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So long, St. Louis–for the time being

St. Louis (both the city itself and the county) will re-open tomorrow, just as I’m heading back to Russell. Even though I would like to stay, there comes a time when travelers must return home. Tomorrow will be that day for yours truly.

Even though there wasn’t much to do, this venture was a success. I got what I came for (White Castle, Pibb Zero, Vienna Beef Polish sausage, Nathan’s Famous bagel dogs, capicola and mortadella, steaks for Father’s Day), discovered some new things (provel cheese, soap at Whole Foods) and rediscovered something I really like (sushi, as long as it doesn’t have cream cheese).

The bad news? I won’t be eating White Castle or provel again until I return to St. Louis, save for the leftover White Castle I eat on I-70 west tomorrow and the 24 slices of provel I’m bringing back. The good news? Dillons in Hays sells sushi, Pibb Zero and the cold cuts are available in Salina (as long as Dillons keeps them in stock), and Whole Foods is in Wichita. I can also order soap online.

The hotel in Chesterfield is isolated from restaurants and stores, but I’m used to that at two of the hotels I frequent in Kansas City, one at Briarcliff and the other near Kansas City International Airport. There’s easy access to Interstate 64 from the Chesterfield hotel the same way I-29 is easily accessible from KCI and US 169 is easily accessible from Briarcliff to get me to I-29 or I-35.

I usually don’t like first floor rooms, but this week, it has made life easy. It’s near a side entrance AND the dumpster, a daily double. I bring my trash out each day and throw it over the doors instead of leaving it in the hallway and/or letting it pile up. The doors to the dumpster have been open the last two days, allowing me to dispose of boxes and the cartons the Pibb Zero came in. It will make loading the Buick much easier tomorrow–I won’t need a cart. With all the things I’m loading, it’s great to have a first floor room near a side entrance!

Here’s hoping the Cardinals will be playing at Busch Stadium by this time in July, and the Blues will be on their way to successfully defending the Stanley Cup. St. Louis loves its sports more than nearly every other major city in America, and without the Cardinals and Blues, something seems off in the Gateway City.

Coincidentally, I’ll pass by the Truman Sports Complex in Kansas City (unless I detour at Interstate 470 in Independence and go around the south side of the metro area on Interstate 435 to Kansas Highway 10). The Royals are hoping to be playing at Kauffman soon, and the Chiefs want to start on time, which means they host the NFL’s first game of the 2020 regular season on 10 September vs. the Texans.

That’s it for me from St. Louis. But as MacArthur famously said, I shall return.

Beards and no masks? I’ve got a REAL problem.

Day six in St. Louis featured trips to two supermarkets in St. Peters not too far apart. I counted seven people not wearing masks. All were male, and all but one had a beard.

It wasn’t the first time. In nine of the ten grocery stores I have visited in St. Louis, more than 80 percent of the maskless people were men with beards. I have rarely encountered a woman without a mask.

I told Peggy this. I prefaced it by saying she might not like it. Her son, Conor has worn a beard since he was in high school, and her three sons-in-law all have them, although Sam, Chelsea’s husband, does go clean shaven frequently.

I would trade my father’s facial hair for mine. My father could not grow a beard if he went without shaving for a full year. He tried growing a porn star mustache in November 1976, which looked pathetic. He had the mustache on the day of my baptism, and every time I looked at that picture, I didn’t know whether to laugh or gag. Sometimes I did both.

The only time I went an extended period without shaving was when I was in the hospital. The first time I saw my face in the mirror I nearly threw up. It was ugly. The most I ever go without shaving is one day. I don’t shave with the double edge safety razor every day right now, but I have a high-end Braun electric to touch up.

Notice I sad “9 of 10” grocery stores in the second paragraph. That’s because the 10th was Whole Foods, which won’t let you in if you’re not wearing a mask. The store provides masks, but if you don’t want to wear it, you have to leave immediately.

I don’t know how much the surgical masks I am wearing prevent against catching COVID-19, but they definitely prevent against sneezes and coughs spreading. I sneezed today in Dierbergs, and I felt good knowing the particles didn’t spread.

I feel better with the blue surgical masks than with a cloth mask. Two ladies were wearing Blues masks at Schnucks. Too bad I don’t know French or I would have said “Go Habs” in French. Montreal did beat St. Louis in both meetings this season, about the only thing that’s gone right for the Canadiens this season. Hey, at least it is still 23-1 Montreal over St. Louis in times winning the Stanley Cup.

