Catching up, finally

How does this happen? A week goes by and I swear every day I'll find time to write a quick blog posting and I don't...and then it seems impossible to play catch-up on everything. I've been operating from within the cruel fog of a nasty cold for literally weeks now. It seems to ebb and flow, aggravated by travel and interrupted routine, poor eating and sleeping habits and every time I get one day when I feel good, it's followed by two when I'm hacking and sneezing and battling a bitch of a headache that just won't go away. It's the most wonderful time of the year, eh? We were in St. Louis last weekend for a whirlwind 48-hour visit, mostly revolving around Free Candy last Sunday night. We arrived the day after an ice storm had hit the city, closing down businesses and the airport and cutting off power to hundreds of thousands in the area. We had no trouble getting into town on Saturday morning. It was a beautiful day, far colder than it had been in Ann Arbor, but the sky was that kind of clear bright blue you only get in winter and the sun highlighted all the tree limbs coated in ice, like crystal sculptures along the road side.

Beauty aside, there were some real problems in the area. Restaurants were closed because of lack of power and, as of today, there are still people with no electricity. My poor friend Margaret, who lives in the northern St. Louis neighborhood of Pasadena Hills, went five days without any. She bravely camped out for the first few nights in front of her fireplace, waking every few hours to make sure the flames kept going. Her dog Ellie kept her company and she held vigil around the fish tank, which she'd wrapped with a comforter, hoping the avoid a sudden drop in temperature that could cause disaster. In the end, she wound up decamping to a friend's house and lost only one fish in the ordeal.

Chris and I were staying at the Hilton Ballpark downtown, which offers views of the brand new Busch Stadium. (Pricelined cheapo at about 50 clams per night, with newly redone rooms, this is a swank deal.) When we arrive, the lobby was packed with men in camouflage hats and work coats and we thought we'd stumbled upon some kind of hunting convention. Turns out these were angels in disguise, workers from power companies in other areas, shipped in to work day and night to restore power to the city because, you know, Ameren UE sucks. (For some strange reason, apparently power workers like camouflage....)

We wound up on the elevator with one of the workers, engaging in a little chat as fellow guests do. I said something about restoring power to St. Louis looking like a tough job. The guy shrugged and said, "It's nothing compared to Katrina." There you have it, folks. Perspective everywhere. I'm in my cushy hotel room with power, some friends are struggling through days without it, and yet others are still trying to find homes for themselves months and years after other disasters. Talk about a gratitude reminder.

Free Candy went well, despite the fact that I failed to secure one of our guests, another bailed the morning of the show and yet another had a last-minute emergency and didn't make it. You know, it takes a lot of time, effort and expense to haul my cookies to St. Louis for Free Candy and I always get a bit grumbly beforehand and wonder why I'm doing it -- and then we have a great show, and a blast and I get to look out on this sea of friends and touch base (however briefly) with people who matter to me and I remember why. Lucky me.

If you didn't make it to the show, you missed what may have been the world's first instance of "tubaboxing." Our theme song was performed by former guest Matt Brinkman on tuba and Brian "DJ Play" Marston on beatbox. And, in another all-time first, we allowed someone to tape part of a Free Candy, albeit with a little digital cam. The result has wound up on You Tube, of all places and while perhaps not musically sound, it is obviously extremely culturally significant.

Our show sponsor was the fabulous small local company Big Small Town Designs. They make very cool, often very funny greeting cards featuring local photography. I snagged some Xmas cards for mailing out this year alongside the PC ones I got at Oxfam in Britain last month. Check out their website if you're in the market!