Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween 08 in Missouri

Jubilee greeted every trick-or-treater, who had to brave getting past her to the treat! She wagged her tail and loved them all.

We're ready!

Saturday, October 25, 2008


I don’t know how to capture autumn around here. I just know that it is achingly beautiful. The grasses are yellow and gold and brown. The trees are all shades of yellow and red and some are still green. You can smell the overturned earth in the plowed fields. I never remember autumn being so visceral, something that I can recognize and know in my own body. They tell me that everything will change on Monday, when we are expecting our first freeze.

Somewhere I once heard the words, death is as gentle as a falling leaf. It seems almost miraculous that I can watch this, day by day.

Fast Eddies, Alton IL

John was a little jealous that Eric and I had gone to Fast Eddies in Alton without him, so we rode over for lunch today.

At first I thought this was a tourist place. It is, sort of, a Midwest hot spot. At noon on a Saturday the parking lot was full and the place was packed. Not really a rout-y crowd, some senior citizens. But it soon became apparent that these people were mostly the locals, and this was truly a gathering place. The food was cheap but surprisingly very good. We got 10 shrimp (29 cents each) and 2 hamburgers (99 cents each). We did have to wait about 15 minutes for our food, so we sat at the bar for a couple of drinks, which were not expensive. Fast Eddies thrives on the crowd.

The yellow brick building, known as Bon-Air, has been a local drinking establishment since 1921. In 1981 it was bought by Eddie Sholar (aka Fast Eddie). A friend, who is a native to Alton, told us that it can get rough at night when the critters come out. I was disappointed that there were no pool tables.

Fast Eddies - Why go anywhere else? (It was very dark in there.)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Eric's visit

Alton, Illinois

Yesterday I took Eric to the airport. After 8 days of coddling and enjoying our 24-year-old son, we reluctantly sent him back into the world to be an adult.

We did lots of fun things while he was here … hiked, rallied, explored, and ate. He was as intrigued with the hard scrabble city of Alton as I am. This is Fast Eddie's Bar, known as the toughest place around. John and I will go back on the motorcycle for some pool someday. (John can run the table.)
The food is cheap, so there must be a lot of drinks being sold ...
Alton was also the site of the last debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas on October 15, 1958 (150 years ago, almost to the day). Douglas was arguing for the states' right to allow slavery, Lincoln the absolute wrongness of owning human beings. Lincoln lost the race for Illinois Senator to Douglas that year, but the debate brought him to the nation's attention, and he became president in 1860.

Weldon Springs has to be the best hike around here. We did the 5.2 mile Clark Trail and had the whole forest to ourselves. Wonderful views of the Missouri River.
Meanwhile, it is starting to get seriously colder around here.

(more photos on the Flickr site).

Monday, October 20, 2008

John McCain rally in St. Charles, MO

It is interesting, but also sometimes disturbing to listen to what the other side is saying.

The McCain rally in my neighborhood in St. Charles this morning looked like a county fair. A small county fair. I’m not good at estimating crowd size, but maybe 1500 is in the ballpark. Children, old people, everyone was well behaved and excited, but the crowd response was weak. Lackluster. The lines that generated energy were those that referred to Sarah Palin.

Several Missouri politicians spoke before Senator McCain, and I was confused by their message. The evil of slavery was equated with socialism. A lot of talk about the idea of “spreading the wealth around”, especially in terms of giving “your hard earned money to people who don’t work”. Do rich people who don’t work deserve it more? I heard a lot about the danger of raising taxes, but not a word about raising the minimum wage.

I stood at the very back of the crowd, but still had a good view of Senator McCain. He looked good. The first words out of his mouth were a commendation of his running mate, Sarah Palin, that drew loud applause. Then it was mostly a re-hash of the confusing money issues that the other Missouri politicians had been drumming on. He ended with a chant about “stand up and fight for America”, and one old woman who had been sitting in a wheelchair stood and thrust her fist in the air. I was behind her and wish that I could have photographed it, but the memory was gone on my camera.

I’ve already mailed my Florida absentee ballot.

Here is NY Times reporting on the rally in St. Charles.

Some photos from the rally ... The crane was used to hoist a giant flag:

A Sarah sighting in the crowd ...


And lots of buttons ... mostly Palin!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Preparing the Prop

We got a notice on our door today that, indeed, John McCain would be holding a rally at the amphitheatre at 9 o’clock in the morning. We were assured that this event was not an endorsement by the neighborhood, that Barack Obama would have been hosted if he had asked. We were told to be on our best behavior.

Let me explain a bit about “New Town”. This is a planned community, but not a town in itself. Rather it is a developing neighborhood in the middle of cornfields, about 5 miles from what could be considered a “town” or populated area. I still haven’t decided what I think about New Town. I like the people I have met here. My next door neighbors are African American. The homes are all new and everything is well kept. The sidewalks are great, and everyone walks to the market, the gym, the mail room. Sometimes something feels contrived about it all, but I have to admit that it is comfortable and convenient for us. This is the closest place to where John works where we could find a furnished apartment to rent.

The idea that John McCain was holding a rally here sounded so very funny to me when I first heard it. Contrived. If the appearance is right, then the underlying reality will just have to fit that appearance. A photo op.

People have been busy all day today getting the amphitheater ready. It looks like there will be a stage, with tall bleachers behind it, and places for the cameras in front. Fences started going up this afternoon, but it is a small area, so it is not difficult to enclose.

I hear that they are going to begin bussing people in at 7am. We were told that we would need tickets to get in, but they were all out by tonight. They told us to come anyway.

Eric and I plan to check it out. Here are some photos of what things look like today. Lights ...

