Tuesday, May 8, 2012

the decade that was: 2000

“Girl you know you got it,
And you know I want it!
I can’t wait to take you home …

I don’t want to be rude at all,
I just want to be where you go –
Think what we could do alone!

Couldn’t we do what we did last night again?
Baby you and I would be better friends!
Don’t you think it’s time we went a bit further?

Every night when we say goodbye,
How can I help looking in your eyes?
Wondering why you and I haven’t hit it –
Can we get it on?

I’m kind of faded, but I feel alright,
And thinking about making my move tonight.
I can’t pretend that you’re only my friend
When you’re holding my body tight.

‘Cause I like the way you’re making your move,
And I like the way you’re making me wait –
And at the end of the night?  When I make up your mind?
You’ll be coming on home with me!”

Oh my, where to begin.  Actually, I know exactly where to begin – in the beginning.  Even God knew to start the most read book in human history with those exact three words, and if you’re gonna plagerize from someone, you can do a lot worse than the master of the universe …

* New Year’s Day opened with me, on a dance floor, in some club in Westport.  Yes, Stevo went out on New Year’s Eve!!!  Granted, it was the millennium, and granted, I was so f*cking drunk from drinking all day that I totally blew a shot to score the chick I spent two hours dancing with*, but still, let it sink in – I have spent ONE New Year’s on something other than a couch, clutching a bottle of champagne, raising a bottle to Dick Clark as the clock strikes midnight!

(*: true story: I've been taking the Metro to and from work the last couple weeks, and it's a highly underrated entity, actually.  Beats the hell out of sitting for 30 minutes every night on 435 East.  Plus it forces me to arrive an hour earlier ... which gets me home an hour earlier.  Score!  In the summer anyways.  So, I'm walking to my pick-up point tonight (two blocks from work) and notice this car waiting to turn, and the sticker in her back window says, and I quote: "If you're gonna hit my ass, pull my hair".  I literally had to stop walking, I was laughing so hard.  Yes, it was a chica driving the car.  We need more girls like her in this world ...)

* After a day of recovery on New Year’s Day, it was time for the “Y2K Bowl”.  Chiefs!  raiders (boo!!!)  For the Chiefs it was simple – if they beat a sub-.500 raiders team playing for nothing but pride, at home?  At worst we would be the last wildcard team.  If we won and the Seahawks lost in New York to the Jets?  We’d win the division.  But we could not lose.  Win and we were in no matter what, because we’d get to ten wins, and Miami could only get to ten … but against a non-con, and us winning ten would give us tie-breaker.  Lose though?  And we were toast, because Seattle had tiebreaker over us in the division (via a sweep), and Miami had tiebreaker over us in the wildcard at nine wins (due to conference record).

You could not have asked for a nicer day – and thankfully, looking up the historical data confirms it – it was in the 50s, sunny, I mean, is this January in Kansas City?!?!  After an epic tailgate (you’re damned right we made Nancy make steak kabobs) that had so many unusual attendees (our buddy Brent was there, along with a friend of his who would tragically be murdered in North Dallas not even two months later), so many random “whoa, what are you doing here?!?!” run-intos in the parking lot (ran into my uncle Scott, who is a season ticket holder, but rarely shows up until 15 minutes before kickoff.  He was there at 9:30.  I’m telling you, ALL of Kansas City was ready for this game), even saw me dare to drink in front of the roommate’s parents (which took balls of steel back then).  Epic, epic tailgate.

I sat with my buddy Jasson in 109 back then, and when you got to your seat, you could just feel the anticipation.  I know it’s been (holy God) 13 years now … but you have to remember, the Chiefs were coming off their first losing season in a decade.  We had a rookie head coach, a man whose hiring actually had me bawling when it was announced, I was so happy.*  The Chiefs had made the unpopular decision to pick Grbac over Gannon.  We had NO running game to speak of.  The vaunted defense that made Arrowhead “Terrorhead” for a decade was running on fumes.  And yet, here we were, at 9-6, in total control of our own destiny.  (And as I argued three years ago, and as it still remains today, it is the single greatest sports “What If?” of my lifetime, at least that I give a sh*t about.)

(*: I know I’ve told this story before, but screw it, even thirteen years later, I still get teared up remembering it.  I was working for Rubbermaid, and had just left the lovely community of Lyons, Kansas, where I’d had to do a store reset for (seemingly) the only store in town.  Whatever radio station I was listening to, was a Chiefs affiliate, and they “broke into” their regular programming to carry the presser when Gun was hired.  I literally had to pull over to the side of whatever rural highway I was on, because I was crying so hard, I couldn’t see to drive.  Let’s just say, I love Gunther Cunningham.)

You could not ask for a better start than the Chiefs got.  Behind a raucous sold out Arrowhead (I’d argue it was the last “old school” crowd, at least as we knew it if you’re in my age range (aka “you fell in love with this team in the 1990s”)), the raiders went three and out.  84 yards later, Tamarick Vanover had his final punt return for a touchdown of his career.  The very next play, dick gannon INT by James Hasty, taken to the house.  As Phil Simms noted on the broadcast, “Dick (Enberg), the Chiefs are up 14-0 and they haven’t run a play yet!”  After another gannon interception, the Chiefs bog down in the red zone, and Pete “For President” Stoyanovich nails a 33 yarder.  We’re barely five minutes in, and the Chiefs lead 17-0. 

I can remember turning to Jasson after Hasty’s TaINT, high fiving him, high fiving the guy behind him who always screams “START US UP!” before every kickoff, and shaking my head with a “it can’t be this damned easy!” shake of disbelief.

Uum, yes, it actually can’t be that easy … because not even fifteen minutes later, the defense that could, suddenly couldn’t, and the raiders had the lead 21-17, and they led 28-24 at the half. 

