“Am I here? You know it! It, you know!”

This week:

***

Howdy,

Welp, would you look at that? I’ve managed to forget all about this thing for another period of several weeks and thus, unless we’re actually close friends or we’re connected on either Facebook or Twitter, you may have thought I’m dead or something. If so, here’s some good news: I am not dead. I am alive, I am well and I am prospering. I’m very sorry if my assumed peril has left you crying yourself to sleep each night for the last few weeks. Trust that it wasn’t my intention. I’ll buy you a drink to ease the pain.

(Just kidding — I’m broke.)

Things have been going well, lately; so well, in fact, that I haven’t really had the time to sit down and write about them here. Plus, as I’ve mentioned before a few times during my last two summers, it’s a little difficult to conjure up the energy to do this after working all day. When I was younger, I never understood why my parents were always so tired whenever they came home. They’ve always worked hard at what they do, and I knew that, but it didn’t make sense that someone could be so exhausted after spending the majority of their day sitting at a desk. Once you finally get one of those big-boy jobs, you start to understand. When you get home, you just want to eat dinner and take a nap. That’s usually how my routine works during the week, and after that nap, I almost always would rather watch Netflix than do something that involves using my brain.

Sweet Jesus it got hot as fuck up here last week, though.

Screen Shot 2013-07-15 at 8.20.09 PM

Yeah, that’s pretty bad and what not, but what that forecast doesn’t show you is the accompanying humidity levels — anywhere from 50-70 percent each fucking day. It’s horrendous. Most buildings in the city have to abide strict energy regulations put forth by Con Edison — New York City’s equivalent of KC P&L — whenever a heat wave like this hits. In my building’s case, only one elevator was running up-and-down the building’s 17 floors. So, if I wanted to go downstairs, I’m had to wait about 5-10 minutes in a hot hallway before riding nuts-to-butts down a packed elevator with a dew point and scent much akin to that of an offensive lineman’s jockstrap during two-a-days. So, as you can imagine, I stayed upstairs with three fans — all turned on ‘high’ — pointed directly at my face.


So it’s been a few weeks since we last spoke, though, and I have some ground to cover. I’ll do my best to summarize.

draft

T.J. and I went to the NBA Draft a few weeks ago, which was a solid time. We were a little late getting there, but luckily we made it to our seats in time for the first pick. My mom was able to nail down a pair of tickets at work, and much to our surprise, they were in the Barclays Center’s club level. Had we known this, we would have likely dressed a bit nicer, but there we were: two drunk-ass KU fans wearing t-shirts and jerseys in seats that we obviously couldn’t afford. The people sitting around us were very cool, thankfully. I recapped the whole experience in the Kansan, so head on over there if you want to read more about that.

josh swade

I got a roommate that weekend, too. Well, a “suite-mate,” technically, but that term sounds a little too uppity for me. His name’s Romulo, and he’s from Brazil. He’s up here studying English at NYU during the summer and, though it’s hard to fully communicate because I can’t speak Portuguese, he’s a very cool guy and we’ve gotten along thus far. T.J. came down the week after Romulo moved in, and he brought one of his friends who he met while studying abroad in Peru. That guy is Brazilian as well, and since he spoke Portuguese, we had him talk to Romulo and convince him to come out to the bars with us. He obliged.

T.J.’s friend, who lives in Connecticut, knew a bunch of people who were at a birthday party on this rooftop in the Lower East Side, so we figured we’d start our night there. After hanging out with some people and drinking for a bit, T.J. turned and asked me, “Dude where’s your roommate?”

“Umm, I don’t know — he was with us just a second ago,” I replied.

We turned and looked around the rooftop. There were a lot of people up there, but it wasn’t packed. Within a few seconds, we saw him — he was over on the corner of the roof, making out with some random girl neither of us knew. Bear in mind, we had only been at this party for about 10 minutes, plus, he only had one beer before we left and is still learning English. He didn’t even know the girl, either. That’s beyond impressive. He stayed back with that girl — obviously — when we decided to leave for the bars, where we both ended up striking out. And we both speak English. There’s something about those Brazilians, man. The dude’s a legend.

10th street

The next day, Chad, one of our fraternity brothers, had been in New Jersey visiting relatives when he decided to come into the city for the Fourth of July. We had a good time, but we didn’t get too rowdy. After having a few beers at my place, we headed downtown to this outdoor beer garden right next to the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a cool place; the beer was pretty cheap — by NYC standards — and it was packed with a lot of college-aged people, which, surprisingly, you don’t see as often as you’d think out here. We (over) celebrated the holiday there.

WTC close up

We faced a dilemma in terms of places to crash that night, though: NYU has this bullshit rule where you’re only allowed to have five guests stay overnight per month. We had already blown through a few of those the night before and we needed to save a few for the night of the Jay-Z concert, so we decided we’d head back up to Stamford to stay at T.J.’s apartment. That train ride’s a pain in the ass after drinking all day, but it was nice to get out of the city for a bit and finally sleep in an air-conditioned room for the first time in six weeks.

hov show 1

The Jay-Z/Justin Timberlake show was far and away the best night of the summer, as I’m sure we all expected it to be. My good friend and roommate in Lawrence, Greg, finished up his internship in Kansas City that week and flew back out here — where he’s from — on Friday morning. The night before that, another one of my good friends and former roommates (from my sophomore year), Dave, flew in from Atlanta, where he now lives and works. He was staying with T.J. and they were planning to head down to the city around 2 p.m.; my boss was nice enough to let me work from home/finish early, so once Greg made it into the city, we started drinking a bit and eventually met up with T.J., Dave and Kate. We drank all afternoon and lost track of time, so we started to freak out once we realized that we wouldn’t make it to Yankee Stadium by 8 p.m. — the time the show was scheduled to start. If you’ve ever been to any concert, you know that the opening acts don’t even start right on time. Normally, this wouldn’t be a cause for concern, but I had read the night before that both Hov and JT were going to perform one, big 40-song set that would take about two and a half hours. There was no opening act, either, so there was a chance that they could actually start at 8 p.m., or at least it would make sense. On our way to the Subway station, I called the Yankee Stadium ticket office and asked them what time everything was actually supposed to start. He told me that, though there weren’t any opening acts billed for the show, a D.J. would be playing some shit for about an hour or so before Hov and JT took the stage. That bought us more than enough time so, as any college kids would do, we grabbed a few more beers before hopping on the subway and seeing the show.

