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"Beer, beer, beer
we love beer,
beer, beer, beer,
we love beer,
we like to drink it
whenever we're feelin' down
and hope we don't end up
a' pukin' on the ground."
by degenerate MC
Here's a traveler's tales of his trip from Athens to St. Louis:
We began our journey at 7:00 am, the three of us crammed into the cab of a small Toyota pickup. "We'll make St. Louis by 5 pm", we said. The day was clear and cool and by all accounts, a beautiful day for driving. We hit the Ridge and Valley physiographic region and were stunned at intervals by the degradation of the land (e.g. a panoramic view of the valley containing the city of Chattanooga), and by the incredible natural beauty of the land (mediated by the biochemical reaction known as Autumn). Across the Tennessee River and up on to the Cumberland Plateau we rolled, headed for Nashville. The Nashville skyline, on a clear day, is of some note, but we didn't stop there.
Next, we crossed the Cumberland river, entering the western Kentucky coal fields-- not a place for the squeamish. If you don't like to be a witness to absolute destruction, get someone else to drive, and close your eyes until Illinois. On the other hand, if you want to get really pissed off and write your congresswo/man, keep them open and take it all in. Of the three professional ecologists in the vehicle, not one made it out of Kentucky without anger, passion, and sadness.
Across the Ohio River and on to lunch in southern Illinois. If you ever get a chance to eat in S.I., do it at El Rancherito. There is real mexican music, real mexican waiters, and real mexican food (YUM). After a satisfying meal, I crawled into the bed of the truck, settled down into a nest of sleeping bags, and slept...
I was rudely awakend by the twisting and turning of city driving. And, amazingly, astonishingly, the first thing I saw was the famous Gateway Arch--truly at that moment one of the most incredible things I had ever seen. It was glowing, as if on fire, in the setting sun. Later, we went to the arch and stood under it (in order to get a feel for its size and design). Your correspondent is not ashamed to admit that he was overwhelmed by the beauty of this object. Imagine, a six-hundred foot tall parabolic equation, realized in stainless steel. Amazing. However, it is important to try and forget what the Arch is supposed to celebrate: the westward expansion of european civilization on the North American continent. Remember that garbage about manifest destiny you were taught in the seventh grade? Well, if you don't remember all the details, you can jog your memory at the "Westward Expansion Museum" situated underground, directly underneath the Arch. Here, you can feast your eyes on every imaginable sickening display of 1950's zeal for pioneer spirit and other "God's (new and improved) chosen people" propaganda. The museum is no more, and no less, than an interesting subject in the study of Americana. One good thing about the museum is that there are two IMAX theatres in it. We saw a film documenting the Grand Canyon that was very well done.
Of the Arch I can say only one more thing: if you think it is a beautiful object, and you can think of it as a monument to mathematics (and not exploitation), DO NOT, no matter how tempted you may be, no matter how loudly the kids beg and plead, DO NOT cheapen your experience by paying five dollars to ride a tram to the top of the Arch. To save you the pain, I was a scout, I went into uncharted waters, I was buffeted by the recitations of a mealy-faced park service employee answering the same ten questions he had been answering for twenty years about the unremarkable skyline of St. Louis to one side and the unremarkable Mississippi River to the other. This experience almost ruined my entire impression of the Arch itself, a near catastrophe, narrowly escaped.
At night, there are two places in the city where one can go to have a lot of fun. The most fun we had was in a district of the city known as Souillard Market, where we danced the night away to great blues bands, a couple of cover bands, and one band specializing in imitations of the Grateful Dead. Perhaps the immense enjoyment derived from this evening out was that it happend to be Halloween night and the locals were out in their best regalia. The best costume award goes to the Texas chaisaw massacre couple. He was wired for sound with recorded chaisaw sounds emanating from his person, and she with all manner of blood and gore for costume would shriek and squeal in horror as her attacker applied his instrument to her person. Also, every bar we entered was without cover charge, a condition known to induce euphoria among those less priveleged barhoppers. Even your correspondent, noted for his passive and calm deportment, was whipped into frenzied boogie when the house band played a convincing version of Zappa's "Dirty Love".
The other hot spot that was positively identified is a Buckheadesque region called LaCledes Landing, situated just north of the Arch, on the banks of the Mississippi River. When the wind is blowing just right, the reek of the river is blown away from the Landing and it becomes a rather pleasant place to eat dinner, drink in trendy bars, and watch wealthy, St. Louisian yuppies do the same. There is a brew pub in the area which had pretty good beer, at pretty good prices.
Speaking of beer, most of you may be aware of the fact that the Anheuser-Busch Corporation is headquarterd in St. Louis, making the city a veritable Mecca for bad beer drinkers across the nation; and as such, we felt that a pilgrimage to the birthplace of Budwieser was in order. At the brewery, we were subjected to what amounted to a 45 minute commercial advertisement of A-B products, but there was some useful (or interesting) information obtained. For example, did you know that more than 1.5 million kegs of A-B beers are produced daily in St. Louis alone? Or that they have a machine that will fill and seal 1800 cans of beer per minute? I sat, mesmerized, as 30 or 40 thousand cans of Busch beer whizzed past me at about 25 mph.
The tour was free of charge, and they give you a couple of complimentary 8 oz. servings of your favorite A-B beer plus all the Eagle brand snacks you can stuff into your face in fifteen minutes. If you want, you can even tour the stables where the famous Clydesdale draft horses are housed. Your correspondent elected instead to learn about the "beechwood aging process" which has resulted in the systematic extermination of beech trees in an ever widening circle with the brewery at its exact center. I was impressed to learn that the Budweiser is actually "aged" a minimum of 21 days before being kegged or canned. Just further proof that A-B will sell no beer before the week is out.
Other than that, my general impressions of the city are that it is much dirtier than Atlanta, and that having a huge open sewer running through the city contributes largely to its unpleasant odor. The closer you get to the banks of the mighty Mississippi, the closer you get to asphyxiation. The people are mean in general, but that is to be expected in foul weather which we had for the duration of the visit. Several agronomists were mugged right outside the convention center, indicating that one might want to wear one's best "hardened urbanite not to be fucked with" demeanor while visiting the city, or at least not wear the "stupid hayseed" costume the mugged agronomists had on.
In closing, we went and had a good time, but wouldn't want to live there. Then we came home driving through rain most of the way...
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