The game ended with a raiders overtime win, thanks to a ridiculous fifth down given to the raiders, an incredulous Pete “For President” miss as time expired, and a “he did what?  Again?” kickoff out of bounds to open overtime that all but ensured the loss. 

If the “Monday Night Meltdown” the year before was the beginning of the end of the glory days, this game was the revolver, in the conservatory, and Mr. Green looks really suspicious.  Yes, this game killed the Chiefs as we knew them.  Let’s just move on before I start drinking heavily.  (Stevo looks at gigantic glass with shiraz sitting next to him.)  Oh.  Well, let’s just move on.

* The ride home, I don’t think G and I even said two words to each other.  We were both too pissed to talk.  We made the traditional stop at the (back then) Hen House on 85th and Wornall to pick up some booze (since the “great” state of Kansas didn’t have Sunday sales back then) to commiserate the loss.  I start pounding it – after all, the next day was my 23rd birthday, and this was one helluva sh*tty birthday gift.  Gregg just disappears into his room, presumably to … do God knows what.

Well, from every tragedy, can come moments of sheer humor.  And this one, was a doozy.

Pretty much the actual conversation as I remember it:

(approximately 7:30pm that night)
(stevo) (hammered)
(stevo) (on the couch, watching “Sunday Night Football”)
(gregg) (finally emerges into the main room)
(gregg) (looks mad as holy hell)
(gregg) let’s go.
(stevo) (visibly frightened) uuh, where are we going?
(gregg) just get in the damned car.

Now, at this point, I figured we were headed one of three places: (1) Harrah’s, (2) “The Outback”, (3) a remote field somewhere that my life was going to end in due to the roommate killing me in anger over a Chiefs loss.  Honestly, I was cool with two of those options.

I did not even consider that there could be a fourth option … and that said option would be a trip to the old K-Mart on Shawnee Mission and Pflumm.

So, we head into the K-Mart, and Gregg is walking with a purpose.  (AKA “he’s sprinting towards what he wants to buy”.)  Me, I’m barely able to stand up, let alone walk at a fast clip in a semi-straight line to wherever the hell he’s headed.  Turns out, he’s headed to the bathroom furnishing section, and he walks straight for the scales.  He begins perusing the various scales available for purchase, and having finally caught up to him, this conversation unfolds, again, as best I remember:

(stevo) what the hell are we doing here?
(gregg) (in a near growl / very angry voice) 255.
(stevo) (buzzed and confused) what the hell does 255 mean?
(gregg) it’s how much Donnie Edwards weighs.
(stevo) (very buzzed and confused) ok.  What the hell does that have to do with anything?
(gregg) it’s also how much I weigh.
(stevo) (the beer’s really kicking in) ok.  What the hell does that have to do with anything?
(gregg) I weigh as much as my favorite player.
(stevo) so?
(gregg) so?  I’m not 2 percent body fat!  I’m losing this f*cking weight!  And you’re gonna force me to do it!
(stevo) ok …

So, G bought his scale (because apparently, the one he weighed himself on to figure out he weighed as much as Donnie Edwards wasn’t good enough for this weight loss journey he was about to embark on), and yeah.  In the mother of all shockers (and I actually mean this seriously for once), there was not a single puff of weed consumed by either one of us to lead to this “roadie” to K-Mart. 

* To G’s credit?  By Memorial Day weekend, he was below the 200 threshold.  We’ll get to Memorial Day weekend in a few more paragraphs … or pages … whichever comes first, because if you think a random “we’re going to K-Mart to buy a scale” random side trip is a bit ridiculous, well, uum, just stay tuned.

* MLK weekend!  Friday night, I went with some co-workers after work to Harrah’s, and won about $300.  Saturday night, I went with Gregg and Jasson, and cleared $500.  Sunday?  Absolutely we went back, and won again.  Monday?  Hey, I had the day off … and walked out up about $750.  I cleared almost $2,000 that weekend at the blackjack tables.  Incredibly enough … this isn’t even CLOSE to the most money I’d win in the first half of 2000 at a casino.  And to think that random people, immediate family, and close friends wondered why it came to an intervention come April 2002 …

* Not much else happened until late April, when the Royals hired Allard Baird as general manager.  I loved that hire too, even forced Gregg and Jasson to go to his first game as GM, I believe it was against the White Sox.  I know it was on a Sunday, and it was the game I definitely found out that just because it’s an overcast day, doesn’t mean you can’t get toasted by the sun.  I was as red as a lobster by the time that one was over.

* Mid May: the Stars, defending Stanley Cup Champs, face a game seven in the Western Finals against bitter rival Colorado.  It’s a Saturday night.  All I wanted to do, was watch me some hockey.  All the roommate wanted to do: was watch him some girls at an adult entertainment establishment in Lawrence.  In one of the few times in my life where I had the upper hand … I convince G to buy me two “steaks”, and he had to drive (so I could get as drunk as I wanted to) … but we could only leave once there was no doubt Dallas would win (or (gulp) lose). 

Go figure, the Stars score three goals in the first five minutes, tack on another one to close the period, and we’re off!

Where one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen in my life occurs, before I even get one drink down the hatch – oh hell to the mo’ fo’ yes, we got FORCIBLY EVICTED from a strip club!  I forget which one, other than it (a) wasn’t the Outhouse … excuse me, “The Outback”, and (b) it was north of I-70.  But hey, anytime you can be forcibly removed from a strip club, you have to do it!  We’ll come back to more “classy strip club moments in time” in a couple pages, and trust me – this next one is beyond funny.

* And we’re here!  Memorial Day Weekend 2000!  The weekend began with Gregg and I deciding to see what the pool at the complex was like on a holiday weekend – no roadie to central Illinois, or Indy, or anywhere.  The weather couldn’t have been more cooperative – it was in the 90s, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and come race time on Sunday, we were off for the pool, to enjoy the $200 plus worth of booze we bought for the weekend. 

