Friday, December 21, 2007

Raytown Meets Chic!

I drink coffee nearly everyday. I guess you could say I'm a coffee addict, but I only feel that way whenever I drink more than one cup. I really think it's about the taste because I'll drink a delicious cup of decaf joe anyday just to enjoy the rich taste of coffee. One of my favorite places to visit is Benetti's and luckily it's in Raytown. Instead of making the trek to the Broadway Cafe in Westport like I used to, I can now ride my bike to get probably the best cup of coffee in the metropolitan area.
Often when people think of Raytown, they think of a backwards, redneck, hick town. I've heard it called Rat-town on several occassions...and not just by my mother. I love living inRaytown and I was so excited when I came back from Egypt this summer to see a chic coffee shop in town. It is located in heart of the old downtown district in Raytown. I think the owners have done a fantastic service to the community by locating on Blue Ridge Blvd right near the High School. Not only does Benetti's offer good coffee, they support the arts. The exhibits at Benetti's have been very interactive and community focused. It almost seems that they have a different exhibit each week. Local artist support is essential to boost the quality and self-esteem of this community.
I frequent Benetti's about once a week and the very first time I stepped in the door I was greated by Aysia, who I once had a class with at Longview and for whom I've developed pictures for. This girl is by far the anti-thesis of the characteristic Raytowner. She is bright, talented, loves to travel and has good taste in...well probably everything. Her photographs, which I have seen many of, prove that she has great artistic talent. And besides, she works at Benetti's, by far the coolest place in Raytown. Most importantly, Aysia has been a resident of Raytown for about 19 years. After being homeschooled through the elementary years and attending private schools during middle school, she enrolled at Raytown High School her freshman year. For many, High School offers four years of absolute torture, others come into themselves, and for others it is a only the jumping off point to their futures. Regardless of how one experiences those years, they are most definitely turbulent. Students becomes so wrapped up in their social lives that they don't always see the important roles that High Schools play in a community. High School students frequent Benetti's in large numbers after school. The coffee shop is supported by these teenagers and in turn Benetti's offers an unique atmosphere for after school socializing. They may not consciously see the effort the owners have taken to provide a more upscale establishment, but they are absorbing this quality subconsciously. Hurray for Benetti's for offering sophistication!
If I didn't have a job, I would definitely want to work at Benetti's. Aysia agrees that their high quality service was what attracted her to seek employment with Benetti's...along with the fact that they roast their coffee beans on site. As a customer she was excited to support a local business of high caliber and after talking to the manager, she realized that the place was the right fit for her and that she wanted to join the Benetti's family. I don't blame her! Anytime I have been to Benetti's, I have felt that sense of family and I appreciate it that Ben always acknowledges me and I feel that he truly appreciates my business. Benetti's offers a venue that feels like home and is doing a superb job or offering a contemporary venue for Raytowners to visit. According to Aysia, the shop has attracted people from all over Raytown and from the surrounding areas. The customers to her feel like neighbors and they reflect the diversity found in Raytown.
In a town where businesses were once hesitant to open its doors to a diversified clientele, Benetti's is reversing that attitude. It is an attitude that many in this conservative town are starting to embrace. Maybe Raytown can one day be the type of town that will provide a true integrated community. This town is on the verge of something spectacular and Benetti's must be credited with its impending revival...

Special thanks to Aysia Scheerer for her contribution to this post. Also be sure to visit Benetti's on the web:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Closed Sessions

I'm not the most political person...anymore, meaning I used to be. Meaning, I used to be involved in political campaigns and activities in the area. Now I'm not because I've realized that politics is all about disagreeing and bickering about things. It's not just bickering between the parties, it's bickering within "a singular" party. So I've decided to not take part. I'll still inform myself of the issues and go to the polls every election, but I'm just-not-going-to-get-involved-anymore. It's just not worth it to me. I'd rather live a positive life and and make do with what is handed to me, if that is what is required of me. However, if an issue arises which I support, I will no doubt lend my voice if I feel change is needed. I believe in the freedom to assemble and freedom of speech. Unfortunately, I don't think there is anything out there that I believe is capable of being changed. It's sad I know, but it's the truth. I think we saw during the Vietnam war, that in reality, it's the top members of our society that have the control...reason number two why I don't want to get involved in politics. Politicians as I've been able to deduct, clamour for power and don't think of their citizens who their actions affect. Maybe they do a little, but I feel insignificant in the scheme of politics, but in the scheme of life, I feel I have a considerable role to play. I want to live a significant life dedicated to living and being a part of the world.

