Friday, November 26, 2010

The Symphony

My grade school music teacher was an older lady who dyed her hair the same shade as her black Lincoln Mark VII. A car that, to 9-year-old me, looked like the bat mobile.

She took her job very seriously, had a hunchback, and didn't seem to care much for boys. The feeling was pretty much mutual.

I did not look forward to music class. I had no discernible musical aptitude or interest. My greatest achievements in grade school music class were successfully playing Hot Crossed Buns, in its entirety, on the soprano recorder, and witnessing Mrs. McCormick scream "Blake! Booyah!" one time when Blake Wolfson was talking in class. I also learned, if memory serves, that glockenspeil is German for angel's song. So, no, it wasn't a total waste.

If I dug my soprano recorder out of one of the dusty boxes in my parent's attic I'll bet I could still knock out a spirited version Hot Crossed Buns given an afternoon to practice. I might even be able to figure out the first 5 or 6 notes of Ode To Joy. These are skills I retain thanks to Mrs McCormick. She also taught me, with three grade school field trips to Powell Hall, that I like going to the Symphony.

I don't like going to the Symphony so much that I buy tickets. But when free tickets appear I put on a clean shirt and a belt and I rub elbows with high society. A night at Powell Hall is high class all the way, a St. Louis rarely seen. Where proud citizens wear neck ties and pearls. High-brow St. Louis making the case that such a thing really does exist.

The case is made with marble, gold leaf and pleasant conversation in the lobby. Champagne is available for purchase.

Witnessing a demonstration of mastery is thrilling.  It's affirmative. It reminds you how we got here. On opposable thumbs, wits and practice.  Everyone in the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is very good at their job. This is something they've been training all their lives to do. Each has their own chair, instrument, and style. Together they play classical music like motherfuckers.

I've never seen the New York Philharmonic, I'm sure they're good. The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is the best I've ever seen. See them for free the next time they perform in Forrest Park.  If you find yourself complaining hurry up and move to New York. Around here we root for the home team.

*Please excuse the blurry photograph, photography is prohibited inside of Powell Hall. You're also not supposed to go there stoned.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wet Willy's

Some things in life can not be duplicated. They are created as if through magic and plopped into reality. Still dripping with inspiration.  

High atop a limestone bluff in Valley Park was conjured a workable alter of joy.

Blue painted concrete, scrappy green summertime, and suburban interstate highway as far as the eye can see.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Taqueria La Pasadita

When I really knew-- when I was sure of it-- was when she asked me if I wanted onions and cilantro. It was the way she asked. She was singing.

Onions and cilantro?

The same way David Spade sang, you want mint for pillow? through the motel room door in Tommy Boy.

This is happening a couple of years ago inside an old Taco Bell. Except It's not a Taco Bell anymore. It's a new mom and pop taqueria inside the old Taco Bell in Overland. Same fake stucco walls. Same cyan, magenta and lavender stripes. Same bolted down prison booths and tables. The bathrooms are still outside and around the back.

The service counter is still there, but the perfectly adorable Mexican grandmother behind it lilts for you to sit anywhere. She brings you a 32 ounce hard plastic soda cup of ice water, the menu, warm chips and smokey red salsa. Then you order and she sings your taco topping options.

Her serenade erases all doubt.  You know for sure, your new favorite restaurant lives inside the shell of your ex-favorite restaurant.

Imagine a perfect world.

There is no war. No one is suffering. And instead of Taco Bell there is Taqueria La Pasadita.

You can pull off the interstate at just about any exit and get the best chorizo taco you've ever had for $1.89. The chorizo is vibrantly red, like the grilled pork at Pho Grand, and slightly crispy, like the edges of a burger at Carl's Drive In.  Squeeze on a lime, and a squirt of bright, green salsa and prepare for lift off. Or, for $5.99 on your meal card, the Taqueria La Pasadita Express in your college lunch room sells an al pastor torta that will force you to rewrite your Favorite Sandwich List. Life is amazing.

