Meeting of Waters

The Confluence

The last time we flew out of the Lou, I snagged this photo. We were headed east and this view is looking south or downstream. The confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers in the lower right, separated by a stab of green that is Ted Jones State Park. They are then joined by the Corps of Engineer’s barge canal on the left. In the background is Saint Louis. If you know what you are looking for, in the distance, where the Mississippi River begins to bend back to the right is the Arch. It is in profile, so it is hard to see. Below is an old header that shows a more down to earth view of the confluence. It was taken from the point, looking north or upstream, so the viewpoint is flipped. It doesn’t look like much and is not that pretty, but it is at the center of the area’s most defining features.

Old Confluence Header

A Pedal in the Park

Boathouse Flotilla

I’ve mentioned before the little mystery of Forest Park Boathouse pedal boats appearing in the police pasture, on the south side of the park. At first there were only three of them and I could convince myself that they had been repurposed as horse troughs. Now, there are almost a dozen, plus a purpose-built horse trough was already there. In light of this deepening mystery, our only recourse was to head to its source. Near the end of our ride on Saturday, we headed over to the boathouse for a late lunch. While waiting for our table the mystery was solved, when we spied the new blue boats along the side of the venerable green ones that are being put out to pasture, sort-of-speak.

Cycle Zydeco is less than two-weeks away. Our bicycle training is beginning to feel like it is having an effect. We both feel stronger on the bike now. It is with some trepidation though that we hear the news from Louisiana. Last week’s church burnings have given way to this weekend’s deadly storms. Still, we will be accompanied by Saint Louis friends and this event appears well-organized.

I’ll leave you with another mystery story that was in yesterday’s paper. It comes from Oregon. There Police responded, guns drawn to a report of home invasion. Exercising restraint, while still under extreme duress, they faced an unknown danger behind a locked bathroom door. The suspect rejected repeated demands to surrender. Defiantly choosing to respond with “banging and rustling” noises. It was unclear if a hostage was involved. Even with three officers already on the scene, backup was called for. A detective and two canine officers responded from the nearby Beaverton Police Department. Repeated calls elicited no more response than the same banging and rustling, “Like a loud thud, thud, thud on glass.” Finally, after exhausting all avenues of negotiation, the moment came to bust down the door. There they encountered a most dastardly villain, a Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner. “Book ’em, Danno.”

Peak Spring

We sloughed off after the weekend, but got back on the bikes. We had been contemplating revisiting Madison County in Illinois, but people up north are having some sort of bomb cyclone that is dragging high winds across the bare corn fields here. Instead, we let discretion choose the better part of valor. We opted for a city ride. Wind wasn’t the only deciding factor though, news reports said that the gardens had extended their hours, because its Japanese garden’s cherry blossoms had peaked. It wasn’t only just there. Our neighborhood trees are flowering, the park is flowering and as anyone with hay fever would tell you, the whole city has blossomed.

It was the perfect spring day. We launched in the morning with just a hint of winter’s chill still remaining in the air. By the time that we recovered, after the day had warmed, there was enough heat to further hint at summer. Spring in Saint Louis has always seemed to teeter on a fulcrum, one day being winter and the next summer. If this year be true to form, then this is that day when it flips.

We headed out into a headwind, passing through the park. Anne chose to pose beneath some flowering cherries. I especially love the petal grout between the tiles. We toured Tower Grove Park and then lunched on South Grand. This being a weekday, we were able to get in at the Vine, a middle eastern flavored restaurant, probably halal too. We had been shutout last weekend, because it was so popular. The food was great. Afterwards, we swung by the gardens just to see those cherry blossoms.

Sped by a tailwind, we hurried home. An I-44 overpass on Tower Grove Ave. that is under construction, bottlenecked our route and we had to suffer truly deafening noise as we traversed it. We have been experimenting with alternative ways around Tower Grove Ave. On our return we discovered a vast swath, 15 acres, of Forest Park Southeast that is undergoing immediate gentrification. I may be blind, but I just woke to this change on this ride. This traditionally black neighborhood that was just honored this month with the naming of Bob Gibson Way in also undergoing wholesale slaughter. We heard about the 15 acres from a construction worker. It is a Wash U development. It’s not surprising. This low rent neighborhood is sandwiched between the Grove and the all-consuming Wash U / SLU central corridor and enjoys the last un-redeveloped park access. 

Bob Gibson Way

Bob Gibson Way

While, I have been reporting upon all of our many nocturnal outings, don’t think that we have been lackadaisical during the day, because we haven’t. With Cycle Zydeco fast approaching we have been literally working our butts off, trying to get ready for that tour. This weekend’s exceptionally fine weather only added fuel to the fire in our hearts to get out there and ride.

It’s hard to remember how many times that we rode last week, but I think that I was out on the bike everyday save one and Anne was with me most of the time. The one day that I missed was Thursday, which was also supposed to be the day of the Cardinals home opener, but weather caused that to be postponed until Friday. Friday’s Post-Dispatch had a headline labeling the day as a holy day of devotion, which any member of the Church of Baseball would understand. This year former Cardinal pitcher Bob Gibson is being fêted. The city has even cast honors on him by specifically naming a street in his old neighborhood after him.

