For those of you waiting with baited breath, and those waiting with bated breath, well, blame Rusty. I needed to look up a link and the perl server was dead. So I'm going to go tinker with the junker and get a beer.
Where was I? Oh yeah, Thursday evening down at Dempsey's talking to Joe and Joe and Mandy. Mandy had to work, Kate had yet another birthday party, and Samantha was ill. I finished my second beer and walked down to the train station.
Someone asked after the last installment where my job fit into the picture. It didn't. I took a vacation day Thursday.
Daughter Patty had given me a ride to the train station earlier in the day, where I was grossly overcharged for a ticket. I had called two weeks prior, and was told the price for a round trip ticket was twenty to sixty dollars, depending on “seat availability”.
So the way it works is, you can have your choice of window or aisle, and stow your gear on the one you don't want to sit in, and be assured of never standing in line for the restroom, or choose to pay three times as much for a crowd.
No wonder they're going bankrupt. Yeah, people buy train tickets based on price, sure...
The train came in very shortly after its scheduled 6:45 PM and I got on. Passengers going to St. Louis were seated in the very last car.
Beer was in the very first car.
I found the last double seat and sat down. Two more passengers got on, a woman and her young son. I gave up the seat and walked up a few seats and sat next to a young lady who was reading The Onion and listening to ear buds.
After the train started, I put my bag on the overhead and began the journey to the car with the snack bar, in the very front of the long train. Bud was $3.50. I got a Carona for $3.75, and trudged back to my seat.
It was so far away I almost got lost.
I finally found my seat and sat down. The young lady next to me was chuckling at The Onion. I watched the trees go by.
Some time after I disposed of my bottle she took off the ear buds and put the paper down. I offered that I was going to the snack car for another beer, would she like anything?
Sure, she'd like some chips or something salty, and started digging in her purse. I waved her off. “don't worry about it,” I told her gallantly, and trudged on up the long journey to the snack car.
It was closed. The dining car was open. “Is there anywhere I can get a beer and a bag of chips?”
“The snack car, downstairs,” the waiter said. “It's closed,” I answered.
“Oh,” the waiter said, “he's eating”.
The snack car was to be closed the entire $32 two hour journey. They sold me another Carona for $4.50.
After trudging back I sadly informed the young lady that alas, the snack car was closed. She thanked me and turned to look out the window.
Presently someone passed a small bag of potato chips up to her. She offered me some, I politely declined. We were in the St. Louis area by then - I could see the arch. I pulled out my phone and called Mike. No answer.
So I called Q.
Presently the train pulled into the St. Louis Amtrak station; I had told Q it was Union Station. Wrong!
I called Q again and told him Amtrak, not Union Station. He'd be there in 20 minutes.
Half an hour later I tried calling Mike again. “We were wondering if you made it in,” he said. “We just got home.” I told him I was having a beer with a guy I knew and would meet him somewhere on the east side; Mike refused to cross the river. I later found out why, the hard way.
Fifteen minutes later I was starting to wonder where Q was, so called him again. “Man, it's crazy,” he said. “I'm three blocks away and I can't get there! All the streets are blocked. You could probably walk faster.”
He gave me his description, which was rather fortunate as he didn't look much like the picture I'd seen. Of course, I don't look a lot like my picture, either.
Maybe twenty minutes later he pulled up. I opened the door. “Am I getting in the right car?”
“Yeah, you are if you're mcgrew.”
I can't recount much of the conversation on the way to the bar, partly because it's been since last Thursday and I've slept since then, but mostly because he told secret tales of K5 and its denizens. I felt honored - I know secrets even at least one long time K5er doesn't, and it pertains to this person personally. And no, I can't divulge who this person is.
There is a microbrewery down there that Q said was the informal K5 St. Louis Headquarters, which he unfor-tunately couldn't find. St. Louis was crazy; or at least, its political leaders were.
For you non-USians, the whole damned country went crazy since 9-11. Well, maybe not the whole country, just the politicians. Everyone else knows that if something bad happens to them, it will probably be cancer or a drunk driver. Our leaders, however, have been terrorized by terrorists, in utter, desperate agonizing fear of something bad happening that would cost them an election.
So there was no way in hell to cross the river, save going through the deepest blackest most poverty stricken part of East Saint Louis, across the Martin Luther King Bridge.
At any rate, after driving around for half an hour, he finally just pulled in to some random tavern.
Mike had told me not to be too late, so I told Q we could only have a beer or two. We went in and drank one, and I said fuck it I'll have another and pulled out my wallet. Q wouldn't let me pay.
I called Mike again, and he was gone again. Damn. I'd have Q drop me at Jeff’s.
We had a hell of a time trying to cross the river. Every way we turned there was a blocked off street. If annoyance is the aim of terrorism, they've succeeded.
“I'm driving a Fibonacci sequence,” Q joked.
We finally got across the river, and I knew where I was. Well, thirty years ago I would have. I didn't have a clue last Thursday.
We drove around more, and finally I saw a sign to interstate 64. We got on.
A few miles down the road I could see that we were going the wrong way. We turned around. “But we're going back to St. Louis!” Q said. But I knew where I was now. We were going to Cahokia, the once nice town where the oldest church and the oldest court house in or west of the Mississippi Valley is that was now a crackhead and gangster infested slum.
I directed him toward the proper ramp, and we headed down highway 3, down 157, and on to Jeff's house.
Thankfully, Jeff was still awake. “Who's there!” he barked. “Hey, it's Steve,” I answered.
I said goodbye to Q and went in. Jeff was ready to go to sleep. Before I sacked out on his recliner, Mike called. “Hey, we just got home. Did you make it to East St. Louis?”
I wondered if Q would make it out of the ghetto all right.