Vacationing at home

| February 1, 2008 | 20 Replies

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.

arch landscape in snow - lo res.jpg

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).

            old cathedral in the snow - lo res.jpg

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:

arch illuminated - portrait2.jpg

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 . . .

Epilogue

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.

arch landscape 6am.jpg

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.

                reflection of old courthouse.jpg

 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.  

Arch - snow - 9 am.jpg 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little photo “safari.”

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Category: American Culture, photography, Whimsy

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (20)

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  1. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    That brings back some memories. When I was 5 years old, I spent the summer with my grandparents in Belleville, who had been a welder on the Arch during its construction, took me watch a Cardinals game at Busch Stadium.

  2. Ben says:

    You are a lucky man Erich. Well, you know what I am trying to say. My dad used to work on trials and things. Definitely not a 9-5 job when the brief needs to be written, but my dad made time for us too. Sorry, if I missed it in the your post… case dismissed, I guess that means you won the case? Congrats.

  3. Ben says:

    You are telling me that that arch does not even stretch across the river? What a let down! Kidding, it is actually very nice, excellent camera work too.

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    Ben: thank you for your kind comments. Regarding the trial, an unusual thing happened. The lead attorney for the defendant (I rep'd the plaintiff) got very sick and had to go to the hospital. The judge called a mistrial. When he gets better, we'll try that case again.

    You know full well the time commitment of trial law. To adequately serve my client, I sometimes have to be at work every waking moment, for days in a row. You've probably heard that phrase: The law is my mistress.

  5. grumpypilgrim says:

    "…a jury case that ended in a mistrial when the opposing attorney was rushed to the hospital with internal bleeding."

    Wow, I never knew litigation was such a blood sport. In all the lawyer programs I've see on television, I've never seen one where side puts opposing counsel in the emergency room.

    Hmmm…maybe this sort of thing should happen more often: it might cut down the number of frivolous lawsuits. ;)

  6. I'm going to give you proof of my short attention span – in which state is St. Louis actually? How many inhabitants does it have? What's the next big city? Are most bloggers on Dangerous Intersection from St. Louis?

  7. Erich Vieth says:

    Proj:

    A bit about St. Louis. It is in Missouri. The next biggest Missouri city is Kansas City. St. Louis has about 2.5 million in the metro area. About half of the bloggers on DI are living in St. Louis.

    Thanks for asking!

    How about reciprocating. In what city do you reside, etc.

  8. Dan Klarmann says:

    The "next big city" that anyone overseas has heard of is Chicago, about a 6 hour drive north-ish, depending on traffic. Memphis and Branson are also "nearby" cities that are internationally known.

  9. Gerry Connolly says:

    Erich,

    Thanks for sharing the story of a special time for you and your family – plus some great photos. I think we have a similar outlook regarding whats good value when "going away". I too had a snow day with the children on Friday, and we took things at an easy pace. Our youngest swept off the neighbor's steps and sidewalk without anyone asking. Our neighbor called to see if we'd go sledding down at the Notre Dame convent in Lemay where her sister lives. The children and a friend had a great time in virgin snow on a long slope, separated from the Mississippi by a railroad line (minimal risk) and a large stinky pond. The view will be ruined by the new casino in a year or two. The receptionist later told my neighbor that they don't allow sledding and sometimes the cops are called on unwanted sledders. When we got back to pick up the kids they had not been apprehended so we breathed more easily. We didn't hear a peep out of the kids on the way home. Reading, suduko, music, cooking and modelmaking have all made up part of a fun couple of days. So far the TV hasn't been on. I know I've had time to relax when I pull out some vinyl to play. Its time to reconnect with the family…thanks for the posting.

  10. Vicki Baker says:

    Great Arch pix, Erich.

    Also, for Prokektleiterin: St. Louis was very much a German-speaking city for much of the 19th century and into the 20th. The St. Louis Art Museum has a world-class collection of German Expressionist and modern art (Beckmann, Richter…) I lived there 1984-1994, with Dan K.

    Btw, is the SLAM still living up to its inscription "dedicated to art and free to all?" And do people still go sledding on Art Hill?

  11. Erich Vieth says:

    Vicki: Yes, people still flock to sled at Art Hill. Problem is that it doesn't often snow in St. Louis. I've lived here all my life and it seems like it used to snow more and more often than it has for the past 10 years.

    As far as the mission of the St. Louis Art Museum, http://www.stlouis.art.museum/ I don't know how to answer that, although I do enjoy going to the museum. I will have to leave that topic to those who are more knowledgable than me on that topic. The museum has no cost of admission, except for special exhibits. They've recently announced an ambitious expansion plan. http://www.stlouis.art.museum/index.aspx?id=174

  12. I live close to Munich and soon will move there. I guess, most people know it – Lederhosen, Dirndl, Oktoberfest, Gemütlichkeit (lately I see everybody talk about this), etc.

    According to IHT it's the #1 of the world's top ten most livable city – nice. I'm not sure about that, but it's ok.

  13. Dan Klarmann says:

    I liked living in Munich. But I was there for the first half of 1973, just after the Olympics. I loved the Deutsche Museum, and spent hundreds of hours there. Perfect for an 11 year old science geek.

    We actually lived on the ourskirts, near the Gronsdorf S-Bahn station. Back then it cost me about $0.10 (0.35 DM) to take the clean and efficient bus, train, and subway into town, where a bag of roasted chestnuts would keep my hands warm on the walk to the museum, or a slab of Schwartzwalder Kirschtorte at the Kaufhof sugared me up afterwards.

    Both the city and the museum seemed much smaller when I visited them in 1984.

  14. Erika Price says:

    What a lovely idea. I think people often get into a rut about where they live, and run out of inspiration for novel or recreational things to do. Then they drive for hours to go to another city and look at its monuments and museums. We take what we have for granted, and we see "vacations" as rare, expensive, carefully planned-out endeavors. No wonder most of us feel as though we don't get enough of them! Good job showing people that you can find an escape in your own town.

  15. Come to Munich again, Dan! :)

  16. Erich, I always enjoy your photo essays. These kinds of things can come off as pretentious in the wrong hands. Not yours. Plus, you are a damn good photographer!

  17. Erich Vieth says:

    Mike: Thanks for the compliment. To the extent that I've posted some photos that people have reacted to, it is mostly because I take lots of photos and I delete 3/4's of them. I only show 1% of the remainder. Therefore, I don't claim to have a very high "batting average."

  18. That's where you're WRONG Erich! Art is in the editing, don't forget that.

    There are two disciplines one must cultivate in order to be a good artist. First, be prolific. Produce a lot! Then refine your eye or ear so that you can tell the good from the bad and NEVER EVER let anyone see your bad stuff! (Which will be most of it!)

    I've seen the contact sheets of some very famous photographs. You'd be amazed at how many times the photographer got it wrong before s/he got it right.

  19. Erich Vieth says:

    Mike: I admit that I edit almost everything I publish. Cropping, if not a whole lot more. I should have mentioned that.

  20. P says:

    Erich,

    Thanks for the pictures and the story. As a St. Louisan living in CA, its not always easy to get information or images that really drive home exactly why I miss St. Louis, but the combination of snow and the Arch really brought me home for a few seconds.

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