We may not live in a perfect world, but at least we live in St. Louis.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Riverside Salvage

I like history but I've never wanted to be an archeologist. I prefer artifacts that you don't have to extricate from the soil with a horse hair brush. The kind that you find in other people's attics and curbside piles of furniture and picture frames. The stuff they're about to give to goodwill or set next to the dumpster. Precious relics in disguise. The kind that end up in soggy cardboard boxes and trash trucks. They're so much more affordable.

For low cost acquisition of genuine artifacts from 21st century American life, I recommend Riverside Salvage on Hall Street.

If you've never been to a self service junkyard, you're overdue. Whether or not you are in the market for used auto parts is inconsequential. It's about exploring.

The junkyard is the only place I know where you can pay a dollar, get your hand stamped, and rifle through the glove boxes of the dead.

Cars come to the junkyard in one of two ways.

The first way: A car breaks down. When the owner looks into having it fixed the cost of the repair is more than they are willing to spend. So they take their sunglasses out of the center console, get the road atlas out of the seat back pocket and sell it to the junkyard.  The owner gets two hundred bucks from the junkyard and the junkyard gets a 1991 Acura Legend with a bad transmission. Great news for you if you happen to own a 1991-1995 Acura Legend and came to the junkyard looking for a passenger side window.

The second way: A drunk wraps his car around a traffic light. He goes to the hospital, the morgue or jail. His car goes to the junkyard, beer cans still littering the floor.

Experiencing the junkyard for the first time is revealing. It's equal parts playground, workshop, museum and cemetery. Well worth the dollar you placed in the filthy hand of the man sitting in the shack by the entrance. He's been all through every one of these cars, but feel free to look through his leftovers. The really good stuff is already at his place.

Your dollar buys access to a world of broken automobiles and lax supervision. Drinking beer is decidedly not frowned upon. You're going to get dirty. I'd advise against white sneakers. 

Hand stamped, walking away from the gate you wade into a moderately sized lake of cars. The ground underfoot is slimy with fluids and spiked with small shards of automobile. Your head is just above the roof line. All kinds of cars stacked in rows, hoods mostly up, interiors wet from rain. Cigarettes still in the ashtray, religious pamphlets in the trunk, liquor bottles, a plastic baggie of captain crunch. Distributor caps, side view mirrors, trans-axles. All gathered for inspection.

Take the time to look inside the cars. Notice the steering wheel cover and the Bill Withers tape. This is somebody's car.  Its full of their stuff. Their fast food trash, their gym bag, their yellow pages. Sometimes the airbags are deployed. Other times there's been a fire. These cars lived in the real world, get inside one and you can almost go where it's been. In an hour in the junkyard you can go a lot of places. 

Nobody will mind if you take a souvenir. I've got a box of them.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


There are so many things to love about St. Louis that once you start noticing them religiously it gets time consuming.

I love that St. Louis doesn't want to be any other city. St. Louis moves at its own pace. We've got inertia from all of the bricks. And we're doing just fine thank you. We don't need the beaches or the mountains or the high rent. Everything here is dirt cheap and the people are fun. That's almost everything.

And there is history. And weather. And a beautiful city. Big trees. And on top of all that, the cherry on top, is that St. Louis County is full of cool shit too.

Ever hear of Castlewood State Park? Ever been swimming there at dawn? Have you ever been inside the Carl Donnelson Motorcycle Museum? Did you know that Bigfoot lives in North County? He's got a sick van in his driveway.

Yes, St. Louis is the home of the Original Monster Truck. This can not be oversold. Put Bigfoot in your St. Louis hall of fame. He's already in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.* Without Bigfoot the mural on the side of Grave Digger would never have been painted. We never would have walked in through the fire exit of the TWA Dome on a cold winter night and drank whiskey in the upper deck while Maximum Destruction tore itself to shreds for our amusement. There would be no Monster Jam. The world would be worse.

Thankfully Bigfoot is real. Real and a sterling representative of the St. Louis spirit. Backyard ambition.

It's no wonder this thing got printed on pillow cases and bedsheets for suburban bunk beds. Any kid with half a brain would give up candy for a month to sleep atop this beauty. Imagine their dreams. Now look at those wheels. They came off of an Arctic Train used by the US military in the 1950's. Cold War tires. How is that for provenance?

