Gobbles of Gratitude

Gratitude List

Gratitude is such an important part of a fulfilling life. I decided to do a “Gratitude Challenge” over on Facebook where I posted one thing per day that I was grateful for. The list includes things that are seemingly trivial and also broad sweeping. The entire list is below. I hope you all enjoy.

Gratitude Day One: My Apartment. I moved in about a year ago and love the way the space came together. It’s in my favorite neighborhood (Hyde Park) and for the most part I won the neighbor lottery.

Gratitude Day Two: My Neighborhood. I’ve been a Hyde Parker for six years and I’m in love this neighborhood. Centrally located with a rich sense of history and community, it’s eclectic and alive in all the right ways.

Gratitude Day Three: The KC Performing Arts Scene. Between the Rep, Unicorn, Lyric, Arts Asylum and countless other community theaters too numerous to name, I feel truly fortunate to be able to take in so many wonderful live performances on a regular basis. And on this one in particular, a huge shout out to my dear friend Greg Morey for being my guide through all of it.

Gratitude Day Four: My Neti Pot. I’m not kidding, especially since I’ve been battling a small head cold this weekend. The device truly is magical when it comes to clearing the sinuses. And it only feels a little like drowning.

Gratitude Day Five: My Streaming Services. Anyone that knows me knows I love television, perhaps to the point of obsession. We are living in the platinum age of television. And with so many streaming options there is no danger of ever running out of content. Truly a good first world problem to have.

Gratitude Day Six: Gorgeous Fall Days. I know some of the weather changes have been *ahem* violent, but we really have had some great 50-60 degree days where it’s perfect to spend time outside and take in the crisp air and gorgeous colors.

Gratitude Day Seven: My Cell Phone. Don’t judge. I’m just saying what we are all thinking. My phone was stolen recently, but fortunately I had insurance, and was only without for a day or two. It’s scary how much we rely on these things. I don’t deny that as a society we spend way too much time on them, but they are vital in the current climate and I love the connectivity and convenience they offer.

Gratitude Day Eight: Face Time with Friends. As great as parts of the digital age are, nothing replaces time spent with friends in person. It doesn’t matter if it’s watching a game, taking in a show, or just grabbing a drink and catching up. It almost always ends up being cathartic.

Gratitude Day Nine: My Laptop. This device is my gateway to writing, editing, posting, recording and staying organized. Although I could live without it (in theory), I couldn’t pursue my dreams without it.

Gratitude Day Ten: Our Library System. I read and listen to a lot of books, which would be impossible if had to pay for them all. The library system, and its digital app Overdrive, give me an opportunity to borrow books for free to fuel this hobby. Our library systems are a tremendous community resource that we should all be utilizing.

Gratitude Day Eleven: My Kindle. I will always love actual books, but my kindle can deliver me any book I want at any time, and I am not the world’s most patient man. It is a wonderful device for consuming books, comics and saved articles.

Gratitude Day Twelve: Chore and Errand Days. Yeah, I know how that sounds, but hear me out. There is something rewarding about knocking all the adulting shit off a to-do list in a day. It also gives me a chance to be productive AND jam out to a book, podcast or TV. And I honestly don’t mind cooking and laundry (I’m a domesticated man ladies).

Gratitude Day Thirteen: The Podcasting Community. As a sometimes writer/producer (I promise I am getting back to it) and a carnivorous consumer, this is an endless medium that can do storytelling (fiction, non-fiction and everything in-between) like no other medium.

Gratitude Day Fourteen: My City. I love being a Kansas City Native. I love our rich history, our beauty and all the kind and engaging attitudes that us Midwesterners tend to possess. The city is so eclectic and energized that there are always new and wonderful things to experience.

Gratitude Day Fifteen: Sunday Morning Coffee. Sundays are MY day. I rarely, if ever, go into them with any plans. I get everything I need done (mostly) during the rest of the week, making Sunday Mornings, with no to-dos or social obligations, one of my most tranquil weekly rituals.

Gratitude Day Sixteen: Pajamas. Laugh all you want. Pajamas were sent here by the Gods of Comfort. I almost always change into them immediately when I get home. That being said, don’t ever wear them out in public. That shit is just creepy.