Ten hours and a couple pass-outs later, I was a little red, but I was ok.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I burn once, then the rest of the summer, I tan, regardless of whether I use sunscreen or not.  I’d already gotten my fry job out of the way at the ballgame a couple weeks earlier.)  Gregg?  Not so much.

Because by the time he headed inside, he was in misery.  He was as red as a Chiefs home jersey.  We wound up having to take a trip to the emergency room … and yeah, the poor guy had second degree burns all over his chest and back.  Second degree burns from simply laying out in the sun.  Unbelievable.

Even worse?  Well, and sit down, because (cue the greatest sarcasm voice known to man) I know this is going to come as a great shock to everyone reading this … but there wasn’t a girl for either one of us at this point.  (cue the "dropped jaws of shock").  Someone had to apply this hideous smelling cream on his back a couple times a day.  Applying it, I could deal with.  Smelling that sh*t, I could not.  I usually had to puke when I was done applying it.  It stunk worse than a full septic tank.  Not a fun couple weeks in the Casa de Gregg y Stevo.

* June flowed by uneventfully … oh wait, it didn’t.  Because it appeared KU hoops coach Roy Williams was leaving for North Carolina.  Up until Thursday June 29th, when he announced he was staying.  Good times?  Good times.  At least for three more years.

* That summer, we were in a bowling league with Gregg’s cousin Robert, who, uum, well, how do I put this delicately … anytime a guy has multiple restraining orders against him?  Probably not someone you want to hang out with any more than necessary.

* Then came the day after Roy stayed.  Friday, June 30th, 2000.  One of the five or six best days of my life.  The day an (at the time) hot as hell 23 year old accountant took advantage of a Short Friday at “former employer”, noted it was a pay day, and decided “what the hell”, and headed for Ameristar a little after noon.

Back then, of course, Ameristar was Station Casino, and it was my favorite casino in the KC market.  (To be fair, Ameristar is still my preferred gaming destination.  Even if my brother prefers the Isle, DJ prefers Harrah’s, and Gregg … hell, Gregg is like me – he’d play in some dude named Vito’s basement if it was a semi-legitimate operation.  Here’s to addiction!)

My favorite dealer at Station (and she’s still at Ameristar) was Karen.  Up to this point?  I had never won money playing at her table, and yet, I still would always seek her out, because she’s a fun conversation, she’ll actively attempt to get rid of the fifth category of blackjack player*, and she’s as big of a player’s dealer as you can find. 

(*: ok, if you never read another sidebar, please read this one.  Here goes.  

I believe there are five types of blackjack players: CC, CA, AC, AA, and FI.  CC: conservative conservative.  They bet the table minimum (unless up big), and take few risks with their money once they see their cards.  My buddy Gregg is a CC.  They’re solid players, just conservative.  I’d say 20% of players fit in this category.  CA: conservative aggressive.  Bet the table minimum (unless up big), but do everything they can to get more money out once they see the cards – aggressively double and split.  I am CA.  I’d say 10% fit this category.  AC: aggressive conservative.  Bet big off the bat, but choke up once they see the cards.  My brother is AC – a kid who has no problems betting $50 a hand, but won’t double said $50 if he has a 9 against a 7.  I’d say 5% fit this category.  AA: aggressive aggressive.  Balls to the walls.  Bet big early, bet big late.  My buddy Jasson is in this grouping, along with about 15% of the gambling public.  FI?  The fifth category?  Well … the I stands for Idiot.  The F is a descriptive seven letter adjective that rhymes with fucking.  Oh, no wait, it is fucking, and I’m not editing it in this case.  Fucking idiots.  50% of the gaming public, and why casinos rake in the cash.  Sadly, I have way too many friends who fall into this category, despite my (and Gregg’s, and Drew’s, and Jasson’s) best efforts to show them the errors of their gambling ways.  Please, if you are a FI, do NOT sit down at a table with me.  That is all.  Thank you.)

Anyways, I walk in a little after noon, and see my favorite table back then, the corner double deck $10 table, has some vacancies, and wouldn’t you know it, Karen’s dealing!  Even better, third base is wide open for the taking!  (My favorite position to play.  Another key to blackjack: if your third base falls into the “fifth category”, run!  Because you are better off finding a toilet and just flushing your money down it, rather than give it to the casino, which you are guaranteed to do with a fucking idiot playing third.)

So I sit down (no mid-shoe entry, aka “why I love double deck”), and the conversation as best I remember it:

(stevo) hey Karen.
(karen) hey Steve!  How are you!
(side note: when you’re on a first name basis with damned near every dealer in the casino?  You might have a gambling problem.  Just wait until I get to the 2002 lookback at some point, specifically April 29th of that year.  Yeah.  I had … have, a gambling problem.  I just control it better now.  I think.)
(stevo) doing good.  Ready to finally beat you!
(karen) (shakes her head)
(stevo) what, not been good today?
(karen) I’m cleaning them out Steve.  You might want to try another table, honestly.  I’m on fire.
(stevo) (blindly optimistic) well, let’s change that!

Back in 2000, I had three friends I routinely would hit the boats with: Gregg, Jasson … and my late buddy James, who was working in the caves back then.  He was supposed to meet me for an afternoon of gambling that day, only he had to work late, so I decided to soldier on by myself.

After a couple shoes, I was up a little bit, but for some reason, I thought it was worth pressing the issue.  So I switch from my usual CA mode, into AA mode, and start betting $20 a hand.  And start winning.  So I keep pressing, eventually expanding to two hands at $250 / pop about an hour later.  I literally could not lose – when the pit boss comes over after about 90 minutes of the table cleaning house to “change the cards” and try to “cool us off”, Karen and I (and our fellow gamblers) start recapping the last few shoes, and realize, I’ve won 47 out of 48 hands (remember I was playing two hands, at $250 each) … and the one I didn’t win, I pushed.  I literally have not lost in 30 some odd minutes. 

