Plenty Ladylike?

United States Senator Claire McCaskill was in town a few weeks ago. While she currently makes her permanent home in the St. Louis area she spent time in the Kansas City area in the ’80’s and ’90s. Presumably as a consistently upward progressing professional she maintains several relationships in KC. When I learned she was scheduled to make a public appearance I took a look at schedules and decided we could make it.

Anxiously I emailed the organizer as they sounded quite certain the venue may be stretched to accommodate attendees. While reservations were not required—it was suggested they be notified so we did.

I had never been to the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library–a travesty considering it’s less than a 25 minute drive. We pulled into the parking lot around thirty minutes prior to Sen. McCaskill’s appearance. She was in town as part of a book tour–Plenty Ladylike–presumably planning to ramp up sales amongst friends to help show high numbers to her publisher. Simply a presumption. Independence, Missouri is not particularly a gem in the greater Kansas City MSA. In fact; many parts of it are rather tattered looking. Back in the days of Truman and the influence of the Pendergast Machine I’d suspect it was a bustling metropolitan area; not so much anymore. Over one of the many hills of Independence Avenue the library complex appears almost out of place. A few acres of green grass and parking asphalt were a welcome break from the miles of strip malls and dated homes. Dated; not charming, classic, historic or historical; just dated.

We pulled into the nearly empty lot and immediately shifted our thinking from a dynamic, packed crowd of groupies, fans and political wonks to our upcoming time with a handful of retirees, close friends staff.  We were spot on.

President Truman’s Library retains an aura of prestige in spite of its age and relatively pedestrian locale. Timeless stone with crisp lines, plenty of green-space including a sizable courtyard that also serves as a gravesite. Naturally the gift shop (read as steady revenue stream) directly inside. Perhaps more on the library and museum at a later time. For now it was down the hall to the mid-sized theater room–perhaps room for 250. In line with our thinking as we pulled into the parking lot we stood out amongst the blue-hairs, personal friends and staffers. All couple-of-hands-full of them. Twenty-five, thirty tops. Disappointing to say the least. Were I in the position of Sen. McCaskill’s assistant I’d have been preparing myself for a tongue lashing. Surely a sitting United States Senator making an appearance in a metropolitan area of nearly 2.4 million one could expect more than a couple dozen attendees on a pleasant Fall weekend afternoon.

Seats aplenty we chose the middle of about the fourth row back. Perfect. Details of the presentation can largely be obtained from her book, Plenty Ladylike. In fact our host, the library events director stated as much. He pulled questions and topics directly from the publication–after all this was essentially a book tour–and the Senator responded largely in line with the book.  Clearly she has friends, enemies and frenemies; per the book she makes and leaves an impression. Seems one would know how one stands with her after an interaction. I liked her–she’s tough, opinionated and principled. All of which earned through a lifetime of political wars and a fairly well-off upbringing.

Event @ Truman Library
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill @ Truman Library

I was saddened for our time to come to a close. Being suckers for this sort of thing of course we wanted a signed copy of her book. I’m not much for standing in line…..short as it may have been…..so I took an abbreviated tour of the library as Ames jumped in line. True to form the Senator was short on small-talk; it was all business and quickly conducted at that. Worth the time? Absolutely. It’s added to my list of similar events I’ll take with me.

Leukopenia. HIV. Autoimmune disorders. Bone marrow disorders/damage. Lymphoma. Severe infections. Liver and spleen diseases.  Lupus. Radiation therapy.

Rather unpleasant sounding, all of them, I’d say. For the second time in a year I’ve scored a low white blood cell (WBC) count–Leukopenia. The rest of them are common (but not all) conditions associated with a low WBC. None of which I’d rather have over the others. Some of which I know I cannot possess: radiation therapy and severe infections. In thoroughly researching this the last go-around (several months ago) I self-diagnosed myself as having none of them—to be fully exonerated when my retest  came back just over the OK lower limit per my physician’s guidelines.

