Part I: In which I write for as long as I care to, then continue the next day.
Normally we go to God’s Country for Memorial Day weekend. But having spent 10 hours in a passenger van with my family just a few weeks earlier, I didn’t think we needed to drive south again for some time.
I figured we’d stay home, but every so often The Wife gets the Travelin’ Jones.
“Let’s go to Kansas City for the weekend. We’ll take the train. It will be fun.”
“Make it so.”
“I’ll make the travel and hotel arrangements, but you have to decide what we do there. I’m tired of making all the decisions.”
“But I don’t care what we do. I don’t know what to do.”
“You used to live there.”
“That was one year 25 years ago. I suspect things have changed.”
I was going to consult Wikipedia for advice but first I consulted with the Peines who are very familiar with KC. Before they could get back to me The Wife had already done the necessary research — as I knew she would. It’s not that I wouldn’t have done the research…I would have eventually…but The Wife is too Type A to handle eventually.
We were staying at the Hyatt, better known as the place where the balcony collapsed and killed several people back in the ’80s. They’ve since fixed it. The train would let us off at Union Station where we could follow a circuitous tunnel known as “The Link” that would take us through Crown Center and the Westin and eventually the Hyatt. Since we would have no car, this was convenient.
The last time we took a train was several years ago when we went to Chicago to see Sue the T-Rex. The train was more than 30 minutes late arriving at the station and we sat on the train for a long time for no apparent reason on the outskirts of Chicago. Still, the leg room was decent and they don’t make you take off your shoes or scan you or check your fluids, so — tradeoffs. And of course, it’s not like airplanes ever leave or arrive on time.
We arrived at the Kirkwood station a half-hour early as per the rules, and the train was right on schedule. In fact, the whole train ride in went without a hitch. Advantage: Train. I had brought things to read, but I quickly concluded that the jerky nature of train travel would not sit well with me trying to read. Advantage: Airplane. I did not feel horrible pain in my head when the ride was finished. Advantage: Train.
It’s a five-hour ride, thanks to the train tracks not following I-70 but going a loopy route that includes stops in Sedalia and Jefferson City. Five hours in a vehicle — be it car, plane, train or passenger van — is too long for yours truly, regardless of how much leg room is available.
We decided to pack “light,” so The Wife had her carry-on bag and I had two bags for myself and The Son. I figured I’d slap one over each arm for balance and all would be well. Well, no one told me that “The Link” was a 15-mile twisting, turning journey with the occasional stairs. Did I mention I was already fatigued from the five-hours in the train? I may be exaggerating about the 15 miles, but I’m pretty sure part of Navy SEAL training is hauling two full Spider-Man duffle bags from Union Station to the Hyatt via The Link.
We get to the Hyatt and we’re walking past some of the meeting rooms and there are people in costumes inside. We get to the lobby and there are people in wedding dear and people dressed like fantasy role-playing people and OMIGOD, THERE’S A NERD CONVENTION GOING ON. You hear about stuff like this happening, but you never figure it will happen to you.
But sure enough, ConQuest — a science fiction and fantasy convention — was taking place in the Hyatt. The Wife went to check in while I checked out the schedule of events. Dr. Demento! The Lone Gunmen! How do I ditch my wife and child? Sadly, it was pretty much sci-fi and role-playing — no comic book people or ladies dressed like Wonder Woman or Slave Leia.
We found our room and I collapsed on the bed for a bit — free HBO, check — but there’s no keeping The Wife in the hotel room and we don’t have a lot of time anyway, so we head back to The Link to check out the shops at Crown Center and see what’s going on at Union Station.
(Sidebar: The Wife, The Son and I were all wearing red shirts. We didn’t really plan it, it just worked out that way. I actually like it that it works out that way because if The Wife wonders off and gets lost and the cops ask me what she was wearing, I’m much more likely to remember if she’s wearing the same thing I am.)
As we’re walking through The Link we meet a woman in a Star Trek uniform. She looks at us, smiles and says, “Red shirts. You won’t last long.”
I laughed. The Wife laughed.
“Do you know why you’re laughing?”
“On Star Trek, the Enterprise grunts wore red shirts and were often killed when on away missions while Kirk, Spock and McCoy never died. They wore blue and yellow shirts.”
“Chuck and Mark will think that anecdote is hilarious when they hear about it.”
“This is not why I came to Kansas City.”
NEXT: Incident at the Princess Di exhibit; a hot time at the plaza