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The Saint Louis Experience

July 1, 2002

"Yay Tampa Bay! F*** the Rams! Go Bucs!"
-Some guy outside the Saint Louis Centre, 6/29/2002 (the quickest friend I've ever made)

"You got a fast car
But is it fast enough so you can fly away?
You gotta make a decision
You leave tonight or live and die this way..."
-Tracy Chapman "Fast Car"

My plane arrived in Saint Louis early Thursday afternoon, Central Time. Actually we were a bit early. I'd cut it a bit closer than I would've liked on making the flight. Luckily the line for the American Airlines counter was shorter than I'd expected, though it moved very slowly. We're talking a snail's pace. But I made the flight, and that's what matters.

But making the ground wasn't enough, unfortunately. We sat on the tarmack for nearly an hour. Apparently there was a plane delayed at our gate. Nevermind opening a DIFFERENT gate for the drop-off for us -- we were going to play the waiting game. The flight attendant did her best to placate the increasingly frustrated passengers on board, particularly those with tight connections.

Once I was finally inside Lambert International Airport, I went down to the baggage belt and looked for my friend Glenn Brown, who was going to pick me up there. I waited... and waited. Finally my bag came out, but no Glenn.

I turned on my cell phone, and saw that I had a message. Unfortunately, I also saw a nasty note: "Extended Area". As it is, I'm not sure if I'll be hit for roaming charges for my time in St. Louis or not. So we'll see. But I checked, and it was Glenn saying he was going to meet me at the airport. Hmm, I thought to myself. But then moments later, the phone rang again. It was Glenn, saying he was going to meet me outside. Apparently I'd misunderstood, thinking he was going to meet me inside. So out I went.

Waiting. More waiting. Then a thought -- perhaps this wasn't the right pickup place. I asked a security guard, who informed me we were in an area where you had to pay to park. The main pickup was up the elevator and across the street. I was less than amused. This made TIA seem like the world's most logical layout in comparison.

Out front, more of the waiting game. Then, finally, Glenn pulled up. Poor guy had been driving around for two hours by this point. The AA phone line told him my flight arrived on time, which was true, but it didn't mention the long wait on the runway. Ugh.

From there, Glenn and I made a quick dash down to the Econo Lodge. It was perhaps the most inconvienantly placed hotel I've seen, with an absolute maze required to find the hotel parking lot. Glenn and I made it to our respective rooms, then a quick turnaround to head back to the airport to pick up Glenn's girlfriend, Heather Mitchell.

Turns out Heather's flight was running a bit late, and Glenn needed to get to the wedding rehersal (since he was Mike's best man and all). So Glenn left me there to find Heather, and he headed to the church.

Not too long after, I found Heather out front by the curb. Unlike me, she managed to find the right place to wait. So we rode the train back to the Econo Lodge, I gave her the key to her and Glenn's room, and I went back to chill in my room. Had a chance to clean up a little and what not.

Glenn swung by a bit later and picked up Heather and I, and the three of us went to the Wedding Rehersal Dinner. It was a bit interesting, as I was sort of crashing the thing, but Mike was more than cool with it. Threw back a few and had a nice dinner and what not. Met some of the people there, including this girl named Meridith (who was an old friend of Sarah, the bride) and talked with Mike's family, who I hadn't seen in a long time. I showed Heather the right way to pour a bottle of Woodchuck cider into a glass. There's skill involved with it, and I've got the skills. For sure.

Sleep deprivation kicked in on the ride back to the hotel, but the night was far from over. I took a half hour nap, though I was afraid I might be out for the count. Turns out I underestimated myself -- Glenn called to wake me up, then he came by and we went out to hunt down Mike. Bachelor party time.

Now if you know Mike, you know the whole thought of him having a crazy bachelor party with strippers and excessive drinking and outlandish partying isn't quite his speed. I find it amazingly ironic that I ended up staying with him at Mardi Gras 2000 (one of the wildest events I've been privy to attend). But, of course, Glenn and I made him think he was in for some sort of crazy adventure. Theatre of the mind is an amazing thing.

We blindfolded Mike, then headed out. Mike was asking things like "Should I be scared, Lou?" I fired back some sort of ambiguous statement about trusting us. We had him going, heh heh. We went over the Mississippi River into Illinois. Finally, we reached our destination.

As we got Mike out of the car, he commented that he sensed neon lights. What had we gotten him into? A strip club? Harrah's Casino? Nope... Waffle House. The Waff for a bachelor party -- imagine that. But it's exactly what he wanted.

It was great to catch up with both Glenn and Mike. We contemplated the last time the three of us were in the same place at the same time -- Christmas 1999 was the best we could remember.

Glenn, being the best man and all, had me laughing with the stuff he got for Mike: official Stadium Mustard, The Wit and Wisdom of Spiro T. Agnew, Sven's spoon, and more. Things that might not mean much to you, but had me and Mike laughing hard. Good memories, good times.

It's worth noting that we were staying at a very shady Econo Lodge. Mike said he left something for us at the desk, but the receptionist I suppose absconded with it. The room itself wasn't quite what I anticipated for $65 a night. As I mentioned to Glenn and Heather, the bathroom wasn't exactly art deco (a reference to a sign promoting another downtown hotel and its "art deco" design). But no choice at that point.

