For all its revelry, there was a somber element to this past Saturday's Party Gras parade in historic Soulard. Sure, Fat Tuesday still beckons after the last Hurricane is swallowed, but it's inevitably anticlimactic. For that matter, so is the rest of the year in the minds of many a Soulardian, for whom Meaty Gras Saturday serves as Christmas, New Year's, Easter and the Fourth of July all wrapped into one tight twelve-hour package of no-holds-barred, full-frontal meatheadedness.
A palpable grumpiness is cast over the fiercely provincial, brewery-abutting neighborhood now that the Friday night fish-fry season is upon us. There were, however, several encouraging signs of progressiveness evident at this year's mega-bender to reflect upon. For one, the crowd was relatively tame, seeing as no one got maimed or killed. And, at least on South 11th Street, in the vicinity of the Meat Street Foundry, there were signs of wry, counterintuitive heckling, as just as many guys were politely asked to drop drawers and break out the lumber as gals were asked to flash flesh.
This migration toward lewd conduct equality is only natural, seeing as the 'Lard's gay population remains ever increasing and less discreet. Clementine's, which again played host to Saturday's Drag (as in guys gussied up in girl gear) Race, now has front windows instead of the traditional gay bar look of either blurry windows or no peepholes at all.
Still, it will likely be a cold day in Hell when Gaylord von Gayenstein and his swishy charges seize control of Soulard's sweetest Saturday from the cavalcade of Blues fans who lord over Russell and Geyer. Henceforth, these goatee-sporting, bleary-eyed, jersey-wearing meatballs are to be officially referred to as Bloosiers -- ha! -- and St. Louis' snappier segments should work steadfastly to mute their influence over this fair city.
Looking for Love
Long a fan of the online hookup, early adopter extraordinaire Unreal figured that in an age when everyone and his grandma is on Friendster, Christian Luddites might have trouble finding like-minded life partners.
In fact, the reverse would appear to be true. Missouri Christian Singles, a dating service that operates -- get this! -- via the U.S. mail, guarantees you'll have plenty of God-fearing technophobes to choose from.
Mark S. Gietzen, director of the nonprofit nationwide Christian Singles Information Exchange (of which the ten-year-old Missouri Christian Singles is a chapter), strongly cautions against using the Internet to find love. "As many as one-third of people in online systems are married people looking for action outside marriage," Gietzen warns. "I know of one guy who was on an Internet group twice as a lady and once as a gentleman."
Missouri, Gietzen reveals, is one of the most active chapters in the Wichita, Kansas-based network, which includes chapters in all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam. About 400 eligibles are on the prowl here, divided into four subcategories: adults with no previous marriage, divorced adults, seniors and teens.
When Unreal balked at the minimum age (ahem, sixteen), Gietzen was quick to counter. "Believe it or not," he says, "among the eighteen-year-olds you already have some who are divorced."
You can fork over as little as $25 to make your address accessible to other members, but if you opt for the $200 full membership, then you're good to go until wedding bells toll.
Applicants must be marriage-minded and pro-life, and are strictly admonished not to seek premarital sex. The service's literature also suggests that you not "base your selection decisions entirely on the photo(s). Read the profiles!" Oh, and "[d]on't lead another person on when it is clear to you that this relationship will not lead to an eventual marriage."
One other helpful hint: "Being overly serious, especially at the beginning of a relationship, is a real turn-off."
In a sexless courtship, though, Unreal has to wonder whether that might actually be a good idea.
Speaking of Christians, recent news reports have noted that Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ seems to be opening disproportionately in god-fearing states. As the smugly unscientific Unreal charticle reveals below, Missouri stacks up very well in this category. They may have more coastline than us, but Missourians will be much closer to Christ than cinephile sinners in more heavily populated states like New Jersey, Washington and Massachusetts.
The chart plots populations (according to the 2000 U.S. Census) of select states against the number of theaters in each state where Christ opens today, Ash Wednesday.
STATE POPULATION # OF THEATERS
Ohio 11,353,140 110
Illinois 12,419,293 98
North Carolina 8,049,313 84
Missouri 5,595,211 69
New Jersey 8,414,350 63
Minnesota 4,919,479 63
Washington 5,894,121 52
Maryland 5,296,486 41
Massachusetts 6,349,097 40
Alabama 4,447,100 37
Bowling's coming to Bellevegas! No, not the cute little game you've been downloading to your cell phone; the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Baby Ruth Real Deal Classic touches down on the east side this week, with preliminary rounds beginning today, February 25 at the St. Clair Bowl in Fairview Heights, and the finals on Saturday at the Bel-Air Bowl in Belleville.
