A few months before the world got gangbanged by the four horsemen, I made a pilgrimage to Chicago to visit my best friend. This glorious trip kicked off with a luxurious dinner at an authentic Chicago steak house and tickets to Hamilton. The adventure went on to include authentic Chicago hot dogs, a tour of the world-renowned Chicago Institute of Art, an evening at a Die Hard Pop Up Bar, a Ghosts and Gangsters tour and a the best crustless pizza I’ve ever tasted. Sprinkled with the kinds of debauchery and comfortable conversations only best friends can get into
During that trip I had lunch with a fraternity brother who had recently moved there and described 2019 as his “year of the yes.” He took every opportunity to try something new. And he came out of 2019 with a slew of new and wonderful experiences and memories.
I came home revitalized, rejuvenated, and with the realization that I had a lot of exploring of my own to do. There are so many wonderful places and events in my city that I have either never experienced, or it’s been years since I’ve taken the opportunity. There are scores of recipes saved but uncooked. And although I am a carnivorous consumer of all things content, there is still a fucking ocean out there waiting to be discovered.
I realized I had settled into comfortable routines and had become content with the familiar.
I resolved myself to change all that in 2020. I was going to become an explorer. Then we packed a decade’s worth of bullshit into a shitstorm of a year, and it all fell to crap. So I am recycling and repurposing my goal into 2021. I’m going to become an explorer, like Magellan or Cortez only without all the killing and pillaging.
The first steps of my journey came in the kitchen.
I love meat. As a growing Midwestern manchild, meat is the foundation of my diet. Veggies are fantastic, meat’s faithful sidekick has a place on my plate. But making a meal with them centerstage? Who would do this to themselves on purpose? That kind of thinking is why Meatless Mondays are one of the ways I am going to expand my culinary horizons. I made it easy on myself for this first week and made Black Bean Enchiladas.
Cooking this almost felt like cheating. Mix up some black beans, corn, chunky salsa, shredded Colby/jack cheese, and enchilada sauce. Stuff that shit into some tortillas. Top with some more cheese, sauce, black olives, and green onions. Toss it in the oven and relax while the cheese melts.
If vegetarian dishes were are all this tasty, I just may restrain my inner carnivore a little more often.
I’m also going to break out of my slate of go to recipes by trying one new dish a week. My leadoff hitter was an Instant Pot Clam Chowder that had been on my “recipes to try” list since I got my Instant Pot a couple years back. Although there are tons of recipes on that list, there is a particular reason I was as gun shy as an angsty teen trying to get to second base for the first time.
When I was a twentysomething idiot first teaching myself how to cook, clam chowder was one of the first things I tried. It’s one of my favorite soups and it didn’t look overly complicated. I was hosting a dinner party and I wanted to impress my friends. The odds were forever in my favor.
One problem, I didn’t quite have all the cooking terminology down. Specifically, I didn’t know the difference between a clove and a bulb. This recipe called for five cloves of garlic. Do you have any idea how fucking long it takes to mince five bulbs of garlic by hand? How much stupid it takes to not realize how excessive that was? The fucking smell alone should have been enough to set me straight. But I am as bullheaded as the rest of my taurus brethren and I soldiered on. Even through the blurry eyes, runny nose, and carpal tunnel I trudged through to the bitter end.
Then, bless my heart, I tossed it in a pan and cooked until fragrant.
Have you ever wondered what Satan’s asshole tastes like?
We ended up ordering pizza. I was never allowed to cook for them again.
Thankfully, my second attempt went much better, and not just because that was a low bar to clear. Aided by my trusty Instant Pot, it had a made from scratch taste when all I really did outside of a bit of sautéing and chopping was toss a bunch of ingredients into the pot and let the device to the work.
Timing was key in terms of when to release the pressure and not let the dish boil once adding the half and half. Much easier than mincing five fucking bulbs of garlic. Sprinkle in some oyster crackers and it was practically a meal of its own even without the tuna melt I made to go with it. I spent my Saturday night satiated, fat, dumb and happy.
Home cooked food is wonderful and satisfying, but I could hardly call myself an explorer if all my quests took place in the house.
I decided to cap off a productive week with a late lunch at Café Sebastienne which is housed in the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art both of which had been off my radar screen for way too long.
It had been so long that I had forgotten that everything was locally sourced and that it was relatively inexpensive and high quality. The bulk of the restaurant sits under an expansive skylight, and the space is so open it almost feels like you are dining outside. But the setting is only as good as the food it accompanies.
