Sunday, October 11, 2009

My trip to St. Louis

Took a quick trip to St. Louis with the Dodgers this weekend. Long enough to eliminate the Cardinals and move on to the National League Championship Series. However, on the bus to the airport we passed the Edward Jones Dome – a gentle reminder that Los Angeles may have beaten the Red Birds but St. Louis still has our Rams.

St. Loo is famous of course for the Anheuser-Busch brewery. Although locals insist it’s not the same now that the Busch family has sold it to Germans. They claim the beer tastes different. I couldn’t tell but I did notice the Clydesdales goosestepping in a recent parade.

St. Louis in the fall is highly preferable to St. Louis in the spring when there are floods, the winter when there are blizzards, and the summer when it is so hot and humid it’s like living in Fidel Castro’s mouth. The leaves were beginning to change, there was a crispness in the air, and late day shadows from the Budweiser billboards blanketed much of the city.

The signature Gateway Arch stands tall and shimmers, still awaiting a companion arch so that the world’s first ten story McDonalds can open.

Nearby is the Citygarden with a giant statue of Pinocchio. Why I don’t know. Maybe it’s a monument to puppets… or liars.

St. Louis is the birthplace of Chuck Berry, owner of many hit and police records. It’s also the “Home of the Blues”. Several cities claim to be the “Home of the Blues” but so what? George Clooney has eighteen homes. Why can’t the Blues have six?

In nearby Hannibal Mark Twain was raised. For more information about Hannibal (and this is true, you can try it) call 1-TOM-AND-HUCK.

Sports and Budweiser are very big here (no matter how it tastes). And there are some great restaurant/sports bars. Mike Shannon’s, Stan Musial's, Jbuck's. Every major figure associated with the Cardinals other than Jose Oquendo has his own eat-and-drinkery. The pulled pork sandwich at Jbucks is delish.

I tried to get some of the players to join me for a day at Sophia M. Sach’s Butterfly House but they passed. To their credit, they could have lied and said they needed to prepare for the most important game of the season but instead they just said, “No fucking way, Mary!” It’s taken me two years to earn that kind of respect.

There are quite a few casinos on the Mississippi River. They used to be on riverboats. Now they’re inland as far as the airport. A lot of Dodger per diem is currently in their hands. Some of these casinos are open 24 hours…

… as is Steak & Shake. There must be a thousand of these in the area. I don’t know about you, but when I get a little hungry at 4 in the morning, nothing satisfies my craving like a good T-Bone and vanilla shake. Not a good place to meet Orthodox Jews however.

Saw an ad for Pulaski County that boasted “Home of Fort Leonard Wood”. This is an attraction??? An army base in the middle of the Ozarks, out where Snuffy Smith lives? Leonard Wood (known affectionately as “Little Korea” in the winter) is hailed in the ad as – "the Perfect Setting For a Family Getaway”. Yeah, maybe the Great Santini’s family.

One of these jaunts to the “Show Me State” I’ve got to get to Branson. This is the town where entertainers go to die. Theater after theater offer such acts as Andy Williams, Jim Stafford (his big hit “Spiders & Snakes” changed the face of popular music forever!), the great Yakov Smirnoff (his ad says “you’ll laugh your YAK OFF!”), Paul Revere & the Raiders (good luck getting into those red velvet suits you wore in 1966), Amazing Pets, the Country & Hobo Show, and a Neil Diamond tribute (“you’ll experience the feel of Neil Diamond”).

To the business at hand, the Dodgers were there to face the Cardinals in the National League Division Series. The winner becomes the champion of, well… nothing. But they get to go on to the next round. The Dodgers came in needing only one more win. They got a monumental break in the game last Thursday when the Cardinals were leading 2-1 with only one out to go and outfielder Matt Holliday botched an easy fly ball that ultimately led to two unearned Dodger runs and the win.

A big question was how were Cardinal fans going to receive Holliday during the player introductions? If he were a Phillie or a Yankee his house would be burned to the ground and his family would need to enter the Witness Protection Program. But Cardinal fans are among the very best in all sports. Energetic, knowledgeable, and infinitely supportive. Holliday received a standing ovation.

