The Book of Mormon Kansas City

H and I have been wanting to watch The Book of Mormon for a while. Let’s start with a little context. H grew up in and around the church. Mormonism to her is not just a religion but friends, family and in some ways part of her culture. It is very similar to what Catholicism is to me. Neither of us are currently part of any particular church but we are both very respectful of what others believe. That said, we both have a crude sense of humor when we talk about religion to each other. We are both very frank people with each other about what we find hilarious but we don’t ever try to offend others with our views or ridiculing their views.

I have been in New York in recent years and I was tempted to go see the play while there, but opted to wait until we could see it together. We actually had plans to see it in Chicago but it did not pan out. We were fortunate enough to have a friend that had fantastic seats but was not going to attend so we bought the tickets from him. All that said we did have a close Mormon friend tell us not to go. It did cause some pause for me.

Before being married to a non practicing Mormon my knowledge of the religion was being visited at one point by missionaries down in Colombia. My Mom had a strict rule about other religions just not entering our household. I did have a grandfather that was agnostic most of his life but ended his days following Hinduism. I can be open minded and I did the whole American protestant churches tour. Mormons are a lot different than other protestants I have encountered. They are by far some of the most warm and welcoming people I have ever encountered.

SouthPark creators had previously taken on Mormonism with one of their episodes. Surprisingly that show only made me more interested about the religions and I have since watched it more than once and think it is really positive. It highlights the values that I really love about that religion, the emphasis on family. Mormonism is not for me because I really love coffee and my brain breaks the illusion of religion when it comes to food. Same reason I could not be a Muslim, I can stop eating bacon because it will give me a hear-attack but not because a book tells me so. I also stopped practicing Catholicism seriously when I realized that I forget lent and eat meat on Fridays… I did it for a couple of years without even noticing. I don’t like feeling guilty because of something I consume without thinking.

Before going to watch the show I looked for content about it and found a song that really made me a little uneasy. One of the best songs really highlights some of the reasons that Mormonism would quickly lose me as a member. The chorus “A Mormon just believes” is pretty tough for me. I have no problem with satire and Catholic altar boy jokes, however this song could potentially ridicule some of the doctrine.

The book of Mormon would not affect a devout Mormon at all. However, if you are a Mormon that has doubts or thinks there are things that don’t make sense, this play will probably highlight most of them in a way that might make you think it is pretty ridiculous for you to believe on them. Without giving away the whole play, I am certain that the creators of SouthPark were not trying to get members away from the church but simply make everyone laugh.

Dangerous Liaisons

Nothing to do with the old movie or the more recent adaptation. Somehow my brain thought of this title to the rant that is really pissing me off lately.

I had a million reasons to come back to Kansas City but once of the cool ones was that a good friend was already saving me a spot in an indoor soccer league. We will come back to this in a bit.

I love the sport of soccer. I like watching it live and playing it a lot more than actually watching it on TV unless it is the world cup. The game is not exciting to watch on TV unless the level of play is at a very high level. Now to watch it live or play it is another story. I am not a soccer nut by any means, but I do have favorite teams in all the mayor leagues and I keep up with some of the international stuff.

Back in Chicago I was very curious about playing in an indoor league. I played outdoor in highschool and tons of street soccer back in Colombia. Indoor was completely foreign to me but it seemed like something that would be a lot easier to play and a great way to get in shape, or at least as an excuse to stay in shape. I talked to a couple of friends and they told me that it was a horrible idea unless I wanted to end up with a broken ankle. It had happened to one of my college buddies brother. So I steered clear. The way the story was told to me, and I hated the fact that it had that qualifier is that the “Mexican” teams were very dirty and took it way too seriously. As it was explained to me there were other nationalities in the hispanic community there but none dirtier than the team that played under the Mexico flag.