N95 masks would be the best, but the doctors need them. I hope Dr. Custer and the rest of the staff at Hays Medical Center has been able to secure them.

I still have not seen blue surgical masks sold anywhere except Hen House in Johnson County, where I’ve seen them at the Leawood and Prairie Village locations. Speaking of Prairie Village, everyone who goes out in public in that city now has to wear a mask, thanks to an ordinance passed by the city council there.

I’m curious to find out how many people in Hays are wearing masks now. I’m going there Tuesday to Walgreens to pick up medication. I may stop at Dillons just for fun, because heaven knows I don’t need food after all I’m bringing back from St. Louis.

I gorged myself yesterday on sushi, plus I ate a salmon filet and grilled cheese.

The grilled cheese was not made of cheddar, swiss or provolone. I decided to try a St. Louis specialty.

It’s called Provel, and it’s a processed mix of the three cheeses I just mentioned. It is used as the main cheese (instead of mozzarella) by St. Louis pizza chain Imo’s, where pies are baked on a thin cracker-style crust and cut into squares. Many St. Louis residents swear by it and will never eat pizza without Provel, but others dislike Provel and want good old mozzarella.

The Provel grilled cheese was very tasty. I’m going to bring some back to Russell and have my parents try it. I’m not big on processed cheese; I will eat Velveeta and “American” cheese, but it is far from my favorite. However, Provel may grow on me and I may start bringing back lots of it from St. Louis, the same way I do things from Kansas City.

I skipped White Castle yesterday but went back today. Got a crave case (30), which will tide me over through today and tomorrow. I doubt I’m going out tomorrow, because the forecast calls for heavy rain. Monday is supposed to be the perfect day for an eight hour drive, with cooler temperatures and abundant sunshine.

One thing I am really hating about shopping right now is the ban on reusable bags. God I hate those flimsy plastic bags. I get a lot of angry looks from baggers and checkers when I request paper and not plastic.

Growing up in New Orleans, we didn’t have to ponder that question. If you shopped at Schwegmann’s Giant Supermarkets, you got paper and you liked it. The bags were so ubiquitous around the Crescent City they were known as “Schwegmann bags”. Unfortunately, Schwegmann’s went bankrupt and closed its last stores just before the start of the millennium.

Forty years ago tonight, a magical sporting event took place. Too bad few people witnessed it live. I’ll get to it in my next post.

Skinned knees, a burned case and the view from high above St. Louis

I’m exhausted. Getting up 0318, driving seven hours, staying up until midnight after almost 21 hours without even a nap, walking in the heat and humidity to visit a national landmark, tripping on stairs, nearly burning my iPad and thinking I left my driver’s license at said landmark within the space of 36 hours does that.

It has been a mostly great 36 hours, though.

Caitlyn has the most to do with it. Seeing her for the first time in 341 days did my heart a lot of good. It seemed to do her heart a lot of good too.

Peggy loved that I went to St. Louis to support Caitlyn. Then she suggested I visit the Gateway Arch.

I’ve been in the shadow of the arch twice in my life.

The second was in 2006, when I met Renetta Rogers and her mother, Elizabeth, in St. Louis. I thought Renetta and I were going to continue what relationship we had. However, I screwed up royally. I don’t really have the time nor the stamina to go into exquisite detail like I normally do. Go back to my very first blog post in June 2014 to read more about Renetta.

Back to the first time I was in the arch’s shadow.

It was July 21, 1992. I was with my family on vacation. For some reason, we chose St. Louis as a vacation spot. We went to Russell to visit my grandparents the previous summer, and my dad felt once every other year (or every three years) was enough. My parents and I have more than made up for it.

My brother and father went to the top of the arch. My mother and I didn’t. It was like this when we went to Astroworld in Houston three years prior; my brother and dad went on a roller coaster, my mother and stayed grounded.

The trip to St. Louis was bad. My dad got lost the first day in a driving rainstorm. Following the visit to the arch, the water pump in our 1986 Oldsmobile Delta 88 broke, so that consumed a few hours. We went to two Cardinals-Braves games at the old Busch Stadium. The seats were terrible both times; the first we were in center field more than 137 meters (450 feet) from home plate, and the second, the seats were behind home plate at the very top of the stadium. I was deathly afraid of heights when I was (almost) 16, and I refused to sit in the seats. My dad stayed with me on the concourse most of the night, save for a couple of innings when he went to sit with my brother. I feel shame about that a lot.