hov show 2

I could ramble on for about 2,000 words about the show, but I won’t do that to you. Suffice it to say it was the best show I’ve seen thus far in my life, and I’ve seen a lot of shows put on by a lot of different artists with a lot of different sounds. Jay’s performance was everything I hoped for and much, much more. I didn’t go to see Justin, but he was ridiculously good live (which shouldn’t be surprising, because he’s much more talented than a lot of people give him credit for). I’m sure I’ll continue to go to a lot of different shows and festivals throughout the rest of my life, but I’m not sure I’ll see another one as big as that — two decades worth of iconic hits played in front of a sold-out crowd in the best rapper alive’s backyard. Unreal.

empire state boozin

That’s about it, though. I’ll make an effort to get back to updating this thing on a weekly basis, but I only have two weeks left, so we’ll see how that goes. In addition to that piece about the NBA Draft, I reviewed Jay-Z’s new album, “Magna Carta… Holy Grail,” for the Kansan and you can read that here. I’m going to start working on a few longer freelance pieces that I’ll try to knock out in August when I’m back, so I’ll be sure to give you more details as they come around. I got a byline on an infographic that ran on the Data page of our Fourth of July double issue, but since it’s an iPad layout (with all the tappable stuff, etc.), I’m not exactly sure how to put that on here/show it, but I’ll hopefully figure that out by next time. If you have an iPad, go download it.

We’ll talk more next week.

All the best
AJ

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Maintenance delays…

Aloha,

(No playlist this week, I forgot to put one together and don’t want to do it now. You’ll live.)

fourth

From the beginning of summer, the plan was to update this thing once a week, but without fail, I already skipped a week. If you followed along over the last two summers, this shouldn’t surprise you — my updates tend to dwindle at times.

In my defense, I did get shingles last week. If you’ve had shingles — which is unlikely, because they usually only affect old people — or know someone who’s had them, you’re probably very familiar with how shitty and debilitating they can be. I went out with a few friends last Saturday, and on my way home, a small patch of skin on my ribs started itching. I took a look at it and gave myself a diagnosis: Mosquito bites (regardless of the fact that mosquitoes hardly even exist in NYC because the whole place is made of fucking concrete, but hey, we had been drinking).

Things looked a lot worse the next morning, especially because the initial itchy patch from the night before was now joined by six smaller patches that seemed to form a straight, dotted-line crossing my ribcage over to the center of my back. “This is some weird shit,” I thought, and immediately did what any concerned, itchy millennial would do when faced with this particular situation: I got on WebMD.

Sunday in the park

I hate WebMD because, nine times out of ten, it leaves me thinking I have some sort of cancer or HIV (everything is a symptom of HIV/AIDS according to WebMD). After a few minutes, I had ruled out the majority of potential skin disorders the fear-mongering online medical community suggested and had narrowed it down to two things: Shingles or bed bugs. I was almost positive it wasn’t bed bugs because I had just bought brand new bed sheets two weeks ago, and had washed them a few days before. Plus, why would the rash only be showing up on one side of my body in a straight — though sporadic — line? Apparently, linear rashes are characteristic of shingles infections, so I had a pretty good feeling I was fucked. Sure enough, the walk-in doctor at the pharmacy concurred. She prescribed me Valtrex, which is the same shit they give to people who have genital herpes. Granted, shingles is a type of herpes — just like cold sores or chicken pox — it still made for an awkward encounter at the pharmacist. I was wearing one of my fraternity formal t-shirts when I went to pick up my prescription. The pharmacy tech looked like he was about my age, and as he rang me up, he glanced at the letters on the breast pocket of my t-shirt.

“Oh, are you a Sigma Nu?” he asked.

“Yeah, I am, are you?” — because 99.5 percent of the time, if someone asks you if you’re in that fraternity, they’re in it, too.

“Oh, no, I’m not — they don’t have a chapter at my school,” he said. “I’m a (some smaller-school fraternity, I forgot). I’ve just heard that Sigma Nu is a really big party house,” and then he began muttering something about how different houses have different reputations at different schools or something. I couldn’t quite make it out, but he kind of started to draw it all back like he didn’t want to say something that’d offend me (though it’s not like I haven’t heard it all before).

“Well it depends on the school, but my house is pretty fun. Where do you go to school?” I asked.

He said he went to a smaller school in upstate New York. I signed the receipt for my prescription.

“Um,” he said quietly, “do you have any questions about the Valtrex?”

“No, I’m good.”

“Alright, well I’m sorry ’bout all that, man. Have a good one,” he said.

Wait…what are you sorry about?

It then occurred to me that his quiet mutterings about reputations and how Sigma Nu’s a really big party house — and how he started to hesitate and draw back everything he was saying — likely had to do with the fact that I was picking up herpes antibiotics at 6 p.m. on a fucking Monday. Basically, this guy probably thought I just got diagnosed with the clap and thus, since he apparently knows some hard-partying East Coast Sigma Nus, me contracting herpes would somehow make sense.

But I don’t have herpes, so none of it makes sense, and I felt awkward as fuck. What do you do in that situation? Do you clarify that you don’t have herpes? I didn’t, and maybe I should. Instead I just left, feeling all weird and bothered. It’s not like the guy meant harm, it’s just that it was a really weird conversation for a pharmacy tech to have with some poor kid who just got told he has the same weird shit that only his grandmas have had.

I feel sorry for any Sigma Nus he knows up here, though, because he now probably associates them with having herpes. My bad, bros.

