How I Told Dodge City’s Power Grid “Stop Breathing” Within 10 Minutes of Getting Here, and Other First Impressions

Dodge City: So far, it doesn’t suck.

That’s the simmered version of the first impression I have of the place.

It’s 7:31 a.m. as I type this. I drove my Dodge into Dodge just under 14 hours ago, and immediately got a laugh. If you ever get the chance to see that movie “The Dark Tower,” or if you read the book it’s based on, you’ll recall the “Man In Black” who (I think) is basically a killable version of the devil. Well, one of this man’s powers is to be able to kill people by simply telling them “Stop Breathing.”

It felt like I did that very thing to this city last night. The forecast called for sunny skies and 81 when I would get there, having left Manhattan, Kansas earlier that morning in the middle of heavy thunderstorms.

But as I arrived, Dodge City actually got hit by one, a fairly large one that brought patches of heavy rain. As I walked in and introduced myself to the young hotel clerk at the place I’ll be staying these next few days, I handed him my debit card and ID, the former of which he ran like all hotels do when you check in.

As he ran it, there was some thunder outside, a flicker of the lights, then all the power went out. To the entire hotel. The young man (probably 17 but nice enough) went to get the manager who lives on-site, and before long she got it all setup and me checked into my room with a master-key. I told them I’d leave to get dinner and hope things would be on when I got back.

I got in my truck and departed for the nearby Applebee’s (what better way to eavesdrop on the community a bit than to people-watch at a bar), only to find on the way that it was about half the city that had lost power. Patrons and employees of businesses along Wyatt Earp Boulevard stood outside their business, police coordinated traffic at busy stoplights, and I instead had to figure out what else to do with my time.

I found the city’s one Wal-Mart. That’s how I spent my first few hours in Dodge City. Sidenote, I did eventually go to Applebee’s. Stomach: 1, Thunderstorm: 0.

This morning, however, I think I’ve had a little more success getting a feel for the city, or at least a first-impression.

After waking up due to a nightmare about being on a six-mile run on my first day of work and realizing I’d be late to my first day (which today is), I decided to shower, watch a little Sportscenter, and go find breakfast.

I had seen on maps that there was a coffee shop. Not a Starbucks, mind you, but a coffee shop. Also, I wanted pancakes and the “Big Breakfast” thing from McDonald’s, not realizing my hotel offered continental breakfast (but which I probably wouldn’t have done anyways because I wanted to get out and see the city in the pre-dawn hours).

Dodge City has two, and according to Google Maps, they’re both open 24 hours. That already gives this city a plus-1 in my book. Say what you want to say about how it “isn’t real food” or is terrible for you, but there’s something I believe to be absolute fact: when you need cheap, bad-for-you-but-filling food, you really really need cheap, bad-for-you-but-filling food. Like when you’re drunk. Or when you haven’t slept a lot because you woke up from the most lame nightmare ever. Neither of the two McDonald’s in Manhattan is open 24 hours.

Which brings me to point out another thing that’s open apparently 24-hours per day here:

Just about friggin everything.

Dodge City: 1, Manhattan: 0.

Maybe, as I drove around at 6 a.m., the places I saw closed overnight and just had their employees come in super-early, so “24 hours” might be a little hyperbolic.

Here’s what I noticed though. Perhaps by virtue of this place being a major trucker location in the far southwest corner of Kansas, compared to Manhattan which basically just has a Big 12 university and is 10 miles away from the interstate, I still find it exciting to see just how many people are on the roads and at work at 6 a.m. here.

This is, of course, perhaps purely a “me-problem” I’ve had with other places, because I am both an extravert and a morning-person. So I draw energy from being around people, and am at my very best in the mornings.

There’s more hustle-and-bustle in this city at 6 a.m. then there is in Topeka, Kansas, and certainly in Manhattan, Kansas, each of which has at-least about twice as many people.

That, is exciting to me. Sure, I’ll probably have to become more of night-owl here soon because today I start my new job as the sports editor at the Dodge City Globe, and who knows, maybe my first impression of the place will prove totally false and today is just an exception to things.

