Friday, August 7, 2009

And the blog played on...

Been a while since I did a current events post, so it's back the ol' grind...

JOHN HUGHES, 1950-2009
Hard to imagine what the ‘80s would’ve been like without this man’s body of work.  Filmmaker John Hughes, who died yesterday of a heart attack, quietly put together a fairly prolific career as writer/director/producer of such ‘80s teen fare as The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Weird Science and Pretty In Pink, as well as John Candy vehicles Trains, Planes And Automobiles (vehicles—get it?) and Uncle Buck, along with Mr. Mom, Christmas Vacation and the 1990 blockbuster Home AloneSixteen Candles is oft-quoted around our office—"Oh, Dong…grandpa is talking to you!", "Automobile?!?", "She’s gotten her boobies," and "Donger need food!" etc.  Another favorite of mine was "Can you describe the ruckus?" from Breakfast Club.  Oddly enough, we hadn’t heard much from Hughes after Home Alone, with his last directing credit being the 1991 clunker, Curly Sue.  JH generally shunned the limelight, and was a bit of a mysterious individual, rarely being interviewed or photographed.  I’m sure everyone else is using this line in their blog tributes to Hughes, too, but as the line in Ferris Bueller goes, he was a "righteous dude".

…for my #2 favorite local BBQ emporium, K.C. Masterpiece, which closed down last week.  Located just a few blocks from my workplace, KCM had even better brisket than my #1 local favorite, Gates BBQ, but their ribs weren’t quite as good.  Another menu item that was a big favorite around our office was the "Fall Off The Bone" salad that had shredded pork mixed in with the greenery, and I gladly made many a lunch run for my co-workers.  Masterpiece was bought out by some other company a couple years ago, and we noticed the quality of the food gradually diminish in the process.  I knew something wasn’t right when they closed their location at the Country Club Plaza (which you often had to wait in line for) and it turns out this company owed Uncle Sam a boatload of back taxes, hence the closure of the Overland Park location.  According to the paper, these boobs claim they want to re-open in suburban Blue Springs later this year with a "new concept", but it all sounds like spin-doctoring to me.  All that that remains is the famous K.C. Masterpiece line of BBQ sauces, which you can still buy at the grocery store.

…for the Arena Football League, which suspended operations apparently for good, this week.  We’ll keep it a brief moment of silence, though, since I don’t think I’ll miss it all that much.  The sport was too gimmicky and playing tackle football on half a field is like playing hockey in a phone booth—too claustrophobic for me…

Bryan Adams overlooked a few things in his hit song "Summer of ‘69", because the 40th anniversaries are hitting us hot and heavy these days, and we’re on the eve of yet another—it was 40 years ago tomorrow that the Manson Family scared the hell out of California (and the nation) with their brutal slayings of actress Sharon Tate and her friends on August 8, 1969, followed by more mayhem the next night at the LaBianca house in L.A.  It’s amazing to think you had the Manson murders, Woodstock and Hurricane Camille all occurring within about ten days of each other—quite an eventful period.  And just for perspective, yours truly even started kindergarten a couple weeks after that, too.  The second half of 1969 was full of landmark events (both good and bad), what with the Apollo 11 moon landing in July, the "Miracle Mets" winning the World Series in October and the infamous Rolling Stones Altamont concert in early December.  It was also quite a memorable time here in K.C. as 1969 saw the advent of the expansion Royals, and more importantly, the Chiefs’ Super Season when they won it all.  Not only that, but Apollo 13, the breakup of The Beatles and the Kent State tragedy were just around the corner in 1970, too.  Forty freakin’ years, already?  Hard to believe…

When are the conservatives/Republicans going to knock off this witch hunt over Obama’s citizenship?  Naturally, Rush Limbaugh is one of the fools leading the charge to convince everyone that B.O. is an undesirable alien—this coming from a man who once changed his legal name (and bringing shame to the good name of Brian in the process).  This is just more sour grapes because their guy lost the election in November.  I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating—we put up with their village idiot in the White House for eight years and look what it got us.  Let’s give the new guy a shot and see what happens.

…but not when it’s used for a photo-op/publicity stunt/damage control like Obama did last week in his contrived "Beer Summit" with this Professor Gates character and the cop who busted him for trying to break into his own house. [Hope you’re paying attention, Tom and John—I’m bashing Obama here!]  Beer Summit sounds like something Dubya would've come up with, doesn't it?  That whole thing got totally blown out of proportion anyway, and if Gates had merely produced some ID, he probably wouldn’t have been handcuffed.  As for the neighbor who called 911, I can’t believe she didn’t even recognize the man who lives nextdoor to her.  I’m not real crazy about my current nextdoor neighbors, but I at least know what they look like!  Btw, I’m surprised the media didn’t automatically refer to this thing as "Gates-gate".

