Tag Archives: St. Louis

Who Doesn’t LOVE?

This is the latest post in a series about a road trip to New Orleans that starts here.

After re-gifting the doughnuts to our neighbors, Lynn and I drove off laughing.  “Who doesn’t love doughnuts!?” That was our topic of conversation as we drove downtown in search of breakfast and the famous arch.

“People assume that everyone loves whatever they love,” I said.

“Yes,” replied Lynn, “Who doesn’t love chocolate?”  Lynn is allergic to chocolate.

“Who doesn’t love ice cream?” I asked.  “I don’t like cold food, in general.”

“Neither does Richard,” said Lynn about her husband.  I always keep his meals warm in the Aga or he’ll whinge that they’re cold.

Aga—the iconic British range.  Whinge—a British term similar to whine.


“Who doesn’t love candles?” Lynn said next.  “I don’t understand this obsession with candles—artificially fruit scented.  ‘Natural’ pine.  Apple pie.”

“Doughnuts!” I offered.  Then, “Who doesn’t love kittens?  People who are allergic to them, that’s who.”

Then—it couldn’t be avoided—I asked “Who doesn’t love dogs?”  Lynn has seven dogs, and I don’t care for dogs.  I could write several posts on this, but I worry about the hate mail I would get.  There is a secret cabal out here of people who don’t care for dogs, but we keep our mouths shut until the dog’s nose is in our crotch or it’s jumping up on us with muddy paws.  It seems acceptable to make jokes about killing your kids while bashing people who don’t love dogs.  Here is one of the more tame Facebook posts I’ve seen on the subject.


Wow.  Really?  I don’t have a soul because I don’t care for dogs?  That seems harsh.  And the fact that I love my family and adore little kids and have lots of friends doesn’t make up for it?  Oh that’s right—those are just people, and people are hard work.

Anyway, Lynn seems to accept me anyway, although she may wonder if I have a soul.

All this time we were driving into downtown St. Louis, or Sen Louie, as Lynn pronounced it.  We hadn’t seen anything that my mom’s husband had recommended, but there just wasn’t time. This was going to be our big miles day—almost 600 from (965 kilometers) from St. Louis straight to the Minneapolis/St. Paul International airport via Iowa.

But we had to see the Gateway Arch, which was built to symbolize the westward expansion of the United States.  It’s 630 feet tall (192 meters), and it’s beautiful.  I thought that Lynn, having worked and lived off and on in Finland for years, would appreciate that it was designed by a Finnish-American architect, Eero Saarinen.

I had been to St. Louis decades earlier and took the elevator to the top of the arch.  I don’t remember much about it.  Apparently there’s a riverside park and museum at the base.  But we never saw any of that, because the construction and traffic in downtown St. Louis was horrendous.  We spent a precious half hour driving around in circles and waiting at excruciatingly-long traffic lights for nonexistent cross traffic.  We caught glimpses of the arch but there were no signs indicating how to get to it.

Finally, I found a parking lot with a good view of the thing, we snapped some photos, and left town.

the arch

Note to self: I need to learn how to erase ill-placed streetlamps such as in the photo above.

My vision had been for us to have a solid breakfast at some nice café at the foot of the arch with a view of the Mississippi.  Instead, I had a protein bar that had been in the back seat of the car for 10 days and Lynn went hungry until we got to Hannibal, two hours north on the Mississippi, past Chesterfield, Troy, Eolia, Bowling Green, and New London.

“New London!” said Lynn, studying the map.  “I’m sure it’s rich in culture and history.”

“We’ve got one in Minnesota, too.  There’s probably a New London in every state.”

“Well they had great hopes, didn’t they, these people who started places like Oxford, Mississippi and New London, Missouri? They really were very brave and idealistic.

“But let’s not stop there.”

Notes from an Anglo-Irish-German-Czech-American Jewish Atheist

This is the latest post in a series about a road trip to New Orleans that starts here.

Desra gave us a ride back to the Air B&B.  Inside, Lynn said pensively, “If I went to dinner in London with someone who was Afro Caribbean, I don’t think the subject of race would even come up—but we spent the whole dinner tonight talking about race.”

Of course they don’t have African Americans in England.  The race labels were confusing when I lived there, especially who was covered by “Asian.”  In Minnesota, Asians are Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Lao, and Thai.  By far the largest group, the Hmong, are mountain tribes people from Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, and China—where they are called the Miao. That’s pronounced “meow.”  Our newest arrivals are the Karen, an ethnic group from Burma/Myanmar.

In England, an Asian is most likely from India, Pakistan, or Bangladesh.

Lynn herself is Anglo Indian because her ancestry is English and Indian.  Note that the Anglo comes first, whereas in the U.S., we say “African American” or “Muslim American.”

This labeling is all very fraught with the peril of offending one side or another.

“What if you were having dinner with a Pakistani or other Muslim?” I asked Lynn.  “Would race or religion be a theme in every angle of the conversation?”

“Hmmm…maybe,” replied Lynn. “Yes, that might be it.  It’s not that we don’t have prejudice in the UK.  But I think it’s the Muslim population that’s getting the brunt of the suspicion and animosity, especially since September 11 and seven seven.”

July 7, 2007—the day on which 52 people were killed and 700 injured on the London transport system in an Islamist terrorist attack.  I remember watching it on the news, in Spanish, from my bed in a hotel in Cusco, Peru, where I was vomiting my guts out into an ice bucket after eating some bad guinea pig. That’s a story for another post, but here’s a free tip for you: never use a hotel ice bucket for ice.