As an addicted gambler in ultra-conservative Missouri, I can tell you, there are few greater thrills than getting one orange chip in your stack.  Having TEN of them?  AKA “every one in the tray at that point”?  Was the thrill of a lifetime. 

I eventually walked out up almost $7,000 that day.  (I tipped Karen pretty good.  She earned it.)  Given the financial pressures in my life at that point (I sorta kinda didn’t earn any money the last five months of 1999, and go figure, creditors don’t smile on you not being able to pay them, shocker I know), it was a godsend.  It also allowed me to …

* Hit the lake the following weekend!  Prior to the huge win, I figured I’d just hit up my folks for a couple hundred to pay for the weekend getaway me, Gregg, and Jasson, and a couple of Jasson’s buddies, had planned for a month now.  Jasson had rented a condo on the south side of the Lake of the Ozarks, and it was 4th of July weekend.  We were gonna have at least one epic summer weekend, and sweet Jesus, did we.  Although for me, not until Saturday.

For starters, since I didn’t want to burn the vacation day, I went down separately (short Fridays, after all).  And go figure – I’m probably the only person in recorded human history to get lost driving to the Lake.  It’s an easy drive – Highways 50 to 65 to 54.  A complete moron can do it.  And I’ve done it to the north side of the lake since at least a half dozen times, replacing 54 with 13.

That day?  I just couldn’t do it.  (dusty voice) The story of your life, Stevo (rimshot!)  (stevo comeback voice) … (crickets chirping voice …)

I finally find the damned condo, and am so pissed at getting lost, I blew off going out that night with Gregg and Jasson. 

From the “why I’m a f*cking idiot … at anything OTHER than blackjack” file: care to guess who Gregg and Jasson did shots with that night? 

Only THE biggest mancrush I’ve ever had in my life*.  A man I once had my primary home email account named after. 

(*: my ten biggest man crushes, in order, as of today:

10: Darryl Strawberry. 
9: Phil Mickelson. 
8: Jere Lehtinen. 
7: John Starks. 
6: Tommie Frazier. 
5: Carlos Beltran. 
4: Kasey Kahne.
3: Kenny Brack.  I really wish I'd never lost the "classy" photo of me with Brack outside Kansas Speedway in 2005: I am pushing a .26, no t-shirt in sight, and Brack has this look of "sweet Jesus, what am I doing?!?!" on his face.  I really wish I still had that pic.  I'd argue it was my finest hour!
2: Chad Pennington.
1: Keep Reading … oh, and JUST missing the cut?  Ed Hearn.  (cue riotous laughter from everyone who gets that joke …))

Yes, they traded shots with …

Jeffrey Allen Boschee. 

The ultimate #fuckmylife moment of my life so far.

Anyways, that next day, Saturday, Jasson pilots the boat, and sets course for … Party Cove.  And sweet Jesus, is it everything you dream it is!  And that was twelve years ago!  While I could have done without the male nudity, I did love the rationale of this mom and her daughter we tied up with and wound up spending the day enjoying the, uuh, day with:

(stevo) (staring at daughter’s toplessness)
(daughter) (teasing voice) so you like what you see?
(stevo) hell yes I do!  (laughs all around)
(mom) (completely serious) hey, if you get to show your nipples, why can’t we?
(stevo) (nodding his head in agreement at the MOST SOUND, RATIONAL, REASONABLE THING EVER SAID IN HIS PRESENCE* …)

(*: as a friendly reminder, in case any female reading this is planning to hit up one of the pools on 57th Terrace this summer?  All that is required for entry into either pool is “proof” of “purchase” of a bathing suit if you are a female.  That proof can be an actual suit … or a receipt … or a picture you took of a bathing suit that you pass off as your own.  Guys?  Have to actually be wearing one … unless Donnie or a female gives you a waiver.  And any guy has veto power over Donnie saying it’s ok.  Sorry pal.  We love ya, but … yeah, not gonna happen.

Unless your name is Dan -- apparently “letting it all out there for the world to see” is a secret protocol to the “clothing optional under these conditions” pact I was unaware of until it, uuh, exposed itself.  Let’s just move on before I’m sued for sexual harassment …)

That night, saw arguably the single most ridiculous thing I might have ever witnessed in my life.  We all head off for some bar, and Jasson drives the boat there.  There’s seven of us on this trip – me, Jasson, and Gregg, our buddy Bill and his wife, and two guys Jasson works with that were cool as hell … but don’t know a word of English.  (I’ll take “illegals for 600, Alex”.)  So we’re at this bar (and I swear, I thought it was Shooters 21, but I know I’m wrong on that because we were on the west side of the lake that night, and I swear Shooters is on the east), and the DJ / Emcee announces that there’s a BUI patrol check on the lake that night.

Well sh*t.  We’ve been in Party Cove all day.  Of the five non-ESL folks in our group, I am actually the most sober, which is about as shocking as shockers come.  Unfortunately … I’ve never driven a boat before.  So you can’t put me “behind the wheel” because we’ll definitely draw suspicion.  Thankfully, one of our ESL friends can drive a boat, so we nominate him to pilot us back to safety when the bar closes (plus, he didn’t drink, at all).

Well go figure, we get stopped.  And go figure, the Missouri Boating Cops ain’t buying this guy's “no Ingles” angle he’s selling.  They actually wind up giving the guy a Breath-a-lyzer … and of course, he’s a 0.00, so they finally have to let us “boat on”.  As everyone else on the boat (all five sheets to the wind) laughs hysterically as we’re trying to tell this guy in Spanish how to get back to our dock.

