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Thursday, October 29, 2015

How Much Fun? ALL OF IT!

I don't own a TV. When I tell people this, they often look at me with pity, as if I was somehow to poverty stricken to find one of the free non-flat TVs people put out to the curb when they get an astonishingly cheap flat screen with higher resolution and stunning picture quality. If you can't afford a TV in America today, you probably can't afford the ketchup packets by the trash can at McDonald's.

You get the same reaction when you commute to work by bicycle—if you only had a car, right? But no, I have a car. I really like my car, it's sexy with pink polka dots, gets great mileage, it's paid for and it's roomy too boot.

But that's not what I came to talk to you about, as Arlo would say. I came to talk about baseball. The only reason the TV thing and the bike thing is even vaguely relevant is the Royals are in the World Series for the second year in a row and I am loving it. And since I don't have TV at home, I tend to watch the games in bars, mostly bars I ride my bike to.

For so many years, rooting for the Royals (and for that matter, my NL crush the Pirates), has been like watching Star Wars: A New Hope and rooting for Alderaan.

After deciding Chicago's wasn't my bar to watch sports in after the NL Wildcard, I started casting around for a new place to watch the Royals in the post-season. My first attempt was a bar that will remain un-named in Lobsterland. When I walked in, I smelled the distinct aroma of Mom's house, which is to say cigarette smoke. Actually, more like when my Mom's sister and my Uncle Vick used to visit and the three of them would get chain-smoking for a few days. The smell of me in my twenties, actually, when I smoked like I was afraid they'd shut down North Carolina if I didn't do my part. But I quit that nonsense twenty years ago (I'm certain I'd be dead if I hadn't), so all those smoke-free laws they've passed, while the libertarian in me thinks such laws are bullshit, the human who likes to breathe is fine with that.

I wondered, after a while, this place, the bartender was smoking, there were ashtrays on the bar. And I thought about how when I smoked I thought second hand smoke as a health hazard was bogus, but I could feel it at work during a single baseball game. I wondered if KCK's no smoking law had some exemption for tap rooms, a bar with no grill. Not inconceivable, the Dotte was pretty much the last one to even drift towards such policies when they started sweeping through. I thought, Well, if you can't smoke in a bar in the Dotte, where can you smoke?

I inquired of a woman who was practically lighting one off another, is there some sort of loophole? She took a drag and exhaled a raspy, 'The loophole is don't tell on us.'

I will never rat you out. I will also never try to watch a game at that bar even if they did have cheap pitchers and the game on. The place is a last haven for the handful of hardcore nicotine addicts who won't switch to vaping, can't relax without their smokes, and don't think that means they should sit at home in solitude. I can dig it, though I want to borrow Walter White's respirator next time I watch a game with those people.

So my next try was Johnnie's on 7th. And we have a winner. The place is elbow-to-elbow Royals fans, most sporting the blue, all of them into the game. Loud bars are generally a turnoff for me, but this is more like a tiny stadium except you don't have to pay to park or get in and the beers are two bucks. A bartender periodically will jump up on the bar and shout, 'What are we watching?' and everyone shouts 'ROYALS!'—to which he asks, 'How much fun are we going to have?' which earns a chorus of 'ALL OF IT!' People who live near this joint who aren't baseball fans had to be distressed on Tuesday's Game One of the World Series, which went fourteen innings and finished after midnight (resulting in the Royals becoming the only team in history to win two World Series games on the same day).

One game I drove to the bar, had to meter my consumption very closely because, driving. I've been scolded by naysayers who insist you can get a DUI on a bicycle, but it's not a motorized vehicle. Maybe you could get charged but I doubt you could get convicted. Public intoxication, sure, disorderly conduct, possibly, creating a public nuisance, I suppose. But DUI is not an issue when you pedal home from the bar.

The fourteen inning marathon that was Game One, a friend of mine commented that everyone leaving the K was sober by the time it was over. They stop selling beer in the seventh inning. At Johnnie's, the effect was counter to that for a lot of folks. People who were hammered by the eighth inning and just kept drinking, well, one of them decided I was wearing a Hawaiian shirt not because that's all I generally wear, but because I didn't have a Royals blue Johnnie's on Seventh t-shirt. I tried to tell him I wasn't that much for t-shirts, but he wanted to know my size. I said a 3XL, he said the biggest they had was a 2XL, and the next thing I know he's handing me one.

I wore it, under an open Hawaiian because really, when I went back for Game Two. I asked him if he remembered buying me the shirt, and he said, 'There's a lot of last night I don't remember, but I do remember that. It looks good on you.'

And then Johnny Cuedo threw nine innings, allowing only two hits and one run while we lit up the Mets' pitching staff like the Las Vegas Strip. How much fun did we have? All of it.

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