One way I feel that I am a part of the world is being a part of my community. I affect each and every person that I come in contact with every day. They go into the community and affect others, and then those people go and affect others and so on and so on. If you saw the movie "Pay it Forward," you probably grasp the concept. Most people affect other people negatively, and this is what makes change and progress difficult to achieve. I think closed city council meetings is a negative action. Tonight I watched the Raytown City Council meeting for about an hour and watched the debate about changing zip codes, building contracts, etc, etc. Then suddenly, they said the open meeting was adjourned and would conclude with a closed session. What could there possibly be that they are discussing that I can't be informed about? City government is the closest form of government that a citizen can really be involved in and we were being shut out. This makes me believe that my civil life within my community is not an aspect that I get to be involved in. I want to be involved, I want to know what's going to happen to the old First Baptist Church in Raytown, or what exactly is happening with the Hy-Vee they're going to put in where the Schnuck's used to be. Politicians are always talking about informing the public, but if the government is inhibiting public knowledge at the lowest levels of government, then what is my Federal Government doing to deter my awareness. It kind of scares me to think about it, but I will live my life the way I see fit and affect change in a manner that is often ignored.

I will affect change in a way that is positive. I will shed light to those wanting to hear, about people who live ordinary lives within my community, but who have an affect on the community great or small. All I have to do now is find my first interviewee...

Stay tuned!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Diversity? Let me tell you about diversity

Often times when I think of suburbs, I think of primarily all white communities. The houses all look the same and reflect what I suppose is upper middle class, or those trying to emulate that status. What I like about Raytown, is that it doesn't hide behind big fancy houses, as I like to call them. Don't get me wrong, there are certain neigbhorhoods right here in this city with them, but for the most part, Raytown consists of smaller homes built mainly from the 1940s to the 1970s. Think Leave it to Beaver or The Brady Bunch. Single family homes with one bathroom for a family of six. Hard to believe, but it's true. These houses have decreased in value over the years as most homes do, and they attract what I think is a wide variety of people coming from a similiar "class" status, the working class. I personally like the working class better than any other class because they provide for a rich diversity of neighbors. And a diverse neighborhood makes an interesting neighborhood. Two houses up, there is an African American family, a little bit further up is a Hispanic family. The kid up the street comes from a single mother home and plays Varsity football at Raytown High. On the corner...well, I'm not really sure what's going on there, but they provide for endless entertainment. My next door neighbor buys old junk cars and fixes them up. I'm waiting for the day when he pulls up in a Volkswagon Beetle, not one of those bubbly new ones, but one of the originals. I will sell my economical Ford Escort and buy it on the spot. Needless to say, there is always something going on, on my street. Monotony is not a noun that readily comes to mind when I get home from work everyday. Sometimes I wonder what in the world these people are doing, but it's great to see so much activity. What's even better, is that everybody is so friendly. I don't hesitate to talk to any of my neighbors and that makes me feel at home and at ease.

Raytown works, as far as diversity goes. Occassionally I substitute teach at the Middle Schools and High Schools, and the way the kids interact with each other is amazing to me. I have a History degree and I recall from a civil rights class, images of the Little Rock students entering Central H.S after the school was desegregated. Then I look at Raytown High School. What a long way we've come. I graduated from High School myself within the last ten years from a very homogeneous "white" High School in Michigan. Most of our parents worked for the same company and all the kids were connected somehow. Our lunchroom was segregated and the students didn't mix well unless they were playing sports. About a month ago, I looked out on the class I was monitoring and saw a mixture of skin colors. Sometimes when you're stuck in a classroom, you are forced to interact with your fellow students, so I decided to make my way to the cafeteria during the lunch hour to see if this was some kind of oddity. I wasn't terribly shocked when I saw mixed groups of students together. Not only did these students work together in the classroom, they socialized together outside the classroom. I got home that afternoon and realized, that I live in this community with those students and that I'm a part of this social eco-system that lives and thrives harmoniously despite our racial backgrounds.
Raytown, for being a small suburb, is doing something right. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream, and as far as we still may be from that dream, I see the beginnings of it right here in my town.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Raytown Missouri = The Best Suburb

While most people my age are starting to raise families and move out to more homogeneous suburbs like Lee's Summit, Blue Springs, or Heaven forbid, JOHNSON COUNTY, I am content to remain in Raytown. The majority of my friends live in Kansas City, and while moving downtown with all it's exciting development would seem reasonable, I'd rather stay here. Going downtown should be something to dress up for and I am going to keep it that way. I live in a community where my neighbors are the business owners and where the kids play catch from one yard to the other. My community isn't small and it has it fair share of problems, but it's home.As in all communities there are always those clamoring to escape, but I urge them to look around and take notice of how good this place is. Look at what it can be, and look at what it has been. I've left many times to look for that something better, only to return again. Raytown has repeatedly offered me its outstretched arms and has embraced me with a mother's enduring love. I finally know what people are talking about when they say it's good to be home