Best Time Machine

The Friends of Scott Joplin

These days, it's hard to see the appeal of the 1904 World's Fair. Yeah, it gave us hot-dog buns and ice-cream cones, not to mention Forest Park, but that song! "Meet me in St. Louie, Louie, meet me at the Fair..." Maybe 104 years ago people actually enjoyed hearing it, but now that we've endured many off-key warblings, it just makes us believe even more fervently that the past is another country. Fortunately, unlike Cuba or Tibet, the country of 1904 has not yet been sealed off completely. The Friends of Scott Joplin have compiled A Circle of Friends, a CD of the St. Louis ragtime composer's music, recorded by local musicians. Write to the Friends and get yourself a copy. Then some rainy day, pop it in your car stereo and go out for a spin around Forest Park, past the World's Fair Pavilion and the Saint Louis Art Museum. You notice some movement between the pillars and colonnades of the old buildings. Looking closer, you see women in long skirts and men in straw boaters cakewalking to the same herky-jerky rhythm that fills your car. Funny how you never noticed them before. But of course! you realize. You're listening to the music of the king of ragtime. You're at the greatest fair the world has ever seen. You can't believe it. Right here where you live. Right here in St. Louis!

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