Missouri Loves Company: Day One

I would like to begin the recap of my trip to St. Louis for Twangfest with an apology. I am sorry, dear Sigman devotee, that I did not take a bus to St. Louis. I know you were expecting me to, and that you fervently hoped for more stories of inappropriate conversations, pungent passengers, and various other misadventures on a rundown Greyhound. But I must confess that the thought of taking a bus never even crossed my mind. I think I've turned a corner here. I hope you can forgive me.

Two-hour flights don't produce nearly as much excitement as twenty-hour bus trips, so I don't have any interesting travel stories for you. Well, maybe a couple. And I've got other stuff too. You'll like it. Honest. Just be patient.


Day 1: Getting the Lay of the Land

I checked into the Radisson Suites in downtown St. Louis around 1 p.m. on Tuesday. I had made the decision not to stay at Twangfest headquarters—a hotel by the airport—because I wanted to be a little closer to downtown or, perhaps more accurately, closer to the Bowling Hall of Fame, in case I decided to move in there. My hotel was about a five-minute walk from the Hall (and the new Busch Stadium), and the Gateway Arch and the Mississippi River were right around the corner. I could actually see the Mississippi from the balcony in my room. I convinced myself that that was cool.

After dropping my bags off in the room, I walked over to the Arch and along the Mississippi for a little bit. And, of course, I recited (and sang) the Clark Griswold ode to the Mississippi as I did so. I would like to think that I merely recited and sang it in my head, but that may not be accurate. In any case, the Arch was slightly more impressive than I expected it to be. I planned to take the tram up to the top one day, but I kept putting it off until time eventually ran out. So that'll have to wait.

Showing yet another sign of the intelligence that I may be gaining with age, I also decided to spend some of the afternoon checking out the Delmar Loop, the area of St. Louis where three of the four nights of Twangfest would take place. It looked easy enough to get to via the MetroLink, the lightrail service that runs through St. Louis, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to navigate my way to the area just to be safe. Again, I believe a corner has been turned.

Anyway, it was indeed easy to get to the Loop, and though the walk from the train was a little longer than I had thought it would be, it still was only about 10 minutes until I arrived at Blueberry Hill, the Twangfest home for Thursday through Saturday. I walked a little past there and made the first of several visits to Vintage Vinyl, picked up a John Conlee LP, and then headed back downtown for that night's Cardinals-Reds game, which was already gearing up to be a disappointment, as none of my fantasy baseball players would be on the field. What, I ask you, is the point of watching a baseball game when none of your fantasy guys are playing?

At least it was a new park. And a pretty nice one, though when Shea Stadium is one of your main points of reference, everything is nice. The new Busch kind of reminds me of Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, though I imagine all of the new brick stadiums are ultimately reminiscent of each other. Busch, however, has elected not to go the route of Baltimore and Philadelphia and have an old-timer manning a barbecue on the outfield concourse. If they change their mind, they should call Willie McGee. Or have Tim McCarver sit in a dunk tank, three balls for $1.

I had a pretty good seat along the right-field line, at least in terms of view. Unfortunately, I was seated next to a group of four women who chatted incessantly throughout the game, often with their backs turned to the action, and in front of a group of four Southern gentlemen, one of whom recited nearly every scoreboard statistic available in between pitches. "That last one was 85." "So far, he's flied out, grounded out, flied out, and grounded out." "He's batting. 231."? I get it, dude. You can read. So can I. Unfortunately, while he excelled at reading, pronouncing the name "Encarnacion" was clearly a weakness in his game. In a sad turn of events, there were two players with that last name in the game, so I got to hear him mangle the name repeatedly, employing the rarely used "silent na" rule of speech and saying "En-CAR-see-ahn" every friggin' time, even after the PA announcer clearly said the name correctly. Things like that drive me crazy. And lead to me staying inside most of the time.

But my favorite part of the game—a relatively dull 7-0 victory for the Reds—was the closed captioning on the scoreboard. I suppose this service was provided so that the deaf and hard of hearing could keep up with the excitement of the between-inning contests and announcements, but I can't imagine it did much good. As with just about any captioning service, it was always a little bit off, either missing words entirely or misinterpreting what was said. And that's why I imagine that there are some deaf baseball fans in St. Louis who are wondering what "Injury McGwire" and "Blow Down Your Han" are and why they would be people's favorite sports movies of all time.

Of course, the highlight of the game would have been seeing Albert Pujols play. Thanks for wrecking your back a week before I came to town, loser. But at least I got to see Fredbird, the Cards' mascot, eat a kid.


Day One ended in my hotel room, as I struggled to stay up for the midnight airing of "Cheaters." But it had been too long of a day. So I gave in to sleep, knowing that this would be my only chance to see "Cheaters" while in town. Oh well. Show hasn't been the same since Tommy Grand stopped hosting anyway.

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