Gentlemanly Pursuits

Martin Luther King Day kicked this week off and I thought a run through Loose Park seemed a fitting place to start my journey. This park is responsible for my first double digit run on my way to my first half marathon way back in 2010. Yet with all that time I’ve never taken in the park for what it is, the site of the Battle of Westport, otherwise known as the Gettysburg of the West and considered one of, it not the, biggest Civil War battle west of the Mississippi.

It seemed fitting given the importance of Dr. King’s message and two days away from the inauguration of a President tasked with restoring sanity to a nation on the brink of what he has called an “uncivil war.”

But then weather and stupidity got involved.

I distinctively remember saying to myself, out loud, as I was putting on my new, never been worn running pants, that they seemed awfully thin. Drafty if that’s even a thing with pants. Then I decided that maybe they were just light weight but still warm.

God I’m a fucking moron.

Do you guys know what it’s like to wrap your nasty bits in nothing but tissue paper and let the wind wail on them while howling maniacally?

I wish I could tell you I took the time to let my senses take in the park in a whole new way. To see the battle, hear the cries of dying soldiers, and smell the gun smoke. That I really took the time to taste the history. In truth getting home and giving my balls the chance to come out of witness protection became my all-consuming goal.

Safely tucked back in the warmth of my apartment, it was time to combat the cold. I had never really seen the point in making soup from anything but a can unless all it involved was throwing shit in a crockpot and walking away. Until now. Inspired by my clam chowder redemption and a comment from my friend Sarina, I decided that minestrone soup from scratch with an honest to god grilled cheese sandwich was the perfect meatless dinner for a Midwestern Monday in January.

Starting with vegetable stock then packing it with crushed and diced tomatoes, veggies, beans, and pasta left me feeling hungry every step of the way. What’s that Campbell’s Chunky phrase? Soup that eats like a meal.

My tongue will never look at a can of soup the same way again.

Not even a soup that eats like a meal is complete without a two sliced sidekick. I slathered two pieces of bread with butter, smashed some gouda between them and let George Foreman work the body for five minutes. I am never going back to the way the peasants make grilled cheese with their puny little pans again.

My body hungered for more than food and the weather gods saw fit to provide my first trail run of 2021, in a little slice of woodland hidden right in the heart of the city. Swope is one of my favorite trails, tucked away from the chaos surrounding it, it has always been a convenient way to commune with Mother Nature within the confines of my urban jungle home.

Trail running is a great way to escape civilization even if for just a short time. The whispers of the woods and the feel of Mother Earth beneath my feet are soothing to the soul. It was a sunny late afternoon, and the shadows were getting long as twilight descended on the trail. A perfect end to a hard fought and hard-won day.

A good trail run leaves you the good kind of tired. The kind of tired that keeps you wanting more.

As a red-blooded American male, I am always on the hunt for red meat in all its glorious forms. Green Room is a small joint tucked away in the back of a building, at the bottom of a hill, in a parking lot for a strip mall. I had forgotten all about it until I remembered.

The sign of a good burger is when the juice is dripping down your chin, saturating your beard, and you don’t even care. Dragged through the garden and on the rare side of medium, I took that first bite, and I didn’t stop until I was done licking my fingers clean. All of them.  A handful of emptiness and a belly full of happy.

The perfection continued as I washed that gloriousness down with the best fucking root beer I’ve ever had in my life. It’s made by a kid in Bucyrus, Missouri and tasted like every root beer float from my childhood. The tears of an angel don’t taste this good.

Fueled up on red meat and root beer it was time for my walk through the ages of our ancestors.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is a national treasure. Literally. And it is located in my backyard. When the city’s forefathers built the museum in 1933, they built it both to last and to compete.

I’ve been to countless traveling exhibits over the years and was fortunate enough to se the KC Rep’s performance of Sundays in the Park with George hosted there. I even got to stroll through the main event itself with a dear friend before the world changed.

The first thing I noticed as I ascended the marble stairs was a Greek sculpture of a lion protecting and watching over the exhibits. It was originally sculpted to overlook a cemetery and the man who created the piece had in fact never seen an actual lion in his life, instead drawing from his knowledge of other animals, melding them with a description of the beast to create his cemetery sentinel.