57th

***

I’ve since finished the antibiotics and my shingles have cleared up, for the most part. However, my laptop decided to shit out on me a few nights ago, further adding to the reasons why I didn’t write anything here last week. My first paycheck was only for one week of work, so I didn’t have too much money to begin with, not to mention the fact that I had to pay for a bunch of bandages, antibiotics, Advil, etc. all week. My mom agreed to reimburse me for all those costs, but she couldn’t get to the bank until Monday, so my cash flow started to really dwindle on Sunday. I had enough to eat, but that was it.

sunset broadway

After eating dinner, I fired up my laptop for the first time all day and it wouldn’t start. I used my phone to search for ways to troubleshoot the problem, but after an hour of trying anything and everything, I still couldn’t get it to start. The Apple store in Soho is about a 15 minute walk from my building, so I packed it up and headed down there. They couldn’t fit me in to their “Genius bar” to get it looked at that evening, but they told me that the Apple store on 57th street and Fifth Avenue is open 24 hours a day and that they would be able to check it out. Normally, travel wouldn’t be an issue because I can almost always afford a subway pass, but since I had $0.78 in the bank until Monday, I couldn’t even afford to ride public transportation. I knew that I’d be too tired to deal with all this if I waited to do it during the week, so if I was going to get this thing fixed, it would pretty much have to be on Sunday. That Apple store on 57th and Fifth Avenue is on the Upper West Side — a good 47 blocks away from my building. I’d already committed to getting this done before the week started, so I went home, changed to some more comfortable shoes, and walked in the muggy NYC heat for an hour before an Apple “genius” calmly told me my laptop was F.U.B.A.R., and that I’d need to take all my files and back them up before they completely wiped everything from the laptop. Thank god I brought an external hard drive with me to back up all my music and photos or else I’d have been really, really fucked. It only took them two days to fix it, so I guess all is good now.

Sunset outside Grand Central

Work has been good, as usual. On Friday, we’ll release a double issue that will count for this week and the next, which works out because we won’t have to put out an issue the day after Fourth of July, which would be particularly brutal because that’d mean we’d only have three workdays to put it together. My boss told me that we get both Thursday (the Fourth) and Friday off next week, so festive times will be had by all. This city’s a blast on the Fourth.

On Thursday, TJ and I will be at the NBA Draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Ben McLemore is expected to go second overall, but there’s a chance he could be the first pick. I guess we’ll all see on Thursday, only TJ and I will see it live, which will be awesome. I’ll be writing a piece about the whole experience that’ll run in the Kansan — both online and in the print edition in Lawrence — next week, so keep your eyes out for that.

That’s about it, though. June’s been a good month thus far despite the occasional bumps in the road, and I’m sure July will be the same. I’ll talk to you then.

All the best
AJ

Laugh hard, it’s a long way to the bank…

Sounds I’m listening to this week:

Howdy,

sunday sunset

I’ve been in the city for nine days, now, and I’m pretty sure it’s rained for eight of them — at least for a few hours. It’s not just up here, either; apparently we did a good job of kicking this whole climate change thing into gear and Mother Nature’s been shitting on us accordingly. Rain’s not so bad, though, but what’s concerning is the idea that all this shifty weather could bring about a brutal heat wave as the summer wears on. It got really hot here last summer, but things were a little more bearable because I lived in a building with air-conditioning. I don’t now, so I’d rather not die of heat exhaustion.

We caught the dying breaths of Tropical Storm Andrea at the end of last week, which brought about a day and a half of sustained rainfall and a 50 mph wind gust every now and then. It turned out to be a lot less debilitating than I expected, but then again, I’m a Midwesterner and I’ve never been anywhere near a hurricane or tropical storm or whatever. You know how all the out-of-state people start shitting themselves at the prospect of tornadoes back home? Well, I’m like that, except with Hurricanes because, frankly, I haven’t the slightest clue what’s severe and what isn’t.  The closest I’d ever come to that kind of weather before last week was whenever I’d watch the telethons and benefit concerts that followed Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy — destruction footage and all. So, as you can imagine, I was a little on-edge. As the storm came closer, the weather forecasts began to look a bit more tame and, to my knowledge, there wasn’t any notable damage within in the five boroughs. I’m sure that came as a relief to people who had to live out that hurricane nightmare last year. I still can’t imagine.

The storm did destroy my nice umbrella, thus forcing me — involuntarily — to begin the tedious process of finding a new umbrella in New York City. For those of you who’ve never been in NYC without an umbrella when a rainstorm hits, the majority of stores and vendors here are notorious for selling shoddy, lanky umbrellas at staggeringly high prices. Sure, you can bypass this by going into a department store and paying $60 for a big, multi-layered, high-end parasol; but, when a tropical storm is unleashing a torrential volley of raindrops upon you while you stand helplessly on the sidewalk, you’ve got to bite the bullet. So, just like my first summer, I had to blow $20 on an umbrella that will likely break the next time I open it, thus beginning what will likely become a never-ending cycle of me getting methodically boned by the NYC umbrella racket for the rest of the summer (and no, I can’t bring myself to spend $60 on an umbrella). So hopefully it stops raining.

It didn’t rain Saturday, though, which was perfect because that was the day of the Belmont Stakes. Since I got in the day before I started work last week, I hadn’t yet had the chance to meet up and go out with any of my friends who are in the city this summer as well. T.J., one of my closest fraternity brothers who is working 45 minutes away in Stamford, Conn., took a train down in the morning. Usually you’re allowed to bring a cooler full of whatever into the ‘backyard’ area of Belmont Park, so long as you don’t take it with you into the main grandstand. However, this year they decided to step up their security measures and banned coolers and outside booze. Luckily, since we’re college students, we’ve accrued a good amount of experience and wisdom when it comes to sneaking beers into public places. Once Kate, one of our friends from KU who’s working in Midtown, and her roommate came over, we transferred a few beers into some empty bottles of ginger ale and made our way to Belmont Park in Queens.

belmont 1

We got there a bit late — an hour before the main race — but we were able to find my friend Greg’s parents, who live on Long Island. Greg, T.J. and I are all in the same fraternity at KU, and over the last two summers, Greg would have me out to his hometown on Long Island to hit the beach and relax for a few days. His parents are extraordinarily welcoming and are a blast to to hang out with, so even though Greg is working on an internship in Kansas City this summer, we made a point to meet up with them. After drinking for a bit, Greg’s dad and I took to the betting window to start putting some money on horses. I had a goal that day: Kanye West was playing the next day at Governor’s Ball Music Festival and tickets were listed around $150, so I was hoping to make as much as possible so I could afford a ticket and see Kanye play. However, unlike last year when I miraculously won a ton of money after following my dad’s horse racing expertise, I had shit-awful luck and only won a total of maybe $12 from about $30-$40 worth of bets. I probably would have lost more had I not decided to cut my losses and start making smaller bets on the last few races. Regardless of my shit luck, it was a solid time and I was very happy to hear that the others had a blast as well.

final stretch

I got into Aziz Ansari‘s secret show last week, too. He just finished up his last tour and wanted to try out some new jokes he’d been working on, so he tweeted out that he’d be playing a few blocks from my building and the first 150 to the door would get in. I made it in time and got to see the show. The man’s hilarious; if you ever get a chance to see him live, take it.

