Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Wedding Bells II

As soon as I entered the cavernous underground space serving as the parking lot of the Westin Crown Center Hotel, I knew which one was mine. Hertz Rent-A-Car had just handed me the keys to my weekend transportation. The good old Queen Mary is in need of some brakes and tires so I was not keen on making her get up and go to St Louis, thus I had rented a car. Keeping the tradition alive, Hertz just assigned me the ugliest, brightest colored Korean built car they had. It started with the Glowing Salmon Hyundai Santa Fe I got a couple years ago. Next was the Electric Periwinkle Kia Rio, a little box of a car that could only be seen under a bright light. So now it was a Glare Ice Blue Kia Spectra, a name fitting for a car that seems to reflect the colors of the spectrum. It was ok, it ran, it had brakes and it had gas. A Spectra is a small car, but one that had all the fancy gadgets that were only found on luxo boats in the Queen Mary’s era. The Kia can't hold a candle to the Queen for sheer presence of course.

I had not been on a road trip in a while, but found little had changed from my road warrior days. Like the yummy pictures on the labels of prepared food, the speed limit is only a suggestion. Just like the beef stew, it rarely is the same as pictured. Set your cruise on 70mph and little old ladies in Ramblers will pass you like you are going backwards. Trucks run you over as if you were not there. WTF, I thought, the cops can’t get us all, so up to 80 and off I went. Only an occasional Rambler passed me then.

The road signs all indicated I had reached St Louis, but I did not believe them. West Washington St., that was once a dreary, dark street either by day or by night, had become a bustling Mecca for the urban set. Lofts, condos, shops, bars, restaurants, galleries and the 20 story Renaissance Grand Hotel, my destination, now graced the bright, clean tree shaded street. The Skyline forever changed by the towering Lumiere Place hotel and casino. Once empty storefronts now offered wares or food. A new ball park replaced the original and not that old Bush Stadium. Only the omnipresent Arch seemed to offer continuity.

The rehearsal for Daniel’s wedding was in Tower Grove Park and thus I would be back in my old neighborhood. There some things had changed, but much was familiar and comfortable. I miss it.

Kansas City, by contrast is more of a country village than a big city; just a small town with big city problems. St Louis looks east to New York or Chicago. Kansas City looks west but not as far west as the coast. The dusty, wheat field plains are its source of strength.

But all that talk vanished as I parked the rented ice machine and walked up to the pavilion, full of strangers and family. My son was getting married, a new family was beginning and there were lots of things to do to make it a day they will remember.

1 comment:

zaine_ridling said...

Great photos of the wedding, wow, and congrats to Daniel. Let's hope he's as lucky as I was at marriage!

Just like, having lived in both KC and STL, they are quite different places. Kansas City was familiar, and because its metro was so damn large, you could find anything there, including some of the smartest, most talented people I've ever met. The Plaza is still unique to Kansas City, and while both museums are a push between the cities, Kansas City had better shopping (for me).

St. Louis, on the other hand, was a poor man's Chicago, or a discount Chicago! The main difference: parking is cheaper or free in STL. You're broke by noon parking in Chicago. The other significant difference was what STL lacked by comparison. For me, the food sucked compared to Kansas City. It was difficult to find handymen and service people to come to the house. And generally, auto mechanics were grossly overpriced in STL.

However, given the choice -- assuming I had the money -- I'd take St. Louis simply because there are more things to do on any given day. Problem is, after moving there, I found I could scarcely afford them. For example, the symphony stopped offering $30 seats by Spring 2002. And local opera followed by charging a minimum of $75 per seat. Even as a patron in my heart, I could not justify that cost. And since I could care less ever to see a live sports event, neither the Rams nor the Cardinals interest me beyond walking in and seeing the stadiums.