Sunday, September 9, 2012

St. Louis - Upon Arrival

Even though, as a result of the hot dry summer, it is well below it's normal level, the Mississippi is broad and stately. A proud, imposing lady worthy of her legendary status. She is a hard working river. Her waters not blue but silt filled, brown and muddy. She is not used for pleasure but for transport. As her waters empty into the Gulf of Mexico, she creates the biologically rich delta which shares her name.

When one arrives at a destination mid afternoon, in this case 3:30, there is often a quandary of how to kill the remainder of the day. After catching the bus to the small guesthouse, my home base for the next two days, I find myself left at odd ends. I take a short walk through the historic neighborhood where the guesthouse is located. My umbrella comes in handy as occasional small showers, the aftermath of the tropical storm, pass over. The streets in the area are lined with late 19th and early 20th century rowhomes. Storefronts occupy the street level of a number of them. They bear a decidedly French influence. On the uppermost floors dormer windows perch on mansard roofs. It is immediately reminiscent to me of Montreal's old city, although a couple of centuries younger that that venerable spot. Large churches loom over the other buildings suggesting the importance of religion in society and the lives of the people at the time this area was developed.

The guesthouse itself is a comfortable yet somewhat ramshackle affair. The handyman is quite talkative and has provided a wealth of information on the building. He has also served a valuable purpose as a conversationalist on this initial day. Due to the weather and the current, still difficult, economic times, I am the only guest here this weekend. The guesthouse dates from 1904 and was originally built as coldwater flats. Some interior woodwork, baseboards and door and window mouldings, are still intact. The exterior steel staircase leading to the second floor rooms is reputed to have been salvaged from the Ferris Wheel featured at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. However, this would be next to impossible to verify. World's Fairs, for the most part, are temporary affairs. The attractions are generally demolished or dismantled after the Fair's run. The look of the stairs does make this assertion, though somewhat questionable, not implausible. The central spoke to the wheel, local legend has it, is buried somewhere in the city. Over the years attempts have been made to locate it in hopes of reconstructing it as a tourist attraction.

A MGM technicolor version of the fair can be seen in the delightful, silly Judy Garland vehicle "Meet Me in St. Louis". The film features her singing "The Trolley Song" and the perennial holiday favorite, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas".  I have seen this movie several times. After all, it does star Judy Garland and I am gay!

As I am about to leave to go to dinner at the gay bar and restaurant next door a powerful thunderstorm hits. I spend time listening to the booming thunder and reading the book I have fortunately had the foresight to bring with me. It is one of Rita Mae Brown's Sneaky Pie Brown murder mysteries. The series is dependably fun and has become a favorite vacation read of my partner and myself. The storm subsides, I reach the end of a chapter and head next door.

Dinner is a mediocre chicken parmesan accompanied buy a generous house salad and an extremely strong cocktail. The crowd seems to be around my age and like many Americans these days, thick around the middle.

Returning to the guesthouse I again meet up with the handyman. We hold another lengthy conversation. I ask about the small metal stars which dot the outside of many buildings in the area. He explains that they are the heads of large screws which join and support the interior floor beams of the structures to the outside brick walls. In this case form and function meet to create a distinctive, attractive and whimsical whole. A soak in the hot tub, my travel tired muscles pulverized and massaged by the extremely strong jets, sends me to bed.

1 comment:

  1. St L. is a city with a fascinating history; especially in the days of the westward expansion where it was the primary starting for the the wagon trains headed west.

    Judy Garland? I think I have heard of her. Has she been in anything else?