My first-impression of the city, however, is a good one. Now, if I can just find a nice apartment and a decent mocha, it’ll be about perfect.

 

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Wedding Season, Part 1

I guess you could say it’s my favorite time in my life.

Sure, I’m between moves, and sure I’m technically homeless until I land my next job as a journalist (though I am staying with my parents, it doesn’t count as “home.” More on that some other time).

But tomorrow, I get to attend a wedding.

It’ll be only the second one I’ve been invited to and the first I’ll have attended because of prior work commitments which kept me from attending the other one.

The wedding is between two great people I know, one a dear friend who I took multiple English classes with. The other is her hilarious future husband, who’s comments on the wedding’s Facebook page crack me up to no end.

Then there’s the fact that it’s a wedding.

To me, as a practicing Christian, there’s really no celebration more meaningful except perhaps a baptism ,but I’ll leave that one up for debate for now. Whatever your spiritual beliefs, these two amazing people have been led to each other, whether that be by God, the stars, or “mere circumstance” and have decided to commit to being life-long best friends. Tomorrow, when they take their vows, they will commit to that, before God and country and witnesses.

Two people have fallen in love.

Despite all of the chaos in the world. Despite all the evil and darkness humanity sometimes seems to bring upon those who seek to be or do good. Despite the tendency of so many people to serve as naysayers to nearly everything. Despite it all, they have found light in each other.

They have fostered themselves as people, fostered themselves spiritually, and started to learn to foster each other. And, what is more, tomorrow they’ll commit to keep working at it. They’ll commit to keep enjoying it sure, but even more, they’ll commit to keep working at it.

That’s a special thing. It isn’t a commitment everyone can make, not one everyone does even when they have the opportunity. But tomorrow, Lord wiling, the world will become a little bit better because of the joy they have found in each other and the courage they now exemplify.

Can there be a more joyous occasion?

I somehow doubt it.

Giddy AF As I Finish Football Research

I feel so good it’s insane right now. A perfect cup of coffee in my favorite mug helps.

What helps even more is doing college football research.

I’m literally giddy AF right now.

Research means I’ll soon be writing previews about the season, and if I do well enough maybe that’ll help me get a job actually covering it, and if I do that well enough maybe it’ll lead to a career doing that!

I love feature writing, and maybe I can get a job after my current internship where I help cover news in the offseason, but sports is and truly always will be my first ambition and goal.

I know I’m raw, but I’m swooning at the prospect of possibility, and I’m loving my work this Saturday morning.
Time to finish up, stretch, and go find a waterfall.
Have a good day everyone.

Constitutionalist No. 2: The Need For A Congress We Can Trust

“(‘The late convention at Philadelphia’) composed of men who possessed the confidence of the people,, and many of whom had become highly distinguished by their patriotism, virtue and wisdom, in times which tried the minds and hearts of men, undertook the arduous task (of creating ‘a national government more wisely framed’). In the mild season of peace, with minds unoccupied by other subjects, they passed many months in cool, uninterrupted, and daily consultation; and finally, without having been awed by power, or influenced by any passions except love for their country, they presented and recommended to the people the plan produced by their joint and unanimous councils.” – Federalist No. 2, by John Jay.

Perhaps part of our biggest problem as a democracy is that we have gotten away from electing public servants who we trust.

Trust is an issue whether you look at the legislative branch, where approval ratings were near 19 percent back in January, or at the executive, where the President has made numerous decisions drawing the ire of Americans, such as his choice to leave the Paris accord last week. We as a nation seem to have lost faith in the patriotism of most of our politicians, a stark contrast from the way it was when America was formed.

Of course that’s partly due to the differing circumstances of the times. Our world was simpler to navigate in the 1700’s, if only because things took more time. Social media obviously wasn’t a thing and information only spread as fast as a rider with a letter could deliver one via horseback, which meant that decisions of government took longer to affect, and responses had to be given more time to be composed. That’s a far cry from now, when the people know of any decision by a government official mere seconds after it was made.

The debate over the advantages and disadvantages of each shall remain largely untouched here, but what I will say is that in dangerous times such as these, the speed of information gives the people new opportunities to make positive changes to their government.