There is poetry in what that says about art.

One of the things that struck me as I walked the hallowed halls was how eclectic the art selections were. Everything ranging from Egyptian, Chinese, and Indian artifacts dating back to a time before Christ to modern masterpieces that show inner depths that sometimes seem to leap off a page. And as a good Kansas City Boy I have always been partial to Kansas City’s own Thomas Hart Benton.

Vivid colors and imagery screamed while the nine roman muses whispered their secrets in my ears as the outside world raged on.

After my carnivorous lunch and lengthy stroll, I decided to turn to the sea for dinner. I love easy. I love quick. And the me that went eleven years without a dishwasher loved the idea of One Pan Shrimp Fajitas. Every time I cook shrimp I rediscover that peeling and deveining only takes a fraction of the time I think it will. One of these days I really need to stop rediscovering that and start remembering it. I’d probably eat a fuckload more shrimp.

The most time-consuming part, which took no time at all, was slicing up three different colored peppers and the red onion. To be honest I was skeptical about the need for all that color. I thought that it was more about plating than palate.  

And I was fucking wrong.

That rainbow colored masterpiece was all about flavor and a head fake at healthy after my cheeseburger from paradise. I was so hungry that once the pan was done, I slathered those things up with all the fixings and ate right there at the kitchen counter like a neanderthal.

Being single means you don’t have to be refined.

With my second food baby of the day gestating, it was time to settle in for a tale from across the pond.

I had no idea how much I missed Guy Ritchie doing Guy Ritchie things until I watched The Gentlemen. This was seriously his best effort since Snatch, which was one of the movies that defined college for me. We used to quote along with that movie while playing spades in a smoke-filled room. We wore that DVD out in an age before streaming took over the world.

As with most of his movies this was brilliantly cast with several actors almost unrecognizable compared to their traditional roles. Except Matthew McConaughey, who is always Matthew McConaughey. And Michelle Dockery is even more smoldering than she was in Good Behavior, which I didn’t know was possible.

It’s hard not to love a movie with lines like, “If you wish to be the king of the jungle, it’s not enough to act like a king. You must be the king. There can be no doubt. Because doubt causes chaos and one’s own demise.”

I have also always envied the Brits for their liberal use of the word cunt. Quite frankly we should do our best to emulate that in America, especially since we kept their language when we won the war.

After the movie it was time to curl up in bed with Chuck.

Every time I think I have a dark, fucked up mind, I just read something by my good friend Chuck Palahniuk and I no longer feel alone in my depravity. The Invention of Sound sucked me in until it’s last death rattle. A sadomasochistic woman who is addicted to pain and kills others in pursuit of a career creating unique screams for Hollywood producers and a grief-stricken father who hires hookers to pretend to be his long lost and (presumably dead) daughter are on twisted collision course in this instant classic that has shades of such wholesome fare as Invisible Monsters and Tell-All.

God I read some fucked up shit.

My third full week of exploring ended with the sculpture garden at the Nelson. A tankard of Mother Earth Coffee kept my warm as I walked the grounds of the building I had explored less than 24 hours before. As I strolled, taking in the signature shuttlecocks and artwork ranging from the abstract to the in your face, I contemplated one of the quotes lining the museum walls, “The soul has a greater need of the ideal than of the real. It is by the real that we exist. It is by the ideal that we live.”

The brick path is in fact responsible in part for my getting started running back in 2006. I used to spend hours running and walking lap after lap getting back in shape, taking in the vibrant expansive lawn. This was also back when iPods were bulky and cost prohibitive and eons before smartphones and Spotify would go on to render those obsolete.

Back then I had to soldier through with nothing but a no-skip discman, which only held up its end of the deal if you held it exactly right. Do you have any idea how ridiculous a man looks trying to hold a discman exactly right while running? My whole body shuddered at the memory. Smartphones and Spotify went straight to the top of my gratitude list.

Art has truth. Take refuge in thee.

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