Friday, June 25th
On Friday, i was determined to spend some more time in the Delmar Loop neighbourhood and Chuck offered me up as a sacrificial lamb to the slaughter at the Swansea MetroLink station bright and early -- but as the Delmar Loop has its own station, it was actually easy to find -- and it's such a great neighbourhood! http://visittheloop.com/gallery/
In fact, it may be my spiritual home.
I started at The Peacock Diner for breakfast -- an omelette and a beer -- at 10:00 a.m. -- and then just wandered (unfortunately my photograph of the Chuck Berry statue was a disaster, so here's one i've stolen from the Internet),
Pierre Laclède & Auguste Choucoute -- founders of St Louis -- at Subterranean Books (www.subbooks.com), a St Louis Cardinals baseball cap at Hats-N-Stuff, and, at Vintage Vinyl -- oh, gloriosky -- a CD by Mama's Pride, my favourite St Louis rock band. Their first album is brilliant, and i found their second album there..
Well it's not bad, either!
(Mama's Pride is not well known outside Missouri, but they could have been huge. They were scheduled to go on a nationwide tour opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd which should have brought them fame and fortune, but just prior to the tour so many members of Skynyrd died in that horrific plane crash and of course the tour never happened. Neither did Mama's Pride.)
After a good couple of hours of exploring, i decided to head back east to, speaking of Pierre Laclède, Laclède's Landing, a small area of the city just west of the river where St Louis was founded, in 1764. http://lacledeslanding.com/ My primary reason for wanting to go was that there was a Bank Of America branch there and my bank has an arrangement with them -- it's the only bank in the U.S. where i can use my debit card to make a cash withdrawal, but it's a lovely part of town, too, with cobblestoned streets and buildings dating back to the 1850's (there are no buildings in St Lou that are older than that), and i had a lovely lunch at Joey B's -- the all-American cheeseburger and a beer -- and Joey B's is a bar you can still smoke in! But having been unable to smoke in a bar for so long, this proved to be less of a boon than i had expected. Here's Joey B's
Laclède's Landing is also where i met these guys:
(i was very impressed by the amount of street sculpture in St Louis -- here's one of Monsieur Laclède himself, just outside City Hall.)
From there i took a short walk down to the riverfront and .... You may recall that, the first time i saw the Mississippi River, a couple of days earlier, i cried. Real tears. I wasn't sure, then, if it was the majesty of it that caused my lachrymosity, or simply the relief at finally seeing it after trying to get there for so long. Well, the latter theory was shattered to smithereens, as i wept again. I sat and watched it flow for a long time, i'm glad that there were few people around to see me, it was embarrascating, real tears rolling down my face.... And i stuck my hand into the water and thus shook hands with The Father Of Waters.
I want my ashes scattered upon that river.
But then it was time to go back to Belleville. But i was also desperate for a pee so i nipped into Tìgin (an easy walk) and of course had to have a pint (of Smithwick's) -- because it's simply not done to use the toilet in a restaurant unless you buy something! And thence via Metrolink to Chuck's.
Most Fridays, Chuck does karaoke at Zapata's Mexican Restaurant, in Fairview Heights, and i had agreed to, in fact was looking forward to, accompanying him. I wasn't planning to join in, i sing like a tone-deaf duck with laryngitis, but it seemed like a fun way to spend an evening. As it turned out, it was one of the best evenings i have ever had in my life.
To explain about Zapata's, it's what, in England, would be considered a family pub. Friends and neighbours meet there regularly, lots of people seemed to know everyone, and there were children everywhere. It has a large-ish dining area but also a large-ish bar area (where the karaoke machine lives). I had a magnificent steak fajita -- so big i couldn't finish it -- and a beer whose name is now lost in the mists of time, and met a couple of Facebook friends (Chuck's daughter Mary, along with her daughters Megan and Molly, and his friend Betty), and then the karaoke began.
I was impressed! The singers were mostly very good (sadly i was outside having a cigarette when Chuck did Dan Fogelberg's "Longer," although i caught the end of it and it was excellent!). And there were people laughing and dancing -- i particularly remember a young mother dancing with her infant daughter in her arms and as the evening progressed more people sang, more people danced, more people were smiling and there was so much joy (and not alcohol-induced joy, either) in that room and ... i had an epiphany. No, really, i did.
As i posted to Facebook "I am in the heart of America and loving it." Zapata's capsulised for me, what i love about the USA: its people.
America isn't about politics, it isn't about the military-industrial complex, it isn't about corruption in high places, although these exist, for sure. It's about its people, its families friends and neighbours. That's the reality of it and that's why i've loved ever since i was little, without really understanding why, until June 25th, 2016.
God bless the USA