I sincerely believe there is reason to hope for the United States.

When John Jay wrote his portion of The Federalist, there were far fewer senators than now if only because there were fewer states. Yet there have always been temptations which could cause a government official to stray from placing the best interests of the nation first. Those temptations now are at least as numerous as they ever were in Jay’s time, but true patriots do still exist in Congress. These men and women work in a way demonstrative of placing the good of the United States and its people ahead of their own.

I have long marveled at a few of the most readily available examples; men like John McCain, a republican out of Arizona, and Elizabeth Warren, a democrat out of Massachusetts.

I have also of late marveled at the power of the judicial branch of the United States, specifically for its ability to challenge both the executive and legislative branches.

Perhaps the most recently example comes from Monday, when the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed a decision by a lower court, shooting down the redrawing of 28 State House and Senate districts in North Carolina. The lower court had ruled that the districts, drawn in 2011 by the mostly-Republican legislature, were basically racist. They were drawn, the court ruled, with race as a predominate factor without compelling reason, thus violating “equal protection principles,” according to the New York Times.

The combination of strong stances by the courts, and the patriotism of certain members of Congress should give us hope. Hope that true patriots do still exist in our legislative bodies, and that our government can be made, perhaps more than ever, to function for the benefit of everyone, regardless of class, race or gender.

Barack Obama’s election stands as an example of the power we have to bring positive change to our government through voting. We only need wield it.

But we must wield it.

The future of America need not be written by old white men.

We are the generation lawfully able to empower women and minorities in a way no other generation has ever been able to. We can elect members of Congress who believe in this principle. Through technology, we can remind those we elect that this is what we as a culture want and desperately need. We are at a moment when we can make great strides for humanity by passing laws protecting unjustly-minimized populations in our society.

When those politicians don’t listen, we can and must refuse to reelect them.

We must promote those from within our communities who have earned our trust: those who believe in what we believe and will place our nation’s welfare above their own.

We must persist in this pursuit, until Congress again is filled by those who the people can rightly trust to look out for them, not just the wealthy ones.

All of this is lawfully and peaceably in our power, but we must be wise enough to start voting and stop sitting on the sidelines of history. There’s reason to hope and believe in our government, but for that to matter we must be brave enough to lawfully and deliberately act upon it.

Constitutionalist No. 1: The Introduction

Let me just come out with a question recently on the front of my tongue here lately, uncensored and blunt: Could it be that America is destined to prove democracy can’t in fact work?

Could it be that in 100 years, other countries will be look back on our nation not in the present tense but in the past, as the frayed memory of what was once the world’s foremost military and economic power before it collapsed upon itself? Could we be the one other countries then point to and say “See, our form of government is superior because clearly republican democracy and capitalism can’t work!”

History is rife with examples of governments failing, regardless of the form they took. It teaches that every form of government is at least equally frail as such a hypothetical democracy might have proven in the future to be, but by then that concern would have passed. Self-rule: The idea of a government operated by representatives chosen by and for the people, would have proven unfeasible in the eyes of the larger world, and thus so would the idea of a government based on so many important concepts fundamental to our unique empire, specifically one founded on what the Founding Fathers envisioned as universal equality.

The idea of freedom of speech, an independent-of-state community of journalists, the right to bear arms, the concept of a government both powerful yet limited in power by a written, established order of checks and balances; all those things would be gone, and would serve simply as evidence in a case study against the failed prospect of self-governance within humanity. The idea of a nation by the people and for the people, would have irrevocably proven impossible.

Will we allow ourselves to be the generation historically remembered for allowing this to happen?

Do not mistake my words as hyperbolic. With the election of 2016, the people of the United States chose a president who now leaves the rest of the world concerned about the state of American leadership. Our nation, once a proud light in a dark world, now threatens to depart from the very wax that allowed that candlelight to grow. Our standing as a “melting pot,” a place where the oppressed could find refuge, where the tired, weak, broken and ignored could find safety and shelter, has all been brought into question by the leadership we as a nation have chosen.

In Federalist No. 1, Alexander Hamilton wrote “The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world.”

