I just finished with an intense period of work, including trying part of a jury case that ended in a mistrial when the opposing attorney was rushed to the hospital with internal bleeding.
Trying lawsuits can be exhausing work. Really exhausting. My wife (Anne) saw that look in my eyes, and insisted that I could really use a day or two to recover. She suggested that I spend a night at a cabin at nearby Pere Marquette State Park (in Grafton Illinois). This was really tempting, but I thought twice about doing that when I called the park and I was reminded of the cost of $125 for one night. Did I really earn that sort of retreat? Did I want to travel that far to “get away?”
I considered plan B: stay at home. This would offer me the advantage of being with my wife and children, and I’ve really been craving time with them during the many evenings I’ve recently spent at work. But Anne insisted, “You really need to get away and do nothing for a day.”
Then I considered plan C. I visited Priceline for the first time last night. This site gives you a chance to bid what you think a hotel is worth. I got the idea of doing something I’d never done before: taking a vacation in my hometown, in downtown St. Louis. But I didn’t want to spend much. Therefore, I placed a bid of only $40 for one night at a three star downtown hotel (you know some things about the hotel, such as the rating, but you don’t know the exact hotel you might end up staying at). To my surprise, my bid was accepted. Therefore, I’m now at my “retreat” in downtown St. Louis, right on the riverfront, at the Millenium Hotel. I suppose that hotels are much happier to make something for a room rather than nothing (but I now wonder whether I could have gotten this 26th Floor river view room for even cheaper).
How close to the riverfront am I? This close.
As you can see, it’s snowing today, which has brought a winter mood to the arch and the riverfront. I found myself taking dozens of photos from my window. [BTW, I’m using a consumer grade digital camera, the Canon S1IS). In this photo, you are looking northeast, through the arch. Just beyond the arch is the Eads Bridge. Just across the Mississippi River is Illinois. In the foreground, you can barely see the top of the steeple of The Old Cathedral, the oldest Catholic Cathedral west of the Mississippi. Here’s the entire church (this building was constructed in 1834).
It occurred to me that this “retreat” was too wonderful not to share. Further, my wife Anne has been working hard on her MFA in writing back at home and she needs some solitude too. Wouldn’t it be better to share this “retreat” with my children? That made sense to Anne and me, so I drove all the way home (about 5 miles) and picked up my two daughters (aged 7 and 9) and brought them here to see this spectacular view. Plus, there was more snow in the forecast and a snow day appeared imminent tomorrow (Friday). So we bundled up the children and I took them to my “retreat.” We grabbed some take-out food on the way. My kiddos liked the view, though they loved the cable TV (we don’t subscribe at home). We watched a few delightful cartoons on the Cartoon Network, including “Courage the Cowardly Dog”). Then it was time to capture some night time photos of the arch. We turned off all of the room lights and I got out a tripod. Here’s what happened:
You can see the many spotlights underneath, shooting up to the top as the snow falls from the sky. I love looking at the arch. I never get tired of it. Many people don’t realize that the arch is an optical illusion. It looks taller than it is wide, but its height (630 feet) is equal to its width. The arch is also designed to to have the configuration that is the upside down version of what you’d get if you let a rope dangle in your two hands, spread apart. One whimsical artist, Sigfried Reinhardt, created a cross-section of the arch grounds, showing that the visible portion of the arch is actually the visible part of a huge coat hanger buried in the ground. I haven’t ruled out that possibility yet.
It’s turning out to be a wonderful vacation. I’m getting what I actually needed: a mix of quiet time and time with my daughters. My wife got a chance to focus on her writing. I’m not too far from home; it’s nice to not burn gasoline. The school called a little while ago and announced that there would be a snow day tomorrow. We’ve got our winter coats and gloves down here, so we’ll play on the snowy arch grounds tomorrow. I had a chance to see many moods of the arch, all in a period of less than one day. In fact, the spotlights are now out and the snow is falling so heavily that it’s not even apparent any more that there is an arch.
My little “adventure” is only one step removed from the ultimate vacation at home, where you simply tell the world that you are gone away, but you stay at home, away from all distractions, enjoying your own pillow, food, garden, scrapbooks and music. I’ve sometimes joked that I should become a travel agent that charges people money to arrange a vacation at their own homes–helping to remind them to truly enjoy that place they’ve spent so much time creating to be their home.
In the meantime, I’m signing off. The children have been asleep for three hours–they got a head start on their sleeping compared to me. There’s no guarantee that they’ll sleep in late, as I would be inclined to do. I do look forward to waking up, eventually, and checking out the view . . .
A few more photos from this morning. This reminds me of visits to the Grand Canyon, where you can watch the light differences dramatically change the scene as the day passes. The scene below was taken at 6am; the spotlights had been turned off.
The Old Courthouse (reflection below) is where Dred Scott was tried before a jury. Many people don’t realize that the St. Louis trial court declared him to be a free man in 1847, prior to the Supreme Court declaring him to still be a slave, despite the fact that he lived in a free state (Illinois) prior to the Supreme Court’s decision.
And now, morning is in full bloom and the snow storm is over. I did see something I’ve never noticed before, however. You can notice some snow sticking to the south leg of the arch.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little photo “safari.”