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Category: kansas city (page 2 of 10)

Another Letter, One of Compassion and Sadness

Today started with me rolling out of bed, and shortly thereafter, walking into the living room. My husband was folding laundry and had an inscrutable look on his face.

“You’re never going to guess who’s dead,” he stated.

I responded, “Patrice O’Neal? That happened yesterday.”

“Nope. Don Harman.”

And it felt like the floor fell out from under me. The first thought I had was for his little girl, so young. In some ways, she is spared the heartache her mother will carry for the rest of her life. Of course, like everyone else, we searched online for answers, and waited for more news to unfold, wondering if there would or could be any sort of an explanation for why a man in his prime, at the pinnacle of his career, could possibly be dead and by his own hand.

(For those who aren’t in Kansas City, or those who eschew morning news, Don Harman was the meteorologist for WDAF, Fox 4. We switched to Fox mornings after KCTV fired their morning crew, and laughed along with the team who consistently pulled in the #1 ratings in the market for their daypart.)

This is the second high-profile suicide here in two months, the first being John McClure, chef at Starker’s Reserve, about to open a second restaurant and arguable, at the top of his game as well.

And for the second time, I read comments from people online and winced. Sure, there are always assholes trolling around. But I have to say, for anyone out there who calls someone’s suicide “selfish”, let me gently try to convince you it’s the wrong word. I started to write this last month, and pushed it aside, telling myself it was too personal, it wouldn’t make a difference. But I’m not going to care about that part, because frankly, it’s too damned important, and it’s too damned frustrating to see another good person get sucked under by the undertow of pain.

There have been times in my life when I’ve known that pain, where the depression, self-hatred, bleakness all swirl together and try to drown you. I can tell you that in those raw moments, it is truly moment-to-moment. The pain is excruciating. The mind plays tricks, tells lies, and you are in a free fall into the abyss. There’s a reason the Greeks invented The Furies – mythical demons that chase you and hound you until you can no longer live. I come by it honestly. My father told me of times in his life, when he had the barrel of a shotgun in his mouth, tears streaming down his face, as he looked at death and saw it as a viable alternative to how he was feeling. Depression is not something that can always be overcome by force of will or temperament. There are many types of depression, there are just as many treatments. What I’m sick of is the accusations – or worse, silence – that surround the depths of depression in this country and the judgment and misunderstanding that cause it.

And this time of year is the worst. Expectations don’t match reality. Memories of people we’ve lost loom larger in the doorway, the hole they left behind seemingly infinite. Everyone expects happy, magnetic people to always be happy and magnetic. It’s hard to live that prescription every day – and unrealistic. People can tell you that you have everything to live for, even make you lists, but when the pain is so great, you can’t hear them. You can’t give credence to anything, because those people don’t fully comprehend how worthless you actually know yourself to be.

This is the best one-line summary of what suicidal feelings are like that I’ve found:

Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain.

This summation, along with some really sensible advice for anyone who has suicidal feelings, can be found HERE. Want to talk to someone? Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Want even more resources? Here’s a good place to start.

Does this mean Don’s wife, co-workers should have done something, could have done anything to change what happened? No. But until we remove the stigma of what it means to be depressed, until we are all better educated on what to do or what to say, it’s worth taking thirty minutes out of your week to do a little reading, possibly challenge some ideas or beliefs that keep you biting your tongue, or telling yourself it’s none of your business.

You wouldn’t tell a man with a broken leg to “walk it off”, would you? You can’t tell someone who’s depressed to “just get over it.”

Goddammit.

Dear Don, You were part of my mornings, your cranky rants and willingness to laugh at yourself resonated in me, and so many others. I wish to hell we could have reached you in time. I’ll never forget meeting you (forgive the bad cameraphone picture below), and I’ll hope that somehow, some way, in some strange twist of fate, that losing your light can somehow save someone else from following you into that terrible, terrible darkness. You are missed. More than you ever believed possible.


Two blurry people. They look happy, right? Sometimes you just can’t tell.

