Once More Unto The Breach

Flame On!

Flame On!

Dear friends, I have not written a good political rant in quite some time. I think that that is about to change. Regular readers who do not share my political views can tune in again tomorrow. I promise to return to my regularly scheduled programming by then. To new or casual readers, you are on your own; I’ll not tip my hat just yet. Finally, to we few, we happy few, we band of brothers and sisters; for he or she today that shares my politics shall be my [brother | sister]; be they Republican or Democrat, this post shall gentle their condition; and gentle folk in England America now-a-bed shall think themselves accursed that they did not read it here first, and hold their political courage cheap whilst any speaks that thought the same as us, one week ’til budget shutdown day!

Unless you have been living under a rock or really are some gentle and rather clueless bloke from England, then you must know that our elected leaders are girding their loins for yet another titanic political battle of the century. DAH DAHDAHHHH! I’ll let the games begin in one moment, but first let me set the scene. A week from today, October 1st, is the beginning of the US Government’s fiscal year. This happens every year at this time, so it shouldn’t come as any big surprise. In years past a new budget would have been passed before this date and be sitting there ready to take effect. Things have unraveled a bit since then. First, budgets weren’t passed in time and a temporary Continuing Resolution (CR) was passed instead, sort of a stop-gap measure. Then the CR became de rigueur and all hope of passing a real budget went out the window. Now we find that even passing a CR is fraught with peril.

Last Friday the Republican-led House on an almost strictly party line vote passed a CR, abet with a poison pill embedded. It defunded Obamacare. Who would believe that President Obama would sign a bill that gutted his most signature piece of legislation and for what, only two-and-a-half months of budget? Why Speaker Boehner allowed this to occur is no mystery. He and most of his caucus have allowed themselves to be held hostage by their radical right-wing Tea Party members for some time now. Boehner is so afraid of losing his job that he has forgotten to do his job. As Speaker of the House, the second most important leader in Washington, he certainly doesn’t act like a powerful man. Under Pelosi, the Speaker ran the House, not the other way around. She never cowered in fear of her own caucus. She controlled it. Compared with Speaker Pelosi, Boehner really is a Nancy boy.

Balloon Glow

Forest Park Balloon Glow 2013

Forest Park Balloon Glow 2013

Anne and I find ourselves unusually over scheduled this weekend. It’s not like we have lots of parties to attend, we don’t. It is because STL has a lot going on this weekend. Last weekend there was nothing going on. Only the Cards managed to fill our Sunday dance card. Who still manage to be in first place! Last night, we had not one, but two things to do. We opted for the balloon glow in Forest Park, but we could have gone to see Shakespeare in the Streets instead. We’ll try to see Shakespeare tonight, even though this now conflicts with Dancing in the Streets. With all of these closed streets, it is a good thing that we’ll be on bicycles today. Plus there are at least two quilting events and the balloon festival continues on. There are too many things to do!

Wehrenberg is a local movie theater chain. It is also the oldest family owned theater chain in the US. My most memorable experience with them was in 1980. I was working nights. Anne was working days. So, me and some of my co-workers went to the first matinée showing of The Empire Strikes Back. Yesterday, at work a bunch of people were consumed with creating a document. The book captain was speaking with another engineer, who said, “All right, I’ll give it a try.” She answered in true Yoda fashion, “No. Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.” Puzzled, he asked her what was she talking about. It turns out that he had never seen Empire, which dumbfounded everyone else.

No Bunny Knows

No bunny knows the trouble I’ve seen
No bunny knows my sorrow
No bunny knows the trouble I’ve seen
Glory hallelujah!

Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down
Oh, yes, Lord
Sometimes I’m almost to the ground
Oh, yes, Lord

Bunny Butt Shot – Cottontail

Anne and I got our NPR nerd on today. Not content to just listen to public radio all Saturday, like we usually do, we attended the grand opening of Saint Louis Public Radio’s new radio station in Grand Center. KWMU is moving to midtown from the UMSL campus. They’ve set up shop next to the local PBS affiliate, KETC, channel 9. Renee Montagne, co-host of NPR’s Morning Edition headlined the new studios grand opening. Ms. Montagne broadcasts weekday mornings from LA. This means that in order to be on the air at 6 AM Eastern, she comes to work at midnight, much to the pity of her social life. “That’s not true. This is my social life.” She looked tired. The live broadcast also featured the musical stylings of St. Louis favorites Erin Bode and Brian Owens. The new radio facilities look rather nice, but I suspect that their cost was not cheap. I predict an especially aggressive public radio pledge drive this fall. 😉

