In Absentia, or My Trip to St. Louis, Mo.

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In Absentia, or My Trip to St. Louis, Mo.



I'm going to be away from Babble for a time, Which is good, because we probably need a break from me anyway.

I know I do.

In the mean time, if I leave anything here in mid argument, just follow it to the logical conclusion to where you end up agreeing with me..... [img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img]

Take care, everyone. I'd say I will miss you, but that would be maudlin, so I won't.

But I will.

[ 19 November 2007: Message edited by: Tommy_Paine ]

[ 25 November 2007: Message edited by: Tommy_Paine ]


Have a good break Tommy, and I thought your position in the Religion Poisons Everything topic was perfect. I wish I could say things as succinctly as you.

I hope you come back soon.


Come back soon!


Oh No!!! Now what are we going to do?


Until I see a signed authorization for your leave of absence request, you're not going anywhere...

Take care and please come back soon.

Erik Redburn

Damn. I hope to see you back again sooner than later Tommy.


Sorry about the somewhat pretentious post. The original told of my plans to travel to St. Louis, but after posting it, a fit of paranoia overtook me, and I thought it inappropriate to announce my departure over the internet. Plus, I didn't want CSIS to have foreknowledge of my border crossing. [img]wink.gif" border="0[/img]

So I edited it to what you see above.

Anyway, we drove to St. Louis Missouri to visit friends. Make no mistake. St. Louis is a long way away be car.

So, it was down the 402 to the border at Sarnia, where we where held up at U.S. Customs on the flimsy pretext of importing a bag of popcorn. However, I think they were more interested in the well being of Snarfy the Wonder Girl. The burly woman who handled agriculture issues softly interrogated Snarfy to ensure she was in fact who Rebecca and I claimed her to be. A little uncomfortable, but I know what they were doing and who they were trying to protect, so I didn't mind.

We continued on. With the bag of popcorn.

I've driven my share of miles in my life, but I must say the traverse of Michigan, cutting the corner of Indiana, and crossing Illinois to Missouri was for the most part void of feature.

Rebecca drove all the way down-- odd because I am such a control freak when it comes to driving. But it gave me a chance to look at the wood lots in Michigan. From the Interstate, it looks to me like there are more fine big old oak trees there than in Ontario.

I wonder why.

I say "void of feature", but I must say the interstates presented very many macabre breaks. I have never seen so many dead deer. Whole dear on the side of the highway. In the middle of the highway. Half dear on the shoulder. Viscera everywhere. Blood smears that seemed to stretch along the highway for hundreds of meters.

Yet who would have thought the old deer to have had so much blood in him? Funny how my thoughts turned to Shakespeare rather than Tarantino when confronted with this carnage. If there was one, there were fifty.

Illinois was crossed in the dark with no major loss to sight seeing, as the return daylight trip revealed. Who lives there? Why? What effect does that flat bleakness have on the soul? A cashier at a gas bar where we got coffee and fuel seemed to have had the character of the landscape scraped into her being. Flat, featureless expression. Unseeing eyes. A person that wasn't a person in a place that wasn't a place......

We reached St. Louis in the dark, and for the first time in my life, was able to gaze upon the Mississippi as we crossed those waters as light played upon the symbolic gateway to the west.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Are you back from the Dark Side yet?


Glad to see you back! After that mysterious post, I was actually kind of worried! But I figured I'd hear from you privately if it was anything serious. [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]


Oh, yes. Against what I thought last night-- an adventure yet to be told. I have stuff to do today, but I intend of describing St. Louis, the night life, etc.

I also gave "Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West" by Cormac McCarthy a reading while I was there, which accounts for my odd prose.

[ 25 November 2007: Message edited by: Tommy_Paine ]


As we traveled through a dark St. Louis on Monday evening last, I was impressed by it's beauty. I have previous impressions of the American Mid West, through cousins who lived in Columbus, Ohio. A trip in those days through a scarred, but still vibrantly industrial Detroit, through Toledo, and off into the farmlands of Ohio through Findlay and other unremarkable towns to land in Columbus set my aesthetic expectations for St. Louis low.

Be that as it may, there is some amazing architecture everywhere there. In office buildings, industrial buildings, retail and residential. There is nothing that meets the eye that one cannot find an example of, say in London, or Toronto-- but it is richer, and more abundant.

But the creepy thing is, when we got off the interstate and drove to our friends place in Clayton, the streets are clean. The typical picture we have of American streets windblown with discarded papers and riddled with the entrails of consumer existence does not fit in St. Louis.

But, the evening streets are clean of people, too. We drove, and drove and drove and I didn't see a soul wandering the brightly lit, pristine streets.

And, if I had of seen anyone, I would have expected a well groomed man aglow with brylcreem, and a Lucky Strike between his fingers. But Rod Serling, appropriate as he would be taking you on a tour of these empty streets has passed on.


Our hosts in St. Louis were not only hosting us, but their three children. One of whom has just returned to cast about in St. Louis for a while, a daughter from Manhattan, and another son from college in Oregon, all gathering for their Thanksgiving. Along with us, we brought a cold virus contained in Snarfy the Wonder Girl-- to add to one from Manhattan and one from Oregon. In this smaller world, I guess holidays are the cold and flu exchange season.

I am so far, symptom free.

Our hosts have wonderful, talented and intelligent children, and Snarfy was spoiled with the intense attention that only young adults-- who know this is a mere sprint in a relationship with a child and not the marathon they will soon likely be embarking on-- can attend.

We took gross, and shameless, advantage of them.

