Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Meet me in St. Looee. . ."

There's a song that goes something like that, but I'm not sure that I've actually heard it. Maybe, a long time ago. In any case, it sounded a like a good title for blog about visiting the Gateway to the West.

Thursday was travel day. I went to pick up Eileen at 7:15 am. She was waiting for me at the curb--she has been really excited about this trip. She sent me an email a week ago saying that she was packed. Today, while Shane and I went to the top of The Arch (more on that later), Eileen sat with my cousin Heather studying the Connection materials they sent her in the mail. She really wants to be ready tomorrow. Heather asked if she was presenting at the conference tomorrow. "No, but I just need to know this stuff."

After picking up Eileen, I remembered where my iPod was—not in my bag, but in the Hansen heirloom media cabinet at 1564. I figured there was enough time to run by and get it. Then I realized that I had forgotten headphones. So I called Dad to see if he could set out his Bose Noise Cancelling headphones (a bonus from the GBH estate), so I could stop by real quick and grab them. Then it was off to Shane's. We had a few minutes before Christy got there to drive us to the aueropuerto, and I hadn't eaten anything for breakast. So I got some Honey Nut Cheerios from Shane, with soy milk--it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I don't think I would want to drink it straight, but it worked for a quick breakfast away from home.

We made it to the aueropuerto around 8:20 am. I was able to print our boarding passes the night before so we didn't have to wait in the horrendously long line to check in. After making it through security (Eileen’s toothpaste was confiscated), we headed to the gate--E75. It was the furthest gate I've ever traveled to at the SLC aueropuerto. It was so far that there was no automatic breezeway. We walked out on the tarmac and up the stairs of the Canadair CRJ700. Shane and I sat in 15A and 15B with Eileen across the way in 15C. We slept the whole way there--I didn't even use the iPod or the headphones after all. Nor did I write that letter of recommendation that I brought my computer for.

After landing, we hopped on the shuttle bus to the St. Louis Airport Hilton, quite a step up from the EconoLodge I had the affiliates sleeping in last weekend. I called cousin Heather to come pick us up. We headed for The Arch--Gateway to the West. There were school kids everywhere, maybe 200 of them between the different groups. The name of the arch is actually "The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial" (http://www.nps.gov/jeff). There were park rangers there with their brimmed hats and matching shirts, slacks, and belts. I thought that would be interesting duty for a National Park Ranger—no trees or wildlife, and so much for the survival training.

Shane and I went to the top. The visitor's center and trams to the arch are actually located underground, right beneath the architectural marvel. Eileen does not prefer heights and almost wouldn’t walk down the ramp. "I don't want to go up," she said with some consternation. "Oh, it's just the visitor's center down here," Heather assured her. Shane and I paid our $10 to head to the top of the stainless steel and concrete memorial. To get to the top, you jam in these little “trams.” There are five seats in a U shape, room enough for five "seats" but not quite room enough for knees or heads. Fortunately, the couple that we rode with was very nice. They were visiting from Arkansas with their 2-year old, and you could tell they were from somewhere like Arkansas from their accents. At one point, the daughter said she wanted to get out of the tram and the mother said, "We're fixin' to."--no joke. It reminded me of the Show Time Utah wild west dinner show (see the previous post), only at Show Time Utah it was make-believe. So you ride this tiny little tram car up to the top where you are now 630 feet above the ground. There was a healthy wind blowing and you could feel the sway. We asked the ranger up there how much it sways and she says that in 150 mph wind it theoretically could sway 18 inches, but that today it was probably only swaying .5 inches. Shane and I didn't believe her--we were certain it must have been swaying 2 feet or more.

Just up the hill from The Arch is the Missouri State Supreme Court house, where the famous Dred Scott case was initially decided. Dred Scott was a slave who sued his owner, Dr. John Emerson, for his freedom. Scott argued that because Emerson had taken him to states in the Union where slavery was outlawed, that Scott should have been emancipated. Judgment came down against Scott in Missouri, but through appeals reached the Supreme Court. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dred_Scott for more information.

After retreating from our Memorial perch, Shane and I rejoined Heather and Eileen. Heather dropped off Shane and Eileen at the hotel, after which we went to the St. Louis Bread Co. for some soup and sandwiches. I ordered the "Tomato and Mozzarella" sandwich, one of my favorites, and Heather ordered some soup and some chocolate chip muffies to go.

As we were driving around, Heather was continually flailing her arms, driving, talking on the phone, texting, and talking to me. Here’s the situation—the choir is coming to St. Louis in June. Heather’s stake president asked if she could be in charge of the centerpieces and other homey decorations for the VIP reception at the Scottrade Center. There was a great room there for the reception—the only problem is that it is a split-level, with a little loft. Well, the organizer’s wife can’t climb stairs, so that room just wouldn’t do. So instead, he reserved another room. I don’t remember what the name of this room is, but essentially it is the “Bud Light” room. There are huge floor to ceiling posters, banners and signs of “Bud Light.” (Anhueser Busch is headquartered in St. Louis.) Well, rooms full of beer advertising are not exactly conducive to Mormon receptions (see D&C 89). So, in addition to centerpieces, Heather now must organize for black plastic vinyl, drapes, or anything else that could be used to cover up the gigantic pictures of “great taste, less filling” frothy beer. Needless to say, this “centerpiece project” has Heather’s famously mild temperament a little less so.

