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Looking for Ideas

I am exhausted today. I almost called into work and took one of my comp days today. I have comp days from working on the 4th of July, and from working the worst maintenance window ever, the next night. I haven't been out in Kansas City since Jeff's birthday on Thursday. He's joined the 29-club, and now for a brief period, we are the same age until my 30th next month.

I was talking with Tomika today over IM, and got to reminiscing about traveling, and how much fun it is. I've been trying to think of a route for my next big trip, which will begin with Philadelphia and end with Chicago. Craig and I are going over the week of Labor Day, in a couple of months, and it's time to start planning.

So I put it to what's left of my readership: where should we go? Keep in mind that to make the cut of consideration, suggested places must be within walking or taxi distance of public transit and Amtrak, because as with the West Coast Brewtrip and the Great Canadian Brewtrip, we will not be driving at all.

So what would make a good place to stop on the way? I would like very much to stop in Harrisburg, because I had a great time when I went there for work in 2004. I haven't really explored Pittsurgh in about 12 years, when I destroyed the family van. I'm sure it's a treasure trove of great beer and original city architecture. I've always loved Cleveland when I've been there. Detroit seemed like a lot of fun from the extremely low exposure I had to it last summer.

Anyway, let me know! What's worth seeing?

4:28 PM, Jul 7, 2008

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National Public Radio

Years ago, when I was still working nights, I listened to Kansas City's NPR affiliate on my drive home from work in the morning. I enjoyed the interesting commentary on current events in its ability to make my tedious commute from the middle of nowhere(Lenexa, KS) to my apartment in Midtown pass more quickly.

Until recently I wasn't certain what made me stop listening to it. I first thought that I stopped listening when I started carpooling with Geoff, but then I recalled that well before I started carpooling, I switched my morning listening to Kansas City's community radio station, as there was more of a focus on the arts, interesting music, and political thought, in a program produced entirely in Kansas City.

Anyway, unable to put my finger on why I stopped listening, I started tuning in again, and have now been listening for a couple of months. This morning, I think I may have figured out why I stopped: It's really depressing. I wake up tired, usually unwilling to exactly hurry off to a 15-minute highway commute among Kansas City's mentally deranged drivers, and when I spend those fifteen minutes listening to all the insurmountable problems that face us as a society, it immediately puts me in a bad mood.

That might sound simplistic, selfish, and short-sighted, but so be it. I know there are problems in the world. I know that many of the problems are of such a severe and overwhelming nature that the degree to which they daunt us alone is reason enough to despair, but here's the thing: there's a lot to be happy about too. I understand that the job of news people is to report the news, and that it's not really news if it's good news, but it's sucking the joy out of my day.

Because of the mood the programming imparts on me, I find myself getting annoyed with silly things like Carl Kassel's post-stroke speech impediment, Maria Carter's chalkboard-scrape consonant pronunciation, Allan Sloan's plaintive moaning voice, Peter Overby's infuriating unidentifiable closed-mouth accent, and Sylvia Pogioli's deep-manlike voice and strange pronunciation of seemingly normal words. I suppose a person might find all this quirky and interesting, but it just drives me mad.

So, I think I'll be taking another five or six year break from listening to NPR.

9:56 AM, Jul 15, 2008

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Countdown to Splutschnik

It's happening again!

2:46 PM, Jul 19, 2008

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A New Hope

I woke up at 8:30 or so on Saturday morning, and after a bit of phonetag met Geoff at 12th and Wyandotte. We walked from there to J.E. Dunn's office for a prearranged hardhat tour of the construction site for the new Performing Arts Center, just south of the loop. It was extremely interesting, but the heat, the humidity, and the hardhat and safety glasses on my head provided for a more-or-less constant stream of sweat falling from my head. I could feel it dripping like rain.

After the tour we got a drink of water, turned in our sweaty hardhats and safety glasses, and headed home. Geoff and I agreed for meet back outside thirty minutes later, after shedding our sweat-soaked clothes(at 10am) and jumping into a wonderfully cold shower. Normally while I'm in the shower I put my towel within reach, so as to limit my exposure to the relatively cold air of my bathroom. I placed my towel close that day too, out of habit, but I relished the cold air, and made no haste whatsoever in grasping the towel from behind the curtain.

