We restart the series begun last year. This time around, Mike. Brown was kind enough to sit down with me--well, inasmuch as one can "sit down" with someone over a series of emails. Excuse the limitations of the form. Without further ado, let's get to know Mike.
While we're all much more than just being Royals fans, it is the tie that binds us. What brought you to the Royals' front stoop knocking on the door to be let in? Perhaps more importantly, why did you stay?
The simple answer is nostalgia. My father was a sports almanac. He loved to quote stats, where someone grew up, went to college, etc. He loved the Royals and read the box score religiously. We talked for hours about the nuances of the game, and he would quiz me on baseball knowledge. Things like where to throw the ball with a man on second with no outs on a ball hit to right field. He loved the strategy, and when we went to the game, he taught me how to score the game. I stayed mainly because I love the Royals and memories I had as a kid, even though I took a lot of crap over my Royals fandom from family and friends (mainly Chiefs fans), I never wavered in my support.
Judging by the verb tense, it sounds like your father is no longer with us, which is too bad as it seems like he was responsible for instilling a love for the game in you. Other than teaching you how important baseball and the Royals were, what was your dad like? What did your parents do?
Yes, he passed away in 1987. He worked for the Kansas City housing authority. He was very laid back but serious at the same time. Probably the most patient person I have ever met. He could sit still and not talk for hours and be completely at peace. Thinking back, he was the definition of speaking softly and carrying a big stick. He would have liked RR very much and loved the articles. I imagined he would have been a lurker more than a commenter though.
While it must have been unimaginably terrible for you to lose your father at such an early age, it must have been a nightmare for your mother. To have turned out as well as you did, she must have done a great job raising you. What's she like?
They were divorced when he died. She was upset but had already moved on. My mother is a complicated person. Her mother and father divorced when she was 15. She took her mother’s side, and her father disowned her. By the time my mother was 16, her mother had an aggressive cancer that took her life. So my mother, born and raised in Blue Springs, suddenly finds herself on streets of KC at the age of 16. She had my great-grandparents to lean on somewhat but still had a very rough stretch. She did the best she could, but it was tough to be a 16-year-old kid with thrust into such a rough situation.
Standard dating profile questions: Age? Sex? Height? Hair color? Marital status? Kids?
37 years old, male, 5’ 9", dark brown, married (to a smoking hot blonde) with six kids (it was my pleasure).
While many choose not to define themselves by their job, what do you do to make ends meet? For how long have you been plying that trade?
I started my company in April of 1998, so we are about to go into our 18th year. My background is in carpentry. For the first eight years, I was in business I built new residential homes. Over the last ten, I have mainly focused on commercial contracting and government procurement. Then we have another division to the company that handles foreclosed properties for banks. We do that in about six states. On top of that, we have rentals and investment properties to keep us busy. Nowadays I basically manage a bunch of guys who work for us and handle scheduling.
Doing the rudimentary math in my head, it sounds like you started your business just out of high school. It sounds like as it has grown you have pivoted and taken on more. Was this instinctual or did you have someone to whom you turned for guidance/sage advice? Did you start by yourself or have partners? How many years of plugging away did it take before the business reached a level where you weren't worrying about keeping it afloat?
I started the company right before my 21st birthday, so a little after high school. I started just helping a guy part-time, building houses in the summers my junior and senior year. I think I was 17. It turned out I was kind of a natural at carpentry. By the time school was out, I was running his crew and making good money for an 18-year-old. I decided to move to Chicago to join the union and absolutely hated it. When I moved back after a year or so, I knew I wanted to work for myself eventually, so I worked about another year or so and saved up enough to start up the business. The first three years were incredibly hard, but once I settled in things took off for me. My wife worked, and we lived a very frugal life--that might be why at this stage in my life I indulge a bit. I guess I feel like I put in my time back then.
Wait, six kids and you've been building an multi-state business for the past 18 years? For all intents and purposes, we're the same age, and I've got nothing to show for it. How could you have possibly had the time for all this? When was the last time you slept?
