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Quite a Week

The first of several rather exciting days was observed last night. Chris and I went down to Grinders on a tip from Jeff that they allegedly already have Nutcracker Ale on tap. Jeff's tip proved to be true, as we hunkered down to some delicious local Christmas beer. In addition, Lacey is back there. She gave us a warm welcome, and I said, "I thought you didn't work here anymore."

"Well, I didn't. But now I do!"

"Well that's settled!"

Chris and I then went over to JP Wine Bar, where Josh, Nick, and Chris play records in exchange for money on Mondays, and found that they also had Nutcracker on tap! To make the concert-goers more comfortable after just having seen Garth Brooks perform at the nearby Sprint Center, the boys lent a country twang to the evening's record-playing agenda, albeit an old, George Jones-flavored twang. After two, maybe three more delicious Nutcrackers, I cast a worried look at the time, and was affirmed in my apprehension. It was just after midnight. I quickly settled my tab and headed home in the crisp night air.

I voted this morning, and so took two of the three paid hours alloted to me by the state of Missouri to accomplish said goal. I picked up some lunch on the way in, and here I sit. Tonight I'm going to a super-special preview night at McFadden's, which on Friday will be the first bar to open in the new Power & Light District. It has been reported to me that due in no small part to the coaxing and prodding by myself and Geoff, McFadden's will feature draught selections from O'Fallon Brewery on the other side of the state, being the first tap in Kansas City to do so(besides the tap in my apartment).

Tomorrow, I'll get out of here a bit early, and visit the Hotel President downtown to attend the final audition for being a contestant on the Wheel of Fortune. Following that, I will either be elated or disappointed, but in either case, I will probably join Jeff in bottling the Christmas beer immediately afterward.

On Thursday the indoor kickball season begins. It will either be really lame or really awesome. Time will tell. I have Friday off because I worked the maintenance window this past weekend. I will spend that time off sleeping in, driving to Des Moines, and being irresponsible therein with Alex and Sarah. On Saturday we'll drive up to Minneapolis and witness the wedding of college friend Amanda.

I don't want to think beyond that.

12:33 PM, Nov 6, 2007

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I Loved Every Minute Of It

I was let off by my gracious employer at 1:30pm today, so I could get downtown in time to make my 2:30 final audition to be a contestant on the Wheel of Fortune. I don't know what I was expecting, but it's not what happened. For one thing, I was expecting a much smaller group of people. I was immediately shocked by the number of people that were there. I took a seat in the back row of over 70 people, picked up an official entry form from my seat, and began filling it out. I had to text my roommate to find out what the local NBC affiliate's call letters are. I wasn't feeling very confident at that point.

After I finished filling out my application form, they showed us a pretty funny couple of videos featuring Pat and Vanna through the years. When that was over, they began a rough game when they would have a word puzzle on the big screen like what the have on the show, and they would call people seemingly at random to play. About forty or fifty names were called before mine was called. I looked at the partially completed puzzle on the screen, and in a clear loud voice declared that I wanted to see a P. I was answered with a callous buzzer, and sat back down.

About twenty minutes later, they called my name again, and I went on something of a letter spree, and wound up solving the puzzle. The answer was "I loved every minute of it." I found that rather fitting. I was awarded with a Wheel of Fortune ballcap to add to my collection, and was not called on again during that round of the game. After that was over, they passed out the written test, which I think I did relatively well in completing. There were about four or five puzzles that I wasn't able to solve in the alloted five minutes.

Then the producers announced to everyone that there'd be a fifteen to twenty minute break during which we were welcome to use the restroom, look out the 12th story windows, make a phone call, have a glass of water, or stare dumbly at each other, forcing conversation. The producers disappeared to grade our tests and compare notes. They reassembled us shortly afterward, and called off a list of about twenty people that made the cut. I was one of them.

And to the credit of the producers, they picked a very good group. Everybody seemed like people with whom I would love to be friends, and everybody cottoned on very nicely. There was lots of encouragement and high-fives. It was really nice. The second part of the audition involved actually getting groups of four people to stand up in front of the group(facing the screen and the producers), and to actually play the game as we see it on television. I was in the first group that was called, and was the first player. We were actually asked to make like we were spinning an imaginary gigantic wheel, like what's on the show, and after making the dramatic show of it that was required, we saw one of the producers spin a smaller wheel. They would never let us spin for very long, which is understandable, because assessments had to be made. After a player would spin two or three times, they'd just bankrupt the player and move on to the next person.