We had been mainly bicycling in Forest Park, but as our strength grows and the number of miles ridden increases, doing the gerbil trail has gotten a little monotonous, not to say dizzying. On Saturday, we simply cruised through the park and continued on to Tower Grove Park and lunch on South Grand. It was then that we rode down Bob Gibson Way.

When the weather becomes this exceptionally fine, Forest Park becomes quite the zoo and not in no small part because of all of the zoo traffic. We could see and had to circumvent all of the preparations for the Saint Louis marathon on Sunday, so there was no way we were going anywhere near the park then.

I installed the trailer hitch bike rack on the Prius and we headed over to the East Side and the trails of Madison County. We parked in Collinsville at the trail’s HQ and headed east to Horseshoe Lake, which is an oxbow lake near Cahokia. We were doing fine, until a cop standing in the middle of the trail told us to turn around. There was some sort of police action up ahead. His demeanor brooked no argument and we obliged. It was only later that I wondered if a body had been found. Horseshoe Lake is a favorite dumping ground. There’s a saying around town, if you want to get away with murder, do it on the East Side.

Anyway, we had one more detour, but this one was construction related and we eventually made it back to the car. There’s a Culver’s next door to the trailhead and we hit it for some upscale fast food. It will be back on the bike tomorrow, weather permitting. As I’m writing, it has turned into a dark and stormy night.  


Anne and Evelyn

Here are the girls at the Slammer’s current Rachel Whiteread exhibit. Anne is doing her best imitation of Gerhard Richter’s Betty, while Evelyn spotted me trying to surreptitiously take their photograph. After too many years, we hooked up with her again, when business brought her through town. Last night, we ate Italian at Mama’s on the Hill and this morning we dined at Southwest Diner, but mainly we talked, catching up on so many things.

Anne and Evelyn met in junior high and I met her in high school. She stood at our wedding and her witnessing signature is still on that bidding contract that is our marriage license. Like us, she has two boys. She is living in Richmond. She is now working for the CDC as an interviewer, part of a decades long survey of American health. Her job takes her all over the country. She had just finished a session in Alabama and was on her way to Iowa and had a one night layover in Saint Louis, which we stretched into the next day.

Today was supposed to be the Cardinal’s home opener, but rain has postponed that until tomorrow. A rainy day made for the perfect venue to go to the art museum though. Pictured below is the signature work in the Whiteread show. It is composed of twenty-five resin casts of the underside of chairs. Much of her work is devoted to the exploration of such negative spaces. We also had time to explore much of the museum’s permanent collection, including Chris’s Spanish doors. Evelyn was suitably impressed. I should mention that in Chicago we saw an analogous pair of doors, but their condition was in such a state of disrepair that any comparison with the ones here is almost insulting. 

Twenty-Five Spaces, Rachel Whiteread, 1995


Bike, Bike, Bike…

Florida Great Blue Heron

We didn’t see this heron yesterday, when we bicycled in the park, but we did see egrets. It was cold, about forty and I’m sure that the egrets were thinking that it was a lot nicer on Friday and why did I come north again so soon? The spring peepers were croaking, but because of the temperature, their peeps were at a much reduced frequency and at a lower one too. (I leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure that sentence out.) Saturday, was the stormy day and I only ventured out twice, once to retrieve the paper (barefoot) and again to go to the store. There were plenty of other shoppers in denial there, shivering in t-shirts, sandals, shorts and sleet. I felt so manly, while wearing my first pair of big boy pants for a week. It was one of those Unforgiven days here, bad enough to almost kill Clint Eastwood. The sparrows that usually inhabit the bush behind the back porch, were instead clinging to its screen, just to get under the eaves.

There is flooding, as described on the national news, but it is nowhere near as bad as ’93, at least not yet. If you recall, the ’93 flood didn’t crest until summer. For now, it’s just a matter of rounding up all of the usual suspects. That being the habitually flooded. It will take months more of very heavy rain, to come even close to the ’93 flood. Although, we did attend a Science-on-Tap talk on regional flooding and almost every river in the bistate area has experienced higher flood levels then since ’93. Maybe the weather is not the problem?

“Last week, it seemed that all of the bad guys got away with it, Donald Trump, Jussie Smollett and worst of all Duke.” — Thank you, Colin Jost. Last night, at least one bad guy went down, when Michigan State beat Duke, for the Final Four, by one point, in the final seconds. Live by the clock, die by the clock.

Oh yeah, big bike ride this month! Got to get our tender tushes in shape. Turn them into hard asses. You’ll all probably will get tired of hearing about our bike exploits soon enough, but yesterday we did notice one oddity. Three paddle boats had been mysteriously displaced from the boathouse to the “temporary” police pasture west of the park’s department yard (about a quarter-mile, plus 100′). Could it have been from last weekend’s storm? The wind wasn’t that strong and there wasn’t that much rain. One or two would be accidental, but three seems deliberate. Could it be that the police are retraining their horses as sea horses? Nah. Most boats are just holes in the water, but I think that these hulls have been repurposed to become water troughs.