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