Bigfoot was the first truck to drive over a car. Bigfoot jumped over a jumbo jet. Bigfoot is the older bother to the world's sickest Ford Aerostar Van, the one with tank tracks. His semi truck has a killer paint job. Bigfoot has a machine that puts his likeness on a souvenir penny.

The American Dream. In St. Louis you don't have to wake up from it.

* So is my Grandpa.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Mike Talayna's Jukebox on Hampton is a sick Karaoke Bar. It's not cheap, the staff isn't always so friendly, and the crowd can be disappointing. But at Talayna's, it's always an experience.

It might be a cab driver and two nurses sharing a break, drinking coffee and singing Janis Joplin to crickets. It might be a wall to wall dance party. Or it might be a beer bottle breaking over somebody's head and somebody else catching a face full of mace. Any which way, you are surrounded by mirrors, neon and disco balls.

That "Most Beautiful Room" banner on the wall out front wasn't for nothing.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Ghost Town.

A pair of words that set my young imagination on fire. The same thing happened the first time I heard the words Motor Bike. And Keg Party.

But Ghost Town struck early. It still gives me a spark to think about.

I learned about ghost towns during those boyhood years when I was a cowboy for three consecutive Halloweens. I imagined pushing open swinging doors to empty bar rooms with dust covered player pianos and half bottles of whiskey. Snooping around the Sheriff's office. Nobody around to tell you what, and what not, to do.

I wanted to break bottles. And go through the stuff people left behind.

The first real ghost town I ever heard about was Times Beach, Missouri. My parents told me about it every time we drove West on 44 on our way to a float trip, or my fake uncle Fred's house. Between Fenton and Eureka, Times Beach was a not very interesting community that was abandoned after some sheisty goofball sprayed large amounts of the toxic chemical, Dioxin, on the town's gravel roads to keep the dust down.

Everybody moved out. Cancers developed. The houses got plowed. By the time I came around there was nothing left to see. Just Meremec river flood planes. For me one of the requirements of a ghost town is that it resemble a town.

The second ghost town in my life was on a cliff in the Rocky Mountains. It exceeded my expectations. It was a mining town that was abandoned after the water supply got contaminated. My buddy, the comedic, meteorologicaly-untrained weatherman who interviewed people in lift lines for Good Morning Vail, brought me there.

We didn't even have to climb a fence. Just duck under a barrier. There were still dishes in the cabinets. Unbroken windows. An old fire truck in the Fire Station. We rolled a sealed 55 gallon drum off a hundred foot cliff. The perfect old west ghost town.

One day, back in St. Louis, Cole and I were exploring North County in the Death Wagon. We got off 170 North at the Scudder road exit and found our local ghost town.

Stay right off the exit, make a left on Scudder road and you are greeted by rolling green hills peppered with vast piles of concrete. Adolescent trees bursting through roadways. A ghost town by the airport.

The lost colony of Kinloch.

Driving the few roads not blocked by highway dividers it gradually becomes apparent that Kinloch is not actually a ghost town. The residents are not all dead or gone. A fearless few remain, living in a vegetative state.

Rich with history, brimming with illegally dumped garbage, and mostly forgotten, Kinloch refuses to have its plug pulled. Mostly there is empty space and piles of the stuff that used be houses. But few and far between are houses where people live.

Fantastically failed suburbs look almost rural. Nobody around to tell you what, and what not, to do. Wide open spaces. Big gardens. Loud music. Shooting guns. By the airport.

Kinloch maintains a functioning fire department. Though the evidence leads me to believe that the Kinloch Fire Department is not known for its quick reaction time.

Fire is cheaper than a bulldozer and a dump truck.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Bike Path Bench

I don't think one can overstate the importance of recognizing a good spot when you see one. When you know the perfect place to do something, you're that much closer to actually doing it.

Imagine someone comes up to you some Saturday morning while you're out garage sailing with John in the big red truck. The guy says, "I sure wish there was some place nearby to ride my new dirt bike. The closest place I know of is in the Ozarks! You fellas wouldn't happen to know anyplace, would ya? We got some beers."