Cranes (for cameras?) ...
Cameras ....

Fences ...

All fenced in!

Top of the Arch

This is the area under the Gateway Arch where 100,000 people rallied yesterday for Barack Obama - all before the Old Capitol in St. Louis where the Dred Scott cases were argued in the mid 1850s.

We made our way to the Gateway Arch today – my 3rd trip – and this time we took the trip to the top. I can now say that I did it, and I don’t have to do it again. Only 5 people could fit into the little cars. It was tight. And I wasn’t overly impressed with the view from the top. The windows were small, the area was small, and it was way too crowded for such a small area. I was glad to get back down.

We paid extra to see the National Geographic film on the Lewis and Clark adventure. Since coming to Missouri we have been immersed in this story, and now feel like we are fairly literate about most all aspects of the journey.

Another beautiful day, we finished if off with an Italian dinner on “The Hill”.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

100,000 rally for Obama in St. Louis

Meanwhile, more than 100,000 people gathered for an Obama rally in St. Louis today.

Holy smokes!

The little amphitheatre down the street where McCain will be on Monday will be an interesting photo-op, but so trivial compared to what happened in St. Louis today.

The Confluence

“The Mississippi, as if astonished at the boldness of an intruder, for a moment recoils … and views in silent majesty the progress of the stranger.” – Major Amos Stoddard, War of 1812.

“ … through a vast unknown of barbarism, poured its turbid floods into the bosom of its gentle sister.” – Father Jacques Marquette, 1673

Finally, today, we saw the “confluence” – the place where the Missouri River flows into the Mississippi. For some time, I have noted the relative “excitement” of the Missouri compared to the more sedate Mississippi. The place of confluence is a quiet, gentle place, just as Fr. Marquette and Major Stoddard describe it.

We followed the Mississippi from the south (rather than the north), and were able to drive through the Columbia Bottom Conservation area to the Confluence. I think that this is the most beautiful and peaceful place in Missouri, with great expanses of grasslands. We didn’t see a lot of birds, though. Perhaps it is still too soon.

Today was also the first time that we’ve actually been on the Mississippi River. We took the car ferry to Grafton ($8 one way). It was a glorious autumn day. The little town of Grafton was inundated with sightseers, like us, so we didn’t stay long. More photos on the Flickr site.

Friday, October 17, 2008

John McCain is coming to New Town!

What a time to be in Missouri.

Tomorrow Obama will be speaking under the St. Louis Arch – just where we were planning to go with Eric. Much as we would like to see Senator Obama, we really didn’t want to deal with the crowd and traffic so we changed our plans and will go into St. Louis on Sunday.

But – and this is the real hoot – John McCain is coming to New Town on Monday morning. This little neighborhood in the middle of a cornfield! We saw police and important looking 30-somethings with blackberries prowling around yesterday. Today police dogs were here and the word about McCain coming spread fast. Everyone is talking about it. American flags are appearing.

My gosh.

The amphitheatre is only a block and a half away. The whole entourage will most likely pass right in front of my house. The only thing that I can figure is that it’s a very picturesque place, lots of Republicans are here, and the amphitheatre looks pretty “full” with just a couple hundred people.

I most certainly will have to walk down the street to see what’s going on. I guess I’m going to a McCain Rally! Stay tuned.

New Town Amphitheater

Thursday, October 16, 2008


New Town Organic Farm, St. Charles Missouri

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Autumn Geese

This is so utterly cool.

Every night, just at sunset (and not a minute before) the sound of cackling starts, and many flocks of geese begin hovering overhead. It seems that they are coming from the Missouri River, and heading north over to the Mississippi. They circle and even seem somewhat confused about where they are going. It must be that there are 2 rivers here, so close together. Eventually though, they all go north to the Mississippi.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

back on the bus ...

It is good to be back in Missouri.

Jubilee and I rolled in here yesterday afternoon, buzzed by 2 days of blessedly uneventful driving. The same car that I said, last July, would never see Florida again, made it to Florida and then back to Missouri again - more that 2400 miles. The a/c worked the whole time.

The first day of driving is the hardest – the flatness of Florida is followed by a frantic chase on I-75 through Georgia. My sister had recommended that I pick up some books-on-tape to make the long driving easier, so I got Barack Obama’s “Dreams of My Father”. Obama, himself, reads it. Listening to the book was the best part of the long, boring-yet-tense, day. I don't know how anyone can say that they don't know who Obama is after reading this book. I am left confident that we are about to elect one of our wisest and brightest presidents. He has done his homework and he is one of us.

By the 2nd day we were driving across Tennessee Mountains and the farms of western Kentucky. The roads are much less hectic, and the autumn colors exhilarate and calm as the land rolls on and on. I wish that I had taken some photos, but when you're driving, you're driving and there's not much time for anything else. We knew were headed in the right direction.

The time in Florida was hassled. Under the care of a pool service (Crystal Blue Pools - don't even consider using them), our swimming pool had turned into a mosquito infested pond of algae. Between cleaning and worrying over the pool, I had doctors appointments and a few computer appointments where I picked up some pocket change. I think I got the pool problem straightened out, and the reports from the doctors were pretty good. The breast cancer that I had last year shows no sign of returning.

Besides all that, this is my least favorite time of year in Florida. The weather is yukky – dank and dark with no real breeze. Our house felt empty and lonely.

But I did get to see many of my friends, whose love is dearer to me than time or distance can ever erase.

While I was away John visited the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis. This was a place he knew that I would never be interested in seeing :-). I promised him that I would add his photos to the Center of America collection in Flickr.

Eric is coming to visit on Wednesday! Lots of fun adventures coming. Supposed to be cold and autumn-y.