Sunday, September 11, 2011

Saturday in St. Louis

When situations allow it, I like to take the Shooter Mom to away Eagles games, despite the fact that we're 0-2 in this so far, and I'm 0-4 in seeing games with my laundry anywhere, or with anyone. It basically gives us both a chance to go have a day in a city we've never been in, and it's what I can do for the woman's birthday. I've spent 30+ years trying to find something to do for the woman's birthday; taking her to games fits the bill well. This year, that's Kickoff Weekend in St. Louis; I'm writing to you from the hotel room.

The flight to STL, even on the weekend of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 debacle, was pretty easy going out. We left on time, got in early, and were able to find the Metrolink light rail connection from the airport to the downtown hotel pretty easily. It's a bit of a dicey ride, as it goes through some fairly tough looking neighborhoods, but in broad daylight and surrounded by other obvious Road Fan types, we never felt out of sorts.

The Shooter Mom has an employee benefit that allows her to stay for a reduced rate at various hotel chains, which led to a night across from the new Busch Stadium, about a half a mile down from the Edward James Dome. We checked in, asked the concierge for a restaurant recommendation, and wound up at Carmine's, an outstanding steakhouse within walking distance of the hotel. After too much food, we decided to check out the Braves-Cardinals game, with a 6:15 local start time.

A few points about Busch; the Midwest is just awfully friendly. I realize this is not news, but still, it's pretty nice to encounter. We were early to the game, which allowed us to see a procession of heartstring tugging moments. In less than half an hour, the Cardinals trotted out an MS kid in a wheelchair, a marching band of war veterans in front of a section of war veterans in fatigues, the sibling of the MS kid, and firefighters, all to honor 9/11 or some such stuff... and then closed with, I Am Not Making This Up, a herd of Mary Kay salespeople in pink Cadillacs, with the winning sales people for the year getting driven out, and the losers left to trudge through the outfield dirt and wave to the baffled crowd.

Now, consider the marketing meeting that was involved in this point... MS Kids, Soldiers, Firefighters and *then* the Mary Kay menagerie. The mind reels. As does the sympathy for the poor staffer who had to walk alongside these creatures and make sure they didn't trample the grass.

Then the game began, and the Cards took a quick lead over our old friend Derek Lowe, who can die of pancreatic cancer and still make me feel nothing but scorn for the Crotch Grab Oakland ALDS Moment. He's got the worst body language this side of Brad Penny, and despite sloppy defense from the Cardinals and Albert Pujols (and in case you are wondering, The Machine looks about as enthused about playing out the string here as Lowe does doing, well, anything), the home team took a quick 4-0 lead in a briskly played game.

Which became slower and slower, and made eventually intolerable by the presence of a nonstop yammering Cardinal Fan Girl (well, she was dressed that way at least) who sat behind us and used up all of the oxygen in the stadium talking about anything *but* baseball. In the middle of the fifth inning, she broke this impressive streak by noticing that Chipper Jones was not, in fact, playing. By the time the seventh inning, the third hour of baseball between two teams we didn't care that much about, and the presence of kids with gesticulating cotton candy and exploding soda bottles... well. no mas. We left near the Stretch with the Cardinals up 4-3, and yes, they held on for the win. With this and the Phillies continued mastery of the Brewers in Milwaukee, the Cardinals hopes are actually starting to spark a little. I hope they can make it a race; these people are nice, so is their stadium, and the world needs more pennant races.

We headed back to the hotel so that the Shooter Mom could get some rest, and I then took a walk down to the Lumiere, the "upscale" casino that's inside the city limits, with a poker room. There, I found a $1/$3 table (it's what they do here, rather than $1/$2), and sat down for 3 hours or less of cards with a $100 starting stake. Things started tight and card dead, but a semi-bluff into a nut flush brought me back to the starting stack. Then the matrix got downright weird, as I got Ace-King off suit on three straight hands, winning just one of the three. At 80% of my starting stack, I started to catch cards, with a pair of 3s turning to trips and boat on the turn and river, and a caller having an unfortunate flush. Nice; I'm off and running, and not likely to get felted.

Then a bluff works out, and Big Slick doubles up as I wind up making a high pair hero call against air. That guy left angry; it's the kind of experience that makes me not like playing in casinos, but I do like his chips. Queens got paid, and with all kinds of chirping chips and a limping pot from the big blind, my 2-5 suited flops the wheel nuts and the board gets no better for the guy that calls. When it's all said and done, I've paid off my plane ticket, dinner and the baseball game, and I'm running back to the hotel and wondering if my laundry is finally going to break the curse tomorrow for me.

In other words, double your bet on the Rams.

More tomorrow, or when I get some more computer time and a Wifi signal...

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