If you are the kind of person that knows more than a few places to ride dirt bikes within 50 minutes of here by highway, then make a few courtesy calls and prepare to get some dirt in your mouth.

It's not just dirt bikes that require a special spot. Any activity is improved by its proper venue. Imagine a solid earthen cup of fragrant steaming tea in the botanical garden's Japanese tea house on a snowy winter morning. Beside the arching bridges of the coy pond. Now, the cup of tea from the vending machine in the basement of the municipal courts building on day 3 of jury duty.

Good spots are crucial. Without knowledge of, and easy access to good spots, doing anything interesting is difficult. St. Louis is resplendent in spots. Good St. Louisans appreciate them.

Imagine your self sitting on this bench. Your eyes are closed. The afternoon sun is warming your left shoulder. A gentle breeze matches the sound of mostly well-maintained traffic. You open your eyes, St. Louis is strolling by.

It's a parade. From minute to minute its hard to tell if the circus has come to town, or if you've stumbled across the jog wear portion of the Ms. STL College Student Pageant. Either way, you're not grabbing for the remote.

Sandwiched between the Bike Path, gravel running path and picturesque Lindell Boulevard, in one of the largest and most beautiful urban parks in the country, this bench has a prime location. It offers many nice views.

And there is a tree that works as a urinal.

And a trash can.

And you can bring a drink, non-alcoholic or otherwise. Have you ever had a King Dewey? Its Budweiser and Mountain Dew mixed together. Like an Arnold Palmer. Probably two thirds Beer, one third Mountain Dew. On ice.

I like to make one at the Mobil on Hampton in a 32oz Styrofoam cup before I go to the bench. Just get a 24oz can of beer and a 32oz fountain Mountain Dew. Pour the beer into the soda and maybe grab a bag of pretzels. Its nice to have a salty snack when you're using other people's work out regiments in the same way you would a moderately entertaining television program.

I'll bet the bench would be a good place to meet babes.

Its definitely a good place to spend a sunny weekday afternoon. You get to hang out in Forrest Park, but with more interesting traffic and fewer people laying on blankets then at the World's Fair Pavilion. You might encounter a Dance Walker, or a Rolls Royce or a three legged dog. If you're there early enough the Compton Drew Investigative Learning Center Middle School Dolphin Bicycle Club might ride by on there matching black red and silver Mountain bikes. I wanna be a kid in that club so bad, I could do something crazy.

Ice in Styrofoam cup.

I'm not gonna make the hard sell on this. I don't know if this is the best bench in St. Louis or not. But it's a good one and we've been coming here for a while. It's on the map. A good meet up spot.

Don't take my word for it.

Roger Brockman knew this was a perfect spot.

As Seen At: The 2010 Easter Car Show

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Jimmy's New Car

For four school years I lived in our Nation's Capital. Its the only other place I've ever lived. I needed to prove that St. Louis was it for me.

While I was living in DC I hung out with two Brothers from Ireland. They live in the historic and leafy suburbs of Northern Virginia. We used to BMX together.

These brothers like going fast, By any means necessary. In automobiles, on bicycles or otherwise. Racing. Race cars. Their passion is active.

Each night, all around the District of Columbia, residents practice aggressive-driving during DC's 5-hour long evening rush hour. It's one of the National Capital's most universal pass-times. The point is to preserve sanity by spending as little time in horrendous traffic as possible. You beat the monster with superior knowledge of the area and masterful operation of the finest cars you can afford.

For the brothers, funds are limited. But their cars are getting better. Imagine my delight upon encountering this beauty.

Jimmy's New Car

Why yes, that is a Fucking Porsche with a Fucking Turbo!

This car cost $500

A turbo charged 1986 German sports car is the kind of thing misguided youth with speed issues are tempted to buy the world over. But when you truthfully address the Himalayan cost of maintenance, buying the car is often little more than folly.

Unless you happen to be a trained Porsche mechanic.

The kind of person that is building a legitimate race car in their bedroom. Yes, that is the motor on the other side of the bed. Right next to the carbon-fiber roof and hood. Here is the turbo. The rear suspension pieces are out of a 911 Turbo, he keeps them at work. Most everything else is from the 1980's Audi twin turbo Super Car that Jimmy bought a few years ago. As we speak it is waiting, in two pieces, in his sisters garage.

