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Blow Up

If you must drop a bomb, drop it here -- not there

All the post-9/11 buzz about how the Arch is a potential terrorist target seemed a smidge self-important -- there must be dozens of more prominently located landmarks on the bad guys' hit list ahead of our beloved Gateway Croquet Wicket. Then again, news last week that bridges over the Mississippi may indeed figure in al-Qaida's plans was certainly sobering.

Though we're sure area law-enforcement agencies have matters well in hand regarding the obvious vulnerabilities (from Boeing to Monsanto to the East St. Louis refinery row), we got to cogitating about less bald-faced but equally at-risk bull's-eyes.

And that, in turn, got us musing about stuff they'd be doing us a favor by eradicating.

Herewith, then, an annotated list of what we ought to shield and what we'd be better off without:

McKinley Bridge Venice, Illinois -- a town that is Venicelike in name only -- owns the bridge, but that hapless burg is so bankrupt it barely had money to pay the tollbooth operator before the narrow span was closed in 2001 for safety reasons. Illinois and Missouri are searching their pockets to come up with the millions needed to rehab the bridge so it can safely be reopened. If al-Qaida operatives really are serious about blowing up our bridges, they'd do us all a favor by taking the McKinley off our hands.

Sauget, Illinois A 4 a.m. dirty bomb in the Diamond Cabaret would destroy St. Louisans' inalienable right to watch naked women slither down chrome poles while snookered out of our gourds. Take that away, and let's face it: The terrorists have won.

Busch Stadium OK, wait till the off-season. The place is going down anyway, and the savings in demolition costs might be enough to let the state off the hook for the $12 million it's going to cost to remove that pesky Highway 40 ramp.

Riverboat casinos Whatever else they may be protecting, let's just hope the FBI's got an eye on these vital cogs in the region's revenue-generating machine. With Missouri's budget shoestrings tied in a triple knot, the state's schoolchildren can ill afford a coordinated attack on the President or the Ameristar.

St. Louis Centre This downtown shopping mall (when did that term ever sound like a good idea?) is so empty, even the beeper booths are moving out. How about clearing the way for a nice downtown park or, at the very least, some trees and a few benches?

Ted Drewes Frozen Custard stands The custard cups you can turn upside down without causing a grumpy frown are just about the only excuse folks at Maxim, Vanity Fair and Esquire can think of to include our burg in their respective variations on the "Great American Road Trip" story. Melt down Ted Drewes, and St. Louis' sole claim to pop-culture exclusivity is the St. Paul sandwich. (Don't even start with the toasted ravioli.)

Doe Run The nation's largest lead producer is also the biggest polluter in the state of Missouri. Why not solve Herculaneum's little lead-poisoning problem once and for all?

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