Determined to Have Fun in the Toxic Waste Part of Town

Friday night.  The man who works all the time is determined to have fun.  New fun.

Michael looked at Emma’s blog list at to see what he could actually.  Wingwalk?  Hypnosis?  Cordless bungee jumping?

As the week rolled along, Michael grew jittery.  So many options!  And yet on closer examination, he’d have to find a location, sign up, bring the right clothes, and pay money.

            And options began to fall apart.  In theory, yes, you could drink absinthe (dangerous liquor) while doing self-acupuncture with a bed of nails.  But where to get the 148 proof green liquor?  And how long would it take to build a bed with 1,000 nails?

Chagrined, Michael settled for a “festival” at the West Bottoms in Kansas City, Kansas.

It promised to be EPIC.


             Facebook described the “West Bottoms First Festival Weekend” as an event that 12,000 people were “interested” in.   Once upon a time, the West Bottoms collected cattle for slaughter, housed a steel corporation in WWII that helped build ships to kill the Nazis, but in recent decades, prone to flooding, all of its industries died and the West Bottoms became a slum.

Located in a huge valley, what looked like abandoned buildings perhaps burnt by Sherman in his March to the Sea in 1865 (portrayed in Gone with the Wind) hulked.  Brick by brick, red and white, they look like they are falling apart. Due to a busy day—and procrastinating—Michael Connor drove to the Festival in the dark, at 6:30 p.m.

His plan?  Wander the streets.

Because the West Bottoms now supposedly has “22 warehouses in a six block area with approximately 600 vendors and more than 25 stores and restaurants.”  And 12,000 people were “interested” in the event.

When Michael arrived at 7 p.m., however, it was a ghost town.

A scary ghost town.  Michael once spent a summer volunteering at a homeless shelter.  He’s given drifters rides because it felt like the compassionate thing to do.  And he’s seen Fight Club.  The West Bottoms looked like F- industrial disease: blasted buildings, deserted streets, and plenty of signs that said ROAD CLOSED.

He drove all around.  Where were the 12,000 people?

Finally, he thought to visit “Blade and Timber: Unleash Your Inner Lumberjack,” a thrilling business he loved where they throw axes at bullseyes.  Blade & Timber was hopping!  Lots going on!

But it was late.  And the point of “Experiments with Michael” was to do something brand new.  He’d already been to Blade & Timber (and scored a bullseye).

Tired from a week back at work—Christmas vacation was over—he went home.  After all, Michael will soon have 140+ students to attend to.  He has three new sections to prep, and every morning, he works on a novel.

Several things he would love to know:

  1. How many runaways and rootless people sleep in abandoned buildings in the West Bottoms? And are they safe?  Because from his homeless shelter days, Michael knows that when violent criminals get released from prison, they sometimes end up on the streets because they have nowhere else to go.  Sometimes, they end up in shelters—but in other cases, they sleep under bridges and in crumbling 19th century gargantuan architecture.
  2. Where were the 12,000 people?
  3. And most importantly, has he already failed in his quest to do 52 Things in 52 Weeks, like the girl in the blog he so admires?

This is hard, he realized.  A lot harder than he thought it would be.

January 5, 2018


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