After my group of four ran through two puzzles, they asked us to tell them about ourselves. Again, I was the first one they asked. It went something like this:

ME: I'm John Kelly and I live in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. I've recently been elected to the board of the Downtown Neighborhood Association, and look forward to doing what I can to help my community.
PRODUCER: Are you single?
ME: Yes I am single, but to rectify that I'm playing kickball every week.
ALL: hahahahaha

I think the whole thing went extremely well. Unfortunately, I won't know whether I'll actually be picked to be on the show for another two weeks, when they will contact successful auditionees by snail mail. Even if I don't get picked to be on the Wheel of Fortune, I at least had a great time with the process, and got two hats out of it. Wish me luck!

5:43 PM, Nov 7, 2007

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Indoor and Minnesota

Since I worked maintenance on the previous weekend, I got Friday off work. I used the time to let loose, and fully take in the new-fangled game we were in for, for the winter indoor kickball league.

It's played in a small community center gymnasium, with about enough room around the sidelines for a person to walk. Without going too heavily into the vastly different rules the game has, compared to normal kickball, I'll just say that foul balls are rare, and as many as eight people can be on base at a time.

After the game the team, for the first time in a long time, retired to Grinders for pizza and beer. I sat in the middle of the table, dividing my attention between catching up with Brad along with Geoff and Chris on my right, and having an involved conversation with Anna, Nick, Amber, and Erp on my left. After the responsible people called it a night, Geoff and I went downtown, and tried out the 13th Street Bar and Grill, a normally smoke-free bar that for the night had thrown caution to the wind, and allowed the Garth Brooks concert-goers to smoke away.

Geoff busied himself trying to hook me up with an older, nicotine-addicted, Garth-singing, but admittedly attractive woman, and I busied myself paying lip service to his urgings. Katie joined us after a measure, and we went over to the pre-opening party at McFadden's, over in the Power and Light District. We approached the door, and the staff inside made to wave us away until they saw Katie. Seeing as she's some sort of public relations thug for the project, she's apparently entitled to some special treatment. I had a mind to sponsor the first(and probably last) round for the three of us, as the effects of alcohol were deeply set in all of us. But when they very quickly brought out the three Nutcrackers I ordered, they completely ignored my attempts to hand them a twenty. It would seem that Katie's arm is long indeed.

We called it a night by about 2am, and I slept heavily until just after noon. At one point earlier in the night, Geoff purchased a round of shots of Southern Comfort, which I haven't touched since the summer of 1995 and "the incident." I made a promise to my 17-year-old self on that horrible morning that I would never drink Southern Comfort again. Therefore, when I was handed the shot, and the moment came for everyone to take theirs down in cadence, I threw mine over my shoulder, with it audibly splashing on the tiled floor behind. Despite Geoff's consternation, I would have had a much worse Friday that I had, if I had consumed that shot. I am confident that my roommate would have awoken to the horrible sound of retching again, in the wee hours.

But, since I didn't imbibe any liquor at all, I felt fine the next day, and got on the road by about 2:30pm, arriving in Des Moines by 5pm. I planned on stopping in Des Moines to break up the long trip to Minnetonka, MN for Amanda's wedding. I met Alex for beers and dinner at El Bait Shop, just outside downtown Des Moines, and we were briefly joined by Sarah while her husband awaited a table at the nearby Court Avenue Brewing Company. Alex and I finished paying for beer at the Royal Mile, also nearby. We went back to his house and for the first time, I played Guitar Hero. The game is far beyond me. I got a couple "YOU ROCK" assessments, but mostly I was just booed off the stage when it was my turn. Alex served an ESB he'd brewed, with bits of his own home-grown fuggle hops floating in it. Delicious!

Alex's girlfriend Shae joined us the next morning, and as expected, we got off to a late start. On the way up, the joy of the occasion was significantly diminished when I received word that my stepmother's nine-year-old niece succumbed to a sudden blood clot in her brain, and was taken off life support earlier that day. The remainder of the weekend was overshadowed by this terrible news, and thoughts of logistics on my part, as my car was back in Des Moines at Alex's house. In the end, I found that the funeral(in the Chicago suburbs) wouldn't be held until Thursday of the following week, which means there was really nothing I could accomplish driving to Chicago from Des Moines. I will spend this week trying to determine if I can make a fly up/fly back in one day trip to make the funeral. At the moment, it looks doubtful.