Hamilton published those words regarding the ratification of the U.S. Constitution back in 1787, yet they are equally pertinent today.

Despite the 2016 election, and perhaps because of it, the U.S. is at least as politically divided now as it was back in the 1700’s, as the nation debated whether to become a nation at all. Margaret Sullivan, a media columnist for the Washington Post, recently wrote about the plight of the national opinion on politics. She quoted former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer as saying “Most Americans absorb Washington news with an approach of ‘wake me up when you stop fighting.'”

Yet we as a nation do not have the luxury of sleeping in until 11 a.m. on this issue. This is not an issue we can take a vacation from, not one which we can set aside like a vegetable we don’t want to eat, like a budget we can wait until September to pass.

This is an issue we must face now. We must, as a public, wake up and discuss our nation’s ideological future as vitally as we confront our individual budgets each day or week or month.

Other issues at hand include questions such as “Is it still noble to be a refuge for immigrants from around the world?” and “Should we commit the necessary resources to welcoming those immigrants?”

The answer to those questions is “yes.”

We as a nation must, I reiterate: must, now look inward and renew our resolve toward being the greatest nation on the planet again, evidenced by our stance toward the oppressed, forgotten, and in need. It IS still noble to be a safe-haven for the tired, and the abandoned of this world. We as a country are built upon the principle of every person’s freedom to pursue Life, Liberty, Happiness, and depending upon your perspective of history, property. It is vital we recommit to preserving these ideals, and evolving the ideal that all men and women are created equal. These are the concepts we are now called upon to recommit to exemplifying. The eyes of eternity will judge us for our next efforts.

The choice we should make is not an easily-executed one. The American citizen, as evidenced by the quote above, is more distrusting of the current government than perhaps ever before in our history.

People don’t vote now because they don’t see the point in voting between two bad options (as evidenced by voter turnout between the 2008 election, when America had  seemingly two good presidential candidates and 2016’s, when many citizens would argue the country had none). People don’t vote now because as the last election demonstrated, the popular vote in America does not necessarily determine the winner of the election because of the whole “electoral college” thing.

People don’t vote anymore because we don’t believe our little vote matters in the national election.

Yet the individual vote’s perceived insignificance is a reason to become MORE involved in the electoral process, not less. With the current results of the recent election, the question lurking below the surface in the people’s subconsciousness might boil down to “Why does what we have matter? With all this political corruption, how can a person say our government is really the best model, or even that the founding concepts were right?”

I believe they are, and henceforth aspire to argue on their behalf.

I have no illusions about the flaws in our government or in the system, I’m not naive. But I am a patriot, one who believes in the ideas of self-rule by and for the people. Above all, I believe our nation is great, not because of the flawed and mortal men and women who may administer our government, but because of the overwhelming principles and the flexible nature of the document all public officials swear to uphold and defend: The United States Constitution. I believe in our overwhelming ability as a citizenry to, when called upon as we are now, to affect change upon even the system itself so it becomes increasingly better with age.

I believe in the justness of the sacrifices so many men have made defending others from oppression on that very Constitution’s behalf, many of whom the Americans will honor tomorrow as part of Memorial Day.

In the coming essays in this series, I seek to make a solid, educated argument to this effect. I seek to answer the questions above, to create an open forum in which we as a public can have a grounded, educated discussion about what the United States does and should stand for, and how best to ensure the unity of the two. I also present consideration as to how we might best alter certain governmental procedures to accommodate the pursuit of living by our ideals; namely discussing the electoral college and if/why it should either continue to exist procedurally or be altered in a way that allows the popular vote to matter more.

Above all, I seek to convince the reader that the American cause is a noble one, and the United States government, despite the occasional failings and flaws of the men and women who operate it, is worth not only preserving, but improving, and that now more than ever, we must elect to do promptly do so.

Turning A Page Through High School Sports

I wake up this morning feeling like I’ve turned a new page.

I spent just under five years working at the Kansas State Collegian, the student newspaper at Kansas State University. I served in a lot of different positions, not always well and certainly never perfectly, but always intently.