Kansas City: A Love Letter

Dear Kansas City,
Thank you for being the most welcoming city I’ve ever known. I moved here fourteen years ago, and granted, I’ve never lived outside the Midwest, but I have to say, you had me at “Hello.”
Because that’s what people do here. They say “Hello!” or, like I was just greeted at Price Chopper by a fellow shopper on Thanksgiving Morning, “Happy Thanksgiving, you have a great day!” and even if you’re in line at the bank and you can’t remember the name of the movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone and it was sci-fi, what was it? The couple in the car next to you will listen to your question without a strange look on their faces, and answer, “Total Recall?” and smile and wave and laugh as you exclaim happily, “OH YEAHHHH!”
I’ve lived in a tiny town, where my father knew before I even got home that I’d left the gym during the basketball game and went to a classmate’s house. I’ve lived in the frozen tundra of the Twin Cities, still dear to my heart, but the Norwegian spirit is strong there, and everyone is a lot happier if you stay at arm’s length and just talk about the weather..if you have to talk at all. I even did a short stint in Des Moines, which is probably a great place to be white, straight, married and work in insurance, and a couple years in St. Louis, where it’s more important to know what high school you went to than what you accomplished since you left that chapter in your life. St. Louis was probably the loneliest city for me – at least the arm’s length of Minnesota was less present in my social circles there, and many of my college alumni were there, providing something of an instant connection.
So then I came to Kansas City, where people were friendlier than I’d seen before, and a co-worker (Greg!) invited me to a party with his friends, and another co-worker invited me to her party, and you had the sense that this was a city that was comfortable in its own skin. Nobody needed to see your pedigree, know what your parents did, determine if your job was successful enough to be part of their circle. Spotted someone on the outskirts, looking like they want to come in? Pull up a chair, friend. There’s plenty on the table. We’re not fancy, or elitist, or consumed with fame or movie stars. We like a matching track suit, maybe a nice watch. Comfortable shoes, thanks. We’ve worked hard to get what we have, and we enjoy -and take pride in- the fact we’ve got a nice assortment of international and national companies who call this area their home. (Sprint, Hallmark, H&R Block, Cerner, Interstate Bakeries, DST Systems, AMC Movies, Crayola, Bushnell, HNTB, just to name a few.)
Despite the fact I hated small-town life and the nosiness and sameness of a small circle of people, I love the fact that Kansas City “gets smaller” every year. I know the name of my favorite bagger at my grocery store. I can walk into a restaurant, and run into someone I know. Faces grow familiar. The sense of community is strong. Yet I can look out our big picture window, see only a giant hackberry framed in the stark November light, and feel comfortably isolated from the rest of the world. We’re tried and true, salt of the earth, perhaps kept in check by our Midwestern roots, open to new …everything. People, tastes, foods, stores, adventures, all of it. I met my husband here, we’ve raised our dogs here, built a community of like-minded friends who love tomatoes and (or) knitting, loads of memories and experiences intertwined with this location.

So when I heard this piece on NPR the other morning, talking about the profitable & successful Sprint Center as a contrast to the stadium woes currently being felt around the country due to the NBA lockout, I felt a lot of pride in this town where I’ve put down roots. People I know through the internet sometimes dismiss our midwestern style, they eye our jeans and college sports sweatshirts and think to themselves how quaint we must be, as they pat us on the head and mutter, “Fly-over country.” What’s funny (and keeps us from punching them) is that they don’t realize we know they think this. And because we were raised to be self-sufficient, hospitable and arguably, stoic, we just bite our tongues, and tell them to pull up a chair, join us at the table, while they wait to get somewhere seemingly more important.

Hook, Line & Sinker

The Wo and I went to Red Snapper for dinner the other night, before heading over to Starlight to see the Night Ranger, Foreigner & Journey concert. It was more of a “listen”, since most of the original band members are long gone, but they’ve gotten good replacements and all the songs sounded just like they did on the radio, 20+ years ago. Journey, of course, was the most fun – lots of tunes that take you back to being young and clueless, though I think “Don’t Stop Believin’” is now associated more with the Sopranos than anything else. It was bittersweet, because I listened to Journey’s Greatest Hits album a ton after my dad died, so even though I had the association of songs with being in high school, I also had the correlation to driving around and crying. Anyhoo, it was nice to have my husband’s arm around me as the crowd swayed, real lighters were held up to the sky, and we all sang along to those familiar songs.

But back to dinner. I opened my fortune cookie first, and it said “Happy news is on its way to you.” I read it aloud, said something to the effect of “That’s good,” and waited to hear what the Wo’s was. He opened his, read it, and then said, “You will be the bearer of happy news.” I was like, ZOMG! That is SO AWESOME! And he studied his for a little while longer, and then tossed it down.

I eagerly snatched it up, because if that was not a picture opportunity waiting to happen, I don’t know what is, and immediately my brow furrowed, because I could see his fortune had a LOT more words than what he’d spoken. “Dude. What the hell. That’s not what your fortune says.”

He didn’t even realize I’d fallen for it! But I had. While he laughed, I explained, earnestly, why I thought it was SO EPIC, and yes, I was disappointed because, DUDE, the universe was saying HAPPY NEWS IS COMING, and while I don’t put much stock in fortunes or horoscopes, I was entertained that we would manage to get such symbiotic messages.

Alas, it was not to be. But, I’m ultimately an optimist, and I’m also pretty confident – so I actually know some good news will be coming my way really soon, and if a slip of paper wants to echo that sentiment, excellent.

I realize I’m a slacker with my blog. I think part of me was surprised to discover people read it? I mean, I know my friends sometimes read it, my husband keeps up, family does here & there, but after several people told me randomly they follow my blog, I realized I started writing (and not writing) with the audience in mind, deciding how much I did (and usually didn’t) want to share. I guess that’s the thing about blogging, huh? You go out on the front porch & play your banjo, and you just don’t know who-all is listening. Most of me doesn’t really give a shit, but the part of me that’s been stepped on, blindsided and where the memories of the personal hurts reside? That part has held me back. It’s not about work, really, it’s not about politics – it’s just…. finding the balance of giving, taking the time to find the words, deciding if something’s REALLY that funny, or did you just have to be there?