When I moved back up to Chicago my cousins and I played “touch” football one weekend. After seeing how they went full force with no pads I could see hospital visits in my future. I said no thanks to future inqueries to join their “fun” games. I guess I am officially old when I don’t think blowing out a knee should be a part of my weekend activities.

Fast forward to my KC friend talking about indoor. The selling point was that it was a co-ed league so there would be no dirty play. Also that it was an amateur league so the play was not very competitive. I was excited and even after the first game it looked like a promising thing. I was looking forward to getting in shape so I would be able to be more than just a sub but actually play entire periods.

Chimpo made fun of me on twitter before I started and thank Jebus that it was not profetic when he mentioned a broken leg on his little jab.

The second game that I was a part of was against a team where the guys all looked like they played soccer every day and on top of it were on roids. The girls on that team were also quick. First ball I get, first intimidation kick I get right to my shin. Lucky for me years of soccer and martial arts have killed enough nervs in that area that it barely registered.

It was a slaughter. The shots at our goal resonated throught the whole sports complex. I think the score was like 11 or 12 to 1 by the end of the match. It had the feel of when small country teams play the dream team in the olympics. It was pretty silly to have that level of team play with the amateurs.

The following week I had a personal thing come up so I could not make the match and that is when the drop that filled the cup happened.

Two of the girls that play in our team are related. Mother and daugther. They are both good soccer players. The daugther is probably one of our best players overall. Great speed, great ball management and can probably kick harder on goal while running than I can. This is a second hand account of what happened because I was not there.

One of the “Hispanic” teams played against our team. Again I hate the fact that it has to be identified as that and it is a little embarrasing since I am hispanic. I was not there to confirm nationalities either… actually I am pretty glad because I would have been happy to lend my swearing skills to the encounter. One of the girls fouled our best girl pretty badly and an actual physical altercation ensued. Mother defends daughter and they both get suspended for 10 games (so basically the rest of the season and into the next one.)

I am pretty new to our team and have only been to that All American Sports a handful of times throught the years. From what I hear the place has become all about taking people’s money and not really providing a service. Our team is pretty much dissolved since both our captain and our best players are not allowed to play. Granted they were involved in a confrontation but who goes full force in an amateur league where you are playing just for fun.

I am pretty dissapointed that I won’t get to play soccer on Fridays anymore. I might get in shape and eventually play outdoor again. They all have the possibility for injury. I know some of the people that play soccer are going to start playing kickball… I guess a safer alternative. Maybe it is better to just stick to the home gym.

Shiny Side Up

I’m not sure if the whole “keep the shiny side up!” is only a motorcycle rider expression or not, but it is all I could think of while driving back from KC. We had an amazingly busy time while down there for a couple of days, but got to eat the food, see our friends and overall just relax. We have to take more mini-vacations like this one because they feel awesome.

I don’t like winter period, and driving in the winter even less. I did not really think much of the weather when planning the trip, which was half planned ahead, half last minute. When I looked at the forecast it did not seem all that bad.

Driving down was wonderful. There was snow on either side of the road on 80, but nothing actually on the road. The traffic was moderate to non existent. We made it down there on a solid 8 hours since we did only quick gas up and no sit down food. The weather was chilly when we arrived, but nothing that I had not experienced previously in Chicago. Come to think of it, in the 3 years I lived in KC I hardly ever saw that much snow actually on the ground or even felt that cold. It was actually colder than it was in Chicago.

Saturday was mild and the sun seemed to make cameos through the day. Colder than I expected but overall not too horrible. Then Sunday came along.

We had a couple of social appointments to attend and one was brunch. OMG was it cold just walking from the parking lot to the restaurant. The wind was blowing and just seemed angry and wanting to make my ears fall off. It had not seemed that bad when we got into the car in the hotel which was 5 minutes away. After a great time we headed back to the car and wanted to stop at the hotel to chill before we went to the next social call.