LOL, having kids is the easy part. I can be extremely ambitious at times (like putting in 40 hours to study FA signings). My company for the last 10-12 years has been much easier to manage. I got hurt on a job, and that was kind of a blessing in disguise. It forced me to learn to manage my company rather than try and do everything. So I work about 2-3 hours a day, and I can do that really from anywhere in the world. Modern technology has really changed my life for the better.
Where do you live now, and where did you grow up?
I live in Lakewood in Lee’s Summit. I grew up a city rat, I am an inner city kid through and through. Once my kids are out of school, we plan on returning to the city.
To which neighborhood in the city would you return?
My family moved all over midtown KC. I spent my early years near Columbus Park and quite a bit of time in the prospect corridor. Of course we lived in housing projects do to my father’s work, neighborhoods called Guinotte Manor and Chateau Plaza. The one constant was my great-grandparents' house on 41st and Bell where they lived over 70 years. That is the neighborhood I feel most drawn to, basically the 39th and State Line area but more along Valentine Blvd.
How many years before the sixth munchkin is out of school? Do you have a modified Advent calendar counting down the days before you can return to your preferred environs?
My kids range from 8-16 years old, so we are looking at a little over eight years until they fly the coup. We are counting down the days and look forward to the freedom of being able to go and live where we want. I love my kids, but I am very much over the love affair of having and raising them. (I hope that doesn’t sound too mean?)
Nah, it's understandable. What was growing up in Kansas City--the city itself, not the 'burbs--like for you?
It's way different in my opinion. We moved to Lee’s Summit when I was a sophomore. It was a culture shock. In the city, people kind of have a way of minding their own business. In the 'burbs, people spread rumors and gossip and expect no consequences. You just can’t get away with the trash talk the same in the city. I also miss the little things, like knowing the bus schedule so well that I could time the walk from my house and catch a ride. The 'burbs are just not walkable. In the city with a bus pass, I can go anywhere I want. My kids are at the mercy of us driving them places. Then there's the variety of places to eat and things to do. Every town has Quik Trip, McDonalds, and Starbucks. But not all of them have a Mr Z’s, Mudpie and Torrie’s Pizza. It's eclectic. Something about being in an urban environment like that stirs my soul. I really can’t identify it. It's home for me. Maybe it’s that nostalgia thing again.
What is your educational background/area of study?
I went to a local Baptist seminary. At one time I planned on making ministry my vocation. Eventually I learned I love God but I hate his people.
So do you still consider yourself a Baptist, or have you taken a more non-denominational approach to spirituality after leaving seminary? Was there a particular incident or area of ministry that precipitated your leaving that vocational path?
No, I do not. I identify more with reformation theology and Christian hedonism. I don’t attend any church and probably never will again. I can’t think of anything that is a bigger waste of time for a Christian than going to church. When I went into ministry, it was to better the world not huddle in a building and field complaints and beg people to serve their community. I did ministry free of charge and worked full-time. So for a bi-vocational pastor donating their free time, the last thing you want to do is hear 70-year-olds complain about what key the worship music is being sung in.
With the understanding that obviously baseball and the Royals are an area of interest for you, what other hobbies and interests do you have?
Being a carpenter, I have gutted my house and remodeled almost every room. I also love working in my yard. Anything I can tinker with on the house is my day to day hobby. Besides that we do a lot of charity, fine dining, music festivals, and live plays (repertoire theatre type productions).
As one of Royals Review's resident foodies, what places do you hold nearest and dearest to your heart/stomach?
My favorite is the Rieger Hotel, but that is when I want something really nice. I just love that place and hope owner/chef Howard Hanna finally gets his James Beard Award this year. Other times when I want something good but cheaper, I will go to Fig Tree Café in Lee’s Summit or YJ’s Café.
With your fine-dining inclinations, how do you balance that with the children? Have you developed their palates to acquire taste for those finer things, or do you leave them to fend for themselves while you treat the wife to a nice night out?
We do date night, and the kids are old enough to leave home alone. We have taken them to places, but being kids they are in that "it doesn’t sound good, so I won’t try it" phase. When they were younger, we did something called "try-it Tuesday," and we would cook something different like duck tongue tacos or menudo, or we would take them out to try different stuff like Cajun and Ethiopian. It has always been important to us that we expose them to different cultures.