But then I look over my shoulder, at even just the past few weeks, and I think, ok, haven’t blogged about the Caffeine Crawl. Haven’t told you about how I went to prison this summer (just visiting!), haven’t chortled at the misfortune of those who deserve it (well, ok, maybe that’s one of those things I shouldn’t share…too often.) Sometimes I want to use my blog to twist the knife, because if you’re really still reading it, I want you to know I think [your baby is ugly] [your husband thinks you’re nuts] [you’re the reason you’re unhappy] [man I can be a bitch]…. ha! So I edit myself. It’s the long pauses in my head, the ones that took me so long to recognize and hear, that say “Don’t say that out loud.” or “Maybe just let that go.” But typing those things out sure did make me laugh.

Maybe that’s all part of it, too. The Wo and I have been together over 11 years. We have thousands of inside jokes accumulated, and it’s one of the elements of our marriage that I treasure – we know how to make each other laugh, we know how to prank each other, and it’s never done with malice.

And it’s why, as we were standing side-by-side under the stars, singing “Faithfully” in a sea of 8,000 people, that when we got to the part in the song where he sings, “I get the joy of re-discovering you…” I started to shake. Wo was alarmed a bit, at first, thinking perhaps I was having an Emotional Outburst. But instead, I was shaking with laughter, thinking of our dog Tripper, who, whenever we pull out the couches and chairs and unearth the bones of days gone by, seizes on one with great gusto, and as only this dog can do, rockets it all the way to the back of his jaw and rolls it while biting at it, resulting in the stupidest dogface ever, combined with a crazy rattling sound of bone-hitting-teeth repeatedly. The first time it happened, James said something about them rediscovering the bones, and I immediately started singing, “I get the joy of rediscovering bone,” to that very Journey song. Because that’s what we do, song-association, all the time.

The girl can’t help it.

Rock-n-Fuckin’-Roll, Baby

We had the good fortune to see the Foo Fighters last night at the Sprint Center.

Oh. Mah. God.

They blew the roof off the joint! Dave Grohl stopped after the first four songs and told the audience that they were gonna play a fuckin’ long show. They weren’t going to play some piddly-ass hour & a half show, they had 16 years of music and they were gonna play as long as they fucking wanted to. (He dropped F-bombs in almost every sentence, which instantly endeared him to me.)  They did not short-change us on that promise. Two & a half hours later, they concluded a massive setlist that contained a six+ song encore, including three amazing acoustic versions with just Dave Grohl, doing what he does best – playing rock & roll, pouring his heart into those raw vocal chords, and being a kick-ass rock star who loves what he does and doesn’t seem to have been turned into an asshole by his fortune.

One of those acoustic songs was a song I’d forgotten had been my anthem when I worked at WGITWL (white guys in ties who lie) – and it brought tears to my eyes, all the emotion he can pour into his music, that you can still feel your soul vibrate without explosive guitars and Taylor Hanson’s spectacular drumming.

After the show, we were famished, having skipped dinner and bypassed the concessions; we contemplated a street cart hot dog before driving home, but when I heard “$6 for one”, I was having none of it. That would have to be one special motherfucking hotdog.

Instead, we went to Chubby’s on Broadway, where breakfast fare was had, the people-watching was spectacular, and the only blemish on the evening was the douchebag who parked so close to my car, I had to clamber into the driver’s seat from the passenger side. (Hope I dented your door, asshole!) Finally crawled into bed around 2 am, a little surprised at our late-night adventures. Not too shabby for a couple of middle-aged folks who are usually in bed by 9?

Before performing “These Days”, Grohl said it was his favorite song he’s written, and it’s a great song – powerful words about heartbreak, death, all the things you start to think about when you’re in your 40′s (as he is, as well) and you’re facing your own mortality and that of those you love, and still don’t want to go gently into that good night.

One of the great things about a band like the Foo Fighters is that they’ve had so many hits, so many great songs, that hearing them live and remembering the words and where you were when you were singing along in your car, at the top of your lungs, it does get a little nostalgic. Songs that aren’t in your “rotation” today come back and remind you of how much you enjoyed them, what your life was like, the person you were before you knew the things you know today. So – indulge my snippet from “Best of You”, the anthem I mentioned earlier. I fuckin’ love that song. Thanks, Foo. Thanks for an awesome night.

 

I’ve got another confession my friend
I’m no fool
I’m getting tired of starting again
Somewhere new

Were you born to resist or be abused?
I swear I’ll never give in
I refuse

Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?