But you might find the Old Folks Home at the Kansas City Chefs training camp, as they’ve continued their tradition of signing elderly players, and this time it’s former N.Y. Giants wideout Amami Toomer, who joins the almost equally-old Bobby Engram on the squad.  Why is it we always get these Pro Bowl-caliber players at the END of their careers, like Joe Montana, Marcus Allen, Patrick Surtain, Pete Stoyanovich, Ty Law, Morten Andersen, et al, instead of finding guys like them in the draft?  Dare I say it?  This is getting really OLD!

Gore Vidal—When I was a kid watching Johnny Carson, I always thought he was talking about someone named "Gorvy Dahl".

Franco Harris—When Franco first came to fame with the Pittsburgh Steelers, I first thought his name was "Frank O’Harris"!  That was, until I saw his name on his jersey and realized he was Italian instead of Irish…

Just for shits and hoots, I recently borrowed a VHS copy of the "Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts" from the library.  I used to think these shows were the cat’s ass back when I was a kid in the ‘70s, but viewing them now with 45-year-old eyes, they are positively putrid.  The lame skits, hackneyed one-liners and forced laughter amongst those on the dais were bad enough, but what I found amazing was how the person being roasted—the late Carroll O’Connor and Redd Foxx, on this tape—looked as if they would much rather be somewhere else!  And those shows all seemed to have the same set of panelists every time out—Nipsey Russell, Milton Berle, Phyllis Diller, Marty Allen, Don Rickles, Jimmie Walker, Foster Brooks, Joey Bishop, et al—and amongst all of them, only Rickles managed to make me laugh out loud.  The celebrity roast genre has been revived on cable here over the last couple years, but sadly, it’s every bit as cheesy now as it was then.  The Gene Simmons roast featuring such "funny" men as Andrew Dice Clay, Danny Bonaduce and Carrot Top made me want to throw up in my mouth.

Are there any TV sitcoms out there that haven’t used the lame old gambit where two or more characters find themselves locked inside a cellar/storeroom/vault (or trapped in an elevator or on a rooftop) for an extended period of time?  I can think of at least ten without even trying:  "Happy Days", "Friends", "The Nanny", "All In The Family", "The Munsters", "Frasier", "MASH", "WKRP In Cincinnati", "The Jeffersons" and "The Love Boat" are just a few examples.  Not terribly creative, that’s for sure…

Against my better judgment, I created a Facebook account recently, but I’m still not completely sold on it yet.  The thing I dislike most about it is how it’s sort of replaced blogging in general.  I’ve noticed a major decline in activity on the blogs that I read regularly, and I think a lot of it has to do with Facebook and the whole Twitter thing, which appeal to the short attention span crowd more.  I’m much more at home here on the blog where I can write whatever and however much I want, whereas you’re very limited and have to censor yourself on Facebook a lot more.  I also don’t like how it’s taken the place of personal e-mails too, as some of my good friends tend to blow mine off without responding to them, which pisses me off sometimes.  And based on some of the stuff my longtime friends post on Facebook, it’s almost like they’re strangers to me sometimes.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Travelblog, St. Louis - Part III

And for my final installment about my weekend trip, here’s a look at the (fairly) new home of the St. Louis Cardinals, Busch Stadium II.  Just to clarify, I refer to the current ballpark as "II" and its predecessor as Busch Stadium I, even though some fans like to think of old Sportsman’s Park as the first Busch Stadium, because it also went by that name toward the end of its tenure.

No visit to a Cardinals game is complete without passing by the Stan Musial statue on the third base side.  I personally think they should’ve had him facing toward the ballpark instead of away from it, but no matter, he’s still the greatest Cardinal of them all.  I heartily agree with those who say that Stan The Man is grossly underrated and is often overlooked when the ESPN talking heads reel off their all-time greats lists.  Same goes for Frank Robinson, come to think of it.  Only because Musial played in the Midwest instead of for the Yankees, Dodgers or Red Sox does he not get more acclaim.  I’d gladly have taken him on my team over Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, whom I think are a bit overrated.  Hell, Stan was such a badass, he gets TWO statues at Busch II!

