There were a couple of times when I awoke in the night, which is not unusual for me, and I thought I heard thunder in the distance. Each time, it took full moments to dawn on me that it was, instead, the sound of the wrecking ball reducing whole rows of Busch Stadium to rubble and dust. We had seen the wrecking taking place during the day. The window of our hotel room downtown had a wonderful view of the stadium, looking straight down at the statue of Stan Musial, bat still ready to strike even as everything around him crumbled. We could see through the arches of Busch’s skeleton right into the strange, half-built new stadium, the brand new bright red seats shining, lights in the new luxury booths suggesting work underway. I think I’ve probably been to two baseball games the entire 15 years I’ve lived in St. Louis, but that stadium has always been there, in the background. And while I’m an unlikely candidate, I found myself filled with nostalgia for something I’d never felt particularly tied to.
Of course, woe feeds on collective energy and Chris and I were amazed to find people gathering across the street from the stadiums – at the point where the new one waits impatiently for the old one to disappear so it can progress.
Even at nine o’clock on Saturday night – when the streets of that part of St. Louis are normally a ghost town – there were 50 or 60 gathered to watch the work take place under the glare of the stadium flood lights. Giant construction beasts moved from side to side, gliding across piles of concrete and metal as smoothly as if they were ice. Their giant claws dug into the ground, gnawing insatiably at the infrastructure. Others guided wrecking balls at the end of cables that looked thin as threads. The balls swayed almost gracefully before turning a corner of concrete into powder or bearing down on a mountain of debris. I’ve done a lot of construction writing in the past and I find everything about buildings – from their design inception to their construction to be amazing. But it’s every bit as intriguing to witness the methodical destruction of a behemoth – especially one you didn’t even know you’d grown fond of.
On Sunday afternoon, we detoured from a walk on the riverfront to visit the site again and found well over 100 people gathered. Seems like the city has finally struck on a way to draw locals and visitors alike to the streets of downtown on weekends – by tearing down a landmark. Wait until developers get a hold of that trend.
It’s a funny thing to play pseudo-tourist in your own town. We opted to stay in the Hilton on Broadway because Chris got us a stellar deal (of course) and because I’m a terribly fitful and light sleeper, which tends to cause havoc in other peoples’ homes. Thus, I probably spent more time in downtown St. Louis proper this past weekend than I did in the months before I left town to come to Ann Arbor.
Sunday, in particular, was a beautiful day and we walked the few blocks down to the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial . We strolled past the Old Courthouse, where Dred Scott argued for his freedom. We stood under the Arch and marveled at it because, no matter how many times you’ve driven around with it looming in the distance, it’s still a hulking, impressive beast up close. There’s some gorgeous architecture in our city and, like most St. Louisans, I just forget to look at it. Or, perhaps, I forget it’s even there.
So suffice it to say that this visit home – my second since we moved to Ann Arbor – reminded me of the many reasons I do love that city. St. Louis has an ongoing PR problem – the rest of the world thinks it’s smaller than it is and pretty much just holds a bunch of Missourah rubes when, in fact, as Chris says, it’s probably just about ten years away from being a world-class city. But for now, it’s a perpetual also-ran with glorious parks, free museums, gorgeous neighborhoods, stunning architecture, rich history, good people – all without the housing costs of a world-class city. I’ll take that.
Last time I was in St. Louis, I felt like I couldn’t wait to get back to Ann Arbor. And while I’m glad to be back in Michigan now – despite the promise of snow later this week – I realize that what I really missed was the grounding of my life with Chris. I do realize how that must come dangerously close to inducing bouts of nausea for readers, but I continue to be amazed at how much a person – or a union with a person – can become your home so much more so than any skyline or building.
I have to say there’s something really appealing about returning to a place where you’re known – walking into an event or a coffee shop and seeing familiar faces, rather than a sea of people you don’t know. We were just so consistently surrounded by friends and well-wishers, those glad to see us and equally thrilled to hear that our adventure in A2 is such great fun.
It was a whirlwind weekend of activity, from the time we got there, it seemed. I had dinner with my best girls Friday night, which is energizing in a way nothing else is. On Saturday, I was supposed to be helping Christina with a shift at the Urban Knitters booth at the Women’s Support & Community Services annual Holiday Boutique. It’s a project some knitting friends and I came up with a year ago to help raise money for the agency, for whom I also volunteer on the crisis line when I’m in St. Louis. We get knitters around the community to donate their hand-made goodies and then we sell them, with 100% of the proceeds going directly to the agency. (Other vendors donate a percentage of their sales, so we didn’t have a tough time being last year’s biggest single donator.)
Needless to say, I wasn’t much help to Christina at all, instead flitting around like a social butterfly, catching up with friends and acquaintances and generally enjoying myself. But I’m just glad I got to be there. Saturday, we caught up with more friends for the afternoon and dinner. Sunday, my wonderful friend Margaret held a glorious brunch with some of the women I admire most in the world. And that night was Free Candy and I tell you, it still amazes me that so many people pack into Hartford Coffee Company just to watch me and Amanda Doyle have a tremendous amount of fun. It was an absolute blast, all of it.
In case any of you are clamoring for the book I was pushin’ hard during the show, it’s The Power of the Purse by Fara Warner. You should buy it now. For every woman you know. And we have to clear the air on behalf of the much-maligned Rob Thurman who, it turns out, did not skip the show to go on a date with our Candy Sponsor, Aaron Belz. No, it seems Amanda accidentally booked him for Sunday, November 17 – which doesn’t exist. He assumed she meant the 20th and, well, this is precisely the sort of thing that led to that annoying saying about assumptions. Thus, when you see Rob Thurman out and about, you needn’t kick him in the shins after all. This business we call show…it ain’t easy.