Tour Diary: St. Louis (US / Day 2)

Ranking Cheese Doodle: High Valley Orchard Spicy Cheese Nuggets. They’re all right. They’re small, like a toddler’s kidney.

Texture: Stale styrofoam

Flavor: The flavor is just like the pizza flavor Combos but really spicy. They inflamed my wretched mouth (see previous post) to such an extent I think they will remain uneaten as well.

Idiocy from the Van: Egregious Philbin

We drove the four hours from Davenport to St. Louis the night before and still got in around 10:00. We were staying at a hotel right near the arch. A hotel whose scratched hallways and undusted chandeliers echoed with the laughter and sighs of a more beautiful, elegant era. Like say 2006. The employees dragging through their assigned duties like the crew of the Titanic if it had taken 6 years to sink rather than 2 hours and 40 minutes. Case in point: The boxer shorts and washcloth crumpled on the floor by the ice machine that weren’t removed for almost 24 hours. I could almost deal with the shorts, as they were flannel and flannel seems benign, but it was the washcloth in conjunction with the boxers that worried me. It was an upscale hotel going to seed almost everywhere you looked. The best example of this was the huge patio on the second floor,easily the size of a football field, with rotting gravelly cement and scrubby shrubbery. And in the center was a structure that looked like it had jumped to its death during construction and just landed apropos of nothing right in the middle. Obviously it used to be used for special functions, what with it’s lovely view of the arch, but now was full of ripped curtains, knocked over chairs, peeling walls, and a trail mix of dust and droppings.

And then John was outside the hotel early in the morning smoking a cigarette and a fellow comes up to him and tells him he’s Tim Burton’s brother. He was wearing sandals showcasing his blistery feet, a thick gold chain, and a red baseball shirt. I wasn’t there so I’ll paraphrase to the best of my ability.

“I’m Tim Burton’s brother. I’m actually a millionaire, but the film industry is such a cash heavy game I don’t have access to it right now. Do you have a cigarette? I make documentaries. “What kind of documentaries? “ Oh well ummm… you know about like selling drugs……… and ummm…. prostitutes. “

He told John that he had started a bunch of companies and gave him his e-mail. John later looked them up and there was a whole page of fake LLC’s. I kind of admire his approach though. It’s that kind of chutzpah that can take a bum and elevate him to a hobo.

I wanted to go up in the arch as I’ve never done that, but the whole park is under massive construction for its 50th anniversary. Pretty much everything of interest downtown was fenced off. The mix of architectural styles and ages bore a striking similarity to Cincinnati, with some German, the odd Art Deco, and a few modern glass corporate trifles thrown in. The odd thing to me was how few people were out and about on Wednesday afternoon. I walked around for a while but never found anything open except a lovely little sculpture garden with public swimming fountains full of kids. The thing is I’ve been to St. Louis several times and I know there are wonderful parts. I love the Soulard Farmer’s Market, Forest Park with its free museums, and the Delmar district. It’s once again the curse of how everything gets so spread out. They were miles away, not really walkable destinations, with the only public transportation being the bus. And there are few things more impenetrable than local bus routes to a visitor. Outside of a few major cities, the U.S. really forces one to drive.

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Then we were off to Off Broadway for the show. We were playing Twangfest, a yearly Americana festival celebrating its 20th year. I think this is our third time playing it and for the life of us we don’t know why they keep asking us back. They’ve even had us play their show at SXSW a couple of times. It’s a super well run festival and we’ve always been treated incredibly well. Last time we played with Kelly Hogan and this time James McMurtry. So, not too bad there. I think my favorite thing about the Twangfest audience is that the people who support and attend something like this for 20 years are foremost music fans. The kinds of people who collect records, read reviews, and argue about different line-ups. We played the Off Broadway a long, almost forgotten time ago and it’s turned into a wonderful venue. They’ve built a little courtyard with chairs, a fire pit, and an outside covered bar. The room sounds great and has a balcony. Before the set I went and walked around the neighborhood. It was eerie, but once again there was almost no one around. The houses were mostly well kept with flower boxes watered and such, but no one was outside. It was a little unnerving.

Oh and the show was just wonderful. The sound was clear and perfect onstage and the crowd was super enthusiastic. The cheers at the end of “Teenage Wasteland” made us feel like The Who. An absolutely perfect way to start the tour in earnest.

Tomorrow is Tulsa.