Miles: 2962One Mo' Day In St. Louis, Louis
The Scott Joplin House was, well, disappointing. He and one of his wives lived there for only two years. It was the two years during which he wrote the Entertainer, but it wasn’t a big piece of his life. The downstairs was an interpretive center, with a timeline and facts about his life, African American music in general and specifically ragtime. They even explained why it is called rag time. It’s because the beats played by the right and the left hands fall opposite of each other, raggedly. Ragged time, rag time. Those of you who are musically inclined will probably laugh at my description, but that’s the best I can remember it.
Upstairs is the flat that the Joplins actually occupied, along with 4 other people, during the early 1900’s. None of the furnishings were actually his, but were from the time and approximately the sort that someone in their financial situation would have had. Back downstairs we ‘played’ the player piano, which basically consisted of pumping while the piano played the music. We listened to Peacherine Rag and then to a piece from the opera Joplin spent the last few years of his life writing and trying to publish. This was pretty much classical, as opposed to the brothel house music that rag time was. The woman at the museum was very snooty when we didn’t want to listen to the whole thing. So we left.
And went to the City Museum. Holy crap. If you have kids, or know someone who does, or if you’re like us and behave like children, you have to go here. The basic idea is this: take recycled materials, any recycled materials (rope, bottles, cans, industrial rollers, airplanes, fencing, statues, gargoyles, metal of indeterminate usage) and then make a playground out of it. Let kids climb in, around, through and on all this stuff. Let there be no rules to what they can and can’t do. And, oh yeah, create a network of concrete caves inside, complete with pirates and dripping water and a gigantic white whale that blows water every few minutes. These caves were a little too tiny for us to fit in, and after a few bonked heads, we headed for other areas, but the kids were having a blast.
Another area had a huge network of spiral staircases that sometimes led nowhere and sometimes led to slides. The ethereal music, dim lighting and excess metal bits added to the impression that you had walked into an M.C. Escher drawing.
The best part was outside, where a network of ladders, bridges and slides led in a giant maze above the parking lot. A plane leads to a tower with a gargoyle, a spiral staircase leads to a mesh tube which leads to a deranged treehouse. We were exhausted by the time we were through playing. The smart kids brought knee pads. We did not, so we checked out the really museum-y section, which was a bunch of architectural bits salvaged from old buildings in St. Louis. There were gargoyles, facades, rosettes and a whole bunch of other stuff we couldn’t give names to. While driving around St. Louis, we realized we really liked the architecture here, as Keath called it, “The Architecture of Westward Expansion.” Big, not to ostentatious, but not austere, either. A good mix of ornamentation and simplicity.
After our raucous fun ended, we went to Union Station, once a grand rail station, now a mall, to get our penny pressed. We’re collecting pressed pennies, since they are small souvenirs that don’t take up too much room in the van. We had heard that Union Station was pretty much the only place in town to get one, so off we went. Besides the usual mall shops, Union Station also had trampolines in the middle of the courtyard. We had to do it. We paid our money and spent the next three minutes strapped in to bungee cords, jumping and flipping. When we were done, we were REALLY tired. Acting like kids is tiring. Now wonder they sleep so well.
Our next stop was dinner, an Indian buffet downstairs from a Hari Krishna temple. They had wonderful food, exactly no atmosphere, and a creepy old guy who liked to talk. After dinner, we had some errands to do, shopping and such. No fun to write about or to actually do. After that, we went back to KOA for our last night there.