Aziz

I’m not sure what I’ll be doing this weekend, but I’m sure there’ll be something solid going on. Work’s going very well, too, so I couldn’t be happier.

We’ll talk again next week.

All the best
AJ

Escape from… to New York

This week:

Around 7 p.m. last night, I stood by the baggage claim in the dank, musty basement of (world-renowned shithole) LaGuardia International Airport. I had checked two bags that morning in Kansas City; the first was one of the first to appear on the track but, as these things tend to go, I was among the last few people standing around waiting for the last few bags to pop out. So, I waited.

I’d already been waiting for a long time by that point; I’d procrastinated my packing until Saturday night and only managed to squeeze in 45 minutes of sleep before waking up and heading out to KCI before the sun came up. I couldn’t sleep on the plane to Milwaukee — which the pilot blazed through in just an hour — and I would have to wait another two hours before boarding a connecting flight to New York. Milwaukee’s airport had Wi-Fi, but charged $10 an hour for it like fascists, so I sat around for about an hour when a small crowd began to form around the departures board outside my gate. Sure enough, as these things tend to go, the flight got delayed to 4 p.m. The combination of sleep-deprivation and anger left me with a pretty solid headache to deal with, so I popped an Advil and tried to sleep in one of those stiff, black leather chairs you see all over every airport in every city.

Now that I think about it, I’d been waiting for a long time by that point, too. I basically whiffed my junior year of college; I spent a lot of time studying and a lot of time trying to focus on school, but my shoes were just on the wrong feet. I’d do the work, but I wasn’t retaining anything and I didn’t feel like I was really moving forward. I spent the end of each semester digging myself out of holes that I hadn’t realized I’d dug in the first place, and believe me, that completely drains you, both mentally and physically. I wasn’t having any problems with anything else, but when you’re a full-time college student, school becomes a pretty large part of your life, and I was in desperate need of a break from that.

ESB

My second bag — one of those folding bags designed to keep your dress shirts from wrinkling (yet they do a horrible job of it) — rolled out onto the baggage track and, as I grabbed it and climbed into the back of a taxi, I finally got that break; my third consecutive summer in the city had finally begun. I told the cab driver to take the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway — which gives you a fantastic view of the entire skyline — into the city, and that’s when the relief started to set in. Some of the stories you’ll hear aren’t incorrect; this city is very loud, dirty and quick, but there’s something very romantic about it, especially when you’ve grown up somewhere like the Midwest.

It’s not like the Midwest is a bad place; it’s just hard to feel like you’re moving in any direction after you’ve become an adult. It’s a fantastic place to raise a family and it’s a fantastic place to grow up, but, unless you have a family or unless you’re still growing up, it can be a bummer. I’ll always love Kansas City and I’ll always be proud of where I’ve come from, but I’ve been badly itching for years to get the hell out of there. These summers, though fast-paced and taxing, are therapeutic to me. A lot of people consider country roads or beaches with bright, white sand to be serene, but for me, serenity is the sometimes skunky smell of street cart food and the chorus of passing trains and taxi horns. If that makes me nuts, then fuck it: I’m nuts.

***

I started work again today at the Huffington Post. The first few hours of the first day are always a bit of a pain in the ass; you have to go through orientation and fill out the same paperwork you filled out last year (and the year before) and learn how to use the company’s website like you did last year (and the year before). Orientation’s only an hour though, and AOL/HuffPo isn’t really one of those companies like you’ve seen in Office Space — they have ping-pong tables and free vending machines on each floor — so our orientations are probably riveting compared to everyone else’s. I got to know several people who are interning for different sections of the website as well, and were all pretty cool. Again, just like last year (and the year before), I’m virtually the only person out of the group who isn’t from the East Coast, so almost all the questions I got asked had to do with either KU Basketball or tornadoes — which, really, are the only two things worth knowing about Kansas.

As far as actual work is concerned, I’m essentially doing the same thing I did last year with Huffington Magazine, with a few tweaks here and there. Last year, the magazine used to run stories before they hit the website, but that’s changed and since they’ll run first on the website, I won’t have to do as much copy editing. I’ll still be writing a lot of cutlines and captions throughout each issue, and possibly a small piece or two if they’d like me to do it. I’m going to be doing a lot with the magazine’s social media accounts, this time; Last year, the main site’s social media editor handled all the social media for the magazine, but she left during the year for another company, so I’ll be behind most of the things you’ll see on Huffington’s Twitter and Facebook posts. It’s a bit trickier than it sounds — our main publishing program also has a feature where you can schedule a bunch of tweets to run at strategic times, so at the beginning of each morning, I’ll have to come up with six or seven new ones and queue them up in the system to publish throughout the rest of the day.

Things were a little strange because a lot of the people who were around last year either left or are working on different parts of the site. I’d worked with the majority of the current magazine team for at least a little bit last year, though, so I’ll probably be able to hit the ground running a bit faster than last year. I’ll still need a few days to fully get back in rhythm from last summer, but even though I’m aware of how much work it is, I’m excited for it.

WTC

As far as places of living are concerned, I’m staying in NYU’s summer housing system again. I’m still up in the air as to whether my current situation is better than the years before, but as of now, it feels like a big step up. Like my first year, this building doesn’t have air-conditioning, but I don’t have a roommate (I do share a bathroom with the guy on the other side of the “suite,” but he hasn’t moved in yet) so any and all fans will be directed towards me at all times. Even though it’s just me in here, they left two beds so I’m going to buy some bigger sheets and put them together so I don’t have to sleep on a twin-sized bed. Also, since a lot of friends from home are living in NYC area this summer, I can just pull the beds apart and put a different set of sheets on the other bed so they’ll have somewhere to sleep if they crash here. The location isn’t quite as marvelous as last year — when Washington Square Park was essentially my front yard — but it’s on Fifth Avenue, which is both close to work and badass to say out loud. The pictures you saw above were taken from my window (though you have to crane your neck out to see both buildings). I’m pretty happy about it; if you’re in the area on vacation or whatever from now until the August, stop by.

