This weekend Carp and I had Charlie and Ariana from Minnesota pass through Kansas City and stay the night with us. We had previously known them from AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps participation a few years back, and it was good to reconnect and keep the wanderer’s dream alive. They were headed West to California, and were planning on spending the next six months together hiking the famed Pacific Crest Trail.
They arrived around five, while we were still at Costco buying bulk beer. We met them back at the apartment, and went straight out to the bar together. Charlie and Ariana were another “AmeriCouple,” two other people who found a great connection during NCCC, and then moved across the country after the program to be together.
We headed to Tower Tavern, where we quickly downed a few Kansas City beers and order stromboli. We walked home, and opened up the box of Costco beer, and continued our conversation into our NCCC experiences. Adriana had a negative and isolating experience overall, while I had a pretty positive, supportive and formative one. We both had struggles though, and we spoke about them. We both decided that developing strong, intentional female relationships was a worthy goal instead of seeing them as competition.
Around beer four of the night, I decided that we should just take a one way ride to Denver with them in the morning. Carp agreed, but a little less willingly. Charlie and Ariana begin to plan where to pick up snacks for us all tomorrow, and how we will all squeeze in the car. They call our mutual friends in Denver, and a reunion is set in moments.
Flash forward to later in the night at the bar. My friend Di meets us for drinks, and “Spirit in the Sky” is playing on the speakers while I tell stories about Alaskan polar bears (my go to party story). Di orders us all whiskey shots that almost no one can stomach, and Charlie, Adriana and Carp end up biking home fairly early. It’s just Di and I, and the people of the world. Di, my close friend since elementary school, talks to the people, and I keep them at the table in conversation. We meet interesting characters throughout the night.
“…You’re a beautiful creature!” Diana exclaims at a person wearing in drag, with black lipstick, heavy eye makeup, pearls glued across their forehead and complete with tummy glitter. Their name is Octavian and they show us how to walk in heels so that one does look like a “duck wearing a diaper.”
I ask about what Octavian does for work, and they say that they are a professional entertainer. They then make a blatantly obvious French Exit, pretending to hear someone calling their name and walk off.
Next come Didi and Bobby, who make their appearance at our table by sniffing my leather jacket.
“She doesn’t smell like patchouli. We can hang with them,” Bobby says to his girlfriend, Didi..
Bobby and Didi end up sitting with us until the bar closes down. We learn all about their lives- Bobby tells about being “half black” and growing up at an all white prep school in the suburbs. Didi tells her life story about growing up in Mexico and immigrating to Kansas City in highschool. We learn about Didi’s job at a local gym, and we talk about Bobby’s creative process as a chef at a local restaurant.
“I get really high in the morning before work, then I write down shit that sounds good to me. I go to work and fix it, I do not eat it. I do not eat it. No. I MAKE it.”
At some point we inevitably start talking about racism. After hearing stories of discrimination from his life, I ask Bobby, “What do we do about it?”
He asks, what do we do about what?
“Racism. Institutional oppression in the world.”
Bobby squints his eyes and looks at me really hard, and asks me a question in return.
“Why are you asking that question?” He pauses and continues, “the only answers end you up in jail.”
I tell them about the writing I want to do, raising up voices from the immigrant community detained in detention centers.
“You need to be prepared for people to not want to talk with you,” Gigi warns me. “You’re coming from good intentions, but you need to be prepared to understand that those people are going to be going through a lot. And they’re going to ask who you are, to be writing about their experience. No one wants to be used or patronized. You need to have a good approach, and you need to have good answers to questions.”
I scribbled this advice down in my notebook, and then Bobby takes the notebook and draws a self portrait of himself in it. Then Gigi draws a picture of herself, and another guy wanders over and draws a third self portrait of the night.
Bohemian Rhapsody comes on over the speakers around 2 am, and the whole crowd at the bar we are at begins crooning, “nothing really matters. Nothing really matters to me…”
Later, back at the apartment I manage to pack my laptop and toothbrush in a bag before heading to bed, because we are headed to Denver tomorrow after all.
I wake in the morning to hear Carp in the kitchen drinking coffee and telling Charlie and Ariana that he will not be joining them on their drive to the Rocky Mountains today. I walk out into the kitchen relieved, and admit that I’m not feeling like driving 605 miles with a hangover today, either.
Had we lost our traveler’s edge? Were we getting too comfortable? We questioned ourselves later. Carp and I both prided ourselves on our ability to pick up everything and go at a moments notice when we met one another in California. And now we couldn’t even take up a two day trip to Denver.
It would have been stressful though. We would have been hungover the whole time. We would have become time pressed as we tried to hitchhike all the way back across Kansas the next day, for Carp to be on time for work. And at the bottom of everything, I just wanted to read and relax on my few days off, and Carp wanted to play with the cat.
We are different people than we were two years ago, but we’re still the same people. We found adventure in Kansas City last night instead of needing to run toward the mountains. And we’ll still be able to run for the mountains the next time it makes sense in the moment.