Monday, August 27, 2007

Downtown Weekend

We had two discounted tickets to the Cards/Braves game Saturday night, so we headed downtown for the game. We had other things to do, so, if the game was a dud, we were planning an early exit. By the end of three innings, it didn't look like tonight would be the Cardinal's night, so we headed for the exit.

On the way to the stadium, we had taken a detour over to the new "Old Rock House" music club. They said that under-21s were welcome, and there was no cover charge, so when we left the Cardinal's game, we walked south the few blocks to the Old Rock House.

Exiting the stadium, we walked through the smoking area gauntlet. Busch Stadium doesn't allow smoking in the stadium. Instead, they designate a place on the sidewalk outside the entrance for smokers. When we walked through, there must have been over 100 smokers puffing away. Not a nice setting.

Leaving the stadium area, we walked south under the many trestles and bridges next to the stadium, into an area that is rapidly turning into its own version of Ballpark Village. Nearly every old building, weigh station, and otherwise non-descript odd brick building has become a Cardinal-themed sports bar. Many with outside patios, big tents, quality sound systems, barbeques, etc. Rothschild is converting the long vacant loft building directly across Highway 40 from Busch Stadium into loft apartments.

Seeing the acres of surface parking lots on the south side of the ballpark made me wonder: would St. Louis support TIF or other public/private financial structures to redevelop some of these parcels into new mixed-use, parking underground, housing/office developments?

Continuing south, Matt had the urge to climb one of the abandoned bridge abutments near the Ralston Purina campus. During the week, downtown workers park their cars on the closed brige. Today, it appeared an urban relic. Matt expressed an interest in hiking across the old steel bridge someday, and an overall desire to move to the area.

We passed the 1940-vintage, Eat Rite Diner, and then the 1911-built Monroe School (not sure if the name is right). A couple more minutes, we arrived at the Old Rock House. The Post ran a nice feature this weekend on the Rock House, so we wanted to give the place a try. They have a huge sidewalk cafe area, which was packed with customers.

Inside, the music hall is first rate, with live acts performing daily. They are encouraging local bands to appear. Combined with Lucas School House, there are now two new classy music halls opened in the past 12-months on the near-near South Side.

We ordered a shrimp appetizer. At a little over $10 for 5 "jumbo" shrimp, I thought we might have been getting a little skewered on the price. Not at all. These shrimp were big and heavy, and if served as a main course would be more than filling for one person. Highly recommended. The seasoning tasted like a Baltimore/New Orleans crossover. Excellent, and worth a return trip to try more of the menu.

Inside the Old Rock House, there are huge flat screen TVs, and we could see that the Cardinals were getting back in the game. We walked outside to the patio, and from there you have an unobstructed view of the Arch and neighborhood kids playing hoops on the playground in back of Monroe School. We made a note about this being a good spot for future firework watching, and Matt made a note about possible future pickup b-ball games on the school yard.

We left the Old Rock House, with plans to get the car and drive over to the Lucas School House. We walked backed to our car in the Kiener Plaza garage. Twisting the key in the ignition, the car wouldn't start. The game was now in about the 7th inning, with the Cardinals clinging to a 1-run lead. Downtown was buzzing with pedestrians. We called one of our friends still at the game to line up a ride home.

With an inning's worth of time to kill, and Hooter's on the corner, we figured it was as good a place as any to wait out the end of the ballgame. Our Hooter's girl gave new meaning to the term ditzy, but she was very nice. She asked us if the Braves got a base hit, did that mean that the Cardinals would get to bat again? She told us she was a veteran of the Iraq War. When Matt asked her if she'd killed anybody in Iraq, she got a puzzled look on her face said she couldn't answer that question. She was sitting on the bar stool next to him, leaning closer, and asked, "do you have a girlfriend?".

He smiled, and said, "no".

She leaned a little closer and asked, "Do you want one?"

About this time, the game was in its final moments. Then Jason Isringhausen recorded a strikeout to seal the victory for the Cardinals. We headed outside to wait by the naked-running-man statue in the Kiener Plaza fountain for our friends and our ride home.

The next morning, Sunday around 9:00 AM, I arrived back downtown to retrieve the car. Hardee's, home to the "Thickburger" and one of the garage tenants, has installed nice new tables and umbrellas on the 6th street side of the garage. Along with Joseph's, and across the street at TGI Fridays, there are now three sidewalk cafes lining 6th Street at Kiener Plaza.

A tow truck driver appeared, and I hailed him over. He helped me get the car out of the garage, but when he quoted me $85 for the tow, I said, "hey, this is supposed to be AAA". He was the wrong tow truck driver. He said he saw the AAA driver headed down the road.

So he loaned me his cel phone, and I called AAA back to send another driver. I gave him ten bucks for his trouble, and proceeded to wait for driver number 2.

It's now about 9:30 AM on a Sunday morning, and there are more people on the sidewalks than during a typical weekday morning. 30 minutes later, and still no tow truck. So I flag down one of the CID Downtown Guides, and he loans me his cel phone. (Note to self: if you're gonna drive two old cars, better get a cel phone for emergency use...).

Standing by the car on Chestnut, on the sidewalk between Hooters and Hardee's, a nice looking young woman with done up hair and nails, chatting on her cel phone comes walking by. She was wearing short-shorts and a tank top. As she got closer, I could see that the shorts she was wearing were actually Sponge Bob boxer shorts, the same kind my six year old nephew wears. She had underwear showing under her boxers, so I guess this qualifies for acceptable dress in public?

About now, driver number two arrived, hitched up the dead car, and we caravaned our way to down South Kingshighway.


Anonymous said...

Don't forget about sidewalk seating at Lion's Choice, the Bread Company, and also the wrap place and the little breakfast place across the street. In nice weather, Hooter's opens up to the sidewalk too. Also, Curry in Hurry has sidewalk tables.

UrbanReviewSTL said...

Yeah, get a cell phone already! Maybe even get a family plan with 2-3 phones so you can all stay in touch. At least one for each driver of the old vehiles!

It has been great to see the increase in sidewalk dining around the garages you mention --- certainly an improvement. I'm not a fan of hooters but I like the garage doors they installed for opening the place up to the sidewalk. Did you see the South Park "Raisins" episode?

I'll have to check out the Old Rock House but I am bothered by the taking of half the street there.