To which music festivals have you ventured? Do you target certain artists and/or genres to dictate which festival makes the cut, or is it a combination of city and festival that drive the decision? What's your favorite festival experience?
We have been to a bunch, Austin City Limits, Outside Lands, Lollapolloza, Free Press Summer Fest, and Bonaroo to name a few. This year we are going to Riot Fest in Denver. Our festivals are always location driven, and we always buy before the artist are even announced. One of my favorite ways to find new artist is to go through the artist list when it comes out and sample the music. That way I learn new music and can see the bands at that festival. My favorite by a lot was Outside Lands. It's in San Francisco. It mixes a lineup to rival any festival, best food you will ever have at any festival, live art displays, comedy tents, a kind of old school circus performance, chocolate, wine, craft beer, and most importantly good weather. Pro tip: don’t go to music festivals in the south in June.
Is there a theatrical vein to which you gravitate, or is it more about the experience of live performance?
Live performance in anything is simply better. I don’t care if that is music or theatre. I have never seen any movie that stacks up to a good live show. Go see a show like "The MotherF**ker with the Hat," "An Iliad," or even something like "Evil Dead: The Musical." I heard an interview with Janis Joplin once where she said that "a live show is a moment you share with those in the audience only once." I love that because that is exactly why I like live music and theatre. You are sharing a moment right then with a performer. It will never be identical to anything else you or they do again in life. I think It is special part of this world we get to experience.
With your clearly LONG list of things to keep you busy and half a dozen children in your charge, have you had much chance to travel?
We take the kids on vacation ever year but to family-friendly places. The last three years we have gone on a cruise. And of course we've done the whole Disney World, Universal, Branson stuff. One of the coolest places we have been with the kids was Wisconsin Dells. We did do a non-kid vacay in Cancun a few years back.
Do you have a short list of places you're dying to visit in a less family-oriented vein?
This will sound silly, but we really want to do that Viking river cruise. We have never been to Europe. As soon as the kids are gone, we plan on doing a lot more overseas travel. We have been all over the states, Caribbean, and Mexico. But it is hard to get too far from home at this point.
Paying for travel for eight people will do that, I suppose. What's the best thing you've read in recent memory? Describe it as though you were trying to convince someone else that they should read it.
Blue Like Jazz. I think there is a distinct difference between being religious and being spiritual. This book helped me put that into context. Really anything by Donald Miller is a good read to me.
We all have a long list of stupid shit that we've done. What's the dumbest thing you've done?
I got ripped off on my first car really badly. Instead of deciding to let it go, I elected to drive the car anyways. As luck would have it, I got pulled over, and the cop ran out of tickets from writing me so many. He told me the car would have to be have been stolen to be any more illegal. I paid the tickets and soon learned all about the points system in Missouri. Took years to get myself untangled from that mess.
So what was the make, year, and model? Was it just so beaten up that it wasn't street legal, or was there more to it than that?
It was a 1987 Cadillac Cimarron (basically a Chevy Celebrity). The issue was the title was no good, so I couldn’t tag it. I got some tags from a friend and drove it anyways. I just couldn’t stand losing the $800 bucks I paid. Soon enough, those tags expired. So I was driving on switched, expired tags with no insurance and no proper registration. This cop really laid into me. he said I was lucky to only get the six tickets I got that night. What a mess! I paid the tickets, but the points lost resulted in my license get suspended. So some attorney sent me a letter and said he could argue that basically I was an idiot that didn’t understand the consequences of paying the tickets and get them reduced to non-moving violations. It worked but took time and money.
Describe yourself in three sentences or less.
I love art and music and wish I was that talented. I love to be charitable but wish I was more often. I love to try to make my kids street smart and wise to the ways of the world but fear they aren’t really listening.
What Royals Reviewer would you be most interested to meet in person? Why?
Kansas City Keith, who I think is now Royal Cannabis. I just want to let him ramble on while I laugh my ass off.