All that's left is to crunch some numbers. And make a tube chassis with the help of a friend who works at NASA. Then put everything together. Just a matter of time.

Jimmy is that kind of person. A genuine speed freak. He was behind the wheel when I set my own personal land speed record. One hundred and forty miles an hour in the passenger seat of a VR6 Volkswagen Corrado, while eating an Italian sub from WAWA. It would have been slightly faster, but we were on our way home from the skate park and had the extra weight of two BMX bikes in the back.

That was years ago, when I was still living in DC. Then the last time I visited, Jimmy had a Honda S2000. He showed me how it could break the tires loose at 40 miles an hour.

Now he was a Porsche. And a training regiment.

The fastest lap ever recorded on the 12.9 mile long Nurburgring race track in Germany is 6 minutes 11 seconds. If everything goes according to plan, Jimmy's race car should break 8 minutes on a well executed lap.

Its going to take practice.

My friends in DC like to play the game where you take every highway ramp at at least twice its posted speed limit. In a good car, on a good ramp, you can triple the speed limit. Shredding the interstate highway system.

I know, it all sounds great. But before you take the piggy bank to the work bench, let me warn you. Five hundred dollar, Stuttgart made, turbo sports cars are not perfect. For such a low price you have to expect some imperfections. The interior might not be totally sorted out. You will probably be smelling some fumes. Modifications may have to be made.

Make them with gusto.

Monday, March 8, 2010


We sometimes forget that St. Louis used to be one of the biggest cities in the country. It was San Francisco. The new edge of the country.

Around the turn of the last century, kids sat sulking in their New York City tenements waiting for the day they could afford to leave filthy New York behind and move to the big green end of the world in St. Louis. It's important to remember.

St. Louis is over-filled with history. It's running down the side of your 32oz Styrofoam cup, making your hands sticky.

We hosted a World's Fair for Christ's sake. There is a case to be made that the hot dog was invented here.

What if every time you stopped by the 7-11 on Southwest Ave for a chili dog, Guy, the attendant, handed you a white hot dog eating glove with which you clinched a naked hot dog between your first two fingers and thumb?

Where would you put the chili?

Apparently that's how frankfurters used to be served. Then some upstart business man brought his sausage and his box of white gloves to St. Louis, the big city, in search of fame and fortune. Instead what he found was hungry St. Louisans who wanted nothing to do with his kid gloves. They said things like, "You can keep the glove pal," and "What do I want a glove for? Just give it to me on one of those rolls."

Voila! An icon is born.

I wish I had been there at the moment of conception. The first guy to put a hot dog on a bun and top it with a squirt of yellow mustard. I wasn't.

But I go to Woofie's in Overland. So I'm not sweatin it.


Imagine its 1983. You're 22 years old. Your buddy has a 1960's small body muscle car with shitty brakes, shitty paint, cigarette burned interior and ashtray full of roaches. You are riding shot gun. Tall cans cost a quarter. It's a Saturday night in early September. Alice Cooper is on the radio. You're in the Parking lot at Woofie's. This is the beginning.

Woofie's At Night

Tonight could end anywhere, but it starts with a Coney Dog and a large Coke. A perfect base for a night of swilling cheap beer in tall cans still wet from coolers of ice, each can from a different gas station in a different part of town. The American Dream.

In St. Louis you can still touch it.

Go to 1919 Woodson road in Overland. Ask Paul. He got the place 14 years ago. He loved Woofie's hot dogs so much, he and his buddy mowed lawns for the owner just to be close to the action. Then the owner died. Paul got Woofie's and his buddy got the lawn mowing business. Paul sleeps well at night.

Unless he stays up painting signs or brainstorming new topping combinations. Go to Woofie's. Look at all the hand drawn and painted signs. Paul made every single one. His wife says it's like a grade school art project.