Anyway, Geoff and I got back together and resolved to get some lunch. After losing with his scissors to my rock, Geoff drove us to Oklahoma Joe's for a big, delicious Z-Man barbecue sandwich. Brisket, sauce, provolone, and an onion ring come together to make one of the best sandwiches known to mankind.

We adjourned to digest our lunch and lay still in our respective preferred manners. I relaxed, stood under the air conditioning duct, played some video games, sent some emails, and had a very comfortable early afternoon. At 2:30 I headed up to the Quaff for the fourth installment of Splutschnik, the greatest time ever. It's like Christmas to me. I will endeavor here to explain why I love it so much. Splutschnik combines two things I absolutely love: going out, and meeting people.

Since I'm pretty much in charge of the whole thing, I get to decide the teams, albeit with some oversight and support from Jeff, Splutschnik's co-founder. But I delight in bringing people together that don't know each other, and then put them on teams together in a competitive pursuit that requires that they explore downtown Kansas City and extend themselves beyond their normal comfort level.

So, because it's so filled with new experiences, and if people wish, copious amounts of drinking, everyone has a great time, and with each passing iteration, the list of attendees grows. My team included Jimmy, a guy from work I didn't know very well, Sarah, a woman I hadn't seen in a long time, and two of her friends, Crystal and Shannon. Shannon had to leave for work relatively early, so for most of the day, our group was made up of Sarah, Crystal, Jimmy, and me.

As may be expected, we had a great time and got along famously. Due to the nature of the event, this seems to be the case with just about every team. I'm ecstatic that it works as well as it does, and that when all the people arrive they look to me for guidance and instruction. It's a position of leadership I've foisted upon myself, and in the year and a half that we've been doing it, it's become my favorite event in Kansas City.

My team started at the Quaff with everyone else, and went on to The Red Dragon, up the street from my house, then on to John's Big Deck, Delaware Market Cafe, Bo Ling's, River Market Brewing Company, Le Fou Frog, Garozzo's, Harry's Country Club, and Anthony's. I made a rule this time that every Power & Light District bar that any team visits after their first two will count twenty points against them.

Don't get me wrong. I think the Power & Light District is the most exciting thing to happen to downtown since I've lived here, but for a pubcrawl in which the intent is to discover new places and enjoy new experiences, it's a dead end, in my opinion. There are over 75 other bars in the downtown area, and part of the point of Splutschnik is to get people to try new places. Well, the result of that rule was that no team ever went to the Power & Light District. Except for one team, everyone went north, toward the River Market.

After the teams finished, everyone converged at our place and drank the rest of our keg. One of the teams picked up a new member: a waitress from the brewery named Chelsea. A party ensued, making something of a mess of the apartment, and breaking all previous records. Teams plugged their camera flash cards into the Wii, and we did slide shows of each team's results to intense applause, laughter, and jeering, respectively.

Then, seemingly all at once, everybody left. Jeff went almost immediately to bed, while Kelly and I went to the Peanut to choke down about three swallows of beer apiece before signaling surrender. I walked Kelly to her car, and she gave me a ride back home. I spent the rest of the night(it was only 10pm) drinking water and playng video games before going to bed very late.

I spent Sunday being hung over and offended at the mess left in our apartment, and played a small part in its reconstruction.

I can't wait for Splutschnik V!

11:11 AM, Jul 21, 2008

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Fed Up, I love the 51

I'm sick to hell of commuting. I hate I-70, US-71, I-435, and the highway-like streets around the suburban office park where I work. I hate paying sixty dollars to fill my tank every two weeks. I hate running up the miles on my car doing nothing better than getting to work, increasing the need and expense for maintenance. I hate having to hurry home to get a parking spot on the south side of my street to avoid the risk of a parking ticket. I hate driving.

I used to ride the bus every day, from 10th and Main to 88th and State Line, and it took about 48 minutes. I absolutely loved it. I felt like I had my life back. I was losing weight, sleeping better, and saving money. I tried to bring that lifestyle back when I got my current job, and it just didn't work, because the KCATA, God bless them, just can't get the hang of timing transfers. My one-way commute went from 35 minutes by car to Leavenworth, to 75 minutes without leaving the city limits.