We made it to the wedding with a bare three minutes to stare at our hands before Amanda's wedding party began processing. After the ceremony, presided by a very verbose priest, everyone went back to the hotel to pass the afternoon before the reception began. We derived great enjoyment from watching the Illini defeat #1-ranked Ohio State in Columbus, and set about catching up. I was among people that were my best friends in college, and for the first two years or so that I lived in Kansas City, but whom now I hadn't seen in years.

The reception began in earnest at 6pm with a cocktail hour, and melded into the dinner as I discovered to my delight that I was seated at the cool table. That is- the next-coolest table to the head table, of course. After an assortment of teary toasts and heartfelt announcements of thanks, the music started, and the Purple Monkeys began to alternate between the dance floor, the bar, and the areas in between. By about 11:30pm, the bartender had briefly switched to charging for drinks before finally just giving up and going home.

It was at this point that the problem drinkers pooled their feeble minds(mine among them), and called a cab to go to a nearby bar. Luckily for us on Sunday, the bars in Hopkins, MN close relatively early, and we were back at the hotel terrorizing the once-sleeping Meghan by 1:30am. I slept comfortably until about 9:30am, when the curtains in my room couldn't turn the sunrise any longer. I got up, checked out, and got some breakfast while I waited for Alex and Shae to get ready.

We caught Amanda, Jim, Tim, and Carl as we were heading for the car, and had a nice farewell with them. We drove the three and a half hours to Des Moines with the sun in our eyes, listening to financial planning call-in shows on AM radio, and arrived in Des Moines by about 2:30pm. I got right into my car and drove the remaining two and a half hours back to Kansas City, grabbed some Chipotle, and called it a night. It was a great weekend, and the pictures will be around soon.

10:53 AM, Nov 12, 2007

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The Day Before

Yeah, yeah. I'm still here. I still haven't heard from the Wheel of Fortune, and I'm not holding my breath for it either. Oh well, they say.

It's the day before Thanksgiving, and I'm going on call tomorrow. I have a great Thanksgiving dinner to attend tonight, though I have to wait until 8pm to eat anything. I'm sitting in the office, waiting for 4pm, so I can leave, drive in KC's first snow of the year, and battle through the crowds at Sunfresh to pick up some pie for tonight. I will be intensely relieved when I'm with my friends and sitting down to a meal, but until then, I'm in a pissy mood.

3:44 PM, Nov 21, 2007

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Thanksgiving with Someone's Family

Well, it all worked out. I left work at about 4pm on Wednesday, and decided that instead of going all the way to Westport for two pies, I'd just go to the Price Chopper in Raytown, a mile or two from my office. It was very busy, to be sure, but it was still better, I think, than what I would have experienced in Westport. Also, I thought I was familiar enough with Raytown to know what to expect, but I was definitely wrong. For all these years, I'd considered Raytown to be a slightly impoverished redneck-type inner-ring suburb. I was shaken into reality when I noticed that out of some three hundred shoppers, I was one of perhaps ten white people there.

Anyway, I got home fine, after taking several detours to avoid getting stuck in gawkers' lines at the sites of various car wrecks. People in Kansas City, in addition to being monumentally bad drivers, completely forget about the existence of snow over the extensive warm season, and when the snow finally does roll back in, as it did on Wednesday, their heads explode, caking the inside of their comfortable SUVs with their brains and skull pieces. This causes them to run into medians, guardrails, buildings, pedestrians, utility poles, and of course, other cars.

I got home, wondering how I'd get to the party that night, which didn't start until 8 or so. I definitely didn't want to drive, and didn't want to walk in the wind and cold with two pies in my hands. In the end, I decided to just take the bus there. About twelve seconds after coming to this decision, Chris hit me with an IM, informing me that he'd pick me up at six for a pre-party beer at Grinders. I happily accepted, and prepared by taking care of the small pre-dinner I'd eaten in anticipation of the abnormally late dinner that was in store.