The next day, Glenn, Heather and I hit Union Station. The last time I was there was during the 1998 MVC Basketball tournament. Somehow that feels like forever and a day separated from now. I had my first meal ever at Houlihan's, which is a pretty nice restaurant. Perhaps the toughest buffalo chicken sandwich I've had to eat though, as the thing kept wanting to fall apart. But it was tasty.

From there, it was time to get ready... and then we hit Sarah's parents' house. The major players for the wedding were there (since they were about to go have pictures taken). I remember walking in the door, and the look that Meridith gave me... you know, The Look. Nothing ended up happening that weekend with her and I though. Too bad, she was cute. But anyway, from there we all went out to the park by the Green House where the reception was going to be held. It was blazing hot in St. Louis this past weekend. Hotter than Tampa, even. Who would've thought that would happen?

Outside, I met Sarah's two brothers. Her brother Josh reminded me alot of my brother's friend John Pouncey. Since I wasn't "in the wedding", this was more killing time than anything, but I was riding with Glenn so that was how it worked out. After the pictures, there was a hilarious conversation between Glenn and one of the groomsmen inside the Green House. The brochure about the place claimed it was the oldest standing greenhouse west of the Mississippi. The groomsman insisted there must be others older, and Glenn retorted that there probably weren't. The discussion turned to ancient cultures and what not. I was slap-happy tired, so for some reason I found this to be very amusing.

The wedding itself went for an hour and a half. A long, Catholic wedding. Silly me had forgotten to Xen up (so no Xenadrine caffeine boost for me), and the sleep deprivation beast crept up on me. Despite my exhaustion, I managed to stay awake. After all, it's not every day that a high school friend gets hitched.

The reception was an interesting time for a number of reasons. Ended up overindulging on the white wine (more on that later). Glenn gave an awesome best man speech. People at the table were raving about it (and they didn't even get alot of the references and inside jokes Glenn made). Intelligent, heart-felt and articulate. I sat next to Mike's sister Kate, who I hadn't seen in years. I enjoyed catching up with her. Her boyfriend was there, and we talked a little UT football. It was a very fun time. Though I learned that trying to swing dance when you are smashed and don't know how to swing dance is not the most graceful of maneuvers. But Kate wanted to dance, so I gave it the old college try. So it goes.

Unfortunately, I paid the price for my exploits the next day with a hangover. Ugh. Never had a wine hangover before, and I don't particularly care to have one again. Bad times. Ended up missing out on some of the Saturday activities, cause I just needed to lay down. White wine plus dehydration plus too much time in the sun added up to a rough time for me.

Luckily, I was well enough that night to go to the Cardinals/Reds game. Busch Stadium is really nice, particularly for being one of the "cookie cutter" bowl-shaped stadiums from the 1970s. On the inside, it's very well done. Lots of little, nice touches, like the hand-operated scoreboard and the natural grass and the outfield design and the "Big Mac Land" out in left field. You get a real sense that St. Louis recognizes and embraces its baseball history. Quite a contrast from Tampa Bay Devil Rays baseball, for sure.

On the way to the game, I made perhaps the quickest friend of my life in this guy outside the St. Louis Centre who started going all crazy happy-like cause I had on a Tampa Bay Bucs jersey (hence the quote at the top of this page). Glenn and Heather looked on in amusement/bewilderment. Priceless stuff. Maybe there's just something about the St. Louis Centre. Earlier in the day, when I'd finally felt up to try eating something, I bought a cup of ice cream over there. Dude at the counter thought he recognized me.... as someone who he knew who worked at McDonald's. Strange.

Glenn and I both kept score of the Cards/Reds game by hand, which was the first time I've manually kept score like that since my last baseball broadcast in May 1999. It's a pain when they throw in things like the double-switch and what not, National League style. But it was a great time.

The shady Econo Lodge had been sold out for Saturday night by the time I reserved (though Glenn and Heather got a room for the night, since they reserved earlier). I hoped I could charm my way into landing another room, but no dice. So after the game I called around and finally found a Comfort Suite near the airport. Interestingly enough, it was very similar in price to Econo Lodge, but about 1,000 times nicer. From the outhouse to the penthouse. When Glenn dropped me off there, it turned out there was some sort of party going on, with rambuncious people on the second floor making noise in the hallway that overlooked the front desk. The poor woman working there was none too pleased with them. Glenn half-jokingly asked if it would land me a discount, and the woman noted that I was paying less than they were (I somehow landed a "Home For The Holidays" rate for the room -- don't ask me how that happened).

I only had 3 1/2 hours of sleep, but that was by design. At 5:30, my wake up call came early. I wanted to get up to get back on my sleep schedule, and more importantly to see the World Cup game. Brazil vs. Germany.

I watched the first half in my room, then at halftime I went to have some breakfast. They had a really nice continental breakfast spread, and with it being like 6:30 AM there weren't many people there yet. The TV was on Animal Planet, but I switched it (with the ok of the family that had beaten me in there) to ABC. Soon enough, the second half began. It was a very interesting experience, as there was a mix of strangers who all talked with me and each other about the World Cup and the state of soccer in America and what not. Not quite surreal, but just one of those bizarre, unexpected experiences that comes with life sometimes.

A taxi took me to the airport, this time with plenty of time to spare. I found a fantasy football magazine in the bookstore, which I snatched up. The first one of 2002, always nice to see.

Back in Tampa, the overnight shift at WTSP was an effort in brutality, fighting to stay away. And on top of that, I booked a doctor's appointment for 9 AM. I felt like Jack Bauer on 24. But somehow I managed to stay away for it all...

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