Monday, August 3, 2009

Travelblog, St. Louis--Part 1

It’s amazing how a brief little road trip can re-kindle my creative Mojo, and I can now declare my writing slump officially ovah!  I had a reasonably good time over the weekend at my “home away from home”, St. Louis.  I plan to provide photographic coverage tomorrow or Wed. of my encounters as well as the new Busch Stadium, but for now, just a few misc. items.

Kansas City is home for me and I love it (warts and all) because, well, it’s home, but St. Louis is far and away my favorite city on earth in this hemisphere.  I was six going on seven the first time we went to St. Louis as a family, and I’ll never forget when we rounded I-70 on the NE side of town and I caught my first glimpse of the Gateway Arch, how I was totally mesmerized by this beautiful and striking behemoth.  Then we rode up to the top of it and I saw the former Busch Stadium from above and I was totally blown away.  I’ve loved St. Louis ever since.

Even without the mighty Arch, there is so much to do and see in St. Lou and the place just has so much more soul and character than K.C. does, and everything seems so much hipper there.  Even the street names are cooler in St. Louis—Natural Bridge Road, Jennings Station Road, Vandeventer Ave., Gravois Ave., Kingshighway (which I first thought was pronounced “King-shig-way” when I was a little kid!), Tesson Ferry Road, Pestalozzi St., and my personal favorite, St. Charles ROCK Road.  Some are even hilarious, like Fee Fee Street!  Anyway, while it has a big-city feel to it, St. Louis isn’t as unwieldy or overwhelming as say, Chicago, Boston or New York, and even though I’ve been there dozens of times, I never grow tired of visiting.  I’ve even toyed with the idea of relocating there a time or two.  To me, St. Louis is like a favorite pair of old shoes—so very comfortable and reassuring.

My apologies to the good Dr. Sardonicus for not being able to hook up at the Cardinals game Saturday night.  I didn’t check my e-mail until very late Friday night, so I didn’t get Jenn’s note until it was too late to react.  Like I say, this trip was an impulse decision on my part, and I didn’t even know I was going to St. Louis until Thursday afternoon.  I also apologize if you tried to find me in my assigned seat based on the coordinates I relayed to Jenn.  I only lasted there until the 4th inning because of the old drunk fuck in front of me who kept standing up and blocking my view, not to mention all the short-attention-span idiots in my row who kept getting up and leaving every half inning (I got stuck with an aisle seat), thus causing me to miss most of the action on the field.  It’s also usually my practice when visiting a stadium for the first time to roam the entire premises and see the park from all angles—the game isn’t all that important to me.  Maybe we can do a Blues game sometime this Fall, instead.

In addition to having cooler street names than K.C., St. Louis also has a far superior selection of fast food places to choose from, including the venerable Jack-In-The-Box chain.  I just love their burgers, and they also have an excellent breakfast menu, which they serve 24/7, unlike McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s, et al.  We had JITB in the K.C area briefly in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, but they gave up on us and closed them all.  Now would be a dandy time for a comeback, and with the wide variety on their menu, I would think Jack would do a little better around these parts this time.

Another of my favorite haunts in St. Lou was/is a place called Music Exchange, a huge used record and CD store on Hampton Avenue on the south side.  Seems they’ve gotten huge-er since my last visit, having outgrown their old store and moved up the street to a bigger location.  I no longer buy vinyl records these days, but visiting the Exchange is sorta like going to the library, and it’s so much fun just to flip through the zillions of albums and check out the cover art and old labels from a bygone era.  I was most impressed that they had at least one copy of every original Paul Revere & The Raiders album that was released on Columbia Records in the ‘60s and ‘70s.  You true audiophiles who are really into vinyl will lose your minds in this place, which is almost like a musical museum, in a way—if they ain’t got it, chances are it doesn’t exist!  And although they emphasize vinyl from every genre of music there, ME also sells CDs, cassettes, video games and DVDs, along with tons of other music memorabilia.  Allow at least two hours if you plan to visit…

As per my usual on St. Louis road trips, I tuned in K-SHE 95’s Sunday morning classics show on the radio, and it didn’t disappoint.  When was the last time you heard stuff like Tony Carey’s “I Won’t Be Home Tonight”, Chris DeBurgh’s “Don’t Pay The Ferryman” or Queen’s “I’m In Love With My Car” on the radio?  They also dug up Sammy Hagar’s version of Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay”, which was my radio introduction to Hagar in 1979, and I don’t think I’d heard it in over 20 years until yesterday.  Gold Star, too, for the inclusion of Roger Daltrey’s “Free Me” from McVicar in 1980, and especially “Saved By The Music” by Moody Blues mainstays Justin Hayward and John Lodge on their 1975 sideline project Blue Jays—a song I really liked off the MB box set, but had never heard on the radio until yesterday.  Why the filth-flarn-filth can’t any Kansas City radio stations even do anything remotely comparable to a show like this?  Ohhh, that’s right, we have the suckiest major-market radio station lineup in the country...

I was a bit disheartened, though, to learn that K-SHE now airs that “Bob & Tom” bilge water in the mornings instead of local on-air talent.  Sad, sad, sad…

I know it’s been a real bitch for St. Louis motorists to have a big chunk of Hiway 40/I-64 closed over the last year or so for an overhaul, but it looks like it’ll be worth the inconvenience in the long run, based on what I could see of the construction progress.  40/64 is a main East-West artery that extends out of downtown straight through the heart of the city, but it’s needed retrofitting for decades in the area adjacent to Forest Park.  The three lanes in each direction were harrowingly narrow and the Depression-era overpasses weren’t high enough to accommodate large trucks, plus they were crumbling like the K.C. Royals bullpen does every 8th inning.  Some of the curves could be quite an adventure at high speeds with lots of traffic around, too, so I’ll be interested to see what the finished product will be like.  The closed area of 40/64 is also where late drunken Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock offed himself two years ago, but that wasn’t the highway’s fault, although his father probably tried to claim it was.  Anyway, the sign said the project should be completed by year’s end.

More photographic trip coverage coming soon to this here blog…


Dr Jenn said...

Oh my gosh Holland you are so funny. I really enjoyed the comparison to the Royals Bullpen... ROFLMAO. Doc said I should comment! FUNNY. THanks for the laugh.
ps... why do you control you comments like you do, is a pain! Hee Heee. ESP if your not gonna check your email... ;)

Brian Holland said...

Glad you enjoyed!

The reason I screen comments is to eliminate the riff-raff, especially those palookas who take pot-shots at my posts and don't have the stones to at least attach their name. I'm pretty benevolent about regulating the comments, tho--I'd say I've only rejected maybe a dozen or so in the three years I've done this thing.

dr sardonicus said...

"Crumbling like the Royals' bullpen" is an insult to one of America's oldest urban expressways - LA's Pasadena Freeway is the only one that's older, IIRC. The original section was called the Red Bird Express Highway. It began where the ramps that go down to Chouteau are, and ran to McCasland where the big old Standard Oil sign sat atop the hill for many years. The infamous Vandeventer Overpass was built around World War II, and around 1950 the highway was extended into St. Louis County and renamed the Daniel Boone Expressway, although everybody just calls it Highway 40.

Bob & Tom were forced upon KSHE in the early 90's because Emmis Broadcasting owns both of them.

Brian Holland said...

Well, it was crumbling last time I drove through there. It was most definitely out-dated, that's for sure. The big Standard/Amoco sign is still there, too. I wanted to snap a photo of it, but it was pouring-down rain when I was in the area, so I passed.