Stuff I Like: Jazz at Blue Room, biking to work, old-school hardware store

The Blue Room at 18th and Vine is a great place to hang out on a weekend night.
The Blue Room at 18th and Vine is a great place to hang out on a weekend night. File photo by The Star

Here’s what politics columnist Steve Kraske is into right now:

The Blue Room

Nothing beats this 18th and Vine icon on a weekend night. With my new status as an empty-nester changing my world, I’m counting on more frequent visits to Kansas City’s premier jazz club. And get this: I got my two boys hooked, too.

UMKC Student Union’s top floor

One of the hidden treasures of Kansas City. It boasts spectacular views of the Plaza and the great lawn of the Nelson. It’s quiet and a nifty place to get away from it all. We used to take the kids up there when they were younger, and I was always struck by how quiet they got looking over their city at night.

Bike rides to work

I live close enough to UMKC, where I teach, that I can ride my bike to campus most days. I pedal the sidewalk along Brush Creek — dodging our burgeoning Canada geese flocks — then pass by the fountains at Theis Park. The good news: It’s mostly downhill on the ride over. The sweaty news: The hills heading home are daunting, especially in work attire. But I’m not complaining. It’s free therapy.

Mack Hardware

I’ve been visiting the newly expanded store at 6004 Johnson Drive in Mission for 22 years, and Kelly Mack and crew never cease to be patient with this wanna-be do-it-yourself-er. Not long ago, it was, “Is it too late to seed the lawn?” And “What should I top it with?” The answers keep coming — and they never smirk. Then there’s this: I just like cool hardware stores.

Folk Alliance International Conference

Looking ahead: Kansas City is home to the annual gathering of folk musicians for just two more years. If you haven’t been, I guarantee this: You’ve never seen anything like it. World-class acts perform in stripped-out Crown Center hotel rooms sometimes so close by that you could reach out and strum their guitars. You wander from room to room, just soaking it all in. Incredible. This year, it runs from Feb. 15-19.

Steve Kraske: 816-234-4312, @stevekraske