Pancakes, bacon, eggs, and orange juice. These are the things of a good breakfast and the brainchild of our wonderful hosts.
There is discussion about renting bikes and taking them into town, a distance of six miles: these are winter bikers I'm traveling with. The discussion meanders, but we eventually decide against it.
Later, Mary and Sarah go off on a run; Gretchen and I, having only clunkier shoes, take a walk. There's a bit of a cold, biting wind and I have the sudden realisation that I'm epically unprepared for true cold, having left my winter jacket in Minneapolis in favour of two fleeces. My hat? It's still lost in Greece. My scarf? It's lost somewhere in Beth's house.
So that leaves public transit.
|Which turns out to be a good idea. Every train we get on, it seems that people are talking with us, and each other. St. Louis is filled with people itching to converse. Though, come to think of it, I don't think we ended up taking any of them up on their advice regarding places to go and things to do.|
We had our own, very exciting, plans.
Inside it was dark, quiet, and scented with pizza. A TV behind us played images of extreme sports, with an emphasis on things going very, very wrong.
The pizza was delicious and plentiful, but Medici's of Chicago still has my heart. As we finished, a rather bent man with a strong voice—the owner!—came over and spoke with us about St. Louis. As we left, coupons for more pizza later in our hands, he was leaning back into a chair telling the waiter I nicknamed “Frankie”—a man with a stoic quiet, almost sinister air—to turn the volume on the TV up, all the way up. If they were in the Mafia, the owner would definitely be the boss man and Frankie, well, he'd have some dirty work to do.
I'm not sure how often I've been to St. Louis before. Has it been five, six times? My family came through here (once, twice?), I was here on the way to Georgia once, I was here with Dirk, I think I've passed through here on my own at least once. It's not like I keep track. But, then again, it is… Because, on many of those occassions, I've been up to the Arch, and beneath the Arch, but never inside the Arch. But that's our plan today. I am excited.
Being a large, well-shaped monument, the Arch evokes different emotions in all of us.
And a lot of staring upwards...
|I first visited the Museum Beneath The Arch with Dirk and was highly impressed, an impression which was sustained on this trip. But, unlike last time, the museum wasn't the showcase of this trip. We got pretty much the last tickets of the day, at about $10.|
|Elise and James were otherwise occupied, so only Sarah, Gretchen, Mary, and I ended up standing in line. And, as we did so, Sarah began to get a little freaked out. The Arch is not friendly if both heights and small spaces disturb you…|
You wait in line for a long while. You're surrounded by images of the Arch being construcuted. You walk through scaffoldings and past sections of crane. You are surrounded by the sounds of the construction, emanating from hidden speakers. The sounds being to freak you out a bit. There's also a more distant, booming clang.
Along the way we find a brightly coloured yellow and green Jamaican hat. Sarah takes a liking to it and carries it for a little ways. But, as we get closer to the elevators, we realise that this is the closest—literally—any of us are going to be to God this entire trip. Needless to say, it's not the best time to be carting around a found (or stolen?) hat. We leave it in a very visible location on a staircase.
Then, in short order:
Some little doors open, and you climb into a chamber where you get kinda cozy with five of your friends—or complete strangers, but you'll be friends by the end—while, outside, cables, staircases, and struts flash by. The car jerks and creaks, trying to stay up-right as we shoot upwards. The jerks are punctuated by shrieks from the car behind us: the trip is not going very well for some.
|And then you step out into a hallway which looked like this,|
on both sides, for about a hundred feet.1
|There's not too much to do up there but look out at the terrific view…|
…and think about how you never beat Oregon Trail.
When they said, “Go West, young man.”, did they have this in mind?
…but this is the top.
|Sarah, having achieved a great feat, descended early. We, on the other hand, ended up being some of the last people up there.|
Which gave us some extra room on the way down.
I need a tripod...
|After celebrating our survival, we hopped the Metro towards the City Museum. In the course of our being at the Metro, we discovered: you can't take pictures on the train, you can't take pictures off the train, you can't stand too close to the edge of the platform, you can't speak loudly, you can't… Well, you get the idea: there are a lot of rules, and vocally-imposing MetroCops to enforce them.|
Disembarking, a cross-walk man explained a circuitous route to the City Museum to us, explaining that we didn't want to use the more direct option because it was “dangerous”. Naturally, this made me want to head that way. However, other heads prevailed.
The St. Louis City Museum is like a giant playground for adults. Bob Cassilly, a sculptor, and his crew of 20, opened it in 01997 as an art project using urban refuse as a medium. It streches the imagination trying to figure out how he obtained the building and safety permits to do this. The building, as we discovered, is also home to a troop of high school-aged parkour enthusiasts, several 10-story slides, a cave system, a bar, and a giant hamster wheel.
The trip back to the house would have been uneventful were it not for our meeting with Rick Roosen, who is, as far as we could tell, the only nice MetroTransit man in St. Louis. Kudos! He definitely did not let us stand on benches to stay warm.2
A showing of the Lion King gave way to sleep.
1Given that, by some estimates, 74.1% of the United States was obese in 02007, one might suspect that this photograph represents the best-looking cross-section of that hallway. Judgement on that aside, the tiny elevators, perhaps coupled with long waits, and sub-demographics devoted to visiting National Monuments meant that it really wasn't too bad.