Monday, December 10, 2007

The Plan, and How Plans Can Go Awry

The Plan:

To go to St Louis Saturday for some Christmas shopping, bulk beer buying, and eating, and then spend Sunday picking out a Christmas tree and decorating it with family, friends and newly acquired beer.

The reality: 48 hours without sleep, an overnighter on the streets of East St. Louis, and an endless drive through the backroads of rural Illinoios in a driving thunderstorm, behind the wheel of a U-haul truck.

Remember us? Lori and I are 53 and 44, respectively. We're medical professionals, we're moms, we're well-educated, sedentary, not prone to impulsive behavior. So...I can't figure out why our lives are so odd and frequently look like Hunter S. Thompon Meets The Blues Brothers.

Friday night I went out drankin' with my friend Tracy. It was the first time I'd been in a bar since Lori and I were first dating, and the first time I'd been in a bar without Lori in probably 12 years or so. I had fun (Traci's a riot, even when she's mired in girlfriend troubles), but I was somewhat less than gifted and still a little drunk when Lori woke me up for our St. Louis trip Saturday morning.

It was pouring rain, freezing cold, dark, foggy, know. Midwest. December. Christmas shopping isn't Christmas shopping without sleet. We drove the newly-repaired black truck to St Louis to better accommodate any large-ish gifts Lori might be inclined to buy me at the Woodcrafter's store. Like, say...maybe a lathe. Or some other surprise gift that I might happen to be picking out with her that we'd still take home and wrap anyway and look at longingly under the tree. Something like that, for instance.

We flawlessly navigated St. Louis for the first time ever; first to Maryland Heights, then back into the downtown part of the city for beer buying and eating at the Schlafly's brewpub. Lori had mussels, mostly so she could hold open their fishy labias, point them towards me, and exclaim about their labia-ness. I tried to distract her with big science-y conversation about convergent evolution and shellfish, but every 30 or so seconds she'd hold up another mollusk vagina for me to admire with her.

On the wall in our booth there was a framed article from a scientific journal about beer brewing, written in the 1870's. The article stated that beer's beery goodness comes from yeast excreting alcohol from it's bowels and "pissing carbon dioxide from it's enormous genitals."

Yeast genitals? Really? And someone said this in front of other people BEFORE the tenth beer of the morning?

We ate, we drank, we headed back towards Illinois, and away from Missouri, which didn't earn it's nicknames as the Tight-Ass State for nothing. Still navigating brilliantly, we found a bridge heading across the Mississippi and crossed it, then got off the highway in East St. Louis for a self-congratulatory detour to the new riverboat casino.

East St. Louis, as everyone knows, is a blighted city, most famous for declaring bankruptcy and having it's own city hall foreclosed on. It looks like Beirut after the bombings. At night, it's dark, squalid, and scary. But right on the river, in the heart of East St. Louis, sits the Casino Queen, a glowing glittery shrine to wealth and excess, lit up like a neon Christmas tree and patrolled endlessly by security guards.

We went in with our usual $100 and played the penny slots for a few hours. I think we went up as high as $160, then down to $3, then back up to $110 before we finally left at 2a.m. with about $20 in our pockets. The parking lot was freezing and sleety and we hurried to the truck. I started it up, it caught...then coughed once and died. It was, in fact, exactly the behavior that caused it to spend the last six months languishing under the maple tree in the yard before we had it's fuel pump repaired.

So now, at 2a.m., 100 miles from home, in a sleety 30 degree East St. Louis night...we were stuck.

To Be Continued...(I have to get moving on the chores before work.)

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