We eventually make it safely, head home the next day … and sadly, that’s the last holiday lake weekend we’ve had, since the next year, the IRL started running at the Speedway on that weekend, and now, everyone has family and other obligations to attend to.  But that weekend was pretty sweet.  And would have qualified as “epic” if I hadn’t been a dipshit and gone to the bar that Friday night to go shot-for-shot with Boschee.  (For what it’s worth, out-drinking Jeff Boschee?  Would definitely have ranked higher on the “yup, Stevo really did that, and I have witnesses to confirm it”-o-Meter than telling Ed Hearn he was the “worthless son of a bitch we traded David Cone for” to Mr. Hearn’s face.  And yes, I think I could have outdrank Boschee.  Although it would have been a “Peter against his Drunken Irish Dad” type scenario from “Family Guy” by the time it was all said and done.)

* I honestly forget if this next recap is from 2000 or 2001.  I’m 90% sure it’s from 2000, so I’m running it here … but there is the off-chance it was 2001.  Either way, it’s too damned funny to not recap at some point, so if I’m premature, well, it won’t be the first time I’ve apologized for that problem (rimshot!)

We were at Harpo’s in Westport for “quarter draw night”.  I specifically remember four people there that night: me, Gregg, my brother, and my brother’s buddy Dale.  I’m sure there were more there, but (1) it’s late July, (2) it’s quarter draw night, and (3) I still remember Dale getting so pissed at slow service, that he literally handed $7 to the waitress, and grabbed the tray of 20 draws from her, and walked it over to where we were.

Anyways, someone comes up with the inspired idea to hit up a strip club … and for some reason, we opt for the Bonita Flats out in (forget which) south Johnson County or northern Miami County.  It’s out there.

So, we walk in, find a table, are enjoying the atmosphere and the company, and this ensues:

(dj … and for once dj doesn’t mean “the kid”) everyone, please welcome to the main stage, Summer!
(audience) (clapping in appreciation of her talents)
(gregg) (to us) I know this girl!
(us) (laughs all around)
(gregg) no, really, I know this girl (that’s up on the stage)!
(stevo) actually … she does look familiar.
(gregg) (it dawns on him)
(gregg) Damn!  We went to high school with her!
(stevo) (looking again) we did?
(gregg) It’s Holly!

Sure.  As.  Sh*t!  One of our high school classmates, who was arguably the shyest, most withdrawn, least likely to wind up as an exotic dancer chica you’d ever meet in your life, is putting on a show for the whole world to see on the stage in front of us.

It gets even better.  As best I remember it, via my brother:

(“summer”) would you like a … hey!  How are you!
(“fake name g was using”*) good!  good!  how about you?
(“summer”) really good.  So, would you like a dance?
(“fake name g was using”) oh hell yes I would!

(*: another running gag from the early 2000s: you always had to use a fake name when entering a house of ill repute.  Never failed to crack me up.)

What a night.

* Also an amazing night?  August 17, 2000.  The single greatest political speech I’ve ever had the privilege to watch, in which Al Gore not only accepted his (and my … for now) party’s nomination, he gave the single most forceful, convincing defense of what being a modern-day liberal means.  Too bad poor Al lost his mind a few months later when Bush v Gore came down.

* We’ve finally reached Labor Day weekend, and … good Lord, I’m on page 14 in Word already!  And we’re only in late August!  (dramatic pause …)  Hey, you well intentioned yet misguided folks who argue beer and weed kill off brain cells?  I offer you this post, while raising two middle fingers and saying something that rhymes with “Muck Few!” (rimshot!)

* So let’s do Labor Day Weekend, the Chiefs home opener, up right, because this was yet another amazing moment(s) in a year filled with them.

Friday night, after work, Gregg and I decide to head down to the Red Friday pep rally in the City Market.  It made sense – I worked in the Town Pavilion, he worked in the City Market, and we’d carpooled that morning, so why not.

After listening to the various pep-rally type speeches and motivational tactics Red Friday consists of, the final speaker of the night takes the stage – one Donnie Edwards.  Only the roommate’s favorite player, his number one “mancrush”, and a man who throughout the 1999 season, had developed a routine with Gregg (and somewhat with the rest of us) at the Players Entrance.

Little did we know, that G's little sister … was about to deliver one HELLUVA huge surprise.

So as Donnie leaves the stage, he’s doing a meet-and-greet with various Chiefs fans, and I encourage Gregg to go up and try to talk to him, under the “why not / what the hell” clause that all fans have when it comes to their favorite players.  (Well, unless you’re me, and you blow off a shot to trade shots with your mancrush.  Excuse me while I crack open the third bottle of shiraz while typing this in remembrance of that incredible brain fart* …)

(*: and yes, I am fully aware Mr. Boschee was Jenni's "pool boy" for TWO freaking years in Lawrence, and I still never had a beer with him.  I think that's a good thing -- at least I'm not a stalker?  Hang on.  (stevo bashing his head repeatedly against a tire iron ...))

So Gregg approaches, me close behind (hey, he’s my ride home, after all), and as best I remember the exchange:

(gregg) Donnie!  Good to see you!
(donnie) (recognizes him) Hey!  How are you!
(gregg) Good, good.  Ready for the season!
(donnie) yeah, we’re gonna surprise some people!
(gregg) I hope so!
(donnie) So I got this paper your sister wrote about you …
(gregg) WHAT?!?!
(donnie) yeah, apparently your sister wrote a paper on your traditions and rituals and stuff on gameday.
(gregg) (in stunned silence)
(donnie) I loved it!
(gregg) (in stunned silence)
(donnie) see ya at the entrance Sunday!  (shakes hand)
(gregg) (in stunned silence)

Yes, Jenni had been “researching” us during the 1999 season, and wrote a freaking college thesis paper on the “rituals of die-hard Chiefs fans”.  To this day?  It’s the best thesis I’ve ever read.  It totally captures what tailgating circa the late 1990s was like.

