Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Things I have learned from KT

In a little over a week, KT will join me and several others we know who have hit the much feared but actually harmless four-oh this year.  Upon recent reflection, the fact that we are both now "at the age" hasn't been nearly as ground shaking for me as the realization that she and I have now been "in a relationship" (in Facebook terms) for greater than 50% our our breathing moments.  I vividly recall the first words she ever said to me  ("Excuse you") and the first words I ever said to her ("It wasn't me, it was him!"), but that is a story for another time and KT doesn't remember it anyways.  Our second conversation was a little smoother and took place almost exactly 21 years ago, during our sophomore years at GAC.  Gustavus had (and maybe still has?) a ritual early in every year called "Mystery Dates" where you were to set up your roommate on a date with a mystery person and then everybody went on a giant group date bowling or to a dance or whatever.  The intent was to get people to get to know one another, make new friends and have an easier time adjusting to college life.  It was great in theory and from what I recall (alcohol may have been involved), a lot of fun.  Anyways, knowing nothing more about her than a nickname (more on this later), my buddy Chris and I decided that we would try to set KT up with our friend Nick for Mystery Dates.  We saw her in the caf one day, decided there was no time like the present, and approached her as she was grabbing her silverware.  The conversation was as follows:

Chris/I (I don't remember who actually said what):  "Hi - we are Chris and Paul.  We were wondering if you would be interested in going to Mystery Dates with our friend Nick."

KT:  "Oh, you mean Misery Rapes?"

At this point, I figured we made a huge mistake and had just subjected ourselves to a lecture about how Mystery Dates objectified women and were nothing more than organized rape and blah, blah, blah.  Instead, this is what KT said next:

KT:  "Sounds good to me.  Who did you say I was going with?  I'll bring Bacardi."

I fell in love immediately.

So anyways, here we are 20+ years later.  KT is still up for anything and will still bring the Bacardi.  So, in honor of her birthday, the following is a small sampling of some of what I have learned from KT over the years:

1.  Not every girl has the same definition of a dream home.  Say "dream home" and, for 99.9% of the population, a large home with a pool and all the modern amenities springs to mind.  Not so much for KT.  For her, a dream home consists of a double wide trailer.  Seriously.  KT has dreamed of living in a trailer her entire life.  I actually caved and gave it a try shortly after we were married.  I lasted about four months before I told her I was moving and she was welcome to join me, which she reluctantly did.  Since then, we have never (and I mean this literally) driven past a trailer court without KT saying something along the lines of how desperately she wants to live there.  Regardless of how meth-infested it may look, for KT it is Shangri-La.  I do not now, nor have I ever, understood it.  I do know, however, that it is genuine.  She is not attempting to be humorous or ironic.  She truly pictures her dream home in the middle of a trailer court which could serve as the setting of a sit-com.  The same is true for vacations.  Five star hotels in bustling cities or awe-inspiring chalets in the mountains are not for KT.  Give her a trailer and a week of boredom to truly make her happy.

2.  Proper hydration is important.  Whenever the kids or I mention any sort of discomfort, whether it be a headache or a sore foot, KT will immediately follow with "Have you had enough water today?".  If we are foolish enough to challenge her and point out that whatever ails us has no connection to the amount of H2O we may or may not have ingested that day, we can count on a lengthy and thorough explanation of why the ankle we may have sprained playing basketball is indeed worse because without the replenishing electrolytes water provides the body does not heal properly.  Or something like that.  Quite honestly, I rarely stick around long enough to hear the explanation as it is far easier to just go pour myself a large glass of water.  KT's insistence on water as the cure-all elixir has even caused her nickname (mentioned earlier) to morph.  In college, her love and talent for dancing had earned her the nickname of "Gyrate Kate" which she embraced fully rather than saw as denigrating (much to her credit).  In fact, several of our college friends who were and are very dear to us but we see far too infrequently will still greet her with "Gyrate".  It is a term used with endearment, so I never have the heart to inform them that "Gyrate Kate" has been replaced by "Hydrate Kate".

