We planned to go down to Chicago actually. But on the Friday morning, when we were about to rent the car and drive the 10 hour drive, we chickened out. It was just too far – undriveably far. Then came out the laptops and maps, and we looked around for places which werent undriveably far. Maybe Dallas, maybe Kansas City (again?), maybe Rock Springs, why not Austin, or Denver? St. Louis? After a few hurried phone calls and look-ups on travel and weather websites we made up our mind. I guess what tilted it in favour of St Louis was the baseball game between Cardinals and Dodgers: the game I didnt go to finally. I dont like baseball much.
So again we set out on the road, this time on a 4X4 pick-up. Hell, it was weekend and nothing else was there. Thankfully they almost halved their price to convince us to take the black monster all the four hundred miles up. We, frankly, didnt needed the incentive but welcomed it nonetheless. The road, as always, didnt fail to charm me. It was way colder for my liking though, the temperature hovering around 5 degree centigrade. Stopping twice, once for a new maps and brochures, and again for lunch, we reached The Land Where the West Began.
Taking a quick shower at the hotel, we decided we needed to walk around a bit. We went to the place they call The Loop over there. We ate Thai (which would to be the biggest mistake I made in that trip, as it almost paralysed me chest-down till next morning) and then went over to listen to some jazz. Now, I had three Latinos (2 Mexicans and 1 Venezuelan), and they would have rather been to any club they could dance to than to listen to jazz. Being Bad Economy season, most of the places in The Loop (which is supposed to be the hot spot in St. Louis) were down with flu, so they had no choice, but listen to Gypsy Brown and her band. I could just find a decent bookstore (actually more than decent, I quite liked the place, it called The Subterraneans) where I bought my The Original Scroll of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. And then, we realized it was almost midnight, and we headed back.
Next morning, we went to the famous Gateway Arch, and the City Museum. Just as the brochures and travel websites said.
Lunch of familiar chocolate shake and steak. The gang decided to head to the ball game. I, on the other hand, took the Metro from Union Station to Forest Park. I wanted to visit the Art Museum and the History Museum, and maybe cycle a bit. Now this being my lucky day, by the time I reached the Museum, it was already shutters-down. So I decided to walk around in the park.
This was possibly one of my better walks. It was green and a little cold, polished off by the last vermilion rays of a setting sun. There were a couple of cyclist going down the circuitous bike trails, while a few joggers ran on with their earplugs. I felt alone and happy. It was like being home, in the green and orange, and the light breeze, tucked up in my jacket and walking without any plan, without any destination and not knowing where the road led to. And pretty sure, no one cared that I was around. I saw a Subcontinental couple engaged in the familiar comedy of taking photograph with every piece of man-made block: fountains, stairs, pillars, some random house, some random car. I walked on. I saw the familiar sight of pretty ladies panting back to their cars and vrooming away. I saw all this, but it didnt register. Maybe at that point of time, I didnt notice anything. I was too busy with myself. Walking. What was going on through my mind at that point, I tried hard to recall, but I cant remember at all.
I walked for almost two and a half hour in Forest Park when i came out and headed to a store to buy some water. The shop keeper was from Kandahar, Afghanistan. Seeing a Subcontinental face, he guessed I must be Indian, and tried to find common thread binding us. Well, to do that he had to go back almost five hundred years to tell me about Babur and Akbar and Prince Salim. I listened patiently, as i didnt want to discuss the more recent Flight-814 with him.
By the time I took the metro back to Union Station to meet up with my friends, i was rejuvenated and ready to face life again: with its tangles and twists, catharsis and challenges. I was back on the road again.
On the way back, we were pulled over by the cops on the freeway. But thats another story. And i have a foreboding that it one of those stories that would not be told.