The Cards play in the new Busch Stadium, just a stone’s throw from the old Busch Stadium. It’s in a perfect downtown location, right near the former home of the Museum of Bowling (not enough people signed up for their ten week course on “how to score”) and the Tums factory. Beyond centerfield you can see the Arch and the Old Courthouse. Fans pack the park and all wear red. It’s quite a sight. Except in April and September when it’s freezing and June, July and August when it’s unbearably hot, I love going to baseball games in St. Louis.

No one will ever take the great Vin Scully’s chair but I at least got to sit in it for a few moments. I hosted pre and post game Dodger Talk from the spot Vin occupied. No joke – it’s one of the highlights of my life.

The Dodgers won and it was only fitting that along with the champagne, they poured Budweiser beer all over each other. And me. I walked back to the hotel smelling like Kiefer Sutherland at any given 2 a.m.

My heart kind of goes out to the fine folks of St. Louis. Winter is coming, their beloved Cardinals were eliminated, and Rush Limbaugh now wants to buy the Rams. Budweiser sales should really skyrocket this fall.

23 comments :

Bob Timmermann said...

That wasn't any Capital or Capitol you saw in St. Louis. That building is known as "The Old Courthouse." It is famous for being the courthouse where Dred Scott first sued for his freedom.

J.J. said...

Budweiser is not beer, is treated urine bottled and passed around to the dimwitted masses.

And,

Jim Stafford's biggest hit wasn't 'Spiders and Snakes,' it was this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWoWnaj00xc (dig the suit).

And,

The Rams? St Louis deserves them. USC is our pro team.

VP81955 said...

St. Louis has had some fine announcers over the years -- Harry Caray, Jack Buck, Dan Kelly (for hockey) and now John Rooney -- but guess who narrated the audio display accompanying the ride up the Arch" None other than Harry Kalas. (I'm not sure if his voice is still used now that he's no longer with us.) Either someone associated with the Arch was a native Philadelphian or simply a big fan of NFL Films.

Ben said...

The "feel of Neil Diamond"? I guess everything's legal in Missouri...

D. McEwan said...

"Our Rams"? So is that team you were travelling with still Brooklyn's Dodgers? Time to let the Rams go. I have. (Of course, I loathe football, so it was an easy sacrifice.) If Rush Limbaugh likes them enough to want to own them, they must be revolting anyway.

And then they have "Our "Busch Brewery. Well, to those of us who remember the old Busch Gardens and brewery just off the 405 at Nordhoff back in the 1960s, it's ours, at least as recently as the Rams were.

I did not know St. Louis was Chuck Berry's birthplace. When I think of famous folk born in St. Louis, the two names that always leap to my mind are Tennessee Williams (Yes, "Tennessee" was born in Missouri.) and my darling Vincent Price.

Mark Edwards said...

First, I feel personally offended that you came to St. Louis and didn't call. Not that you know me personally or anything.

One correction, sadly the Bowling Hall Of Fame has left its building in St. Louis and is moving to the Dallas area. Local tourism officials still are not over the shock and loss of the dozens of visitors who jammed the HOF over the last few years.

And since music is my life, please add Scott Joplin, Ike Turner, Nelly, and so many more to the musicians hailing from St. Louis.

Next time you're in town, I'll take you on a VIP tour of "The Brewery", as they call it in these parts.

And as the biggest Cub fan in St. Louis, I congratulate you and your Dodgers on the sweep. Reminds me of the last two years of Cubs post season play.

KEN LEVINE said...

Thanks for the corrections. I've updated to include them. Mark Edwards, I'll take a rain check. Thanks.

Ken

Tom said...

I don't know that t-bones are actually on the menu at Steak & Shake, but the steakburgers are (justly) legendary here in the great midwest. Have one with a chocolate & banana side-by-side shake and some chili...If interested, Roger Ebert has written, eloquently I think, about Steak & Shake: http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2009/01/car_table_counter_or_takhomasa.html.
Ken: I have just been lurking for several months now, but your blog (along with Ebert's, come to think of it) is daily must-reading. Thanks very much.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I took AIT at Fort Leonard Wood in the dead of winter and when I got a weekend pass I went to Siberia to warm up. What a brutal, frozen wasteland--the fort, that is. Our commander at the time, General Lipscombe (a name I'm sure you can appreciate, Doug) was later fired for some kind of illegal activity.

