Saturday, February 4, 2012
Parallel Lives in St Louis
Three years ago, I thought I was going to live in St Louis. Matt and I had a deposit on an adorable 1920's apartment with built-in shelves and a hutch in the kitchen, and Matt had all but printed up his syllabi for Wash U. Then, two weeks before move, Matt got off the waiting list for Vanderbilt.
Life is funny so we scratched our plans and started a new existence in Tennessee. It has been interesting, and frustrating, and lonely and satisfying by turns, and at the very least I can attest that the experience of living somewhere totally unexpected for a few years is a worthwhile one. But in the back of my heart I still regret never putting in my years in St Louis, looking over the vast Mississippi to the Illinois shore.
So when my birthday rolled around (and it was THE BIG ONE this year) I decided we should spend a long weekend investigating our lives in a parallel universe.
When you cross the Mississippi you are most certainly in the city. Factories still churn and puff smoke downtown. St Louis feels like Pittsburgh on steroids, or Cincinnati stretched and flattened, or Philly with more infrastructure and meat. Walking around the half-deserted downtown it's obvious that this was once the second largest city in the country.
My mom and stepdad put us up in a fancy hotel as a gift. The room was large and opulent, with a tv somehow installed behind the bathroom mirror and a walk-in shower that rainfalled water and a minibar stocked with champagne and grey goose. But when you looked out the window the next block was a hilariously ramshackle scooby-doo ghost town.
(Note: I wish I could claim the descriptor "scooby-doo ghost town" but it comes from this incredibly funny video.)
It was cold in Missouri, the first and only time I've felt bitter temperatures this winter. We spent a 25 degree day exploring the St Louis Zoo, and enjoying the privacy of the nearly empty park.
A few of the more tender animals were locked away, and we visited them in their barns or squinted into their empty enclosures. However, some of the animals were quite happy with the chilly air.
The next day we visited a friend at his t-shirt shop / screen printing emporium, STyLe House. We talked cities, pet the resident kitty, perused the shop, and ended up getting two very stylish STL shirts.
That afternoon we headed to the City Museum, achieving a dream I've had since I heard about the place from Matt three years ago. I have tried to explain the city museum several times, but I can't quite find the right words for it. It describes itself as "eclectic mixture of children's playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel". There are no maps, no rules, and a liability waiver. It's a warehouse-sized sculpture you can climb all over, that also houses an architectural museum, and a shoelace factory. And a thrift store. And an aquarium. And a bar. And the largest mosaic in the country. Oh, and it's open until midnight on weekends. Look, I don't think I'm doing a very good job here but check out these pictures and promise me you'll go if you are ever in that part of the country, ok?
(Note: Yes, this is a ten-story spiral slide. Yes, we slid down it and stood wobbling until our brains stopped spinning. )
In this picture I am taking a breather after crawling through a cave full of dragon sculptures and petting a giant catfish. It was such an amazing afternoon, and the city museum definitely clinched a spot on my top ten list of magical places.
We spent the rest of the weekend eating tasty food, drinking delicious Schlafly beer, walking around gorgeous neighborhoods and playing penny slots at the casino. But, like all good things, our time in St Louis came to an end.
We left on a Sunday morning so foggy all we could see were the great white feet of the arch, the apex lost above our heads. As we left we spoke of the regret of all the places we'll never live, and promises to travel more.
BONUS: check out this hilarious turtle we saw at the St Louis Zoo.
Posted by Carrie Greenlaw at 11:17 AM