When I went to Lisa and Jeff’s wedding two years ago, I didn’t go into the city of St. Louis. Last year when I went a couple of days before Thanksgiving, I didn’t seriously consider it, even though I drove into Illinois in search of all things, a certain type of hot dog buns. It took me six stores before I found them in the tiny suburb of St. Ann. Now I discover Hy-Vee in Kansas City has them.

I slept on Peggy’s suggestion. When I got in the shower just before 1000, I decided to go.

I tripped on steps at the old St. Louis courthouse not too far from the arch. I have two skinned knees as a souvenir, but better than blowing a hole in jeans which cost $55. Two gentlemen checked on me, and fortunately, they didn’t have to summon medical assistance.

I was smart to buy my arch ticket online and pick it up at will call. The line to buy tickets must have had at least 50 people. There was time to tour the museum and get a drink (I was parched) before the ride.

The trams which take you up to the top of the arch are cramped, and that’s putting it mildly. The cars barely seat five people. Worse, if you’re taller than 135 centimeters (4 feet, 5 inches), you’ll hit your head if you don’t duck.

I happened to be in the tram with two men from South Carolina and another from Augusta who were in Missouri for tomorrow’s South Carolina-Missouri football game, along with a representative of the National Park Service. The ride took four minutes. When the tram door shut, I was afraid I might faint due to going up, but it didn’t happen.

The observation area has windows to view downtown St. Louis on the west side and the Mississippi River and Illinois on the other. You are allowed to stay in the observation area as long as you like, and I stayed for 40 minutes. I was the last one from the group which boarded the south tram at 1215 to descend.

When I was in Baton Rouge two years ago, I wanted to go to the observation deck at the state capitol, which soars 132 meters (432 feet), the highest in the nation. However, since it was the weekend and we were leaving Monday morning, I didn’t have time.

Following the arch, I went to the old St. Louis King of Francs basilica, which used to be the seat of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. The exterior is stone, and the interior is beautiful, just what you would expect from a Catholic basilica.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take pictures.

I went to light candles at the back of the church and pray. Lucky for me, a couple found things of mine were starting to catch fire from the candles.

The iPad was one of the things which was too close to the candles. I was scared the tablet would be ruined.

Thanks to the Targus Corporation and their sturdy case, with an assist from the Lord, my tablet was safe. I almost dropped the tablet in the garage. I’m not used to carrying the thing, since I usually have it in a bag. However, I didn’t want to carry the bag into the arch due to security.

As I walked back to my car in a parking garage between Busch Stadium and the arch, I knew I had to replace the case. I knew there was an Apple store in a mall off of I-270 in St. Louis County. I made a beeline for the store, but as I drove on 270, I thought I might want to see if Best Buy had any cases and if they would offer them at a lower price than Apple, where the basic folio was $99, and the so-called smart case with the keyboard–which I don’t need–cost $199.

The Lord was working for me again.

Not only did Best Buy have cheaper cases, but they had the exact same case I burned. Add in a $20 price reduction (from $75 to $55), and I was on my way. Don’t worry, I didn’t do this as I was driving; i pulled into the mall parking lot, looked it up on the iPad, and made the transaction.

Another near-crisis came up on my drive from the mall to Best Buy.

I discovered I could not find my driver’s license. I took the license out of my wallet at will call to claim my ticket, and absent-minded me didn’t put it back in the window in my wallet I keep it.

My mind was racing. Not only would I face the long drive from St. Louis to Russell without my license, but I would have to gather documents and go to the license station in Hays (the one in Russell is only open one day a week).

In the Best Buy parking lot, I found my license in a tray below my radio. The tray was closed from the time I got in my car in the parking lot. I had to laugh.

I spent the last three hours of the afternoon traipsing around St. Charles County, going to the grocery stores and White Castle. When I got back to the hotel, I wanted to collapse. But I stayed awake long enough to plan my exit tomorrow. And blog..

That’s all from St. Louis. I was hoping to stop at Buffalo Wild Wings in Kansas City to see Ashley, Tina and Rita, but with heavy rain likely there tomorrow, I’m going to have to keep on trucking to Russell. Besides, I’ll be back in Kansas City soon enough.

I love you Peggy and Caitlyn!