This past Sunday morning I headed to the St. Louis Zoo to say hello to one of my distant Irish cousins.
There he was in his McDonnell Polar Bear Point home, chilling his big white butt in the pool next to the glass. When I do that, the neighbors complain, but this guy had the kids and parents staring in amazement.
It’s probably a good thing I’m not a parent of a little tyke, because I was thinking, hey if he or she was being a brat, I’d whisper in the whiner’s ear that a polar bear’s favorite snack is a crying child. They taste like seal veal, but a little saltier. You behave, and you don’t get eaten.
Hey, it’s a less expensive way of coercing good behavior than the whole Santa Claus shtick. Still, I would draw the line at dangling the lil’ misbehaven over the side of a big cat pit. Nor would I ever let a child of any temperament anywhere near the den of inequity that is the monkey house.
Anyway, that it was a glorious 55 degree morning in early February left me with a sense of optimism that’s hard to come by in a Midwestern winter. That I was on my second long outdoor walk of the weekend made it all the more enjoyable.
The first involved joining for a second time the St. Louis Mardi Gras parade held the Saturday before Fat Tuesday.
As the floats lined up by Busch Stadium, I came across a tri-colored one promoting the St. Louis St. Patrick’s Day Parade held March 12. From parade chairman Tom Stewart I learned that the St. Louis area has three Irish parades – the one along Market Street, with its related run, one in St. Charles, and one in the Dogtown neighborhood, which is held on the actual feast day, March 17.
We also scored some Irish-themed Mardi Gras beads from these friendly folks, then headed to find the float on which we would ride. They were very polite and said, “Please reveal your furry, unnecessary mammary glands in exchange for these items once used to buy New York City from indigenous peoples” before handing out their baubles. Or not.
While waiting to roll, my friends took Jell-O shots from a stranger. That all seemed too Cosby for my tastes, so I stuck with chewing gum.
Plus, I wanted to be on my A game for throwing beads from the float, a skill I had just started to master by the end of last year’s ride. The key – tossing a couple sets at the same time with the same motion you use to throw a Frisbee.
I was good enough this time that I was aiming for the cups of unsuspecting drinkers. I played with the crowd’s demand for the baubles, asking for which team they were rooting for in the Super Bowl, then (briefly) refusing to toss for either answer. I encouraged the krewe to inundate a ginger with the trinkets, which seemed like an Irish thing to do. Most of the time holding a beverage, mind you.
Task accomplished, it was time to hit the packed streets of Soulard for the Bacchanalian bash, which is a fancy way of saying sandwiching amongst a bunch of mostly younger people, brought to you by Budweiser and his pirate buddy Captain Morgan (who should be in the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie, if I had my way).
Our goal: to make it the eight or nine blocks from where the float dropped us to a place called the Social House, where they had set up a tent next to it to hold 3,000.
Social House bills itself as “the go-to sexy sports bar in the area.” It also has wait staff which puts on pasties and paints on its tops.
Tony Trupiano said he got the idea for this from a Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition – and what straight guy hasn’t been inspired to great things by that? He incorporated the body art projects into the establishment, which opened in 2009, the same year the Cardinals hosted the MLB All Star Game.
I think he said that Playboy Bunnies were involved in some promotion that year, but his staff got more attention. No pun intended. It was hard to hear in the tent with the club music playing.
I do recall Trupiano saying it takes about 25 minutes to paint a lady – an actual woman, not a Victorian home – which seems to happen in a glassed-in salon inside the Social House, where patrons can watch while they watch games, listen to bands, or have a chicken breast sandwich.
Local artists and college art students do the painting.
I was glad Best Fest Buddy Tom left his beret and smock at back in the Fox River Valley.
What I saw going on in the human Earl Scheib inside the Social House reminded that Helen Mirren still remains a good looking woman and was smoking when she was 35 or 40.
A family business, Trupiano’s wife was supposed to be helping out at the giant bash, but being pregnant kept her home, not at the house. So, an aunt who had planned to come to Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood for the weekend was lending a hand, and a buddy of mine – she was filling in for a bit at the wristband tables.
The highlight for me amongst the younguns in the Social House tent was hearing a mass sing-along to Adele’s Hello, which apparently has become this generation’s Freebird, if not its Stairway to Heaven, even if it sounds like Heart’s Alone to me.
Which is to say, I felt old — and that’s not mentioning growing weary of hearing gaggles of young women bantering like Tony Soprano. Note to David Mamet: recast any of your early plays written for actors with millennial actresses.
As the afternoon waned and livers worked overtime, we walked the three miles back to the ballpark area parking lot for the car.
Cleansing our parade palates, we stopped at Parker’s Table near the Cheshire Hotel (where we stayed in the AA Milne Room, with its copy of Winnie the Pooh) and picked up some wine, cheese and pancetta.
The Cheshire staff was nice enough to light the gas fire pit by the closed pool where we sat like tubby kings – but not BB King – to snack before heading out for dinner at Highway 61 Roadhouse, where I, of course, ate the sample of Andouille, ribs, chicken, brisket, cornbread, red beans and rice and defibrillators.
Which is part of why we walked at the zoo Sunday morning. That, and we had time to kill before the brunch at Evangeline’s Bistro with the swing jazz stylings of Miss Jubilee and the Humdingers, plus the griddle art of Dr. Dan (Drake) the Pancake Man.
I had my portrait done in batter, with this version of me looking like the bastard child of Duchovny and Mister Clean.
Drake has built a following on YouTube and has been on regular network TV for his portraits – mine of which now sits in a box in my freezer, like some sort of cartoon coffin.
Brunch is how we ended this visit across the Mississippi, a practice St. Patrick’s Day and more of a taste of another city.
Too bad it turned cold again. Ash Wednesday aside, that’s the penance we pay for living in the Midwest.