St. Louis Cardinals games are the most fun to attend in the Major Leagues because the atmosphere is so electric.  Even back when the Royals were a good team, the ambience at Kauffman Stadium seemed more battery-powered than electric compared with the festive air in and around Busch Stadium on game day.  If you hate the color red, then I wouldn’t recommend attending a Cards game, since nearly everyone in attendance is wearing it.  Of course, St. Louis has quite a history to be proud of—ten World Series titles and a flotilla of Hall of Famers—and the fans should be justifiably proud of their team.  Since divisional play began in 1969, the Cardinals have only finished in last place one time (1990).  Pretty impressive.

The current fad in stadium design that’s all the rage is where a significant chunk of the grandstand is omitted for no particular reason like at the top right of this shot (taken from my seat).  The new parks in Detroit and Cincinnati have this feature too, as does the New England Patriots’ Gillette Stadium, and I believe the new Twins stadium in Minneapolis will be likewise.  They even gouged two hunks out of the upper deck at Kauffman Stadium during the recent renovations too, and I don’t really get the point of it—it looks really hokey to me.  Seems to me you could put more seats in those gaps and attract more fans to the stadium, but I keep forgetting that it’s all about the hoity-toity luxury suites and not the Joe Fan seating area anymore.

...why are the two big video boards placed practically side-by-side here?  Can you say "redundant"?  Meanwhile, from my nosebleed seat in the upper deck in right field, I could only see the top half of the video board with the birds and clock on it, and from my vantage point (even when the old drunk fuck in front of me was actually seated), I couldn’t get any out-of-town scores or even the linescore of the Cardinal game, not even on the auxiliary ribbon board on the third base side.  Seems to me they could’ve placed one of the big boards over in left field where there’s nothing going on so everyone in the stadium can see at least one of them in full.  I expect better planning than this in a state-of-the-art stadium.

Okay, so where’s the mythical "Ballpark Village" that was supposed to replace Busch Stadium I after its demise?  All I see here is a big void with a half-assed parking lot and a big mud puddle, so far.  From what I’ve heard, the grandiose plans they once had for this thing were all shot down because they ran out of money while building the stadium.  In the process, St. Louis lost the National Bowling Hall of Fame, which was originally located next to Busch I, and was slated to be part of the Ballpark Village complex, but they got a better offer and moved to Arlington, Texas (with its rich bowling tradition, naturally), and the Cardinals Hall of Fame is in a state of limbo as well.  What I wish they had done was leave the remaining superstructure of Busch Stadium I standing and develop it into a mixed-use complex with condos, shops, bars, restaurants, etc., with the Cardinals Hall of Fame right smack dab over where the infield was, with the pitcher’s mound and home plate as its centerpiece.  Could’ve been really cool, but noooooooo!  Better be careful St. Lou, or Arlington will outbid you for the Cardinals Hall of Fame too...

As for Busch I, I miss that place a lot.  I saw more Major League games outside of Kansas City at Busch I than any other park, and of all the so-called "cookie-cutter" dual-purpose stadiums built in the ‘60s and ‘70s, it was far and away the best.  I loved the scalloped roof that mimicked the Gateway Arch all the way around.  The Cardinals did a nice job of retrofitting it in the late ‘90s after it ceased doubling as a football stadium by installing real grass and giving it more of a "ballpark" feel.  It still looked nice on the outside in its final years, but the stadium’s infrastructure (plumbing, electrical, etc.) had serious issues and the team was running out of duct tape and band-aids.  Before going ahead with Busch II, though, they even gave serious consideration to doing a total overhaul (a la Kauffman Stadium here) in lieu of replacing it, but it proved to be unfeasible.  I still say they could’ve at least left part of the grandstand intact.  I trust the good people of St. Louis will someday erect a historical marker when they finally do fill the void left behind.

One feature I really liked were these bay window-like extensions of the exit portals along the upper deck façade.  They allow a bit more space for people to walk without ruining the look of the place.  Brilliant idea…

If you like statues, Busch Stadium II’s got ‘em.  This would be venerable St. Louis play-by-play man Jack Buck, whose likeness is mounted into the wall outside the park behind left-center field.  I hear some horse’s patoots keep making off with his microphone—no class!  All of the other Cardinals Hall of Famers are honored in bronze just up the block at the corner of 7th and Clark at the left field entrance, including Ozzie Smith, Dizzy Dean, Enos Slaughter, Red Schoendienst, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock and many more.  Tony LaRussa and Albert Pujols will no doubt be joining them one of these days.  Too bad Mark McGwire probably won’t be…

