Sunday, August 15, 2004


Chronicles of late August 2002, continued.

We spent the balance of Saturday afternoon at the St. Louis Zoo, which is part of the enormous Fair Park. It’s a lush zoo, but the humidity had driven a lot of the animals out of sight, so at times it seemed to be the kind of zoo PETA might run, one with no animals. The St. Louis Zoo also has a free admission -- few zoos do that -- but contains very many special exhibits that cost extra. Still, we had a good time gadding about the zoo, and later we went to dinner at a spot called Blueberry Hill, a busy St. Louis institution of a restaurant, liberally adorned with rock ’n’ roll and other mid-century pop-culture gewgaws.

The food is an interpretation of diner food, and pretty good. We sat near an impressive collection of lunch boxes. That occasioned Jay to tell me about the lunch box he carried in elementary school ca. 1960, one designed to look like a pioneer wagon under attack by Indians, with an rounded top and pioneers painted on the sides, using their firearms. He said he carried it because he didn’t like the cafeteria food. I never carried a lunchbox myself, since I didn’t mind the food at Woodridge Elementary School, ca. 1970. This tolerance for mediocre food has proven very useful in many of my travels (and, for that matter, in other periods of my life as well).

I paid for dinner, and [my brother] Jay paid for the room at the Hilton Frontenac, which is in west suburban St. Louis. It had a pleasant outdoor pool, where Lilly, [my nephew] Robert and I did some swimming late in the evening. The name Frontenac interested me: another small example of the vestiges of French influence in the Midwest, mostly in place names. But not always place-names. I’ve heard that the municipal symbol of the city used to be King Louis IX, or at least a caricature of him, plus fleurs-de-lis. An equestrian statute of Louis still stands in Fair Park, but a good many decades ago the Arch took his place in the iconography of the city. Fittingly, I guess -- the French dropped their North American ball a long time ago, to be picked up by Anglo-Americans. The Arch, in case you didn’t know, is officially the Gateway Arch, and it stands in the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial National Historic Site. Whew.

We went home on Sunday, which meant doing the drive back across Illinois. Before leaving the St. Louis area, but after saying goodbye to Jay and Robert, who headed back to Dallas at about the same time, Lilly and I went to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, which has long been (for me) an intriguing spot on the map. I was expecting a small hillside shrine or some such. It is nothing of the kind. Besides the “main shrine” -- which looked more like an outdoor theater to me, though it was so hot that I didn’t walk around for a close look -- there’s a church, hotel, apartment complex, radio station, visitors center, parking lots, walking trails, several huge pieces of sculpture, and a lot of hilly, wooded land. Plus a playground with a Biblical theme: pics of various Bible stories here and there, and a walking course around the playground illustrated to represent the seven days of creation. Lilly played there without regard to the unusual theme.


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