 

 

~~~~~UPDATE: 8:51 am~~~~~~~~~~

Forgive me, I’m running on about 5 hours of sleep. But there was a lovely confrontation the Foo had with the idiots from WBC. He talked about it during the  show, and how they were calling him a “faggot” but smiling the whole time. Obviously, like 99% of the universe, he finds them as stupid and baffling and nonsensical. They heard they were going to be “protested” and so they dressed up like their current alter-egos, truckers, and sang ‘em a nice song about man-fucking. Here’s the video:

And since we’re talkin’ Foo Truckers…. here’s my REAL favorite… heh.

Anger Needs No Translator

Have you ever seen that episode of Seinfeld, the one where Elaine goes to get her nails done, and she’s convinced the employees there are talking about her in their native tongue? I always think of it when I get my own nails done – though at this point, I’ve been going to the same salon for 7 years or so, I don’t really think much of it. I did go recently, and there was a new woman working there, and she was grinning and talking away, and I imagined she was saying something to the effect of, “Whoa, girl, you got yourself a big girl there!”

But, I am always curious about what they’re saying, and this time was no different – I listened to the subdued conversation/back-and-forth among the staff and realized that so many of the words are short, staccato bursts that have strikingly similar sounds, but the emphasis and cadence are what seem to vary the words as well. Nearly all the words seemed to start with the letter “D”, but it could have been my own American filter trying to make sense of a language I’ve never even studied. There came a point, though, when knowing the actual words took a back seat, quite rapidly, to the overall communication.

It started with one of the nail techs standing up from her pedicure station, and speaking loudly and clearly, quite strongly, at someone else (we couldn’t tell quite yet, but it became clear within a minute.) She was PISSED OFF. Immediately, several of the other women began softly speaking, obviously trying to diffuse whatever this situation was. (I could actually tell two women said the same thing within 30 seconds of each other, presumably “calm down!”) The music had stopped and the silence became palpable. And then? The tech completely lost her shit. She was moving her customer over to her nail station, and apparently, she was really pissed at the guy who sat behind her, and she was shouting at him at the top of her lungs, while he quietly tried to interject what appeared to be his defense. Another worker got up, went in the back, and put the music on – full blast. So now we have Mariah Carey warbling her head off, and Angry Tech is now shrieking at the guy, and she’s holding up the light boxes for curing the shellac nails, and basically having an explosive episode in this dude’s direction. With another bewildered customer in-between them.

Allllllll the customers start looking at each other. Because THE HELL, we can’t understand a goddamn word, but as I muttered to the lady on my left, we didn’t really need to know what she was saying because every single one of us knew she was LIT UP and pissed off. Someone down to my right said, “I think it involves that box.” We’re trying not to laugh, because it would not only be rude, but none of us really wanted the focus of her anger to find a new home! Angry Tech marches back and turns off the music. Returns, continues to fume. The customer of Angry Tech is looking at all of us in the pedi-chairs with wide eyes and a face of confusion while she’s stomped off – so of course I have to say, “What the hell did you do?” which makes us all chuckle a little, but not too much, because AT is back, holding up the light box (which is plugged in and glowing), she is yelling, and frankly, I didn’t want to have a toaster-in-the-bathtub incident.

My tech, who is at the top of the hierarchy (there is always a hierarchy at these salons), goes back and turns the music back on, but at a lower volume. Right as she returns, AT picks up the light box again and continues to scream at the dude, who is working away on another woman’s nails, and murmuring every so often. At this point, my lady goes over and turns AT around (because she was like a Jack-in-the-box at this point, up/down, up/down, SCREAM SCREAM BRANDISH), and physically thwaps her on the shoulders and basically tells her to sit the hell down and calm down in the process. (All in Vietnamese, mind you.) I whispered when I was paying, “What’s the deal?” She whispered back that apparently the male tech had taken AT’s light boxes for his client. I asked if they had to buy their own boxes. Nope, they always share. Nope, the ones he took weren’t any different than the ones he had.

We concluded something else was probably going on in her life. I walked out, marveling at how I had specifically been thinking about the language when I got there, and how I never really know what they’re saying – but in this case, there really was no translator needed. I’m sure there are statistics on communication and all the pieces that go into it – words are just one component. Brandishing a light box? That speaks volumes as well.

There were shades of fleeing.

Last week, Tuesday the 2nd, to be specific, it got hot. Crazy hot. Super Crazy We’re Living on the Surface of the Sun Hot. Set records, it was like 107′ or 108′F, depending on who you talk to, record-setting, blah blah blah. James went to play backgammon and I spent the evening (in front of a fan) chatting with my wise Auntie Karen. I thought it felt warm in the house, but when it’s 95′ at 10pm at night, and you’ve been hearing for weeks that the a/c units really can only do so much against heat like this, I just didn’t think anything more except how this horrible heat was providing me with an hourly basis to bitch and moan. James got home late-ish, we stayed up for a while, then went to bed and turned all the fans on “HIGH”. It was still uncomfortable in the house, after midnight.

