Top Ten Moments: Working Downtown Edition

For the last three summers, I sat downtown in front of the Antique Mall  in the sweltering heat, trying to sell snow cones and listening to the same guy belt out the same chorus of the same song for six or seven hours straight. Even though most days were dull and lonely, sometimes interesting situations arise on a Mass Street corner during the summer, and here are some of the most uncomfortable and memorable:

1. Dennis talked to me about Las Vegas and shaved ice safety. For those of you who have never had the absolute pleasure of meeting Dennis, you are truly missing out. Stay on Mass Street long enough, and one can often find him clad in a colorful clown outfit or a female cat suit or a pair of bright red biking shorts, fashionably coupled with a polo shirt under a suit jacket with three-quarters of the sleeves chopped off. Usually, he is cheerfully pushing a baby stroller with a ragtag mannequin named Sheryl in tow. He loves Las Vegas and cats. Every time he promenaded past my little ice stand, he would lean over and warn me of the sharp shaver’s perilous blade, remind me to be careful, show me a  Las Vegas pamphlet, and then shout, “See ya later, Honey Bun!” as he resumed his afternoon stroll.

I took this photo from my ice stand...

Dennis and Sheryl, BFFs

2. A-One rapped for me and tried to sell me his CD. A-One is a pretty cool cat, cruisin’ around Mass Street with his wheelchair and his music. He rapped for me once, stacking rhymes in such a way that about every third word would be left out on a radio edit.  After he finished, he wanted me to buy his CD, but then the owner of the Antique Mall came out and told him to “move along” if he was going to “use that sort of foul language” so I (thankfully) never had the opportunity.

3. A lady had a pet bird … and roly-poly. A woman who frequently sat on the corner of the adjacent alley stole a baby bird from a nest above the merry-go-round next to my stand. I’m not sure how she pulled it off, considering the nest was twenty-plus feet up there and she was not in the most athletic of shapes. For a couple weeks, I had the pleasure of watching her treat the bird like her own child. Unfortunately, her bird eventually flew the nest to seek its fortune, and the lady filled the void in her heart with a roly-poly (or tw0).

4. Jerry sang the same song a bazillion times at least. His name isn’t actually Jerry, but that’s what the ice stand employees call him. His repetitive belting of obscure eighties music didn’t bother the passerby because he or she only heard snippets,  but the street performer charm wears off and annoyance and irritation set in after six or seven hours. The customers’ jokes about him serenading me got old pretty quickly too.

Another street musician and Jerry converse between performances.

Another street musician and Jerry converse between performances in front of my stand.

5. An elderly woman walked by carrying a toddler-sized bunny from Hell. I wish I had taken a picture of this, but I just sat in silent horror as the woman slowly lugged the giant demonic rabbit past me and onward to commit unspeakable acts of evil.

6. An older, not-actually-homeless guy asked me for help with his cellphone. He also told me he hoped to make enough money that day to avoid getting his electricity shut off, which isn’t a common homeless person problem, but he tipped me five dollars for his $2.50 shaved ice, so I can’t complain.

7. Some guys got mad at a different not-actually-homeless guy, and Larry had to chase them away. I felt like I was watching one of those shows where “viewer’s discretion is advised” and there is an abundance of screaming and threatening throughout the episode, but this was in real life. The assailants were not appreciative of the panhandling lifestyle, and they made that loud and clear and scary. The experience only lasted like 30 seconds, but it seemed like a full 30 minutes before the Antique Mall owner broke up the squabble.

8. A guy gave me a love poem he “wrote” himself. He came to the ice stand everyday and ordered shaved ice with all the flavors on it. One day, he gave me an “original” poem that smelt heavily of cologne and read strongly of a poet better versed than he.

9. The balloon man liked to talk to me. Sometimes good things came out of that, but most of the time he just told me about upcoming circus events.

This was one good result of listening to the balloon guy ramble on and on for hours.

Listening to the balloon guy ramble on and on for hours occasionally yields great rewards.

10. More people have pet bunnies and snakes than one would expect.  This isn’t a particular moment, per se, but until working downtown, I thought sighting someone walking a bunny on a leash or balancing a snake on his or her neck was to downtown Lawrence as a Sasquatch encounter was to the forests of the Pacific Northwest.


