck butts drive me ..." on the front; on the back, was a drawing of a penis with a cowboy hat on, implying, as I understand it, "nuts." He chugged a bottle of Nyquil, did a six-shooter shuffle, and then shredded to some heavy metal. It is not, I came to learn, absolutely necessary to understand the conceptual artistry behind the performances at an air-guitar competition.
Peter "Stiff" Dickens, the Andy Kaufman of air guitar, thundered onstage in a blue polyester suit and a terrible blond wig and launched into "Smoke on the Water." Then the sound dropped out, and the entire routine turned into him dealing with technical difficulties. The choreography was impressive. (Later in the night, in the final round, Dickens shook up a beer can and sprayed it at the audience from his crotch, as though he were ejaculating on us.)
The evening's winner, and by far the most talented of the bunch, was Eric "Mean" Melin. Melin is a real-life musician (he used to be in Ultimate Fakebook, and he's now in the Dead Girls), which seems to be a huge advantage from a technical standpoint: He actually looks like he's ripping the shit out of a guitar. But he also works the room. Melin came out in the final round and poured a beer on his head while staring maniacally at the crowd. Melin also did a convincing pick toss — a nice touch. The judges crowned him king, and then everybody brought their invisible instruments onstage for a rendition of "Freebird." It was like The Last Waltz or something. But not really.
On Monday, it was reported that the Waid's in Prairie Village had closed. This I have to see with my own two eyes, I thought, and so our food critic, Charles Ferruzza, and I made a pilgrimage to P.V. On the door was a sign announcing the abrupt closing and a note from a woman named Bev.
"Ev and Lou — we're at the First Watch in Corinth. — Bev"
Until the mid-1990s, when the octogenarian-friendly cuisine was deemed too disgusting for our family outings, Waid's was a staple for Mother's Day brunches and post-Sunday Mass meals. As I stood outside Monday in the miserable heat, the memories came flooding back: the inedible grits, the waitress with the obnoxious voice, the depressing smoking section. An institution, this place.
There's another Waid's next to the Sport Clips at 103rd Street and State Line, and Ferruzza and I held a memorial service there after surveying the ruins in Prairie Village. I ordered "Waid's Famous Hotcakes," which I have always maintained are above average; Ferruzza ordered the pork tenderloin and a bowl of cheese soup. "Carrie Anne," by the Hollies, was playing on the speakers.
"How's yours?" I asked, halfway through the meal.
"Horrible," he said, and I laughed and nodded, and then we both continued eating.