3.  Halloween is a pretty important holiday and should be treated as such.  Like any kid, I loved Halloween.  Dressing up and receiving unhealthy amounts of candy while staying up past your bedtime?  Awesome, sign me up.  I even get the appeal of Halloween for the early drinking years crowd - any costume can be made slutty, enormous quantities of booze are consumed and acting like a complete jackass is not only accepted, it's expected.  I always assumed, however, that as I aged Halloween would become more of an afterthought or even a nuisance.  For KT, Halloween has only grown in awesomeness as the years have gone by.  She spends the entire year imagining and planning incredibly intricate and amazing costumes, changing what she is going to dress up as so many times that she usually ends up a week before as the only person without a costume.  Despite this, she never fails pull off a costume which puts all others to shame for originality and execution.  It doesn't matter if we are having a party, going to the bar or just staying home and handing out candy, she will knock a costume out of the ballpark.  It's a gift that has kept the magic of Halloween alive for me all these years and I'm thankful for it.

4.  You don't need a degree to be a doctor.  Around these parts, she is known as Dr. KT.  As mentioned before, KT can quickly diagnose and treat most medical problems with water.  If, however, you can adequately prove to her that you have indeed consumed at least the minimum recommended daily amount of water, she quickly will switch into doctor mode and will, within minutes, diagnose and recommend treatment for your problem using nothing but her mind and possibly a recollection of a television show (Oprah, Dr. Phil, House, ER, even Real Housewives - it doesn't matter) she once saw.  The fact that she will offer her expertise isn't the amazing part, however.  The fact that she is absolutely correct in her diagnosis 98% of the time is the part that blows me away.  Whether obvious (she once diagnosed me with a broken nose based solely on the fact that the tip of my nose was pointing at my ear) or exotic, KT will swiftly and accurately tell you what is wrong and how you can cure it at a fraction of the cost that someone paying off years of medical school will charge you.  Just don't ask her to actually treat you - the sight of blood makes her pass out.  After diagnosing my broken nose, she immediately looked away complaining of light-headedness.  She then laughed and said something along the lines of "you idiot, we ARE NOT paying for another nose job for you until you quit playing basketball".  So, I guess you can add compassion to aversion to blood and a degree as the only things that separate KT from a doctor.

5.  Finally, and this one will be really difficult to explain, but over the past twenty years I have learned that KT's thought process and consequently conversations, as erratic and scattered as they often seem, do actually follow a brilliant logic.  It's as if she is speaking a language all her own (she has even diagnosed herself in this case, claiming she has KDD.  It's like ADD, but her own special kind).  She will flow from one topic to a seemingly completely unrelated topic onto yet another completely different one without ever slowing down or even breathing.  Just when you have given up hope, however, she somehow ties it all together in a way that may be at first confusing, but once translated is brilliant and beautiful and hilarious.  Some people (such as her mom and friend Sara) are able to immediately follow along, nodding in agreement or laughing hysterically while I sit back completely befuddled until the light bulb finally comes on for me or someone will explain it to me in ways my linear mind can comprehend.  I've gotten much better at it and have learned to allow her to finish before claiming she doesn't make any sense.  It's difficult at times, but incredibly rewarding.  I'll leave with the perfect example.  I received two texts from KT today.  On the surface, I have absolutely no clue what she is talking about or why she chose to share them with me.  I know, however, that when she gets home they will tie together in some amazingly poetic thought process.  The texts were:

11:58 AM  - "I was shoving a stick up the ass of a mannequin"

and, one minute later, without a response from me,

11:59 AM - "I am thinking borscht for dinner..."

I can't wait to find out what the hell she is talking about.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Date with Adrian

Last Saturday was one of those rare nights where the stars align and clear the way for a night of revelry.  I worked that day, but the day turned out much shorter than I anticipated.  Audrey had plans for the night and KT had a party of her own to go to, clearing the way for me to be free to follow my own agenda.  Luckily for me, my friend Steve's band was playing their first live gig and (AND) it was Kielbasa Fest at Kramarczuk's, one of the greatest parties of the year.  Agenda set.  To add to my good fortune, my buddy Adrian was available and willing to join.

We decided right away that neither of us was interested in driving and being Al escaped the house and forced limousine duty a few months ago, our options were limited.  Our spouses - as kind, loving and patient as they may be - have limits and designated driving their progressively more obnoxious spouses from place to place was about as likely as "Dr." Marcus Bachmann liking boobies.  Plus, stupid traffic laws actually say that in order for a driver with a learner's permit to operate a vehicle, the adult in the car must be sober (it's true, I looked it up).  So Audrey was out of the question.  That left two options - bus or bike.  I love the bus - it's efficient, cheap and great for people watching.  The bus is, however, one of those things (like reading or drinking a liter of Jameson) that is best done alone.  Trying to hold a conversation with me on a bus is futile.  Even if you get past the roaring of the engine and my progressive deafness and I actually understand you, I'm too paranoid of other people listening in on the conversation.  This would not work with Adrian - there are few things Adrian enjoys more than talking (more on this later).  So, we decided to bike it like the urban middle-age man hipsters we are.

