Time to Vote

Forest Park Visitor’s Center Clock Tower

The visitor’s center clock tower is one of the few remaining structures in Forest Park that dates from the 1904 Worlds Fair. At that time the tower was attached to a train station that is long since gone. At the beginning of the 20th-century Forest Park was out in the country. If you had a horse and buggy you could drive there, but most people took the trollies. Clang, clang, clang went the trolley…

Changing trains of thought here, I’ve voted. Have you? Everyone in our family has voted. Have you? The news is reporting record early voting this election. Leading experts to predict that this election will see a record total turnout:

The high level of early voting has led Michael McDonald, the University of Florida professor who administers the U.S. Elections Project, to predict a record U.S. voter turnout of about 150 million, representing 65% of those eligible to vote, the highest rate since 1908.

This amount of voter enthusiasm is heartening. Especially so, since this higher than normal turnout has occurred in the face of numerous voter suppression techniques, such as voter roll purges, the demand for showing state IDs and this election’s long, long lines that try the patience of even the most dedicated of citizens. These voter suppression methods have been around for a while. This time they have backfired. Nothing motivates people more than saying you can’t.

New Yorker cartoon’s caption: “I had to wait three years, eleven months, twenty days, thirteen hours, and fifty-three minutes to vote.”

In 1908 there were 89 million Americans. Now there are more than 330 million. In 1908 less than half of today’s electorate was eligible to vote. Women could not vote, nor could many minorities. Our country has come a long way in the intervening years and I believe that it has a long way yet to go. So, vote! 

Up in the Air Junior Birdman

Pagoda Circle

As we pulled into the art museum’s parking lot, Anne spied a Peregrine falcon perched on one of the light poles. We parked, tried to get a picture, but it was already in the air. It overflew us. We took this sighting as an omen. Dan and Britt are planning on using the Peregrine as the logo for their drone company. At the time, we were uncertain if this was a good or bad omen. Let me cut to the chase. On our first outing with the new drone we didn’t crash. I count that as a success.

We spent the afternoon walking around Forest Park, flying the drone and taking pictures. There weren’t very many people in the park. It was cold and overcast with occasional drizzle. Coming down off of Art Hill, we were attracted by all of the police activity around Picnic Island. We had walked this way on Saturday, but since then the news had reported that the authorities would be searching all week for some unnamed something in the waters around Picnic Island. A tent city had sprouted, peopled by dozens of law officers. I wanted to walk across Picnic Island like we did before. There were two barricades on the bridge to the island, but they were off to the side and I remembered that they had been there on Saturday. Anne asked about the yellow police line tape that now draped them. While we discussed this, we were approached by a nice FBI man who voted us off the island. He was wearing a blue windbreaker out of central casting, with FBI stenciled in yellow on it. Also on it was the acronym ERT, standing for Evidence Response Team. He was the agent-in-charge, making this his circus.

“Cellphone!” We had to take the long way around Picnic Island. On the way, we passed a group of men wading and diving in one of the back channels. They all had metal detectors and every once in a while, one of them would find another, “Cellphone!” According to a SLFD observer they had already found dozens.

Leaving this hub-bub behind, we continued on to Pagoda Circle, where I got this post’s photo. The drizzle started to intensify and checking radar, it was time to beat feet. We made it back to the car just as the drizzle turned to rain. Moments after getting home, rolling peels of thunder began. They rumbled on so long that at first I was unconvinced that it was really thunder. Today is trash day and I thought the rumbling was a neighbor rolling out their cans, but it was thunder.

Happy Birthday, Jay!

Pet Shop Turtle

Baby Painted Turtle

With the reopening of the Saint Louis Zoo, the road closures that we have come to know and love have gone bye-bye, but new road closures in the eastern half of Forest Park have been added to generally keep the amount of pedestrian only walking fare about the same. Yesterday, we tried out this new walking area. It is not as shady as the old road closures were which will make it less desirable on hot summer days, but we did take advantage of being near some of the lagoons that dot this corner of the park. While not strictly part of the dual path bike trail, there is a trail that we frequently visit while cycling in the park. On this path are two boardwalks, from which wildlife can often be seen. 

On this day, we watched a Great White egret as it went about its daily business of fishing. We saw a muskrat, but it was too fast to photograph. Our best capture of the day was of this pictured Painted turtle. It was sunning itself directly below the boardwalk and didn’t get frightened off by all of the paparazzi activity going on over its head. I estimate that its shell was about two inches in diameter and would have make a lovely meal for that egret, except for the hovering paparazzi.