That’s it for now. I’ll finally get to meet up and go out with all my friends who are up here this weekend. Plus, we’ll be drinking and gambling at the Belmont Stakes, which, if last year was any indication, will be a blast.

All the best
AJ

Every Good Story Needs A Cliffhanger…

Good morning.

As forewarned and anticipated in the start of summer, I failed to keep routinely writing here and keeping those who are interested up to date. If you followed along last summer, you probably saw it coming. It should be understandable, though. Work never really wraps up calmly and effortlessly and, by this point, I’ve already shared with you the bulk of increasingly mundane details of my day-to-day life in the city. I’m sure I could have mustered up something to talk about, but I’m equally sure that it would have ended up sounding like a journal entry chock-full of a bunch of things I’ve already told you, only in different words. Just think of it as an unannounced, unexplained break in a rickety, confusing relationship — you can cry all you want, but it was for the best.

Thanks to Frontier Airlines’ blatant disregard for convenience — which, though aggravating, is understandable because almost no one flies from New York City to Kansas City — and their choice to switch my flight by a few days, I’ve had an extra five nights in town. Without fail, I’ve fallen into the same seemingly-natural routine customary with a lack of work or school: I’ve gone nocturnal. This isn’t anything new; for some reason — whenever my life lacks formal, daytime responsibility — my body seems to prefer spending the majority of my awake-time in the night and wee-hours of the morning. I took another relaxing and fun trip out to Long Island to visit Greg again, but since I’ve been back, I’ve effortlessly taken up that stupid biological schedule again. I was up late last night doing fuck-all nothing and tried to go to bed around 4 a.m. or so. It didn’t happen, so I just tossed and turned in bed for a few hours and decided that I’d be better served to just begin my day and muscle through the drowsiness later. After all, my flight takes off at 7 a.m. out of LaGuardia tomorrow morning, so I’m going to have to wake up around 4:30 to get my shit together, I’ll have to get a cab around 5:00 and probably won’t make my way through security until about 6:00. Fuck Frontier Airlines — not only do I have to fly to Denver to wait an hour and a half before boarding my flight to Kansas City; I have to wake up before dawn, which is always pure bollocks.

I figure my body will start running out of gas around 3 or 4 p.m. and I’ll start struggling to get things taken care of. That leaves me with the daunting task of getting everything done that I can before the afternoon, and I have a lot of shit to do. I’m not going to have time to do laundry or much else when I get back in KC because I’ll be headed up to Nebraska to meet up with a few friends before heading to Lollapalooza in Chicago on Thursday. Once I land tomorrow, I only have a few hours at my disposal to binge-eat barbecue and see relatives, so I basically am packing/preparing for the weekend, too. I haven’t driven a car in over two months, either, so hopefully I haven’t lost all sense of pace and direction behind the wheel and make it to Chicago and back alive.

I’m trying to think of how I could best recap the last few weeks of work, but nothing really exhilarating/interesting is coming to mind. It’s not like they weren’t exhilarating/interesting to me; I just don’t know how to phrase things for all you non-journalism nerds who may be reading this. There weren’t any big crises or controversies — they were just kind of normal. The last two issues we put out were fucking awesome, though. At the beginning of the summer, our managing editor, Katy, suggested that I keep my ear to the ground for any ideas that could be translated into iPad-interactive infographics — you know, the things you see on BuzzFeed and the Chive where once boring data and statistics are shown in an aesthetically pleasing manner. So I found some stuff on the value of college education in the recession and before the recession, put it all together and sent it along and it turned into this big, badass infographic that came out in Issue #6. Unfortunately, there’s no real way to transfer the tap-able features available on the iPad into something that I could display on the computer, so you’ll have to settle for a basic screenshot. It’s available on my Tumblr, which I’ll talk more about later.

Last Monday, though, I went out to lunch with Tim. We bonded over our mutual loathing for New York sports teams (he hails from the Midwest, as well) and got to talking about the whole journalism industry, as well as my ambitions and goals for my career after college. It was a really productive, insightful discussion. In the middle of it, he asked me if I enjoyed the work I’d done at HP over the last two summers. I didn’t bat an eye before saying “yes,” and elaborating on how much I’d learned and how much I know I’ll miss it. I told him that this is the place I want to be and this is the place I see myself working, too. He seemed to agree and invited me to return for a third internship in NYC next summer. I graciously accepted and nonchalantly took a drink from my glass of water ­— which thankfully wasn’t spilled all over my shirt due to the school-boy giddiness I was fighting so hard to keep internalized. It was that same feeling all over again — I now knew that I would be able to continue doing something that I absolutely fucking love for a publication that I absolutely fucking love. To keep it understated and blunt: it felt damn good and I’m already itching for next summer to start.

My workload didn’t really endure any seismic changes in the last few days, but it was definitely tough leaving on Friday. I really enjoyed working with everyone on the magazine team; everyone was super welcoming and friendly and whenever I fucked up, they didn’t slit my throat, which is always good. I also walked away with a few good friends who were interning with HuffPost College and sat a few desks down. I really hope they all come back next summer or get jobs at HP, because I really enjoyed working with them and would like to do it in the future. I don’t think I need to worry about anyone on the magazine team not being there in the future, though — they’re all the best at what they do and I’m pretty confident that the powers-at-be will be doing their best to make sure they don’t go anywhere. Tim knows that my strengths lie in writing, but if he wants me to work with the magazine team again next summer, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Not to indirectly kiss everyone’s ass, but it was a one-of-a-kind experience that almost no one my age gets the opportunity to be involved with. I’m lucky. Katy brought me cupcakes that morning and thanked me, and I sent out an email to the team thanking them for letting a snot-nosed, 20-year-old frat boy from Kansas get his feet wet. I made sure I didn’t let them down, and I’ll miss working with them.

