Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate St. Louis

The Missouri suburb of St Charles is so predictably Midwestern, it seems like a reverse San Francisco.  This is the living breathing definition of “average”.  Remarkably non descript people drive pick up trucks and domestic cars going to bland restaurants and chain store driven strip plazas.  The bars pump out a steady stream of “hits” from the past as if nothing has happened culturally since 1988.  Michael Jackson “The Way You Make Me Feel” gave way to Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me”.  A young man with cheap plastic sunglasses perched on his head pumped his fist to emphasize the chorus as he waited at the bar for his Bud Light.  Everyone was having a great time as I looked on like I was observing wildlife.  The bachelorette party was busy dancing, having just set down their fruity drinks in plastic cups complete with plastic penis straws to announce how wild they were to all onlookers.  One of them, dressed in her “Saturday night jeans”, came over to hustle me for Mich Ultras for her and the gals.  She was emboldened by their big night out mentality and decided I looked like a sucker I suppose.  The night ended predictably badly for the gals as the bachelorette went outside to throw up on the sidewalk, her maid of honor offering comfort by stroking her hair and repeating “It’s all right.  It’s all right.”  They left as a pack, maintaining their strength by their unity.  Moments later, they were replaced by yet another bachelorette party, almost completely indistinguishable from the first.  No doubt they would all be entering into the same marriage, complete with 2.2 children, a four-bedroom cookie cutter house, and hosting holiday meals with such delights as green bean casserole and ambrosia.  Their boring male counterparts would be dressed in Bass Pro Shops sportswear watching the Rams game, drinking Bud Light and ignoring their equally unbelievably boring wives. 

There is a particular look to the people here.  The men all look like they shop exclusively at Sears and Cabelas. They appear to all aspire to either own a Harley or being able to afford to add extensive auto aftermarket crap to their trucks.  Those that don’t fall into that group are miraculously anonymous, spending their lives hiding in plain site. The women have a hardiness to them that suggests no interest in the fashions and cultural expectations of the Coasts.  When I look at them I know exactly what their brothers look like as they vaguely maintain a slight whiff of masculinity.  The whole population is so plain it’s really remarkable.  Everyone looks like everyone else.  It’s like being in a Target where the experience spreads out beyond the confines of the store. 

Suddenly, things took a turn.

Three friends of mine had been missing for hours.  Their plane had landed at 9:30 in the morning and they immediately hooked up with a local friend, a man that had been the 5th Beatle version of a highly successful boy band from the 90s.  Apparently in St. Louis proper there are bars that aren’t quite strip bars yet are way more sleazy then Hooters/Twisted Kilts where the waitresses are topless and in panties while serving drinks and deep-fried raviolis.  It is also not considered to be wildly inappropriate to be firing back shots and beers in these places at 11:30am with the waitresses, or so the photographic evidence I was later showed would testify.  This would explain the condition of one of these missing men that arrived alone staggering into this horrible sports/dance bar where we had scheduled to meet each other.

I have seen large men intoxicated, but rarely a man so large so intoxicated.  His hulking mass surged from one side of the room to the other like the bar was an adrift schooner on the Atlantic.  He breathlessly tried to tell us the story of how he had arrived here, none of it making any sense.  He had that particular inability of the shockingly drunk to position events chronologically or add in the key details to allow the story to make sense.  “Oh my God!  I had to take a piss, and I saw these bathrooms, so I jumped out of the car while it was still running!  I don’t know where those guys are!”  I had to have him repeat it over and over again to try and piece it together.  None of it made any sense.  If he was to be believed, he had been at the wheel.  That in itself was a stunning admission as if he had been pulled over by the police he would have been shot on sight for the brazen disregard of public safety laws.  Then from what I could gather he had leapt out of the moving car to go to a public bathroom while his one friend was helpless in the passenger seat and the other passed out in the back seat.  Making matters more interesting, the bathrooms he was referring to are located next to a park by the banks of the Mississippi River.  If what he had said was accurate, there was a good chance this would be the lead story on CNN on Monday.  “Two Men Helplessly Sent To Watery Deaths In Car”

I asked him where the car was.  He didn’t know.  I asked if he had any idea.  He said he would go outside and check.  He was gone for ten minutes.  “I don’t know where they are man!”  In theory, I should have immediately gone out to get involved in the situation, but it had the electricity of bad craziness that it’s always best to keep at arm’s length.  However, the fact that he had no idea where they were or where the car was seemed a bit extreme.  I cautiously went outside with him to scope the area.  It wasn’t hard to find them…

The small crowd that had gathered around the Chevy Malibu partially sunken into the Mississippi River all stared at the vehicle, some offering potential long shot solutions to retrieve it from the river involving tow trucks and winches.  No one was making eye contact.  They all just stared at the car.  It was a hell of a thing.  The entire front hood of the vehicle was now submerged, the passenger escape door still open allowing water to seep slightly into the interior.  “Hey man!  What the fuck!  Hahahahaha!  That was fucking crazy!”  His friends, not even close to being annoyed, treated the incident the same way you or I might treat being hit with a water balloon at a picnic.  It was inconvenient, but all in good fun.  They all laughed uproariously as the onlookers stared wide-eyed, trying to make sense of this completely unexpected reaction. 

There was a slight slurping sound as the Mississippi finally claimed the car.  It slipped quietly below the swollen brown river, being pushed along by the strong Spring flow.  “Holy shit man!  Oh well, fuck it!  It’s a rental!”  The three of them had no misgivings about how this had ended, somehow convinced that all would turn out in their favor with the rental car company.  Personally, I had grave concerns as I would imagine that Avis, Hertz, or whatever fools had rented these guys a car would be quite upset at learning their fleet now contained one vehicle that was somewhere at the bottom of the Mississippi.  There is no way you can position it was OK that the car you had rented was now filled with channel catfish eating the Dorito remains from the back seat.  How on earth would a fuckup of this magnitude just go away?  What’s the play here?  “Mr. Smith?  We have in our records that you did not return the 2013 Chevy Malibu to the St. Louis Airport branch of our company.”  No, you are mistaken…  Check your records again.  Have a great day.  Goodbye.  Click.

They just didn’t care.  The three of them laughed it up. It was all backslaps and belly laughs.  The onlookers slowly dissipated into the night, not truly grasping the insanity of the events that had just transpired.  The guys walked from the riverbank, walking towards the bar. The last I saw of them that night, they were buying Bud Lights for a Bachelorette party.  They actually blended in quite well.  Strange town that St. Louis… 


At May 9, 2014 at 7:48:00 PM EDT , Blogger Ronnette Coffman said...

I grew up a few hours from St. Louis, in a SMALL town of 350 people, so a trip to the Big City was a treat. You are right, its kind of bland on the surface when you compare it to the Coasts, but many of us like it that way. I moved away when I married a Marine, and we ended up in The South. I miss the Midwest very much, with those bland people who look like each other and shop at Sears, their sports teams and their hearts as big as the outdoors. I would return there, but my husband refuses to move back to the snow. I hope you had at least some fun there.

At May 17, 2014 at 4:47:00 PM EDT , Blogger Greg Miller said...

A car swallowed up by a river? Good God yes I had fun!


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