Going back to the old town after 18 years.
When I first got the invitation to my grade school's 20th anniversary reunion I chuckled to myself and thought how silly the whole thing seemed. Then I thought back about how close my entire class had been; it was a small, private school, and our graduating class was only like 50 kids, all of whom I knew fairly well. My second thought was "Holy shit!... It's been 20 years since I'd seen most of those guys, and 18 years since I'd been back to the town where I'd pretty much grown up! I'm fucking OLLLLLLLLLLLD!" I realized that I couldn't change the "being old" part of my second thought, but I could change the part of me not visiting St. Louis, Missouri again, and seeing all the guys and gals whom I used to call friends. And also, what the hell else was I going to do this past Memorial Day weekend? Hang out with family and current friends? I've been giving them too much Rossman lately anyway — I didn't want them to start taking me for granted.
So I packed up my ride, got a grip, came equipped, grabbed my luggage and iPod and I split. I drove the long drive back to the Gateway City the Friday before Memorial Day for the gathering of Ascension's 1989 graduating class. I figured while I was there to spread the knowledge of just how awesome I had become (after being such a complete dork in grade school) I might as well hunt down all my old haunts and see how well they withstood the test of time. This is that (photographic) story:
After packing in the middle of a black-out the night before, waking up before I normally go to sleep, and listening to some righteous 80's music for half a day's ride in order to get me back in the mood for the old town and my soon-to-be relived childhood, I saw it: The Gateway Arch. I saw it from like 10 miles away. It is huge, and it is quite impressive, but goddammit is it one weird structure. Just stare at it. Just look at that thing... It's really bizarre. And it made me very hungry for a Quarter Pounder with Cheese.
Oh! And kids, DON'T take pictures while driving in heavily congested traffic (especially across narrow bridges) UNLESS the shot is really, really cool.
I got to my hotel by 1:15 on Friday, received $20 off per night for being awesome (and for threatening to let loose "the rats"), got unpacked and then fell into deep thought about what the weekend was going to be like. I thought about every good outcome (like me being crowned King of the Class and hoisted up on everyone's shoulders and paraded around downtown St. Louis like a sports hero) and every bad possibility (like me being slapped or kneed in the groin by everyone I ever knew for many a deserving reason)...
Nah, I'm shitting you. THIS is what I was really thinking about. If I hadn't looked before I really needed it this could have led to some pretty wacky Faulty Towers-like predicament. MANUEL!!!!
The first official thing I did was something that I'd been dreaming of since the day my family followed that moving van out of the city and down to Georgia 18 years before: going back to Ted Fucking Drewes. For the uninitiated, Ted Drewes sells frozen custard (it's like soft-serve ice-cream, only actually really good), and when they hand it to you they flip it upside down in order to show you just how thick and taste-bud ass-kicking the whole experience is, and how it's about to pound itself into your mouth. Unfortunately there's a reason why the Ted Drewes staff only flips the cup for a second before passing it along...
I had gotten my Concrete (what the thick shake dealy is called... keep up with me here, Corky) and quickly found a couple to take a picture of me holding it upside down. I told the woman to count down from 3 so that I could flip it at the last moment so as not to lose any of the precious gift-from-the-gods-in-a-cup mana I had just purchased, but after she hit "One!" and I turned my hand, I didn't hear a click. I looked up with the close to panicking expression you can see on my face above in order to visually ask, "Well, what the fuck!?" only to see the woman handing her husband some money and giving him her order. She must have snapped this the SECOND before my hand's body temp and the laws of gravity caused the frosty concoction to drench my Nikes. She didn't even offer to buy me another to make up for it. Well, she didn't offer, but she did leave her purse in her car unattended for a while.
Then I drove back downtown to do some fun shit. I parked near Busch Stadium at around 3:20, found that none of the ticket windows were open yet for the 7:10 game that night, and so walked around the towering hotels and other high rises down to the riverfront where I came face to face with "The Arch!"........
Dammit! I found I could only make it about 30 feet before slipping back down (That's how they get you to pay $10 for the ride to the top!). After that embarrassment I went back down to the underground ticket booth and got a ticket for 10AM on Sunday, my last planned day in town. I figured I'd just come back and hit the Arch on my way out of the city — one last fun thing to do when I was sure that Post Party Depression (a form of Post Con Depression) would be kicking my ass but good.
After that I walked around and hawked some cheap electronics on some other tourists in exchange for some prime casino-building land.
Then I enlisted the help of some new friends to hunt those assholes down when it turned out that the land they traded me was really only a foreclosed property in East St. Louis. I still had some nude shots of myself on that phone too!... Last thing I needed was for them to show up on the internet... I mean, NOT on my site. Seriously, my credentials as a webmaster would be in the toilet if I let an exclusive like my nude debut appear on MySpace or something first.
After all that walking downtown I found that it was close to 6, and I figured that the ticket booth must then be open for the Cardinals and Kansas City Royals game that night. I walked back to the stadium and bought the cheapest seat I could get, then I sprung for a Cards shirt when I noticed everybody giving my blue t-shirt the evil eye (and after I got a little annoyed when that one drunk guy urinated on me). I had no idea who the fuck Pujols was, or that his number was in fact "5", all I knew was that I had to buy a new RED shirt quickly and placate the tipsy, sunburned masses before they lynched me.
Ticket to the game: $32. Cards T-shirt to blend into the crowd and not get batted to death: $30. Hot dog and several Cokes through the night: $18. Pujols statue giveaway at the gate: Priceless... Well, actually I don't think I could even get $2.50 for it on eBay, but it was pretty cool to use it to make the biggest Cardinals fan I know, Mikey, jealous with it when I got home.
I'm a Cards fan for life for the same reason I'm a Lions fan till the day I die: I used to live in the city they play in when I was young. I never liked the Braves though, nor the Tigers (even though like I said I love the Detroit Lions). Strange that... But when I moved to St. Louis (well, Chesterfield technically) at the end of my second grade year I just really took to the Cards like nobody's business. I couldn't tell you who plays shortstop, who pitches, or who catches (if you know what I mean), but I always just root for the Red Birds. So fuck off.
I did get to sit next to the coolest old, random people ever. The wife kept offering me peanuts and candies that they snuck in, and the husband kept telling me cool facts about the old Busch Stadium that I knew back in my day, and he kept me up to speed with everybody's stats and entertained with famous Harry Caray quotes. I made it up to them by giving them some survival tips if they ever found themselves in the rural South and heard banjo music coming from the bushes: mainly "start praising the awesomeness of The Dukes of Hazzard," and "claim you saw a black man kissing a white woman a half mile down the road from where you came." They'll be off your ass in no time.