So I think that’s where I’m going to leave it for now when it comes to this blog. I’m not going to kid myself and say that I’ll continue to update it throughout the year, because you and I both know that I won’t. I’ve got a lot going on — I’m taking 17 hours in the fall and 18 in the spring; I’m writing humor columns for #CTL and the University Daily Kansan and hopefully I’m going to muster up the balls to finally dabble in stand-up comedy. It’s not something that I want to seriously pursue, but it’s something that I’ve always wanted to try and something that I’ve always thought I’d be decent at. Spare time won’t be abundant this year, so we’ll see if it happens.

For now, though, my daily bullshit will still remain available for you via my Twitter and Facebook. I’ll keep Instagramming (even though Kansas is significantly less photogenic than NYC) and I just made a Tumblr, which is more-or-less going to serve as a running online portfolio of my published work. It already has everything I’ve written for the Huffington Post and #CTL and I’ll keep it up to date as more things come along. That way, if you don’t have access to a computer (what’s wrong with you?) or access to a paper-copy of the UDK, my articles and columns will be readily available there. I promise to keep it straight business — none of the day-to-day, journal-esque stuff. If it’s published and my name is on the byline, it’ll be there. So have fun and follow along. I’ve got some good shit planned and coming up in the humor department.

That’s it for this summer, though. Luckily, I know that I’ll be back, so it’s not like this thing is getting put to permanent rest. We’ll call this school year an intermission and Act III will resume next summer when I return to NYC.

Until then, be good. I’ll see you down the road.

All the best
AJ

A brief, yet triumphant synopsis of early July…

Good evening to all you beautiful people — and you ugly ones, too.

Things got a little wackier than usual over the last two weeks on this blog. Almost every year, I hit a month-long period of debilitating writer’s block, usually in the middle of Spring. Once I can get the pen moving again, though, I get this constant craving to write something, anything, as often as I can — usually in the summer, too, which works out perfectly because that’s when I’m in New York getting paid to write every day (or edit … same thing). For those who follow me on Twitter, that should explain a lot. For those of you who read my exhaustive rant on how hot NYC gets in the summer or my long, column-esque piece on Kansas City professional sports, that should explain a lot as well.

The heat wave rant got a shitload of hits compared to usual, and my piece on Kansas City sports fucking doubled the number of page views this blog’s had since I started it in May 2011. Not to discredit the relative “virality” of that post, but I’d never really had huge numbers here anyway. Sure, whenever I’d plug it enough on Facebook and Twitter or whenever I’d link to my stories at the Huffington Post, it’d get some solid numbers, but the KC sports piece blew up. For a post on a personal summer blog to notch a four-digit number is something else. I knew it’d probably beat out every other post I’d written before, but not by that much.

I’ve kind of procrastinated writing tonight’s post because the reaction was so huge for the last one. I’ve never really tried — or wanted — to peddle this thing to anyone outside my social network, so when something like that happens, it kind of knocks you back a bit. I guess I was kind of waiting around for another idea that could maybe garner a similar reaction, but I don’t really want to do that because it isn’t organic. You can’t force things like that; when they happen, they happen. I started writing here as a form of public therapy — a way to keep the blades sharp and a way to keep those who care in the loop with what I’ve been up to. That’s been the goal all along, and while it was sweet to see my stuff spread so rapidly, I feel kind of obligated to get back to the way things were. Rest assured, though, if I think of something similar to those two posts, you’ll see it somehow.

Before I get into recapping my happenings from early July, I do want to thank everyone who took the time to read the KC sports piece, and more importantly, those tweeted it out or shared it on Facebook with their own personal networks. People I talk to all the time, people I haven’t talked to in years and people I’ve never talked to in my life gave me support and shared my work, and that’s not something that happens a lot. I’m really grateful for it and I thank you for doing that.

SO. Because so much time has passed, I don’t really think I’m going to be able to go into much detail about what I’ve been up to lately. It isn’t as fresh in the mind, but I’ll give it a shot. Enjoy the photos, though. I’ve got two weeks’ backlog of Instagrams to dump off here.

As once guaranteed, the Fourth of July was quite the drunken shitshow. This city is a really unique place on that holiday — the majority of the people who live in the actual city are young, so as you can imagine, everyone’s very drunk, jovial and patriotic, as they should be. My friend Kylie and I met up around noon and drank some warm wine (beggars can’t be choosers, and yes, I’m a beggar for four more months) and took the L train to Williamsburg in Brooklyn. We drank with a few of her friends for a while in their apartment before one of them had to leave to catch a flight. A few of the others knew of a party going on in Bushwick, so we headed there. The party was going on in the “backyard” (a glorified back-lot) of some random apartment building. There was a pretty solid band playing and it was full of people I didn’t know, but luckily, alcohol tends to fix that problem quite easily. Because it was the Fourth of July, I opted for the American flag-adorned Bud Heavy tallboys. Bud Heavy isn’t really the ideal beer for a 20-year-old — I’m in college, and when we drink, we tend to drink a lot — because the advertisement doesn’t lie: it’s heavy stuff. We’d been in the hot sun all day, too, so when you combine that with a belly full of full-flavor beer, you get tired. I should have learned better because this was exactly what happened to me last year, but Kylie was apparently just as tired, so we took the Subway back to Manhattan. The sun was already down by the time we got back to the city and we made the horrible decision to eat — which compounds your drunken fatigue — so both of us called it a day around 8 or 9 p.m. So no, I didn’t get to see the fireworks over Manhattan. They moved them from the East River to the Hudson this year, though, so there was really no point; I would have either had to camp out on the West Side Highway all day or I would have had to travel over to New Jersey. Needless to say, I had no desire to do either.

I haven’t really done too much since then. The weeks get pretty exhausting and it’s really liberating to sleep for 12 hours each night of the weekend. I’m not 21, either, so my options aren’t necessarily too plentiful.