Paul The Owner

Woofie's is the monument to St. Louis' ownership of the hot dog. It's the proof. As far as I know there is no bronze plaque at the fateful spot where wiener first settled into bun one sunny day in the 1880's. But there is Woofie's. You can take a picture of a Chili dog the same way you can take a picture of a monument.

CONEY DOG: A Woofie Dog With Special Chili, Cheese, Chopped Onion & Pickle

In St. Louis a good thing can go on for ever. It just takes passion.

The Best Dumpster Corral In The World
Hand Painted by Paul

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Upper MUNY Parking Lot

I try to live my life in a way that when someone comes up to me and says, "I've got this go-kart, do you know anyplace we can use it?" The answer is yes.

For basic go-karting, donut spinning, motorcycle learning, stick shift practice and general parking lot sessioning I recommend the Upper MUNY Parking lot. It's close, huge and rarely used as a place to park cars. A perfect place to ride and drive things of questionable legality.

The thing that makes a parking lot good for motorsporting practice is size. The Upper MUNY is a big parking lot. The surface is not perfect. But it offers plenty of room to dabble with chaos.

By car, the approach is winding. Adult trees conceal the lots' true size until the next to last moment. At the moment of reveal, she is stunning. Long enough to blur the edges on a sweltering August afternoon. Long enough to use as a quarter mile drag strip for slow vehicles with small wheels.

At the Upper MUNY you feel atop a plateau, vistas to various styles reveal themselves at the cardinal directions. A moat of mature oaks and turf grass immediately below. It was surreptitiously designed by some unknown genius of the drug-soaked 1970's civil engineering underground as a playing field for things with wheels and motors. Two of the best three things.

The Upper MUNY Parking Lot

Reverse Angle

People Know

I'm not letting you in on some great secret. Ask around. People know the upper MUNY is a dialed spot. Those beer bottles didn't empty and break themselves. That Spiro-graph of cauterized rubber isn't from parked cars. This lot has seen the business end of fat meats. J's were done, and the fuzz knows it.

Relax man, the cops have other stuff to worry about. Not gonna waste their time on five beer-spitting low lifes racing a go-cart in an empty parking lot. They're gonna be happy we're not giving each other blow jobs in the woods, or shooting rich white ladies.

Since this whole thing was conceived as a guide to St. Louis, let me fill you in on some the details. The Upper MUNY is one of two parking lots for the Municipal Theater in Forrest park. For those of you not familiar with St. Louis, the Municipal Theater, or MUNY, is where old people go on summer nights to sit. Their Cadillacs and Buicks wait patiently in the lot. Anticipating the return trip west.


Once a year, after 40 days of penance, the Upper Muny Parking Lot gets its moment to shine.

The Easter Car Show is a St. Louis tradition. Held Easter Sunday on the Upper MUNY parking lot it's the place to see interesting cars and St. Louis' car people. Originally organized by the old rich guys with British roadsters and shiny Model A sedans, The Easter Car Show now belongs to St. Louis. We took it over by driving hose clamped together Donks and Hyundai Tiburons with $5000 stereos and $50 airbrush murals, and parking them proudly next to whatever trailer queen the banker in the Hawaiian shirt brought.

Do yourself a favor and go to the Easter Car Show this year. Don't sweat seeing the Concourse D'Elegance, the real show is what the spectators bring. Two years ago Cole and I watched a fire breathing pro-street Camaro get loose right into the lower MUNY's stone retaining wall.

The Lower MUNY Parking Lot

The man with the Camaro made one critical mistake. He chose the wrong parking lot. The Upper MUNY is the lot for getting loose in $50,000 street legalish race cars. The Lower MUNY is for getting romantic with some guy you just met behind Steinburg Ice Rink.

Monday, February 22, 2010

My Friend's Cheap Car

I don't know how much my friend, The Driver, paid for the Party Van. No amount would be too much. *

How Much Does Perfect Cost?

I'm starting to think the two most powerful words in the English language are white van.

The Human Crumple Zone is one of the areas inside the Party Van. Take off your hat and come in. It is in front of the rear bench seat, just behind the cockpit, from the sliding door to the wall. If you want, you can use the un-lined Spanish Conquistador's helmet. No one will think less of you. There might be fireworks. There will be shouting.