You see where this is going, right?

Next morning, it’s warm, and James realizes that the unit is lagging or something and so he turns it off to hose it down and clean it (something that works pretty well, usually.) I’m working in my little office, with the fan on high and thinking I’m definitely going through The Change. By midday, it is established that the a/c is not working. Nothing. Dead. I called for service – they can’t come until the next day. (Understandably, we’re in the midst of the worst heat wave EVER!) We decided another night of sweating, tossing & turning was NOT desirable, so James got on Priceline, and within an hour, I was throwing everything I could think of into luggage, destination Holiday Inn on the Plaza. It’s interesting, because even going away for just one night – one! – I am convinced that some massive speed demon is going to take over, and I should probably bring a minimum of two projects, and possibly consider starting a third, just in case. In case of what? I don’t know. The zombie apocalypse? I had to bring both laptops, and I made the terrible mistake of not packing snacks. SNACKS! I had to pay $1.75 for a bottle of Sprite when we finally got to our room, the vending machines are highway robbery. But it was 87′ in the house, I plead heat-addled. I was throwing random things into my suitcase, and I kept thinking, “It’s like I’m fleeing my homeland!”

Then I proceeded to worry, worry, worry. Because I had been hearing tales of a/c replacement. And the associated price tags. In fact, one person told me the quote they got for both heating and cooling? TWELVE FUCKING GRAND. She footnoted it later that it had a lot to do with replacing all their duct work as well, but hell, woman, you scared the bejeezus out of me! So now I’m playing mind games – if it’s less than $X, that’s good. GOOD. If it’s over $Y, we’re going to have to donate plasma and see if the dogs have any harvestable organs. We opened up windows, turned on fans, put ice in the water bowl for the pooches, and checked in on them periodically while our hotel room iced down and we actually got a pretty good night of sleep. The next day wasn’t nearly as hot, thankfully, and we coordinated schedules to get James home in time to meet with the repairman.

Filled with dread, I called as I was heading home, as I knew they’d arrived.

It was already fixed. $350. There’s an electrical gizmo that’s plastic, and if you don’t get all the louvered thingies all the way around the unit cleaned off, it can get clogged, build up heat, and melt that particular gizmo. They also boosted the freon, and were done in an hour. Oh sweet relief. Sweet cold air. We actually had to re-adjust our thermostat, because it now blows so cold, our feet were freezing in the house at the old settings! Home ownership. Not for the faint of heart, or those without deodorant.

But know, when the zombie apocalypse comes, I’ll have plenty of knitting projects, if you’re holed up with us.

Mind over Maki

I get emails from The Pitch, and a few weeks ago, one contained an invitation to a “Sushi Slam” at Edokku out in Lenexa. The food challenge was to consume 10 sushi rolls (your choice) in an hour, 80 pieces. I immediately sent it on to my husband and brother-in-law, and J-Wo replied within minutes that he’d signed up.

I thought, “Why not? After all, if you don’t finish, you get to take it home, and they charge you, sure, but $31 for massive amounts of sushi is still a great deal!”

So I signed up, too.

And Sunday afternoon, off we went. We were in the second group (joined by Fox4 movie critic Shawn Edwards, who kept saying he was going to eat 80 rolls, which would have been nigh-impossible, but nobody corrected him.)  We were early, and we watched from a distance as they counted down the time, and then as people exited with their plastic plates of sushi, covered in saran wrap. “That’s gonna be you,” egged my husband.  Stubborn as always, I told him where he could shove it.

Then we were seated. A guy across from James looked at me and said, “You gonna do this?” and I said, “Yes. It’s mental.” He completely agreed. He kept talking, and I wondered about what might be going on, as he had major bags under his eyes and kept saying the same things over and over. (turns out, we later discovered, he’d smoked a big ol’ joint to get his appetite going.) His plate of sushi arrived, and I looked at it somewhat askance, as the whole plate was full of one type of sushi, and each piece contained fried shrimp. “Dude, that’s a lot of fried food. You gonna eat the tail?” “Hell no, I ain’t eatin’ the tails,” he retorted. Ooook. Good luck there, Cheech.

We were also instructed by the referee that if we chose to dip our sushi rolls into the saucer of soy, any remaining rice in that dish would need to be eaten. I immediately opted not to use my dish.

James’ plate arrived first:

Mine arrived last, so I didn’t get a picture of it. I had errantly ordered one roll that was gigantic and tempura-battered. Fuck. It was utterly delicious, rich, and warm, filled with eel and cream cheese and hell if I can remember what else. I had wisely gotten smaller rolls of simple maki – tuna, eel, etc. The timing began and we were off.
You get two plates – and while I thought it would go quickly, it didn’t. I judiciously took tiny sips of water to keep things lubricated, and tried to enjoy the process as much as possible. About 2/3 of the way through my plate, my husband has already finished his first, and is on to the second. He proceeds to win the entire group’s challenge by finishing in just over 9 minutes. Two plates of sushi. The ref was talking to him like he was trying to make a pass at him, all sorts of praise and complements, it was cracking me up. Apparently he was downing the smaller rolls two pieces at a time. He won a gift bag and a t-shirt, and then sat there and tried to encourage me.