The magazine’s been looking pretty damn good lately. I don’t know whether or not I’m at liberty to publicly (or semi-publicly) discuss logistics and numbers, but we’ve almost notched the same amount of downloads as the Huffington Post’s iPad app — which has been around for a year — in just two months. We didn’t publish an issue on the week of the Fourth of July, so luckily everyone kind of had a chance to get a breath and get ahead on future issues. Because of that, we’ve been on schedule as of late — at least from an editorial standpoint. I get to cap off my summer with a bang this week, too: I’d been gathering and pooling datasets for our “Data” page, which our team of (incredible) infographic designers brings to life in a really aesthetically-pleasing and engaging way. They decided to run with my stuff for Issue 6 (out on Friday, July 20), and I’ll get the solo byline for the whole thing. I’m really, really jazzed about it — I saw it today and it’s definitely going to be the standout piece in the ol’ portfolio.

I don’t know, I felt like I had a lot to say when I started writing this and I don’t really anymore. I kind of just rambled on about stuff. Whatever though, you already spent five minutes reading it so there’s nothing we can do about it now. I’d give you your money back if you’d spent it. If you liked it, though, you’re still welcome to give me money if you want.

 

We’ll talk later.

 

All the best
AJ

 

PS- I know there are probably grammatical errors and typos in these things. I don’t really care — I spend 8-10 hours a day editing stories and checking for errors. I really haven’t the slightest interest to do it to my own work.

 

 

 

Why can’t Kansas City ever have its cake and eat it, too?

I’ve mentioned over and over throughout the past week how homesick the Kansas City All-Star game has been making me. To make matters worse, since it’s being broadcast on FOX — which lacks a live streaming option — I have no way of watching it. I have been following it via Twitter feed, and due to this whole David Ortiz incident (if you haven’t heard about it, I’ll get to it), I felt compelled to write.

***

I was born six years after the Kansas City Royals beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1985 World Series and 21 years after the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV. My mom is a Kansas State alumna and, though my father earned his degree later when I was in grade school, he never really seemed to have much of a preference when it came to college sports. Cousins from both sides of my family were University of Kansas students/graduates, so around kindergarten, I started to ‘become’ a KU fan — I just have easily could have been a K-State fan, but for some reason, I never did.

But before that, I never had to question it — I was a Chiefs fan and I was a Royals fan. I never had to ‘become’ one, I just was. I’ve seen pictures of myself in Chiefs and Royals clothes dating so far back that I can’t remember actually owning them or wearing them. Everyone around me was a Chiefs and Royals fan. Since winter birthdays are rare in my family, almost every family function was innately centered around the game — even when it came time to open presents, the Chiefs game would still be on. Sure, Grandma forced Grandpa to put it on mute, but it was still there. Every uncle and cousin would mutter the customary “Ooooh, look at that!” or “Oh wow!” each time any one of us then snot-nosed toddlers opened a present, but they were more or less autopilot functions — their attention was on the game. That’s the way it was, and even though we’ve all grown up and there aren’t as many birthday parties, that’s still the way it kind of is. It probably won’t ever change, nor do I think anyone would want it to.

I’ve had a lot of great memories with both teams. I remember the good old days when Johnny Damon was a Royal; I remember going to games with my neighbor and giggling every time the announcer would call Mike Sweeney up to bat (say his name fast). I remember watching Jermaine Dye play. Because they always seem to be significantly less hopeful than the Chiefs — and because I’ve been to Kauffmann Stadium less than I’ve been to Arrowhead — I remember almost every single time I’ve seen the Royals win in person. It feels pretty damn good each time, because odds that the one game you’ll go to that month will be a win are generally worse than a coin flip — or so they seem. Across the street at Arrowhead, the memories are a bit fonder — I remember when we had Dante Hall and the entire stadium would be on its feet when the other team would be preparing to punt. I remember when it felt like he would run back every single punt return. Then there was Derrick Thomas, too, and then there was Priest Holmes. No matter what, Tony Gonzalez was always there, too. Whether or not we ever win a Super Bowl, I’ll still tell my kids about how I saw us bury the Broncos with a cold-blooded, last second field goal on Thanksgiving night. I’ll still tell them about how I saw us beat the defending champion Steelers in overtime before a house full of black and gold. I’ll still tell them about how we ended the defending champion Packers’ winning streak before a house full of green and gold.

But, to date, I’ve still never seen either team win a playoff game with my naked eye. Frankly, I haven’t had too many opportunities. Sure, I saw the (then) Kansas City Wizards win the MLS Cup in 2000, before Sporting Park was built and before they changed their name and before anyone outside of the KC soccer community really cared. Sure, I watched the Jayhawks win the national championship in 2008 and watched them play in it again this year, but while those were both sweet as can be, they weren’t the same. Outside of Lawrence, it was only the Jayhawk alumni and fans who were celebrating in Kansas City. When we won, the Mizzou and K-State fans either didn’t watch it or just didn’t talk about it, and when we lost, they either didn’t watch it or just spent all their time harassing us about how we “choked.” Either way, only a portion of the city had a good time on those two nights.

I’m lucky — when the Jayhawks did it in 2008, I felt the indescribable nirvana that comes with your team winning it all. Kansas City-bred (and born after 1985) K-State and Mizzou fans have never felt it — it makes me cringe that I’m shedding the slightest bit of sympathy toward either, but bear with me. Kansas City sports fans (born after 1985) with no local college preference have never felt it. Not only has there never been a moment during my lifetime where our entire city has celebrated the sweet glory of “winning it all” —there’s never even been a moment where our entire city has been under the prime time, national sports spotlight.

Well, for me there hasn’t. The All-Star game is going on now as I type, and I’m in New York City.

But for every young Kansas City native — regardless of their college preference — this week has been the biggest one. It’s a different kind of big, though; the Royals are probably still doomed to be cellar-dwellers come September and, even though Sports Illustrated listed the Chiefs as Super Bowl contenders, it still feels too good to be true. But none of that matters, because it’s the first time everyone’s talking about Kansas City. Everyone’s watching Kansas City. The unfortunate souls doomed to work this weekend at every one of Kansas City’s barbecue establishments are sweating like Mayor Sly James during “Take Your Son to Work Day” (Google ‘Sly James son.’ He’s a political nightmare). Kansas City’s in the headlines, Kansas City’s on the TV screens.