I had a grandparent who was a bit of a hypochondriac. At least the way I remember it—I was a mid-teen when it was time for the nursing home so it’s a bit of stretch to recall details.  An infection sounds about right. Maybe early onset liver disease—after all I’ve consumed my share of alcohol. Autoimmune disorders. Now we’re talking. After all I’ve had a total of a dozen injections and seemingly endless tests in an effort to diagnose the pain and swelling in my arms and wrists. And my knees have been problematic for years. Fatigue, joint-pain, malaise. Check, check, check.

Death doesn’t bother me. Dying does. Watching the aging of my siblings and parents has been rather troubling. Unfortunately none of them takes particularly good care of themselves—surely they all must feel worse than I do. Have worse scores than I do. Why don’t I hear from them? In fact my parents seem convinced they’ll live forever. Well into their latter 70’s and early 80’s it seems they’re busier than 10-15 years ago. Maybe I do have something very specific to me–apart from any familial chain.

Stopping in my coffee shop after an easy run this morning the last thing on my mind was low WBC. Royals baseball, my paint store order and a quality cup of coffee were first on my mind. Five more weeks. Five more weeks before I’m allowed to have my arm re-pricked by the lab. Five and one-half weeks before I score either two of four or three of four low WBC. Let the distractions begin……

……when love came to town

Blues never really interested me. All I know about it is B.B. King’s collaboration with U2 in the ’80s. Learning of his death immediately thrust me back to a time I heard that song (When Love Comes To Town — circa 1988) a thousand times. Playing city league sand volleyball, drinking tomato and ice-bagged beer at every outdoor patio we could find. When we couldn’t find one making it up in our apartments. Playing music on  oversized floor speakers and underpriced jukeboxes as loud and often as possible. Cycling through roommates and dates as often as the turnstile rotated the most popular ride on opening day. Little seemed to matter.

Future plans not discussed. Why bother? Career advancement didn’t matter. We were young, we had good jobs and cash to cover. We had countless friends and overbooked social calendars. Nothing else mattered. Until it did.

‘….I was in a juke joint when I heard a guitar scream

notes were turning blue; I was dazed and in a dream

as the music played I saw my life turn around

that was the day before love comes to town….’

One by one guys started dropping back and dropping off. Worst case (according to us) was happening: gals looking to be exclusive and talk about ‘future plans’ and ‘where is this going’. I found myself with fewer options, more free time and a higher career care-factor. My remaining roommate still mattered; we still wasted untold amounts of time on the vice of the week and the music still drowned most options to overthink things. Until it didn’t. I found myself with an opportunity to get a  little ahead while my roommate found himself dialing back many things to the approval of his almost-fiancee. It was time to move—again.  B.B. King remains one of only two-three blues artists I can name and disappointingly only one of his songs comes to mind.

‘….when love comes to town I’m going to jump that train

when love comes to town I’m going to catch that flame…’

Love did come to town and I found my exit to start fresh. The name of B.B. King will always recall fond, if not fantastic, memories for me. B.B. King, RIP.

 

Please Say It Isn’t So

I had a full day today~~a rarity. Not an excuse but I turned down Broadway and within a block was in disbelief at what I saw. Broad daylight, rush hour, downtown urban setting and a guy is leisurely walking across the crosswalk against a full-on red light. No hurry, possibly even less self awareness. As traffic continued to roll on toward him–he continued to saunter across without hesitation.

Focusing solely on my driving should have been well, my focus. Yet I could not get my eyes off him. Traffic in both directions and he didn’t skip a beat. Nor did he skip. Simply walking. Embarrassingly instinctively I tossed out a couple words that grew into phrases. Before I could stop myself I’d threw out a string of unholy language that stunned even me. Some of it horribly judgmental and probably racist. But he simply gave no consideration for either his own safety or that of those around him. A complete middle finger toward societal norms. I can still taste my frustration, disbelief and even anger.

I’ve been a minority in multiple residential and workplace settings. Minority male, minority young, minority caucasian in brown and black majorities. Multiple times for multiple years. I really thought I had a unique perspective that provides a somewhat compassionate view. Disappointed is an understatement. As the day winds down I still find it difficult to believe how furious I was.