Plate 2 arrived. The previous fried roll was here again, and it taunted me with it’s excesses of warm gooey textures. I plowed back in, grateful I’d eaten very little all day, and then it came down to the big fried roll, and a smaller roll. About 13 pieces. I almost stopped. I thought, it’s ok. $31 is fine. I was starting to get sweaty, and I thought of all those “Man vs. Food” episodes where I’d never fully comprehended just how fucking hard this sort of thing was. A few more pieces and then it happened. One of those horrible moments where your brain is fighting with your body. A sip of water. Rest. There was still half an hour, but as my husband reminded me, rice expands in your stomach, so the longer I waited, the harder it would get. He then hit on the magic solution that saved me: eat some pickled ginger. The crunchy bite cleared my palate, restored a little clarity, and with three pieces staring at me, I told myself paying $10 for each of those pieces was just plain silly at this point. And I polished them off, each with a piece of ginger on top.

For those of you reading this in horror, I completely get it. I was/am pretty horrified myself. I won’t repeat the event, or anything like it, ever again. There were some interesting social aspects to it, too. I’m a fat chick. Big fat chick. Dare I even say, good-looking, funny-as-hell, in-your-face fat chick, sure. And once people are around me and see and know more than the fatness, they tend to enjoy my company and see me less as just a fat person and more for all my parts. But society is just not so much on the fat chicks, and strangers are rude, and kids stare and say shit, and a grandma with dementia once announced to everyone in Price Chopper that That Girl Is Really Big! No matter the bravado and teflon coating, I’m well-aware of the hatahs.  So, there was part of me that felt a little like I was somehow fulfilling society’s stereotype of the fat person, and in participating, somehow adding to the stigma and therefore signing a blank check to insults and stereotypes.  And frankly, as someone who’s had a jillion issues with food and weight over the years, let me tell you how weird it is to have people shake your hand and high-five you…. FOR EATING. That in of itself spoke volumes to me about the messages I have gotten over the years – and the ones I give myself – about food. Nobody has ever said, “Wow, great job! You cleaned your plate!” LOL!

All-in-all, it was an experience. I learned that one really can eat so much food you reach the point of physical discomfort and you think you might involuntarily puke all over some stoned-out dude who also apparently hates fake crab meat.  (Oh, you THINK you’ve been there, after Thanksgiving dinner, but friend, unless you’ve done something like this in a timed event, it just isn’t the same. I thought that, too, and this proved me wrong 10x over.)   It also was interesting to see just how much you can use your mind to overcome pain, circumstances and focus on a goal, which is rather heartening when you think about applying it in the reverse direction.

And yes, I still love sushi…. in moderation.

The Melting Pot of KC: Metro Max

We had tickets to the Buzz Under the Stars concert last Friday down at City Market – Cake was playing, we’ve seen them twice already and love ’em – plus I like Mumford & Sons. My rep had told me that parking was going to be a nightmare, and looking on the web site for the Market, the lots were going to cost at least $10 and no guarantee there would be enough spots. So I decided we should take the bus! James has taken the Max a couple times (jury duty, Rockfest) and always had good stories, so we headed up to the Park & Ride in Waldo, and jumped on the Max. I should point out I’m not a stranger to public transportation, as I took the bus the whole time I lived in Minneapolis, and I’ve ridden buses, subways and trains in NYC, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, etc. I think what distinguishes this experience from those is how…interactive people are willing to get with each other.

The Max is supposed to be very timely, and all the stops have digital updates letting you know where the bus is in transit. It runs from 75th and Waldo all the way up to 3rd & Grand, north of the City Market, and back again. For a $1.50, we were pretty happy with the alternative to driving and finding parking.  Our bus driver was talking to his kids on the phone and might have been a minute or two late for departure, but with all the stops that started happening, he began to fall behind schedule. The trip started to take on shades of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride when we hit the Plaza, and instead of getting into the turn lane (which had a red arrow), he got into the center lane and made a left turn around the line of cars. I couldn’t stop laughing at that point, because we were hanging on to stay in our seats as we surged forward and took hard turns. If he’d had a cow-catcher on the front of the bus, we would have left a trail of wreckage as he plowed through slow cars in the bus lane.

Now, James had told me that there’s a whole section of the route that just turns into crazy pants, with the wildest mix of people you’d ever see. He wasn’t kidding. It starts near the Plaza and continues all the way through mid-town and into downtown.  This experience was heightened by the fact it was also First Friday in the Crossroads, and as we sped through the area, we saw a huge wave of…zombies. Yes, zombies. It was totally awesome, apparently there was a hunger/food drive walk and these folks were in full regalia and makeup. (I have a penchant for zombies, I’ll admit.)  The crazy-highlight of the trip, though, was the older woman sitting across from me (I was on the sideways seats, James was facing forward) and she started talking to me about my purple Tom Bihn bag, and that her favorite color is purple. (Despite the heat, she was wearing a jean jacket and purple sweatpants, her face divided by oversized, octagonal glasses.) She proceeded to tell me about buying some bag she just had to have and didn’t care about the stuff that came inside it, she could have thrown that stuff away, but she had to have that bag because her favorite color is purple. I amicably nodded along for a little bit, then turned my head to look around and watch our progress as we surged down Main Street. After a pause, she started talking to me again, but I had already transformed into the blowfish, and my sunglasses helped me avoid further eye contact. Naively, I thought that would be sufficient to discourage her. Oh. No. She leaned across the aisle, pawed at my bag and said loudly, “I LIKE YOUR BAG! My favorite color is purple!”