Today though, when you turn the pages to the middle of the Manhattan Mercury, you’ll be able to find what is in many ways a turned page for me as well. Perhaps fittingly, that page is turned to the Sports section.

Last night I wrote my first article post-Collegian work, you can read it here. I covered Rock Creek High School’s first game in the 4A Division II high school baseball tournament here in Kansas.

It was a series of firsts for me. It was my first baseball game covered at any level. I’ve been a fan of baseball since elementary school, my love of the game predates my love for every other major sport except hockey, but I’d never covered a game. I’d never been to a high school game, let alone been in a press box for one. I’d also never covered a sporting event for any publication other than the Collegian, where I was blessed enough to cover K-State Soccer, Women’s Basketball, and to help cover Football in 2016-2017. And while last night’s coverage was far from perfect, it was a start I’m hopeful about.

I’m hopeful for the way I was able to write it and get it submitted fairly rapidly and with little instruction. I’m hopeful about the way I was able to travel and handle the multiple logistics that come with traveling to a game alone to cover something. I’m hopeful about the way I was able to get it right without a better journalist looking over my shoulder, and the way I was able to basically blend in among the other press-box media members and game officials.

None of these things of course is the least bit remarkable. Any journalist of any mediocre ability should be able to master them without err 100% of the time. Yet left alone independently I was able to not screw up. I didn’t lose the proverbial game for my proverbial team. I didn’t win it for them either, but human history is rife with examples of people who started their careers simply by not screwing up big opportunities they were given. In doing so, they left the door open to receive bigger ones later on. History is also rife with examples of people who tried too hard to make the most of their initial opportunities and who ultimately failed because of it.

I’d like to think I’ll prove to be in the former group, but even if I am to fail, I don’t think (having not gotten any feedback yet from my new bosses) that it’ll have been because of yesterday. I don’t intend to throw away my shot, but even if I throw one away, I don’t believe it was yesterday’s.

And that, friends, pumps me the heck up.

The Foreign Pleasure of Adrenaline

Ominuous clouds over Kansas State University’s Anderson Hall

I noticed the clouds change as I wrote, and went to the local stadium to get a few photos of them.

I look through a rectangular window facing north outside my basement level apartment and see the green leaves rustle in the wind outside. Instinctively I check my phone for tornado watches and warnings, noting the cloudy skies outside which don’t presently look like the type to birth tornados. Here in Kansas, I’ve seen these types of cloud before, been disarmed by the light appearance of them, only to watch them change throughout the evening into the types of thick clouds people here watch for.

The conclusion of my undergraduate studies and the end of the lease on my apartment this summer bring forth the prospect that this may be my last summer in northeast Kansas. if so, it may also be my last tornado season here.

I admit I’ve come to actually like it.

Obviously not the destruction, nobody likes that and I’m not so insensitive as to ignore the anguish affecting those who have lost property and family members to tornados.

But I admit there is a certain rush to them. There’s a certain adrenaline rush that comes from hearing the tornado siren go off and knowing you need to get inside somewhere. There’s a certain adrenaline rush from gathering up a few of your closest belongings, your emergency water and first aid kit, then taking shelter in whatever window-free room you can find.

There’s also few things more terrifying, and oddly, I think that’s why I’ll miss this part of the country if I ever move away from it, even if I end up moving somewhere like Texas where there are technically more tornados any given year than here in Kansas.

I’ve never been one to enjoy the effect of pumping adrenaline. I avoid scary movies (though that’s as much because I have a hauntingly-good memory and fear is a physically painful emotion), I don’t generally drive fast, even shooting firearms doesn’t excessively get me going.

There’s something about what tornados bring that I find I like. The prospect of helping others, as I was able to do in 2008 when a small city I had lived in was essentially destroyed (including one fatality), the prospect of surviving a close call with a beautifully powerful force of nature and maybe helping others learn more about them; these things excite me far more than most things I’ve done ever could.

As I contemplate what “home” means to me, and where I look to establish it next, I’m suddenly quite conscious that even the most dangerous things in life can sometimes be enjoyable. Like watching fire.

What scares you that you also enjoy?