Setting a New Year’s resolution to forgo retail purchases now seems rather small-minded (at best) when it sounds as if addressing some personality flaws might have a more positive impact.

Purposeful

One of the descriptors of setting resolutions is –with purpose or purposeful–. Setting resolutions is an exercise in futility for most people; me among them. My shelves are plenty full of futile exercises; it’s unnecessary for me to chase down more. However, the effort in dreaming about a more perfect me surely cannot be all bad?

I’m joining a movement (since there’s a movement for everything) in a type of frugality for a year. I’ve pledged to make no clothing purchases for the year. I already have more of anything I could possibly want to tie-up, button-down, pull-over, hike-up or slip-on. What more could be needed? If I can keep one under aged, under paid Asian garment worker from threading a needle for me for a year I should do my part. I acknowledge I’ll indirectly break my pledge a few times throughout the year—with most run-event entries another damn shirt winds up stuffed in a bag and subsequently stored on a shelf. I’m still reconciling and since I’m actively in the market for a quilt-maker for most of my shirts I can live with it. Less livable will be sneaking socks and underwear out of my Ames’ drawers by November if we have an especially hot and humid summer resulting in full-scale disintegration of anything that touches my most gnarly parts. Here’s hoping for a mild Summer.

My second pledge will be to more vocally express opinions and thoughts. It’s about the only non-medicated form of reducing blood-pressure I have a reasonable chance at accomplishing. Bottling up too many things can have a cumulative (adverse) effect. Such as my conflicting confusion and disgust that I live in an area (Kansas–specifically) that requires a three day waiting period to purchase a marriage license….yet has a zero-day waiting period to purchase a firearm. Which of the two seems to be more likely to cause irreparable damage and destruction if purchased in the heat of the moment?

Vocalizing things such as that will help relieve some of the pressure build-up better ensuring yet another year as a 40+ male taking zero recurring medications. Of which I’m quite proud.

While I have a number of other lifestyle type areas to address and improve–it’s really only these two that’ll be attacked with purpose. On a regular and recurring basis I’ll deliver some sort of record of progress simply as a self-check. I already feel better–as if I’m helping make trax to a great new year……

AniMal

On Being a Newbie

It’s said kids are resilient. I’d serve as a decent case study. Between birth and 18 I moved around in the neighborhood of I suppose a dozen times. Mostly within a radius of 100 miles. Not Army brat or kid-of-a-coach numbers but respectable. Even more impressive to the case study point is that my moves were always a byproduct of being in a working-class dysfunctional, troubled family.

New neighbors, new friends, new classrooms, even new parental structures peppered the first decade of my life. I survived, perhaps even thrived? What I do know is the first ten years paved the way for the past twenty-five which has covered countless cities, towns, suburbs and neighborhoods spanning seven states.

Remaining solidly working-middle-class I’ve had limited opportunity to be a world traveler or a take-a-month-off backpacker. My opportunities have included dozens and dozens (and dozens) of long weekend trips within a drivable range of each new residence experiencing places I’d never have selected if I lived hundreds of miles away. Other opportunities include meeting new people at every turn; some who make recurring appearances as time moves forward.

Today I met another group at yet another Saturday morning running group meeting spot. This is the smallest of the last few groups (eight); a couple said it was due to the weekend, a couple said it was due to a run of out-of-town transfers over the past 12-18 months. That first round of handshakes and exchanges is always the most uncomfortable. After that it’s the all too familiar routine of sweat and stories. Apparently neither were terribly off-putting to my new group as it was almost assumed I’d join them for rounds of coffee immediately following. Hoping as much I’d brought a full change of clothes along with a big post-run drink so I’d be relatively smell-free and coherent after being put through my paces.

I like most of the challenges of being the new guy. Not all; but most. I’d like to think through the years of miles I’ve left each group with just a little more than I’ve taken from them. Here’s to fast-forwarding six months when the next guy comes along to take my place.