Oh Lord. “Yes, I know, you told me.” And she proceeded to run through her purple spiel again, while I nodded and avoided eye contact with my husband.

Blessedly, she got off shortly thereafter. After she exited, James reached over and grabbed my bag and informed me purple was his favorite color, too, while we both clutched the seats as we sped off again, trying to make up lost time.

But the big adventure was on the return trip home. We missed our bus by a minute, which was discouraging, as the route runs every half-hour and it was hot, it was just before 10p, and we were ready to head home. We waited it out, got on the bus, this time moving all the way towards the back where the seats are elevated and, I was assured by James, the people-watching was MUCH better.  This time, we were getting an even more interesting assortment of people. A middle-aged black man got on the bus, wearing glasses that had a set of yellow lenses clipped on over them. They were also missing one sidepiece, so they precariously perched on his nose, held in place by only one side wrapping around his ear. I’m not sure what the yellow lenses did for him, I tend to associate that shade with sharpshooters. An angry goth girl with a Jimmy John’s shirt got on as well. Subs so angry you’ll freak? A trio of French girls boarded, and sat behind us, iPods firmly in place. One man got on with a paper plate of pizza, then he got off on the next stop. (Interesting. Dining al fresco and el bus-o?) The bus started to fill up;  an older, skinny black man wearing a wife beater got on, went all the way to the back, followed by another wife-beater-wearing man, head shaved and gauged ears. It took a while to determine they were actually traveling together.  For several minutes, the black man boomed “WHO DAT BE? WHO DAT BE? I CAN’T SEE!” as his pal was standing up in front of him. I just kept facing forward, and noticed I could use the thick piece of plexiglass that was in front of me (between me and the back door) as a sort of mirror, since the florescent lights of the bus brightly illuminated the other side of the bus, while the ones by me were off.

I could see Shaved Head dude swiveling his head around like a parrot, looking out both windows and observing people in the bus. Then he leaned forward and pushed on the shoulder of the French girl who was sitting by herself. “What are you listening to?” he demanded. She pulled out an earbud and said “What?” He repeated the question. In heavily accented English, she answered, “Muzeek” and put her headphones back in. This seemed to anger our unstable fellow, unfortunately. He then spent the next couple of stops sneering and repeating the conversation in an increasingly louder and temper-filled solo monologue. When he and his (WHODAT?!) friend, who at least had stopped his own shouting finally exited, he expelled some extra rage by jumping up and pounding on the bus windows by the girls behind me. Ugh. A guy behind me who’d been at the concert turned and apologized to her, and when someone said he didn’t do anything, he responded with the fact he was from our country and that’s why he was extending the apology. Someone was definitely off their meds, or in desperate need of some new ones.

Meanwhile, people are still getting on and getting off, and at the Plaza, a woman with her arm in a sling boarded, and started talking to the driver, apparently trying to determine if we were the right bus for her. Sadly, her inability to use her left arm also left her unable to pull up her pants, as I did a triple-take trying to ascertain if I had, indeed, just seen a judicious helping of the crack of her ass as her sweatpants drooped badly on her hips. Oh, I had.

Really, I think riding the Max about once a month (or more, if one wanted to write a book) is something everyone should do. It reminds you that the faceless, nameless people who clean your hotel rooms and make your sandwiches and pick up their kids from daycare because they don’t have a car are working behind the scenes to keep your comfortable life comfortable.  That there are a lot of colorful, crazy folks who buy bus cards and go to the library or go out for a slice of pizza and then tuck themselves back to their low-income apartment or halfway house that we don’t see because we’re driving behind our tinted windows, listening to NPR, spending the cost of a bus pass on dinner. That there are people in this city for whom English isn’t their first language, and that chivalry isn’t dead, and people are unabashedly ready to tell you their favorite color is purple. The reminder that 30 years ago, you didn’t see a tattooed and pierced man affectionately touching his equally tattooed and pierced partner on the back, just like a man might pat his wife’s back, while they waited for the door to open. That today you think nothing of it, the new normal has progressed, nobody says anything or looks around with scandal.

That no matter how far away we move to live, in homogenized suburban neighborhoods, surrounded by the sterile blandness and sameness of strip malls and chain restaurants, none of that can hold a candle to the energy of the melting pot that is Midtown Kansas City.

Hang on, Dorothy!

Anyone paying attention to the news lately has seen the devastation and aftermath of an F-5 tornado that hit Joplin, MO on Sunday.  The city is about 2 & 1/2 hours south of Kansas City, and every news station in town has been broadcasting from Joplin, organizing donation efforts, even hosting on-air fundraisers and promoting blood drives. It now is the record-holder for most deadly tornado since they started keeping records.  The images and video have just been horrendous – people in a convenience store, convinced they were going to die, shouting prayers and love; storm chasers narrating what they saw, unable to keep the panic and terror out of their voices.