Gratitude Day Seventeen: Blackout Curtains. I have east facing windows that overlook my building’s parking lot (and the security lights that go with it). These curtains are a godsend both on mornings I don’t wake up with the sun and nights when it blocks out the parking lot lights. I only regret waiting so long to get them.

Gratitude Day Eighteen: Good Food. Either when I cook it (I love to cook, I’m decent), friends cook it (a lot of my friends have serious culinary skills), or at one of the many great restaurants Kansas City has to offer. Life is meant to be experienced vibrantly and with all five senses. And taste is one of those.

Gratitude Day Nineteen: The Trail Running Community. Kansas City has some wonderful trails and a fantastic trail running community to go with it. The camaraderie in the community is always encouraging and is responsible for several great friendships I have forged over the years. And there is still nothing like a trail race day atmosphere.

Gratitude Day Twenty: Social Media. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of trolls and nastiness to go around. But that is why the gods of the internet created the scroll button. Just like any tool, when social media is used right it can be a great way to stay connected with people you don’t talk to frequently and connect with people that share your passions and interests.

Gratitude Day Twenty-One: Rekindled and New Friendships. I’m fortunate in friends always, and I’ll be getting to that, but I have also been fortunate to be able to rekindle old friendships and forge new ones in recent years. My inner circle is tight, my friend circle is bountiful, and there is always room for more.

Gratitude Day Twenty-Two: My Car. Kansas City covers a lot of ground. And although our mass transit system has come a long way, it is far from perfect. Oh yeah, and I do some driving for Uber. I’d be lost without my personal little engine that could.

Gratitude Day Twenty-Three: My Five Senses. Life is meant to be engaged by all five senses. From the smell of someone grilling in the neighborhood, to the sound of a beautiful piece of music, to the taste of a medium rare steak, to the sight of poetry in motion, to the soft touch of…oh Jesus get your mind out of the gutter. Life is meant to be experienced on all levels. My senses allow me to do that.

Gratitude Day Twenty-Four: Being a part of the Royals/Chiefs/Mizzou Kingdoms. And I am saying this at a time when my teams are all struggling. There is a camaraderie that comes with fandom that comes from pride in your team, even if it only manifests as loyalty during the down times.

Gratitude Day Twenty-Five: Words. Yep, simply words. I love the written and spoken word. I love writing words. I love reading or hearing a good phrase. I love it all. Dear God, I sound like an English Major…Oh wait.

Gratitude Day Twenty-Six: Once in a Lifetime Experiences. The examples that come immediately to mind are being at the stadium for Saberhagen’s no-hitter in 1991, the Royals Wild Card Game in 2014, being at the AFC Championship Game in 1993 and being on stage with Chuck Palahniuk (my favorite author) in 2015.

Gratitude Day Twenty-Seven: The Rich and Complex History and Present of Our Nation. I’ll be the first to admit that our current state could be described in some ways as a shitshow. However, we are a nation that stole democracy from a hierarchy, had a heavy hand in saving the world from fascism in WWII and put a man on the moon. Despite our struggles, every day I find reasons to believe there is still greatness within us.

Gratitude Day Twenty-Eight: My Friends. I saved this for Thanksgiving because it’s the one that matters most. My friends mean everything to me, which is why they are represented so often on this gratitude list. I am truly fortunate to have so many great people, from all walks of life, as part of my tribe. I am a better man for knowing each of you. Here is to you all. Gobble Gobble MFers.

Gratitude Day Twenty-Nine: My best friend Katie Beisner. It’s also her birthday today, so you should give some props if you want. This woman has been my ride or die for seventeen years. I love my inner circle, and all my friends. But Katie and I have fought wars together, and I can’t imagine navigating this thing called life without her in my corner. Happy Birthday bestie!

Gratitude Day Thirty: What’s Next. There is so much more we don’t know about our lives as they continuously unfold. And I look forward to the next steps of the journey.

Moving Backward and Forward

moving sucks

I’m sure most of you have pined after me, wondering where I went and when I was coming back. Or if I was the guy who left to get a pack of cigarettes never to return. Well, I’m back, and I’ve missed you at least twice as much as you’ve missed me. I’m back and writing to you from a new location. I moved at the end of 2018, which was an opportunity for both convolution and introspection.

There are a lot of great things to be mined from the process of moving, and I’ll be getting to those in this tale. But let me be clear about something first.