The wind was still angry, and it seemed to be snowing but it was spotty. Almost like blowing snow and not just falling snow. I am used to not expecting snow to fall when the temperature seems that cold, but it must have been only the wind making it feel way bellow what the thermostat said. I did not think twice about taking the highway to make the trip seem a minute or so shorter. The road did not seem all that bad and the traffic was flowing. That is until we went under a bridge.

I thank God that I did not lose control of the car but it was almost like everything hit all at once. Icy conditions and snow, tiny powdery snow made it almost impossible to see the cars ahead. I eased up from the accelerator and tested to see if I had gained traction again by lightly tapping the break. I slowed down and started to plan my exit from the highway. I had the option of taking an interchange or continuing ahead to the next exit. (I35 going north from 119 right before 435) I decided to take the interchange and exit on at the first chance. The first thing I noticed is that most people did not seem to be adjusting to the conditions and I still had people passing me. All of a sudden a car loses control about 3 cars in front of us. I was not going too fast, but when I tested the breaks I actually said SH!T, I don’t think I am going to be able to stop.

I started to plan for escape routes and even considered the ditch as an option. Thankfully the flow of traffic continued and the car that lost control simply did a full spin out and ended on the side of the road facing the wrong way. The exit ahead could not come fast enough and we made it safely to the hotel without even having to witness any accidents. I turned on the news and sure enough, car pileups had occurred during those minutes that the conditions were just not safe. At dinner we had the official count from our TV station buddy who actually had to go in to post all the official news. 100 cars involved in 3 pile ups.

I started to dread the trip back up to Chicago, but I figured the roads would be ok by the following day.

For the most part they were, but there had over 30 cars on the side of the road from the day before. I make that assumption because they had all been adorned with reflective tape, possibly by the police. Five of them did not have the shiny side up and were completely upside down. A couple were just on their side, and some stretches of highway had 5 or 6 cars one after another. A high percentage, I would say over half were pick up trucks and SUVs.

I am not sure about those drivers that ended up in the ditch, but while making a 8 hour trip into 10 hours to err on the side of safety I had several trucks and SUV pass me at speed well over the speed limit. I always wonder if people are really that dense to not understand that 4WD might help you have traction to take off like a bat out of hell, but it will do nothing when you hit ice and try to make the vehicle stop.

Chicago Snob

That is what Meesha called me last week for a joke I tried to make about Johnson County and massage parlors. I think the not mentioning him on my goodbye post made him pay more attention to me, don’t ask me to explain how a Russian’s mind works.

Some people never move from the town they are born in. Both my wife and I ended up in other countries. It is always amazing to me that even thought we are from the same town back in Colombia and having friends in common, we just never met while we lived down there. If I would not have moved up here during my teenage years and actually gone to College down there I am sure our paths would have crossed since she went to the same University that many of my classmates went to and I would have gone to a University that some of her friends attended.

I ended up finishing high school and college here in Chicago and ended up leaving here during the years that I think shape someone’s personality. Since most of my immediate and extended family have lived here for decades, I have always had ties to Chicago even when living in Michigan and Kansas.

I used to be extremely annoying with the Chicago thing when I first moved to the tri-city area in Michigan. I was not the foodiot (another moniquer thanks to Meesha) back then, but I did enjoy going to good restaurants and I think in my time in Michigan I could count the good ones in one hand. None of them better than anything I could find in Chicago. It did not help that many people in Michigan had no pride on their state or cities and Saginaw (where I worked back then) was known as Saganasty and Bay City a place I seldom visited was Bay Shitty. I did not come up with any of those names, that was what people truly called them. I used to live in Midland which was the snob city, but it had nothing going for it either and the proximity to the chemical plant just made me nervous… people would make jokes about the color of the clouds and which ones would mean stay indoors and which meant run away.

Besides my friends there Michigan does not have anything that really interests me, sure it is beautiful but even the cheeseheads have better lakes.