Please Don’t Kick My Bucket

Instead of doing my homework the other night, I watched a Doctor Who panel at Comic Con 2013 on YouTube. Because Comic Con is in San Diego every year, many of the audience members are American, and this occasionally presents a communication issue because the Doctor Who cast is vastly British in composition. During a Q&A, an audience member asked lead actor Matt Smith what was on his bucket list. He didn’t know what a bucket list was.  Doctor Who head writer Steven Moffat cleared up the confusion for him: “It’s an American colloquialism that means something that you want to do before you ‘kick the bucket’, meaning die.” Matt was somewhat startled, but, after pondering a moment, he wittily replied, “What do I want to do before I die? … Jennifer Lawrence.”

I find it interesting that bucket lists are American in nature. I suppose the idea fits in with the never-ending pursuit of status and stuff in our culture. We want what we can’t have, to the point that we create lists of all we desire, and then we check off our accomplishments, equating the shorter to-do list to a shorter distance between ourselves and true happiness. Before this post, I had never written down my own bucket list. Sometimes I say I’ll “mark that off my bucket list,” but I’ve never had an actual list to draw from–I just say that for a humorous effect when I do something absolutely outlandish or ridiculous.

To quote Lorde, “I don’t ever think about death. It’s alright if you do. It’s fine.” A bucket list suggests that after it is completed, one would be ready to “kick the bucket”, seeing that all his or her goals in life are met. I would like to keep my bucket un-kicked for as long as possible, even if I am someday presented with the opportunity to skydive or shake hands with Amy Poehler.

All that being said, a bucket list is as quintessentially American as Starbucks and baseball,  and I thought I would give one a go.

My Non-Binding, only Valid at Participating Locations Bucket List

1. Lick a Stonehenge stone. I’m not sure if this is legal, and I don’t know how I would be able to casually lean over and pull a prehistoric Miley Cyrus mid-tour, but this is an experience I would like to have.

2. Take a chair aerobics classThat’s a real thing. Old people actually work out to smooth jazz music while sitting on folding chairs. I just want to walk in with eighties leg warmers and a sweatband, pop a squat on my special workout chair, and feel the burn.

3. Eat exclusively at Chipotle for an entire year. I would be the new and improved Beautiful Existence  (the chick who only ate from Starbucks for an entire year).

Back in the old days when I could eat wheat, I made my burrito into a baby--and then I ate it. I try to avoid reading in to the implications of that too much

Back in the old days when I could eat wheat, I made my burrito into a baby–and then ate it. I avoid reading into that too much

4. Meet Jimmy Fallon. Or Steven Moffat. Or Justin Timberlake. Or Tina Fey. Or Seth Meyers. Or Matt Smith. Or Amy Poehler.  Or Benedict Cumberbatch.  Or Mark Gatiss. Or Conan O’Brien. Or Dylan O’Brien…. Or anyone else I idolize.

5. Write for SNL. If even one of my sketches got even two minutes of airtime, I would cross this goal off my list and then die because that’s how I want to go out of this world.

6. Build a castle out of jello. I already tried this once, and it didn’t work, but bucket lists are supposed to require effort and perseverance for maximum satisfaction upon completion.

Attempt number one at jello castle. This is smaller than what I envision for the future, but it is not to scale.

Attempt number one at jello castle. This is smaller than what I envision for the future, basically an early prototype.

7.Ride my unicycle downtown. I’m not skilled enough to navigate flocks of small children and yappy labradoodles on the crowded Mass Street sidewalks (yet).

That's about as far away from my house as I've ever gotten on my unicycle.

That’s about as far away from my house as I’ve ever gotten on my unicycle.

8. Have a cat named Hugo. Or a child, I don’t really have a preference. (I am fully aware that cats and children are vastly different and will use discretion as an adult when determining which to have.)

9. Perform at a comedy club. I want to try stand up at some point, because, if you’re going to make a fool out of yourself, why not do so at a venue where everyone specializes in making fun of people?

10.Run through an important government building dressed as a giant M&M. Notice how I did not specify the important government building to which I was referring. I believe that keys to a successful bucket list are both attainability and flexibility.

