#RoyalsCity: Another First Friday in Kansas City

This is a bit of a throwback to when I had a Medium account. Since it is first Friday’s, I thought I would share this post, even though it is not specifically Royals-specific, mostly because I try to give insight into the culture of First Friday’s in the Crossroads of Kansas City.

#AlwaysRoyal #RoyalsCity #KCMO

I sit on the second floor of a coffee shop of off 39th, looking out the window onto the warm summer, early afternoon streets. I think about going to the June First Friday today in the Kansas City Crossroads district. First Friday’s in Kansas City are a weird amalgamation of crowds. There are the older artist types, raised in the Anti-Vietnam, Anti-Nixon era. There are the midtown hipster artists, trying to sell the more affluent crowd, all while handing out cans of Miller High Life and Hamms for a two-dollar “donation” to support their work, i.e. rent. There also is the KU/Mizzou/K-State fraternity/sorority crowd, just out of college. These younger men and women treat First Friday’s like their own local Coachella: big hats and designer sunglasses; summer dresses and tanktops; pastel shorts and boat shoes.

It’s difficult to find my scene in it all. Not quite hipster. Not quite a frat alum. And being brown throws a whole new item into the mix. And brown and not Latino? Not Spanish-speaking? My profile truly is an anomaly here in Kansas City, perhaps the Midwest overall.

I think about previous First Friday’s since I moved here from California five years ago. I recall 18th and Wyandotte being closed sometimes — illegally of course — for break dancing and impromptu rap battles in the middle of the street. I think about the multi-level converted warehouse, now “artist space” also off of 18th and Wyandotte. I remember the Latino artist on the second floor who sells spiked agua frescas for people to enjoy while they observe his immigrant and Catholic-inspired sculptures and paintings. I think about the performance artists on the third floor who portray sculptures, and perform animated gestures and assume a new position every time somebody tips them. It reminds me of the ones in San Francisco on Pier 39 at the Fisherman’s Wharf.

It is common to bump into random people from my past at First Friday’s, especially in June, the summer in general. I ran into an old co-worker a couple of years back. We were both with people we were dating at the time, and she gave me crap about a workshop I didn’t attend because I forgot about it. Ironically, we broke up with our “partners” around the same time, a few weeks later, roughly.

I’ve spotted people from afar I had brief casual encounters with before. One was a guy who used to be part of the friend circle I hung out with in Kansas City regularly, who stopped spending time with us once he reconnected with an old girlfriend from college who moved to Kansas City. She didn’t like the group apparently, not to mention didn’t like him spending time with other people than her. When I saw them, she was looking at flower dresses while he sat on the curb scrolling through his phone, waiting for her to be finished.

I also remembered being in the crowd of a break-dancing competition off of 18th and Wyandotte between pre-teen kids and noticed the niece of an ex-girlfriend standing next to me, though neither of us said anything to one another. She had been in high school when we met at a Canelo Alvarez PPV watch party that my ex’s family hosted. The niece, who’s name I couldn’t remember, had to be in college now, and looked be dating the guy with her, if the way she held his arm was any indication.

I recall random things from many First Friday’s in Kansas City. I remember buying notebooks and cans of PBR from printing presses off of Southwest Boulevard. I can recollect hipster boutiques selling clothes for $40 more than they would go for in a thrift shop. I recall times when I parked by Union Station and took the streetcar into the Crossroads, thinking I was being progressive, cool and saving time somehow. Mostly I did it though because it reminded me of my trips from my hometown of Sacramento to the Bay Area on BART. I would park my car at the station in Walnut Creek and take the Red Line into the city to avoid the hellacious traffic of the Bay Area freeways and bridges. Unfortunately, the streetcar here in Kansas City didn’t avoid, but rather got caught up in traffic more often than not, especially on First Friday’s. It proved to be more of an electric bus that only traveled a 10-block radius.

I sometimes wonder if First Friday’s is starting to wear thin on me. I eavesdropped on a lunch conversation at work once, as a younger co-worker tried to impress another who had just moved from Portland. “I love the art galleries,” he said in the most preppy, suburban Caucasian manner possible, as if there were also art galleries in Harpo’s or Johnny Kaw’s in Westport. But he wasn’t the only one. I hear about it from work colleagues. I hear about it when from strangers’ conversations when I’m in line getting coffee off of 39th. I see it on Facebook or people’s Snapchat stories. I start to wonder if First Friday’s are for me.

Summers in Kansas City are treated differently than in the West Coast. Maybe it’s the harsh winters or stormy springs that make the denizens of Kansas and Missouri cherish the sunshine and urban outdoors more than their Pacific Coast Time counterparts. Maybe that’s why First Friday’s and pub crawls and ethnic festivals and music concerts on porches exist here in Kansas City: to remind the locals to enjoy the summer before it slogs into shit in five months.

Every time I go to First Friday’s, I seem to see somebody or something from my past. It never fails. Some of those experiences make me feel awkward. Some of them make me feel nothing at all. There is no pattern. It all depends on the time and situation.

I wonder what a First Friday would look like in Sacramento, my hometown. Would it be like Kansas City? Would I bump into people from my past, from high school or even elementary school? Would memories of my childhood that I had forgotten about, or were repressed, suddenly awaken?

Or would no one care or go, June just another month on the calendar, another 30 days of dry heat?

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