When I moved to Kansas City I had no clue what I was getting into. I knew next to nothing about the city, the company that paid to move me, I left after six months. It would have been easy for Bea and I to pick up and take off to Chicago, Montreal or Colombia at that point, but we decided to stay and I was lucky enough to find a job that I thought was going to be a career. Then the blogger community embraced us and I made some awesome friends at my new job. Little by little our support system was bigger than I could have ever expected.

I have plenty of family here in Chicago. Just this weekend I got to go and play football (tackle, I am actually in pain right now but I will survive) with my cousin and their friends. Bea and I have been spending time with my sister and Mom and loving it. My friends are little by little finding out that I am back, and the schedule keeps on getting full before we even have a chance to make any plans of our own. Its a great feeling but still very bitter sweet.

Kansas City had become home, Bea and I already felt that when we used to drive back from Chicago after a weekend. Saying good bye a couple of weeks ago was tough, but we still have one more week down there of packing and it is starting to settle in my head for sure that we are not going to live down there anymore. I know some people I will see again, and hopefully I will see often. I never expected to leave Kansas City so soon, and to leave so many people who I consider family behind. We will be making trips back and hope to stay in contact with everyone, maybe twitter and facebook will make that easier, only time can tell.

Sh!thole Cowtown

That Tony not only reads this blog, but that he actually links my sometimes opposite views on his tabloid news site has been flattering. He is one of the people that I looked forward to meeting because I wanted to know the person behind the satirical blog, but I wanted to dig deeper. I hope someday he lets me actually interview him, not because people will like him afterward, he never set out to be popular, but because there is probably a lot more about that crazy local personality in the blog sphere that what is portrayed in his writings.

He was nice enough to post a link to our departure post, and his first commenter was nice enough to inspire this post. He called KC a “sh!thole cowtown.”

I have lived in 3 US cities now, and let me tell you that even though Chicago is a great town, KC is really not that far behind. I actually think that KC is ahead in many levels.

When it comes to great food Chicago might have more food choices, but in all reality you pay a lot more for them. For 15 bucks you can have an excellent meal in KC, in Chicago you have to pay over 25 to get the similar quality. There is defiantly more high end places and choices in KC, but with resources like KC lunch spots there are many things that I am sure you still have not tried.

The airport here is AWESOME. It has a very simple design, you can find parking easily. You get in and out in no time, try to do that in O’hare or even Midway, I dare ya.

Traffic. I laugh when people think that there is traffic in KC. They don’t know what a 2 hour work commute looks like. Sure Chicago has the train system and it works great, but try to get anywhere near downtown even at 4 AM and you WILL hit traffic in Chicago.

Accessible Art and Music scene. You can find a lot more art in Chicago and their museums are excellent but they are both super expensive and horrible to get to. You park and you walk forever, here you can make it an afternoon trip and have dinner and see some good art. Add to this that artist here in town are people you can interact with, if you have not done so you are missing out. The music scene here is the same way, you can hear some good music and not have to pay a prohibitive entry price at the door. In Chicago there is a lot of stuff, but when it comes to being able to actually get to meet an artist it cannot touch First Fridays.

Air quality. You have no idea what pollution can do to your body until you have lived it. Be thankful for the great air and plenty of trees that you have around. Concrete jungle might look pretty but air quality truly sucks.

Winter… you guys don’t have winter here… enough said.

Pace of life. It is a lot more relaxed here, it will take Bea and I a bit to go back to big city mode even though she lived in a city about the same size as Chicago (Montreal). People yell a lot more, and more crunched for time, there is a lot more running… the rat race is just something I don’t really look forward to and hope I can keep as slow as it is here.

The thing that hands down is great about this city is its people. There are nice people here, from the waitres that actually has a conversation with you and knows you by name, from the people that still hold doors for you. The a$$wh0l3 ratio is a lot lower here. I am not looking forward to fighting for a parking spot all the time or have people hunk on their horns like they just bought a new la cucaracha ring tone for their rice burner.