Moving. Fucking. Sucks.

You have to pack shit. And trash shit. Then haul shit. To unload and store shit. Then haul shit again. Then unpack shit. Then buy shit. This is the very definition of a shit show.

But I get ahead of myself. Before the packing shit, there was the notification that my lease was not being renewed at the apartment I’d called home for five years. I was notified by email, along with everyone else in my complex.  My landlord decided it was time for him to upgrade the entire set of buildings and double the rent. I don’t blame him, even if I do think “double” is a little ambitious.

The only thing worse than moving is moving when it isn’t your choice. I loved my apartment, and all its quirks. I loved my neighbors, and all of their quirks. I loved cheap rent that hadn’t increased in five years.

I wanted to be proactive, so I set to the packing of shit early on. I started with the back of the closets, where the stuff I forgot I had and never used took up residence. I was merciless in my rulings of what got to go with me, and what was sentenced to the curb.

My gavel and I loomed over the rest of my possessions as the packing of shit continued. Most of the furniture I owned was well past its expiration date. It was also very heavy, and not worthy of reaching the hauling shit phase. The lumpy 25-year-old bed, kicked to hell dining table, and built in the stone age dresser went to death row.

Then there was the couch. A couch that had been rode hard and put away wet every day for 20 years. A couch so tattered and torn that it had to be smothered in slip covers and blankets to prevent anyone using it from being scratched to the point of needing stitches. A couch that had been referred to as “Iron Maiden,” “Demon Couch,” and “Venus Fly Trap” by those unfortunate souls subjected to it.

I hauled that fucker out to the curb myself the day I moved and had to resist the urge to light it on fire.

Speaking of flames, a few things added fuel to this particular fire at this point. Through a set of circumstances way too complicated and interlaced to try to get into, it turned out that I was going to be without a home for a month. My old lease ended in October. The new one didn’t start until December. This technically rendered me homeless.

But I’m me and I have kick ass friends. I actually house sat for one friend for a week and stayed a few extra days before couch surfing to the Tyndall house to await moving day. I had a great time at both places and love all these friends dearly for taking me in. I truly am fortunate for the people I have in my life. Plus, I got a lot of doggie snuggles. And who doesn’t like doggie snuggles.

That being said, being in the space between homes leaves you feeling discombobulated. All your routines are jumbled, and you have a constant feeling of being slightly off-balance.

That was never more apparent to me than in my writing. I wrote virtually nothing while I was packing. The working, packing, and feeling of exhaustion that went with those took up most of my time. When I was staying with friends, I did write, but it was all garbage (part of it could be I was giving one of my novel ideas, Sins of a Smaller God another go, and although the premise has legs, the path to get there is elusive). Always one to look for silver linings, I embraced spending time with friends and taking stock of routines and the things I wanted to change, tweak and add in my new place. I also learned a few new tricks as a result of observing my friends in their natural habitat.

Moving day finally came and I managed to get all my shit (what I had left) hauled up into my new place (except for the newly acquired bed, I didn’t get that until the next day) and quickly set to unpacking my new space and making it feel like a home. A home vacant of furniture, cavernous and dead inside. But still mine.

I started with the essentials, getting the internet up and running so that I could watch TV. Priorities.

And that’s when the power went out. In the building. On the block. Through the neighborhood. Navigating the halls of a building you don’t know in the dark to drive through a neighborhood with no streetlights. There’s a horror story there that I need to write. Because it was fucking creepy.

Since I had thrown out most of my shit, unpacking didn’t take too long. And unpacking what I had planted the seeds of feeling settled. It also gave me an opportunity to honestly assess what I needed to turn my apartment into a home, which became an interesting exercise.

Did you know you really can find anything on Amazon? Anything. My fully furnished apartment (complete with couch, dining table and wall mounted flat screen) is proof of that.

I threw out my battered and broken stuff knowing it would force a fresh solution for a new home, and it is very evident that I made the exact right call.

And it was cathartic to see this apartment become a home as these things came in, got assembled, and put in their place. I started to feel more and more settled in with each passing day.

Of course the last piece to arrive was the couch. Because of course it was. It had a very broad expected delivery date. It actually arrived on Christmas Eve.