When I shop for clothes, I do what the boys’ Uncle Carl always does. I shop at Men’s Warehouse. I only bought a sports coat, well actually two, but I’ll get to that later. So, I didn’t have to parade around in my skivvies among smirking salesmen, but I did have to endure one snarking wife. I’m sure that Carl knows about that too. Just as I was about ready to bolt, we reached a consensus, the green jacket. Then the salesman hit us in the solar plexus. Our $300 sports coat was really only $200, so we could afford the second jacket for $100 that he had been pushing since we walked in the door. We relented and bought the blue sports coat too. Their tailor was way too backed up, so we took their recommendation and drove over to the Chinese tailor on Brentwood. Two nice ladies there promise to meet our tight schedule, for a price. Our motto: there is no minute like the last minute. 

All this and then a late lunch, we then turned it around and launched at 4:30 towards the park. On the way, we saw our neighbor Kathy and discussed the day’s ballooning possibilities. Today they held the Great Forest Park Balloon Race. The winds looked particularly auspicious; the flight was forecasted to flyover the house. We put pedals to the medal, but no ribbons were won. We did arrive at the launch point just as the Energizer hare was lifting off. The hounds followed suit and for a while it looked like this year’s race would degenerate into another of those all too common faux races. I thought I spied the hare going to ground in the park, but as it turns out, I was wrong.

With the pack rising, we mounted our steeds with full intent to corral this ballooning stampede. My weather App said that the wind was only 5 MPH. I thought that with this wind speed we could catch the pack, but I was wrong again. They never waivered for traffic and flew as the crows and the lead elements dropped us. Still, we made it home before the last of them flew over. Kathy was there and she had counted 42 at that point. It looked as though a few balloons were attempting a landing at the old A.B. Green ball field. We remounted and rode to the sound of the burners. Two balloons made a risky landing on a vacant lot adjacent to the New I-64. Their attractive nuisance combined with a hundred kids snarled local traffic on Laclede Station Rd. Today was a great day in Saint Louis!

Forest Park’s Ballooning History

Dave, a friend and coworker, shares a common interest of mine, Saint Louis history.  On Thursday he described a couple of historical objects that are in and around the Park.  The first object is a small stone marker and the second is a sign on an old building, both of them relatively insignificant objects.  Dave talked about one day creating a scavenger hunt, on Saturday afternoon, I wanted to get a head start on any such hunt.

Tucked away on the northern edge of the Park’s central ball fields is a short red granite marker that commemorates a nineteenth century meteorological station that was once in the Park.  This station was eventually supplanted by one at Lambert Field in the early twentieth century.  In between its establishment and its eventual replacement, this weather station played its part in aviation history.  While searching for this marker on Saturday afternoon, I queried the Park’s rangers about its location.  They were clueless.  They had never even heard of such a thing.  The marker is pictures above.  Below are the inscriptions on the marker’s four faces:

  • 80.073 feet Above City Directrix, Forest Park Meteorological Station, 1890
  • 492.783 feet Above mean Tide Gulf of Mexico
  • Latitude 38° 38’ 24”.03
  • Longitude 90° 16’ 28”.32

The Gordon Bennett Cup is the world’s oldest gas balloon race.  It was first run in 1906 in Paris.  The event was sponsored by James Gordon Bennett, a millionaire sportsman.  In 1907 the Gordon Bennett Cup came to the Park.  The above photo, supplied by the Missouri Historical Museum, shows the start of the 1907 Gordon Bennett International Balloon Race.  An American won the 1906 race, so the 1907 race moved to the US.  Saint Louis was chosen, because of its distance from the ocean.

Today’s it is called Laclede Gas Company, in 1907 it was called the Laclede Gas Lighting Company.  This company supplied the lifting gas for the Gordon Bennett Cup’s entrants.  Only on a Sunday, could the gas company create the required special light gas.  They first had to empty the large gasometers of their usual product.  Those would be the large gas tanks that use to stand on the southside of Highway 40, just east of Kingshighway.  Today’s Header shows a portion of the control building, all that is left of this gasworks.  It stands near the intersection of Chouteau and Taylor.

The Gordon Bennett Cup returned to Saint Louis twice more, first in 1910 and then again in 1929.  More recently Saint Louis has rediscovered ballooning in the form of hot air balloons.  For one weekend every Fall, balloons once again take over the Park.  More than any other air vehicle, balloons are dependent upon the weather, lighter than air, they float upon the air.  Just like every modern balloon race is dependent upon the weather so were the Gordon Bennett Cup races.  The placement of a meteorological station at their launch point must have been invaluable to those early airmen.