Until the moment I saw it on the menu, I had no idea that the deliciousness that is duck pastrami was a thing that existed. Now I do and I am forever changed. My sandwich was piled high with that heavenly meat, gruyere cheese, dill pickled carrot, and slathered with whole grain mustard aioli on marble rye. I had to stifle the NSFW moans that would have loudly announced my foodgasm to the world.
Afterward, I walked off that sandwich with a stroll through the museum. As Kansas Citians we cultivate and encourage a vibrant arts scene. And there is no shortage of wonderful culture to take in. Before the world shut down, I was an enthusiastic patron of the performing arts and travelling exhibits, but had not paid much attention to our standing attractions. I look forward to changing that over the course of this journey. This was an interesting place for me to start, because to be honest, contemporary art is not my strong suit. I struggle to understand it more than I do other eras and artists.
Two exhibits in particular spoke to me. Dawoud Bey’s Night Coming Tenderly, Black, a series of modern photographs reimagining the last sites along the Underground Railroad at twilight. The photos and setting were striking to take in, especially considering the current state of the world. Combining black and white photography with these settings at dusk drew a crisp conflict embraced by an eerie tranquility. It was profound to view such an era of our history through that lens.
I also thoroughly enjoyed Elias Sime’s Tightrope, in which the artist uses repurposed electronics to create his pieces. The themes of how wasteful and disconnected we have become as a society leapt off the work in ways ranging from subtle to overt. In a culture where social media is the new god and keyboard courage has replaced human interaction it was a surreal exhibit to take in, especially in light of the events currently plaguing our nation.
A walk through the museum was probably not enough to walk off all that food, so at some point my journey had to put me on a running path.
I’ve been inconsistent with my running lately and it definitely shows. Reasons range from laziness (my fault) and what I think might be COVID long hauler symptoms (not my fault). Not to mention wind chill that turns your dicky-do into a dicky-don’t sucks balls. That is not a legitimate excuse, especially for someone who took pride in being an ultramarathoner. I am making it a point to get back at it, even if slow and steady must win the race for a while.
Although trail running is where my heart is, road running is a part of life. One of the best ways to spice up the pavement pounding is to get away from the neighborhood routes and to different parts of the city.
My favorite off the beaten path pavement route is Cliff Drive. As one of only five scenic byways in Missouri, it’s a gorgeous, tranquil, and as the name suggests scenic route in Kansas City’s Historic Northeast. The best part is that it’s closed to all vehicle traffic. It had been awhile, so I decided to take a jaunt down there and let my mind get lost in the cliffs and the curves.
However, it had snowed recently and I forgot that no cars means no plows and the cliffs mean no direct sunlight. This was not one of my brightest moments. This was a “did you eat paint chips as a kid” moment. So, I’m just going to brag about how I traversed the treacherous terrain. Because that sounds way cooler than “I managed to not fall on my ass.”
No weekly journey in my life is complete without my weekly worship at the altar of God Content.
For all my viewing, I am way behind on movies. My screen time gravitates heavily toward television. I loathe movie theaters and renting. Instead, I wait for the movies to find their way into the orbit of one of my eight-seven streaming services. And then I ignore them until they go away and wait for them to come back again.
Not today Satan. Or more accurately, not on Saturday, Satan.
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood finally found its way to my screen. I love everything that Quentin Tarantino has ever written, and I stayed up past my bedtime devouring every moment of that movie.
I mean, where else are you going to see Tyler Durden beat the fuck out of Bruce Lee while closing with Leonardo DiCaprio reuniting with Margot Robbie. I submit that this shit only happens in a universe where Sharon Tate doesn’t die.
And of course, my eyeballs had to dance along the pages of a book for my week to feel complete.
My reading list grows faster than I could ever possibly read, such is the albatross worn by bookworms everywhere. There is whole god damn sea of books out there that I am never going to get to. I spent the better part of 2020 being Kindle Unlimited’s bitch when it came to reading. That’s not where a reader needs to live. It’s time to get back to the literary universe as a whole. And I’m kicking that off with a comic book.
The Hellblazer series has been on my list since forever. To a nerd who loves dark urban fantasy like me, the tails of cursed antihero and mystic John Constantine promises to be a wild ride. Throw in the fact the character was created by batshit crazy comic book god Alan Moore and with runs by greats such as Garth Ennis, Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison this promises to be the dark and dirty kind of fun.
I haven’t done everything yet, but it’s on my list.
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