I enjoyed a Boulevard Nutcracker and an Arcadia Whitsun(an autumnal Pale Wheat that takes the prize, in my opinion, from the previous title-holder, Three Floyds summer seasonal, Gumballhead) with Chris, while discussing matters of extreme importance. We hastened over to Loca for the party, and enjoyed a sensational Thanksgiving dinner. It seems that the older we all get, the more creative everyone gets with their cooking(except for me, of course). I tried, for the first time(I'm not kidding) sweet potatoes, and lamented on the wasted years.

Chris and I called it a night by about 1am, to the harsh heartfelt protests of Nick, Anna, and Cole(who I hadn't seen since the Halloween party). I slept merrily under several layers of warm blankets, and developed a sore throat breathing the cold air. Nevertheless, I was ready for the funs when I got up. I had to wait around until 4pm though, so I kicked some English ass in Civilization 4 to pass the time. They just can't handle aerial bombardments. It's a real weakness.

Some weeks ago I was having a drink with Becky and Liana at Tower Tavern, and it became known through no manifest effort of my own, that I had nowhere to go for Thanksgiving dinner. Seizing the chance to do a good deed and to make me smile, they invited me to join them for the best dinner of the year. So at around 4pm yesterday, Liana and Michael picked me up, and we made the long trip up to Kearney, MO where her parents live.

For the first time in my life, I ate Thanksgiving dinner after the sun went down, and it was wonderful. I intend to annoyingly insist on repeating that every year. Becky and Liana's family were great. They constantly asked me if I had enough to eat, if I'd like any more, if I'd like to try this amazing dish that this family member spent all morning making, etc, etc. After dinner, we went downstairs, watched trivia shows, and lapsed into our own.

We went home at about 10pm, and got diverted off I-35 for a motorist with an exploding head.

1:03 PM, Nov 23, 2007

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Border Showdown

Mercifully, this has been my quietest weekend on call, ever. Since taking the oncall phone on Thursday, I have received exactly two actionable pages. One at 3pm on Friday, and another(for the same issue) at 7am on Saturday. This happy fortune has allowed me to go out on both Friday and Saturday nights.

On Friday I met up with Geoff at 6pm to go to Paci's in North Kansas City, to watch the Kansas State vs Central Florida basketball game on TV. Despite earlier assurances to Geoff from the bar's staff, we rolled up and found the place closed and the lights out. So we headed back downtown, and Geoff made phone calls along the whole trip, trying to find bars that carry the ESPN U sports channel, which was carrying the game. He tried the Peanut Downtown first, and we told, "we only have satellite, bro."

Earlier in the day, I was given a call by Josh, in town for the holiday weekend with Callie. He told me that we should meet up at McCoy's in Westport, so I suggested this to Geoff. He called, and was told reassuringly that yes, they do have ESPN U in their channel lineup. We walked in and did a lap looking for Josh, and didn't find him. We bellied up, ordered a couple of beers, and started looking at the menus before Geoff asked the bartender to switch the TV over to the sought channel. Nothing doing. Geoff said that he was told on the phone that they had it, and the male bartender said, "who did you talk to? Was it a woman?" Geoff nodded. "Well there you go."

Impressed with the enlightened staff at McCoy's, we started seeking alternatives, now that the game was already fifteen minutes old. I suggested the Flea Market down the street. Geoff called, and got an affirmative from them. I asked Geoff if the person on the other end of the phone was a man, and he confidently nodded. With new resolve, we hurried over to the Flea Market, grabbed the only two available seats in the place: next to each other at the bar, right in front of the TV. We smiled, and did a mental high-five. We sat down, ordered some beers, and politely asked the bar steward to switch the television over to ESPN U. "We don't have it," she said.

Then it occurred to me that I had watched the Kansas State vs Missouri game a week earlier on ESPN U at the Peanut Downtown. We hastened back there, and grabbed two seats at the bar. We asked them to put the game on, and they said, predictably, that they didn't have the channel. I assured them that they did, and after they switched through hundreds of channels, probably about a hundred of which were ESPN-something, the flickering of channel-changing came to a halt with KSU trailing by ten points or so. Wide-eyed, the bartender informed me that my first beer was on the house.