Before you go thinking that this is some Hallmark movie shit, you should understand a couple of things. First, I fucking hate Christmas with a fury rivaling God’s own thunder. This was not a Christmas miracle, this was shipping logistics. Second, I had a friend coming in town that night, and I barely got this fucking thing put together before he arrived.

That being said, it is glorious and wonderful and I am writing this from the comfort of the increasingly broke in chaise of the sectional. I have a feeling that this chaise is gonna see a lot of reading and writing time moving forward.

This apartment is the perfect blend of cozy and spacious. It feels good to be home. And it feels good to be back.

Performances on the Plains

Kauffman Center

Last week I had the opportunity to see The Barber of Seville, which was the final show in the 2017-2018 season for the Lyric Opera. I was once again reminded of how vibrant the Kansas City performing arts scene is and how fortunate we are to have access to so much quality. If you aren’t taking in some of these wonderful performances, you are doing yourself a disservice.

About five years ago I started to develop a deeper interest in the performing arts, but I had no idea where to start. So I went to my good friend Greg and asked him to teach me, and we’ve been going to shows together ever since. Over the past several years, I have taken in countless performance, particularly at the KC Rep, Unicorn Theater and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. As with every other form of creative content, I was amazed at how vast and diverse this medium was. I have also gotten to see the amazing level of creative talent we have in this community and the level of talent we are able to bring in.

There is something unique about taking in the performing arts, you are sharing air and space with the actors, which makes you a part of the work itself. No other medium offers that direct of a connection.

This season at KC Rep was one of the best in recent memory, which is saying something considering the have all been great. It kicked off with Between the Lines, which is Broadway bound and has music that can blow the doors right out of the theater and took on the Tony Award winning A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (which was based on an award-winning book), a play that examines autism in a unique way, a prospect as difficult as it is rewarding. And in between I had Sex with Strangers, built Fences and a Demon Barber named Sweeney Todd offered me a haircut.

Although I only went to two of the four operas the Lyric offered this year, The Barber of Seville instantly became a favorite. And their 2018-2019 season looks incredible to the point where my friend and I are getting season tickets. This is in part due to their season opener, West Side Story, which will almost certainly sell out. Plus saying that I have “season tickets to the opera” makes me sound much more fancy than I actually am.

And if you are looking for edgy, look no further than the Unicorn, whose tag line is “Bold New Plays.” In recent years I have seen plays about a dystopic future where the Simpsons are worshipped as Gods, to a play challenging the ideas of race and racism in very darkly comedic ways, to modern re-imaginings of classics such as The Seagull. They are also dedicated to making quality theater affordable to everyone by offering special “pay what you can nights” for each show.

These are just the main three venues I frequent, there are countless others around town including the Just Off Broadway theater, Starlight and the annual Shakespeare in the Park Festival which I have seen each of the past 15 years.

If you haven’t yet taken in some of these wonderful performances, then you really haven’t realized why we are called the Paris of the Plains.

 

Mummies Aren’t Made of Toilet Paper

Mummy

I learned something this weekend, mummies in fact are not made of toilet paper. Okay, I may have already known that particular one. I had an opportunity to go see a lecture on mummies and then the exhibit at Union Station this weekend, and it was pretty amazing. The exhibit contained a significant number of visually striking samples blended with easily digestible information. Also, I learned that rich people in Victorian times used to by mummies to unwrap at parties, which is a good indication that board games hadn’t been invented yet.

Union Station has a pretty solid reputation of bringing in quality exhibits, and this one continues this trend. You have until the end of the year if you haven’t taken the opportunity yet.

Saturday also served as a good reminder of how cool my city is, and the amazing things that it has to offer. Kansas City is a hotbed of culture if you know where to look. Even if you don’t it isn’t hard to find, or even stumble into blindly. A complete list of opportunities and options would be impossible to compile, but there’s something for everyone.

We boast world renowned museums such as the Nelson-Atkins and the World War I Museum (the only one in the US) as well as the Truman Library. The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is considered a world class facility while the Music Hall continuously brings Broadway shows to the City. Speaking of Broadway, I recently saw a musical at the KC Rep that a number of people (who know much more than I do about such things) believe will end up there.

And those are just the broad strokes. Music and culture festivals, smaller museums and venues highlighting local history and artists. As an aspiring writer, I am constantly inspired by the culture an energy of my surroundings, and I’ll take all the opportunities to explore that I can find.