During dinner, Heather received several texts from James (16 years old) and Rebecca (14). James was ready to be picked up at the high school after his baseball game (they lost). Rebecca was told to meet us at the high school so Heather wouldn't have to make two stops. When we got the high school, James was ready, but Rebecca wasn't there. After 10 or 15 minutes of impatient comments from James and a few chocolate chip muffies, Rebecca showed up and we were off home.

When we pulled up to the house, there was a white van out front. "Oh no!" shouted James. "I was supposed to go home teaching at 7:00 (it was 7:02), and I'm in charge of the lesson!" James ran in the house frantically looking for the current Ensign, which was nowhere to be found. Was it in the kitchen? Was it by the computer? Was it downstairs? "Just share a scripture and spiritual thought," Heather told him. "No--that's like the lamest lesson ever." Finally, James decided to take last month's issue and try to come up with another lesson.

The Blairs have a dog--Wallace, or Wally, for short. "The bain of my existence,” says Heather. As most dogs, it wants to bark and jump on new visitors. And, like most dog owners, the Blairs yell at it, “Hey! Wally (or dog’s name)! Get down!” As you may have experienced, it takes about 15 minutes for both dog and owner to settle back into normal life. Inevitably, the owner gets busy doing something else and the dog ends up sleeping on the carpet. Wally eats well—only the finest from Purina. Tom brings home coupons from the office and Heather redeems them at the local store. Sometimes, she forgets the coupons (or has run out), but the store lady doesn’t mind. “Just bring them next time,” she says.

The Blair children call their house “The Disney Play House.” There are no Mickey’s or other cast members, but if they did show up they would feel right at home. The walls are orange, blue, purple, red, maybe other colors. (See pictures.) Heather likes it that way. Have you ever heard that old Disney song, “Red, yellow, blue, red, blue, blue-green…” Fitting.

When I first called Heather to tell her I was coming to St. Louis, she said that I couldn’t very well come to St. Louis without going to “tudrous.” Tedroos? Ta drews? I wasn’t quite sure. Whatever it was, Heather has lived there for 25 years, so if there is something that you don’t want to miss in St. Louis, she would know about it. I agreed to go. So, after James got back from home teaching (one person wasn’t home and only the teenager from the other family was home--so much for that well-prepared lesson), we headed out to Taddrews.

“Ted Drewes” is a frozen custard shop, similar to Neilson’s Frozen Custard in Utah—only more so. Some aspects of the business model are similar: concretes, lots of flavors, high school kid employees. But the whole experience is much richer. For one, it’s bigger. There must be at least 12 windows to order from, which is good because there are 12 times as many people than at Neilson’s. The clientele is similar—kids, middle-aged, aged—with one exception. I am told that it is not unusual for limos to pull up and their occupants spill out to order a “Fox Trot” or a “Flying Dutchman.” Prom parties, with all their bowties, vests, chiffon overlays and wrist corsages, are known to spend part of the evening spooning Dottie’s Special’s while sitting on the various benches around, being careful not to sit in a stray spoonful of a large chocolate oreo concrete. It was such a fine time, we returned Saturday night for a concrete reprise.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Show Time Utah

Matt, Matt's Laura, and I went to the "Old West Dinner Show" in Pleasant Grove starring Emily as the Sheriff's Deputy Andy and Joann and as the Steal n' Thunder band leader. If you're not quite sure what an "Old West Dinner Show" is, let me explain. You go to Show Time Utah at 20 S. Main St. in Pleasant Grove. There are two ticket options: one is for the show and dinner, and the other is for just the show. When you buy just the show, you just sit there and watch the show while everyone else sits there and watches the show and eats dinner.

Well, the show was great. Joann led Steal n' Thunder like she's been performing since she was 3, playing guitar, mandolin, fiddle and banjo. She played a few of her own compositions as well as some old classics, including a mean Orange Blossom Special.
Andy (Emily Stevens) was the Sheriff's deputy. Let me tell you about the Share-iff: he is your typical old west town sheriff--loud, not too intelligent and not very eloquent. His friend, the Can-Can girl (or something) had some rubies stolen some he and Otis were looking for the thief. There were several suspects, including Spencer. Spencer tried to hide the evidence (the rubies showed up on the rail next to his chair) buy placing it on the opposite side of the room when the sheriff wasn't looking. Somehow, the rubies ended up back behind Spencer, who was then arrested and taken off to jail (backstage) where he was forced, with the other suspects, to put on a skirt and wig and dance with the Can-Can lady. Well, Spencer's Mom told him never to cross-dress, so he decided on another variation of the can-can woman skirt (see the pictures).

Well, the grand finale came during Andy's (Emily's) aria "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun." Try as she might, Andy couldn't get the sheriff to notice her femininity: wielding that gun around all the time just made her look like another man. Hence her lamenting "you can't get a man with a gun" (see the video). Well, the can-can woman helped Andy out, who, after retreating backstage, then reemerged as Miss Andrea, and the sheriff couldn't keep his eyes off her (much less all the other cowboys in the room!).
All and all it was a hoot-hollorin' good time!

If you plan on going, make sure to say "boots" for $5 off.

Happy Trails!