The Human Crumple Zone is the perfect classroom, laboratory, dance floor, arena and abattoir. Feel free to leave something behind.

Deep In the Crumple Zone

In the party van you can do anything, but it must be done with vitality.

The first step is letting go. The Driver has done this many times before. He does it well. I would say he is in control, but he knows there is no such thing.

The Driver**

What should you know going in?

It's going to be fun.
Trust Me.


"Driver, begin!"

The music is making you punch the ceiling with ecstatic metronomic gusto. The dance floor is moving at 70 miles an hour, maybe sideways. You aren't alone. Gravity is there. And The Driver. And whoever you brought. It's raining. The rain is punching the ceiling from above.

Don't bother inviting the rain to your party. It's already there.

The ceiling is made of metal. But It feels good to punch because of the head liner. Ice in a Styrofoam cup.

This is the beginning. Explore.


* This picture, and the detail shot, are not of The Driver's actual Party Van. This is someone else's Party Van that I found. An "older" slightly Hoosier Party Van.

** This is actually the driver.***


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Porter's Fried Chicken

If you could have any super power what would you choose?

Invisibility is perfect for watching girls get undressed. But when you choose invisibility you've declared yourself a creep. Flying would be amazing. But it draws a lot of attention, and flying in St. Louis in the winter requires so many layers that sometimes it's just simpler to drive. Invincibility is boring. Time travel is an especially wriggly can of worms. It makes never being born dangerously easy.

I've known my ideal super power for a long time. It came to me one day in High School.

My super power: Every meal I ever ate would be the most delicious thing I've ever eaten, just slightly more delicious than the last thing I ate.

Simple and practical. I love to eat.

The fried chicken at Porter's is not the best thing I've ever eaten. It's just the best fried chicken. Infallible. Porter's made me understand why there are places like KFC and Lee's Famous Recipe.*

The Best Fried Chicken

On paper Lee's Famous Recipe should be my favorite restaurant. But in the real world, tip-toeing the Shrewsbury-Maplewood border, there is a fried chicken joint called Porter's. It's in the perfect nobody of a strip mall, right between the laundromat and the pool hall. The name of the strip mall is painted on a rock out front.

Porter's Fried Chicken


Pool Hall

I get the two piece or three piece special depending on hunger. Special means all breasts. Slightly more expensive.

The first time you come in the girl at the counter will explain that all the meals and snacks come with mashed potatoes, slaw and a biscuit. But if you want, for an extra 40 cents, you can get fries. The second time you come she'll ask, "Mash and slaw?" The third time she won't need to ask. The fourth time explain it to someone else.

Catfish Dinner with Tartar Sauce

What makes the perfect chicken place? Porter's does it with a skyline of of white cardboard boxes waiting to be greased-thru by hot salty chicken. And a Lions Club of Webster used eyeglass collection box. And a bowling league trophy. And the occasional fried feather. And greasy floors and Thrifty Nickle classifieds. Phone in orders encouraged.

My buddy John's family has Porter's every time one of his 6 siblings has a birthday. Maybe the parents birthdays too. Fourth of July. Sunday nights. Family reunions.

John was the one that brought me to Porter's. And he was with me the day a representative of the St. Louis Tall Club tried to recruit us. He was also there when three of use fought vicious hangovers to get our Motorcycle Permits at the DMV branch across the street. After a restorative fried chicken lunch, resplendent with perfectly mixed Cherry Pepsi in a 24oz Styrofoam cup, we got our permits. We saw Shady Jack in line at the DMV, he got his motorcycle permit at 15 and a half. I got mine at 28.

Lets get down to brass tacks.

The reason Porter's is so amazing is that it made me realize that I don't need a super power to love fried chicken. I just needed proof of its existence before I could accept that there is such a thing as good fried chicken. Now, I can even kind of enjoy bad fried chicken. It's a powerful feeling.

* As a matter of fact, the next business down Big Bend past Porter's and the pool hall is a KFC. There is only Shrewsbury ave, a creek/drainage ditch and a thin parking lot in between. Mr. and Mrs. Porter are not sweating it.