And we’re just getting started on the Donnie Edwards moments from 2000 …

* The home opener, against the Colts?  Was arguably the hottest Chiefs regular season game I’ve ever been to.  The forecast was 100 at kickoff.  This was the first time in franchise history they allowed you to bring water bottles into the game, that’s how hot it was projected to be at kickoff.  (Now, you can bring in water even if its negative 20, but twelve years ago, it was unheard of.)

I sat by Brent for this game, who was in town for the holiday weekend, and we made our first appearance on the old jumbotron in pure classy style: Brent stripped down to his sweated-through white t-shirt; me biting my white t-shirt I’d already stripped off as it was draped over my shoulder, John Thompson style.  I only know this occurred because I got a call from my mom that night that noted “I could really do without seeing my son shirtless on television”.  Oh mom, God love ya … (vice president biden voice) what am I talking about?  I tell you what, stand up for Chuck!

In my defense?  The high that day per the historical references was 106.  I sit in the lower bowl, where its 20 degrees hotter than the actual temperature.  It’s a miracle I even wore a t-shirt in.

* Week two, at Tennessee: led to three hilarious moments.

(1) I did not go to this roadie … but Gregg and Brent did.  I told Gregg to go to Gore headquarters (campaign was headquartered in Nashville) to get some pro-Gore / Lieberman stuff to show my support for the ticket.  I told him “use your judgment”.  (stevo bashing his head against the desk at that show of stupidity)  You’re damned right I wound up with an “African Americans for Gore / Lieberman” sign to hang out the window as my “show of support”.

(2) that night outside an adult entertainment establishment in Nashville, the late, great Mr. William Grigsby told a group of Chiefs fans “I hope we beat those fuckers!”  This was at approximately 2am.  Kickoff was at noon.  Bill had pregame duties at 8:30.  God I miss that man.  And …

(3) The General, Robert Montgomery Knight, was fired during this game, that the Chiefs lost in overtime to the Titans to open 0-2.  Tragic.

* Week three, home to San Diego, gave rise to my favorite picture of all time, still to this day.  (Other than any sex tapes I may be a star in … wait, there aren’t any?  Sonofa!  Just kidding, mom.)  For some reason, it was a 3:15 game.  A couple of 0-2 squads “duking” it out?  Sure, put it in the stand-alone national spot, CBS! 

The picture below was snapped by (I believe) Jenni: it’s me, Jasson, and Gregg (l to r), headed to the players entrance, right after the gates open, through the still-empty Lot G.  If I had a way to scan the reprint Gregg gave me as my 33rd birthday present, I would … but until then, here’s the damaged version I tried to upload four years ago.  (The lady on the far right is Gregg’s mom.) 

In many ways, just as the raiders game to open 2000 was the last gasp of the Chiefs as I (and many others) knew them?  This picture?  Was kind of the last gasp of the three of us as we knew ourselves for so many years growing up.  Looking at this picture always makes me tear up – it’s the “Three Amigos” one last time.

* Week four, the Chiefs close out Real Mile High in true fashion, beating the broncos 23-22.  An ugly win … but anytime you beat those f*ckers, you never apologize for it.

* Week five, Monday Night Football!  Yes, this was THE “Ed Hochuli Game”, when we got Ed to pose for pictures, got a “Sweet Jesus / Is there a problem” response out of him, to go along with a few autographs … but we made Ed “promise” to “steal” this game for his “biggest fans”.

Well sure as sh*t, its 17 all, late 4th quarter, and the Seahawks have a 3rd and 6.  Seahawks TE Christian Fauria makes a “no doubt about it” catch for seven that leads to one of the greatest moments in Monday Night Football broadcasting history:

(camera) (catches gun swearing)
(gun) “god dammit!  he didn’t fucking catch that!
(dennis miller) wasn’t me!
(al michaels / dan fouts) (openly lose it in the booth)
(dennis miller) wasn’t me folks!
(dan fouts) it wasn’t me either!
(entire booth) (loses it)
(dennis miller) (still laughing) so that leaves al?
(al michaels) (loses it on air)
(al michaels) I assure you, it wasn’t me either folks!
(dan fouts) so the butler did it?
(booth) (raucous laughter)

Somehow, Ed overturns the catch, forces a Seahawks punt, and the Chiefs rally to win 24-17 to get to a respectable 3-2 entering the bye.

It went downhill from there … eventually.

* “Lockbox!”  Come on, everyone remembers Al Gore pissing the election away with the “social security lockbox” moments in the debates!  Hang on, let me bash my head repeatedly with the HHH Memorial Sledge Hammer I conveniently have sitting right next to me to “remember” those 2000 debates …

* That fall, a couple things happened to me that had never happened before.  First, Gregg and I decided to “take the plunge” … and purchase KU Football Season Tickets.  Sweet Jesus.  Other than when we get to 2004 in this recap series (and I’m thinking that one might be next, actually), I can honestly say: I have NEVER pissed away money on a more worthless product than 2000 KU Football Season Tickets.  Perhaps the biggest debacle of a game that fall was losing (wait for it …) 63-0 … on Homecoming … to KSU.  How in the hell do you lose by NINE TOUCHDOWNS to your Homecoming Opponent?

Again, (rest in peace, sir) (and cue the ultimate sarcasm voice) anyone who says Dr. Bob Frederick cared about nothing other than basketball is sorely misguided …

* The other thing I did for the first time, I actually am proud of my involvement with.  I got an email in early September from our company’s charitable committee that we were going to be involved with an awesome program here in KC known as “Christmas in October”.  Basically, a bunch of corporations donate money, employees, tools and equipment for one weekend in October, and an entire neighborhood in a rough part of town gets a complete makeover – whatever is wrong with the house(s) your team is assigned, gets fixed, free of charge to the homeowner.