Unreal is so stoked, we called Jim Baltz, curator of the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame downtown, to see if there's any truth to all the rumors we've heard about our favorite sport.
Unreal: Bowling's taken some real ball-bashing in the past, as the sport of beehive-haired, gap-toothed miscreants and perverse pin boys. But bowlers are changing their image, aren't they?
Baltz: You mean Dick Weber's son, Pete Weber -- just inducted into the Hall of Fame? Yeah, he wears dark sunglasses and grabs his crotch -- thinks he's a pro wrestler. Yeah.
Are the former Microsoft executives who bought the pro tour thinking of bringing back stuff like the mid-lane loop and exploding pins?
I don't think their Microsoft philosophy is compatible with running the PBA, but they've turned it around. I think you're talking about cosmic bowling, though. You put up some disco lights, oil up the lanes, put on some music, bring out the colored balls.
Speaking of balls, bowling history tells us balls differed from region to region in the early days. How did our balls stack up?
The Women's International Bowling Congress was founded in 1915 in St. Louis. And Chicago was a huge bowling town.
But I'm talking about performance.
Oh, you mean early in the nineteenth century, when people would saw their balls in half, so they had a sixteen-pound ball on one side and a nine-pound ball on the other side. So it was loaded and would wobble back and forth, allowing a much higher score.
How'd we get off the subject of bowling?
Similarly, in the '70s, in the PBA tournament, people were soaking their balls in some kind of chemical, which caused them to become more porous, rubbery, reactive, and adhere to the lane better.
Sex sells, eh?
Now Is the Time for All Good Men...
Unreal still breaks out in a cold sweat at the memory of high-school typing class. The rhythmic rattle of flying fingers. The ding when the typewriter reached the end of a line. The buzzer. The realization that half of the 40 words typed in a minute were misspelled.
With each passing year, typing drills are inflicted on fewer and fewer teenagers. And for John Orrick, that's bad news. Orrick, you see, is a typewriter salesman and repairman. When he started in the business in 1951, typewriters were the king of communications. These days the Jones Typewriter Company on Manchester Road in Des Peres, where Orrick has worked since 1982, is among fewer than two dozen typewriter stores left in St. Louis. "There used to be two or three full pages in the phone books," the 73-year-old Orrick chuckles.
Orrick, a tall man with thinning white hair and glasses, gently lifts his pride and joy out of a glass case -- a Corona from the late nineteenth century. "This one's not for sale," he advises. Around him, used typewriters are arrayed in various states of disrepair. A few new models are scattered on shelves. When a stooped, white-haired woman walks through the door clutching an adding machine the size of a purse, Orrick greets her. "How are you doing, young lady?"
Who keeps the Jones Typewriter Company in business besides little old ladies?
"The City of St. Louis," Orrick replies, cementing City Hall's reputation as a computer-free zone. "We just sold them several machines." Lawyers, insurance companies and car dealerships also are big customers, he says.
In years past, Orrick would spend summer days in the typing labs of local high schools, preparing all the machines for the coming year. But that was a long time ago, he says. "They don't call us to do that anymore."
We Got Your Task Force Right Here
Unreal was disappointed (and a little insulted) when we discovered last week that St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay had convened a seventeen-member task force to study the funding gap at Lambert Field and failed to include us. "We have to make it more attractive to our customers," Slay told the Post-Dispatch. "Like any other business, we have to offer a good product at a competitive price." With that in mind, Unreal convened our own eighteen-member task force, and we're now prepared to unveil our own proposals.
Cut a canal to the Missouri River, float the whole plot in a moat and rechristen the new development Lambert-Pinnacle Casino and Municipal Airport Complex. What's a few million bucks more to Pinnacle Entertainment, which is already dropping a half-billion into two area casino developments? Bumped from a flight? No problemo. More time to drop quarters in the loosest airport slots in the world.
Tear down the main terminal. The high ceilings are hell on the wallet, and all those fluorescent tubes add up. We can do better! Heck, we've already got a model: the double-wide Amtrak station downtown. Where once trains pulled into the majestic Union Station, when the traffic slowed to a trickle (blame Lambert), the city had the vision to abandon the building and relocate into a trailer. Genius! Just call it "temporary" and the public will soon forget. You never read about cost overruns in the double-wide, do you?
Two words: Webster University. They're still itching to make an impact in the area, to be considered "major players," so why not ditch Webster Groves, quit teasing us with the whole Old Post Office charade and leapfrog over to where MetroLink lands at your doorstep? Plus, the strategic location near a competitor furthers Webster's rumored master plan: invading and conquering UMSL.