Friday, July 13, 2007

Here I Dreamt I Was a Traveler

Saint Louis, Missouri. USA

Here I dreamt I was a traveler. The skyline is a brand new sight to see. What secrets lie among your canyons?
No matter. That's a question for another time. First things first. I've got only a few hours to find a place to stay. Yes, it may have been a good idea to call ahead, but one doesn't always have that luxury.

At a time like this is when you realize that information is an extremely valuable commodity. There are a thousand--perhaps a million--places to sleep in this town, but at the moment, every single one is out of reach. Some of these places are available. Some aren't. It's time to find out.

I walk the city strets pushing a little button every few steps. This button, or more specifically the LED light right next to it tells me when I am a rich man. It lights up! I have a WiFi signal. A wealth of information is soon at my fingertips. Checking my surroundings, I'm in front of a St. Louis Bread Company. "Hmmm... this place looks a lot like Panera."

In less than ten minutes, I've found a bed and an Asiago Cheese Bagel (but not in that order). By the time my bagel is gone, I also have a list of the best that St. Louis has to offer. The Arch, Union Station, The Botanical Garden, The Anheusier Busch Brewery, and (perhaps best of all) the many different neighborhoods with their unique styles and personalities.

Seeing the sights is a funny goal. It's all done now and I have some beautiful pictures on my camera's memory card to prove it. But it's done. Perhaps what I take with me most of all at this point is the sense of how these people live. Of course there wasn't time to settle down, learn their lives in full. But I know enough now to tell you that baseball is very important to these people. It's so important in fact that St. Louisans are even willing to venture downtown to see a game. What a gesture of support for the Cards! I've learned enough to tell you that St. Louis has a lot more traffic than Little Rock, but a lot less than Atlanta. And I've learned enough to tell you that most everyone has this conflict of a sad optimism about their city, which they can't quite articulate. Once a place of great industrialization, wealth and prosperity, St. Louis has lost most of its wealthy patrons and passionate advocates to the fallout of a 50 year suburban winter. So what's left is only the best of the political vultures fighting over the scraps.

As I board a two-winged ticket to the next great destination, St. Louis starts to disolve into the broth of past experiences. But one thing this foreign traveler will not lose to the doldrums of experience is the sense of what could be. This burden of potential is something that I will share with this fair city for decades yet to come.