I know this sounds stupid, coming from a kid who has pretty much always lived in suburbia … but I strongly believe a city is only as strong as its urban core.  If its urban core is decrepit (like, sadly, KC’s currently is), your city isn’t worth a damn.  If, on the other hand, your urban core is vibrant and livable (like Chicago or Dallas)?  You’ll attract a ton of people wanting to move there.

So I shot back an email to the coordinator that I was willing to give up a Saturday to help out.  The coordinator (fine, everyone who worked at TA knows I’m talking about “TLC Cares” and “Martha Martinez”), Martha sends me an email back: “hey, you’re the first person to volunteer … uum, want to chair the project?”

I’d done some Habitat for Humanity work in college, so I kinda, sorta thought I knew what I was getting into, so I was like “sure, what the hell”.  And we had a pretty solid core group that formed that first year that kept coming back year after year.  I chaired the Christmas in October crew for Transamerica for five years, until I ceded it to (ironically) “Deadbeat Ex Roommate” of all people.  (See, y’all laughed in the 2008 look back when I said Ben was one helluva good guy, he’s just a deadbeat.  As usual, I was … possibly correct.)

That first year in 2000, the project focused on the area just north of Research, basically from 55th to 63rd, from the (being built) Watkins freeway to Prospect.  We had an awesome family assigned to us for our first project – a grandma, a daughter, and her two kids (the dad had left them).  Could not have been nicer.

These poor folks had nothing but the roof over their head and whatever they could scrape together.  I had expected, on initial inspection, that we’d spend maybe half a day working on this house, because they didn’t ask for much.  The house had serious issues, but all they asked for was to replace a couple room / space heaters, redo the caulking around the windows and in the bathroom, and replace the (unworking) deadbolt lock on the front door.  When I did my initial inspection and met these folks, I knew the house had many other far more serious needs, but figured hey, it’s our first year doing this, let’s just do what they want us to do. 

Basically, I undersold my crew.  Because when we got there, my fellow employees and friends took a look around and were like “nope, we’re here all day, we’re fixing this sumabitch!”  It was a neat, neat day.  We literally paid over $500 out of pocket between us to buy a new back window (that was smashed).  We convinced the gutter cutters to cut us new gutters.  The good folks at the hardware store (I think it’s a Do It Best) down at the Landing actually donated all new deadbolt locks for every door in the house at the store’s expense, as well as provide four gallons of paint to repaint the entire outside of the house.

The local electricians union sent a guy over to fix the room heater issue.  (All you anti-union people reading this?  Go fuck yourselves.  And I’m not editing that.  Unions exist for a reason, and despite what Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and the idiotic far right tell you to blindly believe, it isn’t to get rich on taxpayer dollars.)  The local plumbers union sent a guy over to check the pipes and plumbing, and I actually wound up meeting the guy on Tuesday AND Wednesday to do some repair work.  Care to guess how much these “union thugs” were paid for giving up TWO weekday evenings to help a family they didn’t know, make their life a little more livable?  NOTHING.  But clearly, all union members are greedy bastards out to fleece you of every penny you have.  Christ, I hate the radical right!*

(*: come on, it’s page 20 in Word, and this is the first cheap shots I’ve taken at the extremists determined to take this nation back to 1542.  In the interest of fairness, you can’t expect to read a Democrat’s look back at 2000 and NOT expect some gratuitous cheap shots at the idiocy that is the conservative movement, right?  Hint: I’m recapping 2000.  Not that anything major happened in November into early December that year to incite my bile against them, right?)

The house we had was at 59th and Kensington.  Unfortunately, every person who calls Kansas City home knows exactly why that intersection is important – barely six months later, the decapitated remains of Precious Doe would be found in an abandoned lot at that intersection.

A city is only as strong as its urban core.  It was true twelve years ago, and its even more true today.  Which is probably why Kansas City is falling apart …

* Well, you can’t recap 2000 without remembering the first Tuesday in November.  And you couldn’t have two roommates more diametrically opposed than me and Gregg were.  I halfway suspected this was going to be an election of a lifetime, so I actually asked for both Tuesday (Election Day) and Wednesday off.  My first PTO days as a Transamerica employee!  I still remember my boss asking me why I wanted the days off, and my response of “I want to watch the election coverage the next couple days” had him laughing.  “What person your age gives a damn about politics?”  Uum, well, I do!

So I took the two days off.  I went and voted on Tuesday, and am proud to say I was one of about 22 Kansans to vote for Al Gore.  (OK, fine, 31 did.)  I spent the rest of the day cleaning up the apartment, I’m fairly confident I made a liquor and/or beer run to “properly prepare” for the night to come … and then it hit me.

“Sunday Ticket Setup”.

Back in the day, for NFL Sundays when the Chiefs were on the road or on a bye, we had the “Sunday Ticket Setup” – we’d haul every TV in the apartment / house into the main room, every DirecTV receiver, every rabbit ear we had, and would line them up all next to each other, each with a different game or sporting event on it.  Our own personal sports bar.  My thought was, why not do this for Election Night?

So when Gregg walked in the door, and saw I’d lugged not only his heavy-as-hell TV onto the coffee table, not only the back deck TV, not only repositioned the big screen, not only managed to lug my console out, but had also lugged the spare TV out of the storage closet AND managed to move the (eventual) hot tub deck TV into position (that thing was heavy as shit) … his response?

“I thought about calling you to do this … but I figured you’d know what to do.”