There's a shopping district in St. Louis, called "The Loop", which has easy on street parking and a relaxed atmosphere. It's also one of the few public places where there seemed to be a free mixing of both black and white Missourans. We ate and had some drinks at an establishment called "Blueberry Hill"-- a bar filled with entertainment kitch that for once had the smell of authenticity.

As we sat, a guy walked in with his girl friend, and in his left hand was a lit cigarette. "Rule breaker! Rule breaker!" my Canadian mind screamed. But not in Missouri. One can smoke in drinkeries and eateries unless the owners specify otherwise.

I smoked there, for the sheer point of being able to.

"The Loop" has the feel of an somewhat up scale "Queen West" for those that know Queen West in Toronto. Lot's of neat shops, and the sidewalks educate you with brass stars on the more famous sons and daughters of St. Louis-- one of many being Yogi Bera. He stopped going to the Loop because "no one goes there anymore because it's too crowded".

But our hosts own a bar, so of course it's time to go there.

[ 25 November 2007: Message edited by: Tommy_Paine ]


The first bar I went to is called "Off Broadway" an organic place that caters to whatever crowd follows whatever bands that are booked there.

The night I was in attendance was "open mic night", or as their local tradition called it: "The Chippewa Chapel." I was told before hand that it would be good, but still on an "open mic night" I was expecting to have to slump in my chair in sympathetic embarrassment to one or two performers.

I didn't have to. All that got up on stage were at the very least listenable, and all were entertaining. "Open mic night" isn't so much for a bar patron to do the National Anthem with his hand under his armpit-- it's more of a local musicians networking night, a good spot for musicians to try out risky stuff, new stuff, or work on stuff. As a non musician, I really enjoyed watching this learning process, how musicians helped each other out. ( I need a base player and a drummer... and such would appear, and play more than presentably for the performer sans rehearsal ) This also gave me a chance to talk to various musicians, and learn a bit about the creative process.

The next night found me at the same location, taking in the first half of a Burlesque show. Having never seen an old time authentic Burlesque show, I can't say what due these artists gave to the history. But there was some artful stripping,( no nudity) some very good singing by a madame-esque character, an intentionally hokey magic act, with comedy sketches sprinkled in.

But the rest of that night was spent at "BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups" where we took in a band called "Phat NoiZ", featuring St. Louis native Alvin Jett on guitar. Jett plays a guitar as well as anyone you are likely to see up close in a bar. For better, you're going to have to buy tickets to see the likes of B.B. King-- or try to get some Led Zeplin tickets for next month's concert. The rest of the band is tight, my only complaint being that I didn't think the sax was loud enough.

"Phat NoiZ" played a mix of original blues tunes while putting their stamp on a few familiar covers, including a rather extended and searing version of "Black Magic Woman".

I took the opportunity to interview Alvin Jett as nature put us side by side at the two urinals in the men's washroom. "Man," I said "you're really good.", showing my infinite depth for wit and observation. "Thanks, but I'm still learning" replied Alvin, before he hurried off to the next set, and I hurried back to a plate of Cajun red beans on rice waiting for me at the stage side table.

The red beans on rice went well with a Budweiser. I actually had a Bud, thinking it might be better fresh from the local Brewery, but it's not. Not that it's a terrible beer-- it's just a "McBeer" engineered to not offend any taste buds. A better pick there, I found, was Shafley's IPA, and some O'Fallons, local microbreweries.

I think Alvin Jett might think Canadians have terrible table manners, but with the ever present danger of exuberant dancers knocking over our table, I had to shovel it in pretty much non stop. Which brings me to a small critical point about "B.B.'s Jazz, Blues and Soups"-- not a large enough dance floor.

But I'm happy. I've been west of the Mississippi now, and I've heard blues from a master practitioner in St. Louis, Missouri.

And I am in debt to friends there that can only cash in by having me return the favour of hosting them, sometime.


I have to say, separately and in conclusion of this out and about piece, that my original post was because I had this very odd feeling.

I had this ominous feeling that I wasn't coming back-- and I just didn't want to... not say I was going away?

I hate to admit this, but I had this sense of dread, like a premonition that the trip was going to go ill in some way-- and it did, but fortunately, not in a life threatening way.

Most of you know I try to be rational, sceptical, and eschew any kind of superstition-- but there you have it.

I REALLY had this inexplicable bad feeling about this trip, before our departure.

I'm glad I didn't let it stop me.


I hate that feeling! I've had that before. Actually, I occasionally get that feeling when my closest friend goes on trips, not me. Not usually, but every once in a while. And I'm not really like that - I don't get dark foreboding feelings very often.

For instance, one time I knew he was going away for a few days and we'd be out of contact, which is fine, no big deal. But the day he was due to return from one trip, I just had this feeling of dread, that something bad was going to happen. I wasn't freaking out or anything, just had this sense of foreboding. Turned out to be nothing, and we laughed about it afterwards - but I sure was relieved when I heard from him, despite laughing off the feeling. Weird, huh?


It is. Not only do I despise that from a reasoned perspective, I'm normally a "glass half full" kind of guy. (if that doesn't jive with many of my posts, bear in mind that the negativity that does exist in my being is most frequently vented here)

Before we left I kept all this to myself-- I certainly didn't want to burden Rebecca with this nonsense, and darken her good time-- but I confessed it to her last night. She laughed, and knew all along that I had a feeling "we were all going to die in a fiery crash". Which is not what I was specifically thinking, but there you have it.

I guess I do not have quite the poker face I thought.

We talked about this bit of irrationality, and we both figure it's due to some other issues, which manifested themselves in this manner.

Looking back, what I find weird is the post I left, the one at the top of this thread. I'm not sure I have ever let a "gut feeling"-- good or bad-- get such a hold on me.