Geoff and I watched the game and enjoyed the spectacular food the Peanut boasts, until the game was over and we were joined by Erp, Amber, and eventually Joel. All the while, I was getting texts from Chris and Nick about coming to join them at Fric and Frac in midtown. So I did, and said good-night to everyone at the Peanut. I arrived at Fric and Frac in time to hear last call, and to commission Anna to knit me a scarf in exchange for a six-pack of homebrew. From there we went to the Stables, back downtown, where Shelley(sp?) the bartender took good care of us. Colin and his friend Wyatt joined us there.

The bar closed at 1:30am, and the group was raring to head over to the Red Front for an until-3am drink, but I wasn't feeling it. I went home and slept in broken fragments between the screeching calls of the oncall phone. I stirred around noon and spent the day programming, playing video games, and eating the last of my refrigerated food. I picked up Nick at his place at 5:30pm, and we headed down, as planned, to El Patron on Southwest Blvd to watch 4th-ranked Missouri play(and defeat) 2nd-ranked Kansas. We ate, but unfortunately, the only TV set they had was tiny, and could only be seen from one small section of the bar, so as another two of our group arrived, we requested that they scout out Jesse's, two doors down.

The hotly-contested game was being played at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, and due to its nature had formed what was probably the biggest non-bowl media blitz for college football in the United States in probably ten or fifteen years, and we were in the middle of it. It was very agreeable, and it was very difficult not to get excited for one of the two sides. As I've been annoyed with the insufferable nature of Kansas fans for the almost-seven years that I've lived here, it seemed logical for me to support Missouri. I live in Missouri, my family originally comes from Missouri, and Missouri has a lot more to do within than Kansas.

For example, the Missouri pep rally was held on Friday at 7pm at the Kansas City Live! block in the middle of the brand new Power and Light District, in downtown Kansas City, against a backdrop of skyscrapers and starlight. Kansas held their pep rally at the same time, but because there really just aren't any interesting places on the Kansas side of the state line, it was held in a strip mall parking lot in Prairie Village. The contrast was surreal, and the contest could hardly have been set up with more electricity and anticipation.

So there we were at Jesse's on the Boulevard. It was perfect. The tables were arrayed stadium-style, with all the chairs facing the ten-foot projection screen at the east end of the room. We took the rear two sets of tables, and settled in for a great game. The patrons, with very few outspoken exceptions, were all bedecked in Missouri outerwear. We were quite noticeably the only gringos there, but we were welcomed as family. There was a free buffet in the back, and the beer was cheap. The game was brilliant. It came down to the last play, but Missouri dashed any hopes for Kansas with a last-second safety. The bar erupted into cheers and high-fives, and everyone's phones lit up with text messages of joy.

We settled our tabs and headed over to Grinders for a nightcap. It turned out that it wasn't enough of a nightcap, so we headed over to the Quaff for another one before calling it a night. I finished off my night with a Texano Burrito at Pancho's, and slept satisfied.

1:35 PM, Nov 25, 2007

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Bleh

After enough of it, I decided at about 4pm today to stop responding to requests from application people and client reps. It's just been a very long day, and I'm looking forward to going home and getting horizontal for a while.

4:33 PM, Nov 27, 2007

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Parking

With the inevitable onslaught of winter threatening all the peasants in their thatched-roof cottages, I have decided for the first time in my life, to avail myself of an available spot in the garage adjacent to my building. I went down to the HOA office last week and filled out a form claiming that I was interested in securing a space in the closed-off garage. After I did that and wrote them a big fat check, I got my annoying hang-tag and parking card.

Now, I'm supposed to pick which numbered spot I want to have. To get your input, I've prepared the following crude illustration.

garage.jpg

I have narrowed my choice to two spaces, both on the same level, two floors above my apartment. Choice A is against the exterior west-facing wall, and is partially open to the elements. One great advantage of it, however, is that it has a load-bearing column next to it, which would ensure that anyone on the passenger side wouldn't have to deal with squeezing between my car and another to get in or out.

Choice B is closer to the center of the building, and while difficult to reach when coming in(as indicated by the arrows), is a very easy space from which to leave. Also, it's on the end, so I would be in no danger of hitting a neighbor's car with my door, unless of course they're driving by at that exact moment. Also, it wouldn't be a bad spot for backing in, though again, that would make departing more difficult.

So what do you think? Space A or space B?

1:34 PM, Nov 30, 2007

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