Quotation du jour: Donovan ~ Here i am is all i know
Tuesday, June 21: Stratford=>London=>Chicago=>St. Louis
Yes, i finally made it to St Louis, nearly three years after first conceiving a visit. (My passport problems last year are well-documented.)
The worst part about traveling by air must be airports. The flights themselves went very smoothly but the airport security was a nightmare. First of all, i discovered when i tried to check in at the United Airlines desk at London, that, as a Canadian resident traveling on a British passport, i needed an ESTA card (Electronic System for Travel Authentication) in order to enter the USA. I'd never heard of it before! It's like a visa. I was able to buy one there and then, but it was a hassle. Glad i arrived early...
Chicago's O'Hare was a bit of a nightmare, too. The place is huge! As i was travelling with an ESTA card, first of all, i had to go through a security check for people with visas. It was a long line, and most of the people ahead of me seemed to have a very limited grasp of English. I'm glad i had a ninety-minute layover as i must have spent nearly an hour in that damned line, and when i finally reached the security agent, he wasn't in a good mood. I was grilled pretty throughly but he finally conceded that i probably wasn't a threat and waved me on .. to the next security agent. I wasn't looking forward to it.
Did i mention that i was wearing a Rory Gallagher t-shirt? The first thing that the next agent said to me was, "Oh, i LOVE Rory Gallagher!" We spent a couple of minutes chatting about guitarists -- he was more of a Jeff Beck fan, but no one's perfect LOL -- and he sent me straight on through. And i had to take a subway train to the terminal from which my flight was departing.
Arrived at Lambert Airport in St. Louis a little bit early -- it was a very smooth flight, bless you United Airlines, and was met by two Facebook friends, two wonderful, crazy, and wonderfully crazy women, Jan and Kitra. Never let anyone tell you that Facebook friends are any less real than "real life" (whatever that is) friends. The mutual hugs were spontaneous, warm and genuine. That's Lambert, there.
And then we waited for my luggage. The only carousel was unloading suitcases from a plane that had just arrived from Houston, and the agent told Jan that it would be twenty minutes before the luggage from Chicago was unloaded, so Kitra and i went off on a search for a burger and a beer -- i hadn't eaten or drunk anything in about eight hours apart from some United Airlines pretzels and that was at the top of my list of things to do at that point. Alas and alack, all of the restaurants at Lambert were closing, so we returned to Jan at the carousel and .. still no sign of the Chicago luggage, and the agent was still saying twenty minutes. So we waited. And waited. And waited. No sign of the luggage from Chicago. I went outside for a cigarette -- after eight hours in air-conditioning, the heat and humidity were staggering, like a blast furnace i'd just wandered into.
Then back to the luggage carousel and still no sign of the Chicago consignment. So i decided to wander about a bit and, oh, guess what? There was my suitcase, sitting on the floor next to the office of the agent who had said it would still be twenty minutes.
Then finally, into Kitra's car, and into the city in search of beer and burgers. Jan was using Siri on her phone and asking him (it?) for directions, but the route from the airport was taking us through Ferguson, and Siri was directing us there -- we were all agreed we didn't want to go to Ferguson! It was actually hilarious, Jan interacting with Siri: trying to find a burger joint in St. Lou, Siri kept trying to send us to Louisiana, Jan kept telling him (it?) to eff off and the inevitable response was "sorry i didn't get that."
And i had my very first view, as we were driving, of the St Louis skyline -- with a strawberry moon rising over it. Magic.
Anyway, we finally found a bar in the Soulard neighbourhood, the Soulard Social House. By this time it was around 10 p.m. and their kitchen was closed but they were able to offer us pizza, which we gladly accepted. (Oh, and beer too, of course.) (I had pizza twice when i was in St Louis and it's weird. Instead of being cut into triangular slices, it's cut into squares, and both times i had it it was a thin crust. It was very good, and i don't know if all St Louis pizza is like that, it was just a little unexpected.)
Oh, and i should mention, Jan and Kitra and i were so wrapped in the pleasure of each other's company, that it took us a few minutes to realise that we were in a topless bar! Hard to believe, i usually notice things like that right away....
And then it was off to Chuck's, in Belleville Illinois -- just across the river from St Louis. Chuck had very generously offered me his spare room and the girls had written directions to his apartment -- too bad they couldn't find the piece of paper upon which they were written! So, Siri was once more enlisted, there was much more effing and blinding by Jan and many illegal U-turns by Kit and quite a lot of messaging between us and Chuck -- who wanted to go to bed (as did i). It was midnight (Central Time) by the time we finally reached Moreland Drive in Belleville -- thirteen hours since i'd left home.
I'll write more about Chuck in the next post -- day 2 -- which i may have done by the end of the year, at this rate!