Having watched numerous games on TV from Busch II and seen it in person from the outside already, it always seemed to me that the place was missing something, but I could never quite pinpoint what it was.  I do like the place a lot better after actually attending a game in it, but I still can’t quite put my finger on what it’s lacking.  They righted a wrong by aiming home plate toward the Gateway Arch, and the view of the surrounding skyscrapers is spectacular, but there’s just nothing real distinctive about Busch Stadium II.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice ballpark, no question, but it kinda looks like all the other new stadiums out there.  Overall, I would give the place an A-, but I have to take points off for the scoreboard setup I detailed above, so Busch II gets a B+.

WARNING:  Religious commentary ahead—if you’re easily offended, then skip the rest of this post.

Hate to end on a bad note, but I have to get this out my system.  My ballpark visit was partially tainted by some tag-team street corner messiahs squawking on a bullhorn and waving signs outside the stadium, all the while quoting scripture and telling people they are going to hell if they aren’t "born again".  I don’t mean to offend youse believers out there, but it really grinds my gears when these impudent self-appointed jackasses force-feed their unsolicited religious dogma upon innocent baseball fans.  I’d fully expect this kind of crap outside of a heavy metal concert or Gay Pride festival or something, but not at a freakin’ ballgame!  And, yes, I tried to ignore them, but this bullhorn blowhard was so bloody loud, even my iPod cranked up at full blast couldn’t drown him out—you could clearly hear every word he said from a block away!  People on their cellphones couldn’t even carry on their conversations amongst all the cacophony, and I could still even hear this Neolitihic dipshit clear as day once I got into the stadium itself (from the upper deck, no less).  It’s unfortunate that some fools choose to spoil everyone else’s good time, and unfortunately, the Cardinals couldn’t do a thing about this public nuisance because these goomers weren’t on the stadium property itself.

Ironically, as I viewed this farcical spectacle with my iPod in shuffle mode, almost right on cue the song "I’m Alive" by heavy metal band W.A.S.P. popped up, which is all about phony "men of God" and features the line "Damn you, holy man, alive."  Couldn’t have said it better myself.  Another line goes, "Tell me, what’s in it for you?", which is what I always wonder about these arrogant boobs—I mean, do they truly think they’re actually making a difference, anyway?  If so, they’re legends in their own minds.  Holy Rollers like this are a big reason why I’m a non-believer—if there really is a God, I find it impossible to believe that He would send small-time bozos like them to spread His word—come on, Mr. G, surely you can do better than that!  As for all this "born again" business, I subscribe to Dennis Miller’s take on it:  "Pardon me for getting it right the first time."  Organized religion is a very thorny issue with me, and I have no doubt my good friends who are church-goers look down on me because of my agnostic attitude, and in some ways, I also feel I've been kicked to the curb by them because of it.  I am what I am, and I make no apologies for it, and I just don’t get the whole God/Jesus thing, nor do I really want to.  At least give me credit for being honest and true to myself.

End of sermon.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Travelblog, St. Louis - Part II

Here’s a rundown of my non-baseball encounters and observations during my weekend trip, which I’ll categorize as The Good, The Bad and The Quirky…

It’s been nearly 40 years since I laid eyes on the Gateway Arch for the first time, and it’s still a thrill seeing it whenever I get back to town.  Coolest man-made thing on this planet, bar none.  "And that’s all I have to say about that…"—F. Gump

And this would be the old factory just across the street, which gives you a general idea of the wretchedness of the neighborhood the ballpark resided in.  The area was already in decline 43 years ago when the stadium closed and both sets (decks?) of Cards fled to downtown, and sadly, the ‘hood has yet to recover—it now makes the 22nd & Brooklyn area here in K.C. where old Municipal Stadium once stood seem like Beverly Hills by comparison.  By all indications, Sportsman’s was a neat old ballpark, and if Doc Brown ever gets that damn flux capacitor thing working, I plan to time-travel to attend a game there, drink Budweiser till I bust and listen to Harry Caray and Jack Buck call the Cards’ game on the radio.

Unlike Kansas City sometimes, St. Louis reveres its history, and grand old theaters like the fabulous Fox Theater still thrive there today.  Like so many of its Depression-era brethren, the Fox experienced death (closed in 1978) and re-birth (renovated and revived in 1982) and it hosted Chuck Berry’s 60th birthday concert in 1986, which was featured in Taylor Hackford’s fine documentary film Hail! Hail! Rock ‘N’ Roll!.  George Thorogood’s Live in ‘99 CD was recorded there, as well.  I’d love to see the inside of the Fox, and one of these fine days, I’m gonna get my hiney down to this beautiful old place and catch a concert.