Enter Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees. He’s tasted from the silver spoon, he’s drank from the Steinbrenner family’s diamond-encrusted pimp cup. He’s a Yankee, and he knows what it is to win. He won the Home Run Derby last year, which made him the ‘captain’ for the American League Derby team this year. The quotes around ‘captain’ are intentional — it’s beyond trivial to try and over-dignify his responsibilities with that word. He gets to pick which guys get to come up and swing at slow pitches during a sold-out batting practice. There’s no pressure and there’s no huge reward — the winner goes down as a footnote on some page in the nether indexes of baseball history books. Their team doesn’t benefit at all and their league doesn’t benefit at all. Really, the only people who benefit from the whole anti-climactic, effortless and depraved shitshow that is the Home Run Derby are the fans and those who receive the charity donations.

So obviously, there’s no real pressure for Robinson Cano when he puts his team together. Sure, he’s a competitor and doesn’t want to lose, but there’s no real consequence if the American League doesn’t win. So, seeing as this is the first time Kansas City has had an All-Star game since Queen Elizabeth II was sexually attractive, it would make sense to let a Royal participate in the derby. The stakes remain the same — nothing really happens if the AL wins, nothing really happens if they lose. But Kansas City isn’t Los Angeles or Miami; people generally don’t think, “Oh wow, the All-Star Game is in KC. That’d be an amazing place to take a week-long vacation. Pack your bags, kids, we’re going to Kansas!” For the most part, those in attendance will be Kansas City natives, and subsequently, Royals fans. Even if someone like Billy Butler has little-to-no chance at winning the whole thing, the fans will get to see one of their hometown boys participate in the derby for the first time since 1991. Even better, they’ll see it at the K.

Before finalizing his ‘team,’ (once again, that’s such a fucking stupid word for such a trivial event) Robinson Cano said he’d call up Billy Butler because it was the “right thing to do.” Outside of KC, it didn’t make headlines, because that’s precisely what it was: the right thing to do. To steal from Joe Posnanski, it’s like inviting the bride’s parents to her wedding; there’s no rule that says you have to, you just do it.

But for whatever skewed, nonsensical reason, Cano didn’t do it. So when he was introduced at the derby, he was violently booed. When it came time for him to swing his bat, the booing damn-near matched the decibel levels of a botched 4th quarter call in Arrowhead. Each time he failed to go deep (which was every time), the crowd cheered. He didn’t hit a single home run and the Kansas City faithful were absolutely jazzed about it. The national press (unfortunately, that includes my own employer) called the Kansas City fans tasteless and classless and scolded us for “ruining the occasion” for Cano. I’m not going to waste time justifying the jeers, because if you have any sense, sympathy or taste — which automatically disqualifies all Yankee fans — it should justify itself.

Enter David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox, who said he’d take one at-bat during this evening’s All-Star Game before bowing out so Billy Butler could play. Ortiz said it was because “it’s [Butler’s] hometown.” I, along with countless others, tweeted and posted our appreciation for Ortiz’s gesture. With that, there’d be a chance — though rather slim — that maybe Butler would yard one in the All-Star Game at the K. Maybe Billy’d hit a grand slam. Maybe he’d hit a walk-off! Sure, you’d be better served to bet your 401k at the dog tracks, but it could still happen.

Then, sure as shit, Ortiz goes and does the same thing Cano does and takes a second at-bat. Billy got in the game eventually, but only after getting snubbed by two big-name, internationally-known multi-millionaires.

Billy Butler isn’t a big name. No one outside of the United States (and that’s even generous) knows who the fuck Billy Butler is. Billy Butler isn’t rolling in the big bucks.

Billy Butler plays in Kansas City. Billy Butler is just like every single athlete who’s ever played in Kansas City but wasn’t on the ’85 Royals team or the ’70 Chiefs team — he makes decent money and he plays with decent players, but his offseason always starts earlier than he’d like. Each time he sees himself on Sportscenter or Baseball Tonight, he probably gets a bigger kick out of it than many other pro-athletes because it doesn’t happen all the time. He may have his number retired when he grows old, but outside of Kansas City, it isn’t likely that his name will ring many bells. ‘Tis the unfortunate and inescapable reality of playing for a Kansas City sports team.

Really, being a Kansas City sports fan is pretty much just that, too: an unfortunate and inescapable reality. We were doomed from the minute we first fell in love with our teams. Every now and then, a moment will come along when you think, “this could be it” and cross your fingers and cross your toes and dot your ‘i’s’ and cross your ‘t’s and wear your lucky shirt and wear your lucky undies. You don’t need me to tell you — it never comes. And though I doubt anyone except for Billy Butler was thinking “this could be it,” every one of us was thinking that the All-Star Game could have been the one event that would alter everyone’s perception about our mid-sized, corn-fed “cow town.” We thought maybe the rest of the country would remember this All-Star Game or maybe they’d think — brace yourselves for this one… — that Kansas City is actually a reputable, classy, cool sports town. But like always, it never really works out like that.

Billy Butler plays in Kansas City. So when he came onto the field tonight, he received a standing ovation. Some idiots on Twitter even had the balls to say that his popularity in KC may usurp George Brett’s (they’re idiots). From now on, Billy Butler jerseys and t-shirts will sell better than hot dogs. He’ll probably never win a championship for us, but we’ll love him as if he’d won us 10. ‘Tis the beautiful and inescapable reality of playing for a Kansas City sports team.

And really — even if we never, ever win another championship again — being a Kansas City sports fan will always be pretty much that, too: a beautiful and inescapable reality. We’re not the kind of people who shy away from our teams when they’re not winning, because frankly, they’re usually not winning. We don’t just ‘like’ our teams; we know the names of every player worth mentioning. We all have tattered, worn out jerseys in our closet dating back to our childhoods with names like “Saberhagen” and “Dye” and “Boerigter” and “Gonzalez” on them. When little moments come around and we actually prevail? We never, ever forget them. When the big moments come around and we fall, like always?

We never, ever forget those either. But believe me, we will remember how painful each and every one of those moments was if we ever “do it,” if we ever “win it all.” Each year we rack up more bitter, it’s only going to make the sweet taste so much sweeter.

And one of those days, we will “do it.” We will “win it all.” The anguish, the pain and the excruciatingly long wait will all have been worth it.

There are no doubts in my mind that Kansas City is one of the best damn sports towns in the United States, if not the best.

If we ever do it, the rest of the United States won’t have any doubts, either.

***

All the best
AJ