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Strip Tease

NHRA burns through Gateway International

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Anxiety-plagued journalist Hunter S. Thompson coined the over quoted phrase, "Faster, faster! Until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death."

Even in our knee-padded, head-protected society, the saying isn't obsolete -- in fact, it's the only way to describe the nitro-fueled menace bound for Gateway International Raceway (700 Raceway Boulevard, Madison, Illinois), the Sears Craftsman NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, Friday-Sunday, June 27-29 (gates open at 9 a.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday).

Anyone who's ever stood up on their pedals and cranked like mad from a dead stop after seeing one of these ultra-carbureted carnivals on television only knows a fraction of the experience. You've gotta haphazardly wander within feet of the staging area just as the top fuelers are heating the tires to get the full experience.

"It's fuckin' awesome, dog!" says Wes Sterr, 17, who shot photos with one hand and shielded his face from the crackling rubber with the other at last year's event. "You wouldn't believe it!"

Believe it, rebuts Pete "Spokesman-of-Speed" Wickham, raceway flack. "Kenny Bernstein will be coming out of retirement to take over the Bud King dragster for his injured son, rookie Brandon Bernstein," he says. "And we'll be racing under the lights this year."

Plug your ears, shade your eyes and double your doses of tablet tranquility for this one -- it's gonna be a nerve rattler. Reserved tickets (all three days for $125 or $40-$55 per day) are available at 866-35-SPEED or -- Tom R. Arterburn

Missing the Extra Point

SAT 6/28

The population-stealing juggernaut of St. Charles is a Bizarro version of its charmingly shopworn sire: sterile, lily white and lacking anything remotely resembling civic charisma.

Consider the Show-Me Believers, the Family Arena's indoor-football antidote to the Rams. The Believers (yes, that's a reference to Jesus) play on a short field, players get checked off hockey boards instead of running out-of-bounds, and the narrow goalposts discourage kicks. Despite the presence of talented receivers such as Moses Regular, this isn't real football -- just like St. Chazz will never be a real city. Rather, it's a cross between American Gladiators and the Turkey Bowl you and your friends play each Thanksgiving. (The Believers final home game of the season, versus Tri-City Diesel, is at 7:30 p.m., $5-$7.50, 2002 South River Road, 314-534-1111.) -- Mike Seely

Yoga Party!

Hangovers created in the bars of Soulard can now be remedied in the same 'hood, thanks to the handful of yoga classes now offered among the district's beer and blues joints. At 1900 South Ninth Street, St. Louis University-certified Debora Miller offers beginners' classes at below-market prices (one class runs $8). Call 314-239-YOGA for more information.

The Soulard Coffee Garden (910 Geyer Avenue) has been testing out yoga in its upstairs gallery space; the schedule is sporadic right now, so call 314-241-1464 for specifics. Next door in the Lafayette Square neighborhood, the new Marbles Yoga Studio (helmed by Karen Weiss, pictured), which likewise calls itself an art gallery (1905 Park Avenue, 314-231-5010) is also getting into the act. -- Rose Martelli

You Go, Ballwin

"Ode to Ballwin Days" (sing to the tune of "The Chipmunk Song [Christmas Don't Be Late]"):

Ballwin, Ballwin Days has come/Watch the parade and have some fun./Funnel cake and crafts galore/games to play, and bands and more./Ride the rides before you're pooped/Like the one that loops-de-loop./Ballwin Days comes once a year/so don't miss all the beer.

It's time to motor west on Manchester Road to the city that's more than 160 years old. With festivities planned for Friday, June 27, through Sunday, June 29, including a parade with thrown candy Saturday morning, the children will be bouncing off the carnival rides in Vlasis Park (Holloway Road at Vlasis Park Drive). Visit for more info or call 636-207-2388; admission is free. -- Alison Sieloff

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