We reference so much with these simple dates: 9/11, 7/7.   So much has changed.  In the U.S., half the population—the conservative half—replaced its constant fear of a mass attack by communists with fear of a Muslim attack, which has made possible the rise of a demagogue like Donald Trump.  The strange thing is, they don’t fear the white guy next door with 50 guns who just lost his job and his wife and is acting strangely—just “the Muslims.”

The third major terrorist attack in the west was 11-M, the train bombings in Madrid on March 11, 2004.  Almost 200 people were killed and 2,000 were injured.  I don’t remember where I was that day.  But I do vividly recall being in Spain sometime after 9/11 but before 11-M studying Spanish.  I was chatting with a British woman and somehow 9/11 came up.

“Now you lot know what we’ve been living with all these years from the IRA,” she said casually about the attack in which nearly 3,000 people died.

Back in St. Louis after a good night’s sleep, Lynn and I were preparing for our last day on the road.

“What do we do with the doughnuts?” she asked.

I carried the box out with us, thinking I would take them home to Vince.  Then I spotted a kid on the porch of the house next door and approached him.

“Hey kid, want a box of doughnuts?”  He was chubby and his eyes said Yes as he also backed away from me toward the door and called, “Daddy!”  The father came rushing outside, looking panicked. I could just picture myself at the police station: “No officer, really! I just wanted to give him the doughnuts; I wasn’t trying to lure him into my car.”

I offered the box to the father, who looked inside to make sure they really were doughnuts (I wonder what else he suspected could be inside?  Snakes?).  He looked up at me with a grin, thanked me, and the two of them hurried inside, where I could hear the boy calling out excitedly, “Mom! We got doughnuts!”


This is the latest post in a series about a road trip to New Orleans that starts here.

Inside our Air B&B, there were a dozen doughnuts on the kitchen table with a note: “Welcome to our Air B&B!  We hope you will enjoy your stay in St. Louis!!!”

Now I’m sure the owners of this place are very nice people.  However I have to say that the overuse of exclamation marks is bordering on an epidemic.  Just the other day, I read a brochure from Ramsey County about recycling and it contained seven exclamation marks.  I’m guilty of over punctuating myself.  In my defense, everyone else does it, so if I don’t end my emails to coworkers with exclamation marks, I feel like I’m being a bitch.  If I don’t end garnish every Facebook post with an “!” I fear I’m not as enthusiastic about cats in clothes dryers as I should be.

“Who doesn’t love doughnuts!” I said with gusto.

“I don’t!” Lynn exclaimed.

“Neither do I!” And it was true; we both find them disgusting.  I don’t understand the obsession with doughnuts.  When Krispy Kreme opened in Minnesota it was bigger than a Springsteen concert.

“But what will we do with them?” Lynn looked worried.  If we don’t eat them, they’ll think we were unappreciative, which of course we are but we don’t want them to know that.

“We could dump them in the trash behind some other house,” I suggested.  “But that seems wasteful.”

Lynn was perusing the hand written notes on a bulletin board on the kitchen wall.

“Dear Yuri,” she read. “Thank you so much for sharing your home with us!!”

She paused, then turned and looked at me.  “They’re all the same: Thank you for sharing your home with us … thank you for opening your home to us … but … this place isn’t free, is it?”

“No!  I paid $125 for the night,” I replied.  “It’s very nice.  It’s worth $125.  But they aren’t sharing it, they’re renting it out.  I don’t know why it’s called the sharing economy. That makes it sound like you’re doing it out of altruism. Uber’s another one—Uber drivers don’t give free rides.  My sister is an Uber driver and she’d never do it if it wasn’t for the money.  Maybe we’re just old and we don’t understand.”

“Very strange,” Lynn pronounced. “Well it was very kind of them to leave the doughnuts, but I rather wish they’d left a bottle of wine.”

We walked toward the botanical gardens and arrived just in time to be told, “We close in one hour, so you’ll have to hurry.”

Since we could never see it all by hurrying anyway, we took our time and walked through an enormous domed structure. It held several different environments, from tropical rain forest to Mediterranean. There were Dale Chihuly glass sculptures throughout.  Chihuly is really prolific.  We’ve got a massive sun sculpture of his at the entrance of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.  The Chicago botanical gardens features quite a few.  Now I admired more.  Not bad for a guy who is blind in one eye, eh?

st louis botanical 3 st louis botanical 2 st louis botanical sunburst

I loved the Mediterranean garden, which reminded me of a long, long hike I took along the Mediterranean coast of France.  How is it that you can be in one place and enjoy it because it reminds you of another place?

The gardens were a great way to decompress after the drive, and I later learned that they are considered the best botanical gardens in America.

Next, my plan was for us to walk to the restaurant where we would meet a woman I’d gone to grad school with for dinner.  On the map it looked like it was a couple blocks away.  I asked one of the botanical garden employees, just to be on the safe side.  She was extremely friendly but suggested it was too far to walk.  Well!  Too far for some people, maybe, but not me.

“Are you okay with walking?” I asked Lynn.

“Shhure…” she said, uncertainly.  And so we walked, and it turned out to be two miles, but we’d worked up an appetite by the time we arrived at the Shaved Duck.