Oh, The Places I Went

With a title like that, this blog post only gets more creative and original. I went all sorts of places last year, so I made a bunch of slideshows. I am not a photographer, so I hope the subjects of and scenery in my photographs will compensate.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


One of my best friends invited me to go with her and her family to the Outer Banks. I went, obviously.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


My family went on vacation with our close family friends, and it was awesome.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


I went to Dallas this summer for the Gloria Shields Publications Workshop. We also went to Six Flags.

I took a solid one picture in Dallas, and it was at 6 Flags.

I took a solid one picture in Dallas, and it was at Six Flags.


My family likes to run, so we went to Colorado over Labor Day Weekend to run the American Discovery Trail Marathon Relay.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


I went to Boston for the JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention. To see some hot Bostonians of whom I took creepy pictures, check out this post.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Slower Than The Average English Teacher

The time is 6:42 a.m.

The weather is hotter than it should ever be at 6:42 a.m.

The setting is mid-July, just outside of Memorial Stadium, with more energetic people than there should ever be at 6:42 a.m.

I am on a Sisyphean quest to reach the top of the campanile hill without walking–not that walking would be slower than the current pace I’m maintaining.

As my grass-stained sneakers dig into the dewy grass, I focus on my legs’ labored movements, avoiding eye contact with the 4-5 eighty-something-year-olds who are gradually overtaking me in their dirty white New Balance orthopedics.

As a particularly feeble-looking individual finally surpasses me, I try to console myself with my mother’s words: “Kyra, these people are life-long runners. They have a good fifty years of experience on you.” The thought is comforting until my eleven-year-old brother effortlessly sprints past me on his fourth trip up the hill.

I am not an athlete, but I pretended to be one for a long time. Since sixth grade, I have participated in Red Dog’s Dog Days, free community workouts that are held at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. If you go more than 25 times during the summer, you get a free t-shirt and a Popsicle. I always am up for free t-shirts and Popsicles, regardless of time, weather or qualifications.

My eleven-year-old brother Ian and my mom after their recent eight mile race. Fun fact: I have never ran more than four miles, and I would hardly call the bodily movement that got me to four miles "running".

My eleven-year-old brother Ian and my mom after their recent eight mile race. Fun fact: I have never ran more than four miles, and I would hardly call the bodily movement that got me to four miles “running”.

Until recently, I rarely knew any of my fellow Dog Day runners except for my mom and brothers. That was ideal because the whole point of running at 6 a.m. is to avoid recognition.

By August, however, I was tired, so I made the fatal decision to run at 6 p.m. It was during one of my first evening runs that I made an alarming and painful discovery: my English teacher is in better shape than me.

When I first saw him, my teacher was just far enough in front of me that it would have been awkward for me to maintain my current position. I needed to either pass him or fall back. I foolishly did neither. I caught up to him, and he started talking to me.

“Don’t let me hold you back,” he said after a good five minutes of me trying to hold a casual conversation while pretending to be in no pain at all while actually probably dying.

“Oh, no, I don’t mind. I have you first hour next semester by the way,” I said, trying to keep the conversation going while internally calculating how many more milliseconds I had left on earth.

Eventually, we reached the turnaround point,and I made an excuse about how I should probably wait for my brother because he was only 11 and I didn’t want him to get lost (or something sweet and understandable like that).

My family loves running, and I love sleeping, but you can't always get what you want.

My family loves running, and I love sleeping, but you can’t always get what you want.

After my first English teacher encounter, I vowed to go back to the 6 a.m. workouts, but then I stayed up all night binge-watching The Office, so the next day, I again ended up in my Nike shorts and running shoes at 6 p.m.

After that night, Dog Days became an elaborate operation. My English teacher attended the workouts religiously, and I avoided him like the plague. As long as he started the run before me, who could really calculate and compare our athleticism since he had been given such an obvious head-start advantage? All I wanted was to look a little less hideous in a bikini and have a way of doing so without losing all of my self-esteem.

Ian holds his trophy that he received for finishing first in the 11-14 year-old boys category at his 10k race. Just in case you forgot, he's 11. I am 17 and I have never ran a 10k ever.

Ian holds his first place in the 11-14 year-old boys category trophy at his 10k race. Just in case you forgot, he’s 11. I am 17 ,and I have never ran a 10k ever.

I have not beaten my English teacher on a run yet, but I figure if I keep running (jogging) for the next 30-40 years, one day–some day–I will be faster than my Lit. teacher. I can wait.