So when the skies darkened yesterday, and the light turned green, I had just thought to myself, “I probably should turn on the tv and see what’s going on,” and at that moment, the tornado sirens went off. I took the dogs and my phones down to the basement, and proceeded to have a bona fide panic attack, as reports came in of tornadoes being spotted and possibly touching down less than half a mile in two directions from our house. All of the systems were heading in our direction, and then on towards James’ school. I knew he was being calm, reassuring and ever-watchful (he’s got a vast understanding of weather); I, on the other hand, was crying and freaking out with a mattress pad cover over my head.

The dogs remained non-plussed. I got a little irritated with them for not taking the situation more seriously, though what that would look like in two laid-back black labs, I don’t know.  They just thought my tears were nice and salty and since I was sitting on the floor, I surely should be petting both of them, all of the time.

It turns out that the worst damage happened in Sedalia, MO – about 90 miles east of us. Fortunately there weren’t any fatalities, and homes and businesses can be rebuilt.  Certainly my own reaction wouldn’t have been so extreme had it not been precipitated by the Joplin events, but I recalled a time when we were living in Knoxville, Iowa; I was about 3 or 4, and a tornado was on the ground. We huddled together in the basement, and I remember my father leaving us to run upstairs to look outside, and I proceeded to have a meltdown of epic proportions, certain he was going to disappear into the swirling green darkness. (He didn’t, and we were all ok.)

I think I’m good with waiting another 40 years to feel that scared again.

If you want to help with the disaster relief efforts, donations are the best way to do that right now.

A Happy Dog’s Tale

A couple weeks ago, our friend Cindy went out for a walk and came home with a lost dog. The pooch was predominantly black lab,  a blocky-headed, chunky dude named Coal. He had a leather collar with a city and phone number in Georgia, so we all assumed his owners had recently moved to town. After all, Coal hadn’t missed any meals, and he was one friendly dude. Because Cindy’s yard isn’t fenced, we agreed (yeah, I got the puppy-dog eyes from my husband) to a trial run and to help house him for a couple of days, as long as he got along well with our two labs. Plus, we have an outside kennel and doghouse, and a fenced yard – it seemed like the humane thing to do for the fella. James had high hopes he might be a hunting dog, but one toss of the dummy showed utterly NO interest in retrieving. Coal chased after the dummy, looked at it, and ran back to James – leaving the dummy behind. Not a duck dog!

He certainly got along with our dogs -manic play time and Coal showed no interest in challenging either dog for pack leadership (another oddity, as he was still intact, and I fully expected aggression between the two males.) No such thing, though by day two, Tripper was attempting to hump him, proving once and for all he’s got a madcap gay puppy inside him just howling to get out! (j/k!) We decided to get our P.I. friend in on the hunt for Coal’s owners – since the GA number rang into a fax, and faxes sent to the machine were unanswered. She quickly identified the name of the owner of the former number, and we even thought we’d found a residence -not too far from where Coal was found. Alas, no such luck. Cindy called vets in the Georgia town, and found Coal’s former vet – who confirmed the name we had was indeed the owner. They supplied a KS number, but that person said they weren’t missing a dog. I started to believe his owners had dumped him, and it made me so sad – and angry. To me, dogs are a commitment for their lifespan, not a couch you decide you’re tired of and put out on the curb. But I digress.

My new knitting friend Shawnna graciously agreed to foster Coal on a longer-term basis, and asked if we could call the vet back to get his records (for immunizations, etc.) Cindy obliged – and the vet faxed everything over. Unlike people medical records, apparently you can just send the whole kit & caboodle – and lo and behold, there was another (GA) number on the paperwork! Cindy called it – and it went through to the owner’s mom! Who was beside herself and told Cindy that her son and his wife LOVED that dog, and she would alert them immediately. Sure enough, they called, arrangements were made, and Coal went home that very night! Big smiles reportedly abound, and the only request that was made was to UPDATE HIS COLLAR. (I would have also suggested a surgical snip-snip, but that’s probably not my bidness.)

For a short time, I was afeard we’d have ourselves back up to three dogs, and at one point, Coal was sitting pretty on the back deck, begging to come into the house. I saw James behind him, with an equally hopeful look on his face. Yes, he was well-mannered, and a sweetheart, but no, I wouldn’t let him in. I’d watched that dog attempt to mark every bush, tree, and blade of grass in the back yard, long after he’d run out of “ammo”, and I could only imagine what would happen INSIDE the house. After all, it was Tripper’s error in judgment that fateful day he lifted his leg on our comforter and got his balls moved to the top of my to-do list! So I like to think that Coal’s reunited with his family, and his fellow dog, and he’s probably already put the weight back on that he lost at our “spa” – what with the massive exercise of playtime, and no people food.  Truly an all’s-well-that-ends-well.

But I do still wonder when a puppy might wander into our lives…heh.

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