I’m not gonna dwell on the election.  Obviously, I think the Supreme Court ruled incorrectly.  This nation may never recover from Justice O’Conner failing to uphold the Tenth Amendment in her ruling that swayed the vote to 5-4 in Mr. Bush’s favor.  Certainly Mr. Gore will never recover from it – the dude has lost his f*cking mind in the twelve years since.  (Although in his defense?  If I lost the Presidency like Al Gore did?  I’d be in a mental institution.  Cue Dusty with the “you should be in one anyway Stevo!” comeback.)

But hey, that African Americans for Gore / Lieberman sign?  Never got old.

* OK, time to start wrapping this up, it’s taking a ridiculously long time now when I hit the save button, and I’m on page 22 in Word.  Only a couple things left to go … starting with the scariest night of my life.

It was mid-November.  I’d been up at KU that afternoon, in the snow, watching Texas fall behind 9-0 to the horrendous Hawks … before scoring 45 straight to win in a blowout.  Good times!  Managed to finally get home about 8pm in a horrendous snow storm, just in time to see my favorite boxer, “Ferocious” Fernando Vargas, take on his nemesis Felix Trinidad for the title on PPV.  Vargas got beat to a bloody pulp, getting knocked down twice early, before being KO’d late.  I was pissed, another wasted $50 in a fall season of wasted money (KU Football sucked, the Chiefs were starting a five game losing streak that destroyed the season and Gunther’s head coaching career).

So, after consuming a ridiculous amount of alcohol, I finally decide to call it a night, and crawl into bed about 11:30ish.  Come a little bit after midnight, the phone starts ringing.  G answers it, and starts knocking on my door.  I finally hear him, manage a grunt, and he walks in and hands me the phone.

Let’s reset the scene here: it’s snowing like a banshee outside.  It’s about 4 degrees to boot.  I’ve been drinking since 11am.  I’m in a foul mood.  And this, as best I remember it, is the conversation that followed:

(stevo) uum, hello?
(stevo’s mom) Steve?
(stevo) yeah, mom?
(stevo’s mom) listen, we just …
(stevo) what?
(stevo’s mom) I had to take your dad to the hospital.
(stevo) (now fully sober and awake in a heartbeat) what?
(stevo’s mom) he wasn’t breathing.  I … I …
(stevo) (now getting dressed) which one?
(stevo’s mom) Overland Park.  I …
(stevo) I’m on my way.

Let me tell you, in case you have never experienced it – there is NOTHING more frightening than getting a phone call from a parent at 1am that your other parent isn’t breathing, you don’t know what’s wrong, and they’re in the ER.  In 2000, I drove a Toyota Corolla, not exactly an easy vehicle to navigate when it’s been snowing since noon.  Somehow I finally made it to OP.  I have literally never been more frightened in my life, than I was on that drive to the hospital.

See, I often joke about my dad (and believe me, he returns the cheap shots), because my dad is my hero.  I joke about liking certain sports stars or various people … but my dad?  Is my hero.  Losing him today?  Would hit me so hard, I refuse to think about it.  But losing him twelve years ago?  Would have devastated me.  Because at least today, I’d be somewhat prepared for it.  But then, in that moment, when he was only in his early 50s and still had a solid twenty years in front of him?  I was so not ready for it.

So here’s what happened: my folks house has a huge tree in the front yard that pretty much overshadows the whole yard.  (If you’ve ever been there, you know what I’m talking about).  It’s a hedgeapple tree.  They grow in the spring, they fall in the, uuh, fall.  Because this thing blankets the driveway as well, you have to constantly clean them up, because they’ll blanket the thing.  Apparently Dad was out picking these things up earlier that day, and one fell off the tree, hitting him on his side.  He didn’t think anything of it.

Turns out?  The damned thing ruptured his spleen.  If Mom hadn’t woken up with an urgent need to pee that night, Dad would have died (he was sitting on the couch, passed out from the internal bleeding apparently, watching the late night Pac 10 game).  For all of you who argue there isn’t a God … I counter that sometimes, there is.

It took Dad two weeks to recover.  (stevo pausing).  Thank you God, for making Mom have to pee that night.  There are many people in this life I can’t imagine going on without (which is a good thing!)  (stevo pausing)  Nobody but Dad even comes close to topping that list.

Two more one hitters (cue DJ applauding me working “one hitters” into a post!), then you’ll finish reading the next great American novel …

* That December, my brother came home from college for the winter break … and apparently decided that it was perfectly fine to throw a party in our apartment, since Gregg and I were gone down at Crown Center with his sister and a couple friends for the night.

I only mention this, because the single most “I’m going to f*cking KILL YOU!” moment I ever saw out of Gregg in the entire eight years we were roommates?  Was when we got home that night, and Drew pulled him aside and said “hey man, my buddy broke a glass.”  That glass?  Was from the authentic Guinness Brewery in Ireland.  Let’s just say, Drew had to turn in his house key that night.

* Finally, the year ended watching television on the couch (stunner) … only, it was one of the coolest bowl games ever played: the 2000 Independence Bowl between Texas A&M and Mississippi State.  Why, you ask, was a bowl game between two programs no one outside of the former Confederacy gives a shit about so “cool”?  Because hell yes, it was the “Snow Game” in Shreveport!  Youtube! some highlights of the game sometime.  Football in the snow = MUY BUENO!

And with that, the first year of the “Decade that Was” draws to a close.  I’m leaning towards the worst year of the decade going next (that would be 2004), if only to get it out of the way.  But that would pretty much knock out 4 of the 5 even numbered years, with no oddies recapped yet.  I might need to rethink that.

And try to keep the next one under (stevo checking the bottom right hand corner on his laptop) 24 PAGES?!?!  Are you kidding me?  I just typed 24 pages?  (bart simpson voice) Aye caramba!  (stevo voice) good thing I spent the entire decade “kinda faded, but I feel alright …”

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the third thursday thirteen ...

"So you're dancing on the ocean -- Running fast, along the sand. A spirit born, of earth and water -- Fire flying from your hand...