I have decided that I'm tired enough of the way it is now to try something new. Starting today, I'm going to start leaving my car in Brookside every night(except perhaps on weekends), and take the #51 to and from 63rd and Ward Parkway. I liked life in 2003 and 2004 when I rode the bus to work. I want it to be that way again, even if it means still driving a little. Driving less, while not perfect, is still an improvement. This is the best idea I can think of, so I'm exicted to give it a test run today.

That is, until I can find a job closer to home.

4:56 PM, Jul 22, 2008

1 comment »»
Transit Validation

I left the office at almost exactly 5pm, and found a parking spot by the curb in a posh neighborhood about a block from the bus stop at 63rd and Ward Parkway. I wonder if there are any legal implications with leaving my car in front of a wealthy person's house overnight. I would guess that such people would have an itchy dialing finger for claiming "OMG abandoned car" to the police.

Also, my car sticks out like a sore thumb on that street. There wasn't a single other car parked anywhere on the curb. It made me think that maybe it wasn't a legal parking spot. But as I walked to the bus stop, there was a sign that denoted that from there to the end of the street, no parking was allowed. So I have to assume that my car being well short of that sign is legally parked. Even so, I'm still a little worried about NIMBY residents getting upset about my dusty car occupying "their" street.

That aside, the bus commute was marvelous. Literally three minutes passed between the time that I walked from my parked car to the bus stop and the time when the bus rolled up and swung its doors open at me. I cheerily climbed aboard, swiped the pass for which I've been paying for almost two years, plopped myself into a springy seat, and bounced my way north in air-conditioned comfort.

I got off about three blocks from my house, and without having to work up any real resolve, went to bed earlier than I have in probably a year. I left the house at 8am after a leisurely shower, to catch the 8:24 bus at the transit plaza. It takes me maybe eight or nine minutes to walk there, so I stopped at a coffee shop right around the corner from my place that I didn't know was open. I picked up a microscopic plastic bottle of orange juice for $1.65, and drank it as I waited for the bus.

I may have to be a little less choosy with the route I take in the morning, because the 51 got me to my car in time for me to get to my desk at about 9:15am. That's alright for an occasional occurrence, but not every day. Luckily, Brookside is a pretty popular area for north-south buses, so I'll be able to take my pick between the 51, the MAX and the 57. I watched two or three MAX buses and one 57 roll by before my 51 came along(right on time).

My car was exactly where I left it the previous day. I will reveal more revelations as they occur to me.

1:30 PM, Jul 23, 2008

1 comment »»
RSS Wonkiness

Apologies to anyone that subscribes to my RSS feed. I noticed today that there were some outstanding issues with validation and dating that needed to be fixed. With a little help from an online validation service, and a helpful coworker, the feed is working properly, apparently for the first time ever.

3:30 PM, Jul 23, 2008

3 comments »»
Nancy Evans Kelly

I woke up feeling wretched from too little sleep and too much beer. When I was riding the 57 down to Brookside I looked up at the red flashing marquee on a passing bank, and noticed the date: July 24th. It occurred to me right then that my mother would be sixty years old today, if she was still alive. I got a little choked up right there on the bus at the realization. An incurable cancer killed her ten years ago in April.

When I think about her face, it feels like yesterday that she was telling me as I stood on the running board of the van in the winter of 1990 on the paper route that it was 23 degrees below zero. Only yesterday that she hugged my tears away when I was convinced that there was nothing about me that anybody would ever like, and reassured me that I was lovable, interesting, and funny.

But it's been ten years. It's difficult to know how to feel. Even now it seems amazing that I really never will see her again in my life. It's also amazing to me that I've now been without my mother for fully one third of my life. She was a remarkable woman. She touched so many lives in her forty-nine years that there were people standing in the aisles at St. Thomas Church in Peoria Heights for her funeral. I was only nineteen years old when she died, and I wasn't damned well ready to lose her yet. I still had a lot of growing up to do, and no mother to see to it that I didn't go astray.

I was forced to carry on alone, as there was nobody else in my family- immediate or extended -with whom I had that connection, and there never would be again. I've made a lot of mistakes since then, but I've tried hard to be the man she was trying to raise. I like to think that she'd be proud of me, but I suppose I'll never know. I guess that's the nature of death. All I can do is keep trying, and use the feedback of those that I love and that love me back to set the bar.

I get like this every couple of years. I suppose I just really miss my mom.

2:19 PM, Jul 24, 2008

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