The surest way to meet a boyfriend is to write a column on creative dating. Duh! That seems obvious, doesn’t it? Well, maybe—unless you write the column. When I proposed “Date Night” to Camp’s publisher nearly two years ago, the prospect of finding a boyfriend seemed daunting at best. I was in a new city and really had to find my way around and make new friends. The concept seemed perfect—I would combine my personal experiences discovering all the Kansas City area has to offer with what I thought would be a humorous take on dating in a new city.
I had no sooner cranked out my first column when the unimaginable happened. Yes, I met a boyfriend. No, I’m not a lesbian and I didn’t bring a U-haul on the second date (sorry, girls, it’s just a joke), but the edgy aspect of my premise suddenly went “poof.” My inspiration had been taken in part from Sarah Jessica Parker’s character on Sex and the City, so I thought I could make it work, too. But then I started watching the episodes again and it hit me: When Carrie Bradshaw is IN a relationship, the storylines lose their edge as she copes with the sometimes mundane drama of her “relationship.” Dating around some times is just plain more fun.
Because I haven’t been hitched up the entire lifespan of this column, there have been some pretty crazy antics as my “date” and I took on Kansas City. But, as with everything else, there is a time when evolution is necessary. So “Date Night” is evolving. I imagine there will still be some scandalous happenings, but in the meantime I’ve decided to focus on the better things in life that I can enjoy as a gay man, and share those experiences. December thus marks the first installment of my take on life, “Being Scene.”
I was browsing the aisles at World Market in Westport several weeks ago when I came across Patricia Schultz’s bestselling guide, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. I love to travel and consider myself very well-traveled, but the curiosity was killing me. I swiped my card, debited $18.95, and ran home to see just how many of these 1,000 destinations I had already visited in my 38 years.
Schultz promises much more than the obvious in the cover notes: a balloon safari over Masai Mara, a hike across the Tasman Glacier (which I’ve done), sailing the Grenadines, the highland games at Braemar, and much more. I decided the first stop in my 974-page journey around the world might as well be good old Missouri.
The Show-Me State is often underrated, in my opinion. Some states have obvious attractions: Arizona’s Grand Canyon, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Much to my chagrin, the only listing for Missouri was Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue in the historic jazz district around 18th and Vine. At least Kansas City got the nod. Certainly, Arthur Bryant’s is legendary, almost a nostalgic step back in time to the 1950s. I’m not sure that’s good, but the food is pretty amazing. I’ve always been a Gates fan myself, preferring their tangy blend to Bryant’s gritty herbal sauce. With more than 90 barbecue joints in the metropolitan area, I suppose there’s something for everyone’s individual preference. Oh, and Schultz does throw in a plug for the American Royal. I guess by recommending that visitors travel to Kansas City for Arthur Bryant’s during the rodeo season, she can get “2 for 1” without crossing the hallowed 1,000 mark.
During my stint as a writer for Camp, I’ve had the opportunity to share many wonders of our state with readers, including a week-long excursion exploring the many caves of Missouri. Now, if I was writing that book, I would definitely include a trip to the Bonne Terre mine in Southeast Missouri on my list of must-sees. Iron ore was originally mined at the site, which sits directly under the town of Bonne Terre. While the mining operation has long since ceased, the awe-inspiring three-story caverns have become a destination for scuba divers, who explore the tunnels flooded by crystal-clear spring water. It was an experience I will never forget, and I suspect others wouldn’t, either.
Maybe historic Hannibal should make the list, too? What school child hasn’t read Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn? The restored river landing area is a world-class destination that literally brings a chapter of childhood to life. And what about historic Lexington, site of one of the most interesting Civil War battles, the Battle of the Hemp Bales? Long before the days of recreational drug use, the Confederate troops took bales of hemp and used them as shields as they rolled them up the river bluff. If the South had won the war, this victory would have been considered the turning point.
As for Schultz’s other picks, I’ve been doing my best to knock them off at every opportunity. She nailed it when she included swimming with the manatees in Crystal River, Florida. I can describe the experience as the docile yet curious creatures approached me in the clear spring-fed waters of the river. On a vacation to Jamaica, I jumped off the cliffs of Rick’s Bar in Negril. The scenery was amazing and the daring show performed by the bar’s lifeguards was equally breathtaking.
For the most part, I think Schultz got it right, but I’ve got a long time to work my way through her list and add a few experiences of my own.