Solarized

Solarized Zoo Zebras

We walked in Forest Park this morning. Trying to get out early, to beat the heat. We parked up at the top of the hill near the Hi-Pointe and then descended down Government Drive into its shade. I was reminded why we usually avoid the park on the weekend. It was crowded, chock full of weekend warriors, all huffing and a puffing with their exertions. It was masks up and social avoidance the best we could. Once we got away from the bike-path the population density decreased markedly. I was able to relax and listen to the quiet sounds of Kennedy Forest.

Down the hill, we encountered something new at the north entrance to the zoo. Tents and rope lines had been erected for the coming zoo reopening later this month. We stopped a zoo employee and asked about the schedule. Apparently, later is not going to be that much later. Monday, the zoo will open for members only. Next Saturday, it reopens for everyone. Come Monday, the peace and quiet of Government Drive will be gone and the road reopened to vehicles. It did not appear as though the south entrance along Wells Drive will reopen.

There was a new sign up explaining some of the rules. General admission will remain free. However, a timed reservation will be required. So, admission will be limited. Otherwise, throngs would show up and a line of cars backing up onto the highway would result. Other than the sea lion show, all the other ticketed attractions will be available, including both the train ride and the carousel. Face masks will be required for all visitors, but small children. I don’t think that we will be going to the zoo anytime soon. Maybe in the fall, when the weather turns colder and schools hopefully restarts, then it might be uncrowded enough for us to think about going to the zoo. Even so, I would stay out of all the buildings.

We continued walking east, past the zoo. Around the World’s Fair Pavilion, we ran into another spat of cardio congestion. Too many people working out, not blocked arteries. Past that we circled the Nature Playscape worksite, which this being the weekend, wasn’t being worked. Bounding the eastside of the worksite is a road, Carr Lane Drive. It is not much trafficked and was very shady when we walked it. There are always a few cars parked there and I wonder if it is a gay hangout. When we walked, there were three vehicles parked, all with one man per. Across from the Nature Playscape worksite is a dense forested section that also is little used, but would provide plenty of privacy for whatever.

There used to be another locale in the Kennedy Forest part of the park. That was also rumored to be a gay hangout. Through park renovations, the city removed that road (Coincidence?), thus prompting the popularity of Carr Lane. With most bars still closed, the social avenues for gay men to meet are somewhat limited, but I would be surprised if the city permitted any such things to continue, once the adjoining new children’s playground eventually opens. Saint Louis is still very conservative. And yes it got hot by the time we made it back to the car.

Nature Playscape

Forest Park Cone Flower

Yesterday, we drove to Forest Park, for a new variation on our walk within this park. Because the golf course is now open again for golfing, our regular parkour is now a no go. Instead, we drove to the southwest corner of the park, the city’s highpoint. We walked around the zoo, peering in through all of the foliage gaps, which with everything all leafed out, are few and far between. Needing more steps than just around the zoo would give us, we decided to explore a new site of construction that has been worked all year. I had thought that the work was mundane bathrooms and picnic shelters maintenance, but I was surprised to learn that a new playground is being built, Nature Playscape.

Nature Playscape is a 17 acre development that is located between the World’s Fair Pavilion and the Jewel Box. This is an area of the park that has not seen any real use as far as I know. Construction costs are $4.5M and as its name implies, it will be a natural playground, with eight different activity areas, each modeled after a local biome. Examples include meadows, wetlands, springs, bottomlands, mounds and various types of forests. Instead of using conventional playground equipment, rocks and sculpted tree trunks will serve as climbing obstacles. Nature Playscape is scheduled to be finished later this year, but with all other playgrounds closed, it is uncertain when it will actually open to the public.

Today is Election Day and we had voted by mail over a week ago, but the county website that we checked said that our ballots hadn’t been returned. We decided to check on this in person, but we left home without really checking out where our polling place was. The last time I voted, our normal polling place had been closed and I voted at the Masonry Institute, which is not affiliated with any secret societies, but is rather a trades group organization. Come to think about it, isn’t that how the Masons got started too? Can you say schism?

Anyway, we hiked over there only to find no joy and no polling place either. A google search determined that our poll was back where it is normally, at the Heights. It turns out that it had been moved for the last election, because the Heights had been undergoing renovations. So, we headed over there next. Bonus steps! Walking there, we passed two of the new developments that are the main source of contention in our mayor’s race. Both the sitting mayor and his opponent were outside electioneering and Anne dealt with them, while I went inside to verify that our ballots had been received. I ended up getting the oldest, slowest election official in the house, but she was able to eventually verify my vote. We just assumed then that Anne’s ballot had also made it back too.