I’ve been trying to get a good photo of this rascal for years, but it’s very difficult to access it from ground level because of its location, so this shot on the fly from the highway will have to do.  It looks even prettier when it’s all lit up at night—they just don’t make ‘em like this anymore!  I love seeing old-school signage like this (the big Citgo sign across from Fenway Park in Boston being another good example) still surviving in this age of fancy hi-def electronic advertising boards.  Sadly, the upkeep costs must be very exorbitant, and I fear these behemoths will soon go the way of the dinosaur and the 8-track tape.

Back in the ‘80s, the good people of St. Louis concocted the brilliant idea of converting its aging and obsolete train depot into a shopping center and tourist attraction, and Union Station is one of my regular stops when I’m in town.  Kansas City struggled for years trying to figure out what to do with its own Union Station, but duplicating St. Lou’s shopping center idea proved to be redundant with Crown Center already right across the street, so we’re stuck with the underwhelming Science City attraction here.  Too bad, because our US could’ve been every bit as fun as St. Lou’s.  Sadly, like most shopping malls across the land, the StL Station has lost a few tenants since the last time I was there, like the British-themed shop that specialized in Beatles memorabilia, as well as Hooters and several other stores, but there’s a Hard Rock Café there and numerous other unique shops—well worth the visit, if you’re in town.

…but if I did, I don’t think I’d mind being sick in this handsome structure, the new St. Louis University Hospital, which has materialized since my last visit.  Looks pretty snazzy to me.


Okay, St. Louis doesn't always revere it's history after all.  This is what now occupies the former site of the mighty St. Louis Arena on Oakland Avenue, where the Blues used to play.  Time marches on, and it’s great that the land isn’t going to waste, as it now houses a hotel and office complex (which includes a radio station conglomerate, I believe), but given how St. Louis honors its past, I’m very disappointed there’s no historical marker on the site some ten years after the Arena was demolished.  The "Old Barn" was beloved by many St. Louisans (St. Louisites?), and it was my favorite old school hockey arena ever (see my tribute post), and is totally worthy of some sort of commemorative marker.  Come on, folks—get on the ball!  Or should I say get on the puck?

I was having a dandy time imbibing down at Laclede’s Landing after the Cardinals game Saturday night, and had every intention of being (as the Who song goes) "out of my brain on the train" on the way back to my hotel out by the airport.  Unbeknownst to me, the MetroLink trains turn into pumpkins at Midnight and I missed the last one by ten bleepin’ minutes, thus resulting in an unexpected $25 cab ride—D’OH!  Okay, my bad for not checking the train skeds in advance, but you’d think on weekend nights they’d run them at least until after the bars close down to keep some of the drunks off the streets.

Avoid the Motel 6 by Lambert Airport in St. Louis.  I generally have pretty good luck at Tom Bodett's favorite chain, but this location left a lot to be desired—poor upkeep, unsavory clientele, assholes begging for change in the parking lot, etc.

This is one of the more unique office buildings I’ve seen in a while.  Better hope that one leg doesn’t collapse, tho!


Pardon my Spanish, but I got a kick out this BBQ place downtown, which was closed at the time I snapped the photo.  The sign still rang true, though, as one of those horse-drawn romantic love carriages happened by and the horsie-doody was quite odoriferous!

This caught my eye just down the street from Sportsman’s Park.  I’m so pleased to see this—those private Pest Control clubs are so damn hard to get into these days, unless you know another member! 

Meantime, just up the block, the cops were executing search and seizure on a vehicle while a handcuffed young white couple watched helplessly on the curb.  I didn’t see a "COPS" camera crew anywhere around, tho…

This is the view from centerfield straight to where home plate used to be at old Sportsman’s Park, north of downtown on Grand Blvd., where Stan Musial, Dizzy Dean and the rest of the great St. Louis Cardinal players—as well as the decrepit St. Louis Browns—did their thing. I believe The Beatles played at Sportsman’s in ’64 and/or ’65 as well, when the park was known as Busch Stadium. The property is now site of the Boys & Girls Club of America, and ironically, its football field is in pretty close alignment with where they laid out the gridiron for the St. Louis football Cardinals in the early ‘60s.

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…