As for Paul Revere, he was a guest at several of the LouieFests here in Tacoma this decade. LouieFest was an attempt to set a world record of 1000 guitarists playing "Louie, Louie." We got about 750 the first year and it went down from there. Anyway, Paul wore his Revolutionary War suit (in red, so I'm not sure which side he was one) and looked quite trim.

Tezcatzontecatl said...

For the record, AB isn't owned by the Germans, they are owned by the Belgians. I love (or, as I prefer to type, LOVE) Belgian beer, but InBev is the devil. Or, at the very least, the Yankees.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

Nearby is the Citygarden with a giant statue of Pinocchio. Why I don’t know. Maybe it’s a monument to puppets… or liars.

Not an ode to cures for erectile dysfunction?

Paul Duca said...

I did just read in the paper that InBev finalized a deal to sell off the Busch Gardens and Sea World parks.

blogward said...

Great stuff, even for non US-ballgame fans. But what is weird is that only yesterday I was watching that Jim Stafford 'Wildwood Weed' clip, never having heard of him before. Eerie.

WV: semodup = a word commonly used in rap when you can't think of a rhyme.

Roger Owen Green said...

The line about scoring in bowling was very funny; I learned it when I was 10 in about 5 minutes.
Of course, current bowling alleys don't even LET a real person keep score; it's done automatically. And when it's wrong, it's a real pain to override, at least in my experience.

Tom Quigley said...

Ken,

Watched ESPN Saturday night to see if I could get a glimpse of you getting doused with champagne in the locker room, but no dice. The cameras either didn't catch you or you ran and hid when the corks were popped...

I think it's fitting that the Edward Jones Dome should now be home to the Rams... Both our 401K's and their success have dropped faster than a muffed punt the last few years...

It's also fitting that the home of Anheuser Busch should also be home to a former bowling museum and a nearby Tums factory... What goes together better than beer, bowling, and antacid tablets to take care of the gas that the beer you guzzle down will give you while you're bowling?....

As for Yakov Smirnoff, hope he's happy spending his golden years down there in the Ozarks... My only contact with him consists of a joke I submitted to him several years ago which his assistant liked, but he didn't and passed on it... Basically along the same lines of his "What a country" shtick, it went:

People ask me how we used to observe the New Year's holiday in the Soviet Union, and I tell them that actually, in both America and in the Soviet Union, we would always celebrate it pretty much the same way. In America, on New Year's Eve everyone will go to Times Square and celebrate "Happy New Year!"... In the Soviet Union, everyone would go to Red Square -- and celebrate "Happy 1984!"

Kirk Jusko said...

D. McEwan mentioned Tennessee Williams. I believe The Glass Menagerie took place in St. Louis.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

D. McEwan mentioned Tennessee Williams. I believe The Glass Menagerie took place in St. Louis.

Correct.

D. McEwan said...

"Rory L. Aronsky said...
D. McEwan mentioned Tennessee Williams. I believe The Glass Menagerie took place in St. Louis.

Correct."

As well it should, as it was about Williams's youth, albeit disguised just enough so his mother, when she saw it, hadn't a clue that "Amanda" was her.

DodgerGirl said...

I approve of your reverence for Vinny's chair. :)

shpankboy said...

I know the feeling of sitting in a legends chair to do a pre and post game show...you do kind of feel it in the same way you feel it when you visit Sun Studios and stand on the spot and talk into the same microphone where Elvis made his first record.

Mike Barer said...

Let the Rams go? The Angels left 40 years ago and now they are the LA Angels again or La Angels of Anneheim. I wouldn't be surprised to see the LA Chargers of San Diego and the LA Raiders of Oakland.

StL said...

okay, so you killed us. Please, for the love of God, beat the Yankees.

pamelasue said...

Ken, I just got back from a weekend in Branson and it was great. Cantina Laredo in the upscale Branson Landing area was fab. World's best mango margaritas! Stayed in a gorgeous Hilton hotel there, walking distance from the charming original downtown with several fun antique malls. I've seen the Paul Revere show a few times--hilarious and he looks pretty good in his tights. Andy's show actually is first-class, very entertaining. He still has it, smooth and charming. Silver Dollar City is neat with Marvel Cave and craftsmen demonstrations. Yes Branson has a lot of Ozarks hillbilly schtick and grannies wearing American flag sweatshirts but also great dining and shopping, lots of talent and stunning scenery. And I'm dying to see Yakov!