We took off from my place about 4:00.  Early, I realize, but as I had every intention of drinking until I was pretty and I can't trust myself to be awake past 8:30, I thought it wise to get an early start.  So, we hopped on and headed down Central, but not before the eternal mother KT forced us to have our picture taken.

Two items of interest in this picture:

1.  Yes, I'm wearing a helmet.  Partly because I know I will be biking home intoxicated later and partly because not wearing a helmet while biking is one of the three things that KT will NOT tolerate (farting in the shower and watching animals hunt each other on Planet Earth are the other two).  She is so strict on this rule that she still harasses Al about it almost daily and Audrey has given up bike riding entirely.  Also, Adrian is not wearing a helmet.  This is because Adrian is the type of person who drives motorcycles in triple-digit speeds.

2.  If you look closely, you will notice that Adrian has a considerable amount of sweat soaking through his shirt under his right breast already.  This is because he has already rode his bike all the way from his house to mine, which is exactly 1.4 miles, 1.2 of which are downhill.  I won't pretend that I wouldn't have also been this sweaty, but it's always fun for the sweaty guy to point out other people who sweat profusely (shout-out to Steve S. and Todd A.)

So, anyways, we head down Central which is a nice easy ride, the majority of it downhill (we do, after all, live in Columbia HEIGHTS).  After 15 or 20 minutes, we near Kramarczuk's and spy a menacing "Oktoberfest Beer Tasting" sign at Surdyk's, right across the street.  They had me at Oktoberfest.  We step inside and make it our personal mission to sample each of the 30-some beers, as well as all of the gins, whiskeys and tequilas.  We do, however, draw the line at the wine sampling, because what are we, sissies?  (side note: the beer experts who pour samples at Surdyk's are remarkable.  Who knew that every beer expert was young, perky and looked amazing in a dirndl, miniskirt and thigh highs?  Amazing!)  So, after about an hour of this, during which Adrian was careful to chat up anyone within a six foot radius (remember, he likes to talk - still more on this to come), we have our first inklings of a buzz.  It feels nice, our sweat-drenched shirts have almost dried, and the world is our oyster.  Off to Kielbasa fest.

There aren't a ton of people at Kielbasa Fest, but it's early and the beer line is short.  We pay our $10 cover charge, which includes a beer and a pretty cool mug as well.  Before long we have filled and emptied our mugs a few times while watching some Ukranian folk dancing and stuffing down some obnoxious sized kielbasas.  About this time, Adrian - not shy to begin with - starts to become extremely out-going.  Anyone within earshot who makes the mistake of glancing in our direction is fair game and quickly has either found a new best friend or tells tales of the crazy guy at Kielbasa Fest.  I, on the other hand, am slightly more reserved to put it mildly.  I don't like talking in general and doing so to complete strangers is about as much fun for me as constipation.  At one point, after Adrian had made about 14 new Facebook friends (I may be exaggerating, but not by much), he actually said to me "Every time I chat someone up you take at least three steps away from me, don't you?"  I denied it at the time, but only because I don't like it when Adrian is right.  Luckily (or perhaps unfortunately) alcohol is the great equalizer and soon I was joining Adrian in his quest to be on a first name basis with everyone under the tent.  

About the time of our sixth or seventh beer, I again noticed a giant sweat stain covering Adrian's shirt.  This was confusing as we hadn't been on our bikes in a few hours and although it was unseasonably warm, it wasn't soak-through-your-shirt hot.  I was about to ask him if he was alright, but soon solved the puzzle.  I watched as Adrian lifted his mug to take a drink and proceeded to pour the majority of the swallow onto his shirt.  Instead of recoiling or becoming embarrassed (we were, after all, talking with his newest Facebook friends), he didn't notice it at all.  He could not have possibly gotten more than a few drops of beer into his actual mouth, but never broke his continual conversational stream.  Me, being the assholic opportunist that I am, couldn't let this pass without trying to shame Adrian.  I pointed out his now soaked shirt, made some sort of brilliant snarky comment (I don't actually remember what I said but I'm sure it was brilliant.  Drink much?  Saving that for later?  You get the point...), and expected him to be shamed into submission.  Instead, without ever stopping - or even pausing - his conversation with whomever he had just met, this happened:

Three items of interest in this picture:

1.  Notice the psychotic look in his eye.  This wasn't a trick of the camera.  This is how he looked from about 7:30 on.

2.  I'm fairly certain that had I been standing behind Adrian, 3.5 inches of ass crack would have been visible.

3.  Good golly he is a hairy motherfucker.

As is probably apparent, Adrian whipped off his shirt in the midst of Kielbasa Fest and changed into his newly purchased souvenir.  Awesome.  I decided then it was probably time for us to move on.  Instead, we stayed for a few more beers, made several more bestest friends and finally realized that it was time to go to ensure we didn't miss the band.

We jumped back on our bikes and headed downtown - not nearly as daunting as it may sound as, despite our altered condition, Minneapolis is so damn bike friendly now (I'm not complaining) that it is easier to bike than drive or probably even walk).  We ended up arriving a few minutes early and decided it was probably best that we get some food and some water (gasp!) into us before we began drinking more.  We walked a few blocks to a pizza joint - uneventful except for Adrian intertwining himself with a bachelorette party, stumbling and nearly falling down a couple of times and saying "I'm loaded!" no less than 17 times - had a few slices and some much needed non-alcoholic beverages and were on our way to the Entry.

I've only been to the 7th Street Entry a few times since the smoking ban was enacted (see: Middle Age Man Syndrome) and although I am immensely thankful for the ban, I hardly recognize the place when I can see from one end of the room to the other.  My memories of the Entry are indelibly infused with a giant, thick smoke screen which is awesome at the time but makes your hangover about eight times worse.  Regardless, the music was great - Steve's band was incredibly poised and tight for their first live performance - the crowd was wonderful and full of friends and we had a great time.  I also had several more beers.  Adrian fell in love with his camera and became too busy to drink beer, instead taking extreme close-ups of just about everyone in the place.  It was probably for the best, considering we had a long and very uphill bike ride home in front of us.  We stayed through Steve's band and most of the next act before saying our goodbyes and leaving to pedal for home.

We stepped outside to the sight of about 70 police cars, lights flashing, and all the roads blocked off.  We didn't, however, see anything which might of caused this show of force.  After asking a few questions, we were informed that we were in the midst of a riot, which was baffling as we didn't see anyone but a few bar patrons (who seemed to be doing far more watching than rioting) and police officers.  We walked over to our bikes about half a block away and chatted with others wondering what was going on.  I was "feeling no pain" by this point and was having a pretty monumental struggle with my bike lock.  Consequently, I was looking down for a few minutes when I heard Adrian simply say "Whoa!".  I looked up to see a swarm of people rushing towards us.  We were soon in the middle of a giant mob of mostly teenagers moving down the street in a hurry.  They weren't rioting - most were either crying, making panicked phone calls or just looking really frightened.  After the crowd rushed past us, we saw several police on horseback riding behind them shouting "Keep moving!  You can't stay here!  Nobody is allowed on the streets!"  Coincidentally, Adrian and I happened to be on the street.  One of the cops stopped his horse directly in front of us.  I was expecting to be chastised for being on the street and was preparing my "I'm just trying to unlock our bikes" excuse while muttering "you're drunk, don't be an asshole" over and over to myself.  Instead, the cop looked down at us from his steed and said "Do you guys need a safe way out of here?".  I was rendered speechless.  Adrian, on the other hand, has never been rendered speechless.  He roared with laughter and said, "Do we need a safe way out of here?  From what?"  He then stopped the next officer, asked him the name of his horse (Wilbur, which was the funniest thing Adrian had ever heard), patted the horse on the rear a few times and we were off.

The ride home was fairly uneventful - apart from stopping after several blocks and remembering that I had both of our bike lights tucked safely in my backpack rather than on our actual bikes - and I was home just before my self imposed curfew of midnight.  Exhausted, I showered and went to bed, sleeping straight through 'til 5:45 Sunday morning. Sunday, I rewarded myself by staying awake for most of the first three quarters of the Vikings game.  To top it off, I may repeat the revelry this Saturday as rumor has it there is a killer double bill at the Cause Spirits and Sound Bar.  Who says middle-age men don't know how to party?  See you there.