Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Spirit Of St Louis Bargain Hunt

This fall's bargain hunt was a choice of either going to Madison for a third time or return to St Louis after not being there five years.  It's a story of legends made, or simply another attempt to give a eccentric record collection more off the wall stuff that you don't hear on the radio.  Let's pick the latter on this.

The drive down Highway 218 that's basically the Highway Of The Saints is four lanes all the way.  And the traffic remains tolerable till you get to Troy and then the St Louis crowd starts jamming up the roadways. But first I took a break and went through the river towns of Canton to take some shots of the elevators and farm co ops across the Mississippi.  A more interesting elevator can be found up river, which you can see from US 61.  They look so majestic standing out in the crisp and dusty late fall air.  Last year I made it as far as Palmyra and found they still have the signs up from long forgotten stores such as Ben Franklin and Gambles. Which has now been replaced by Antique junk shops in downtown Palmyra.

Driving down the road, there's a Half Priced Bookstore in Chesterfield which as always I must stop and see what they have to used stuff and did find a couple things, A Webb Wilder signed CD and a Best Of Doctor John.

About St Louis:  red lights and construction.  Every time you go into this town there's both going on and they had the riverfront all messed up, you couldn't cross the street to downtown since everything was fenced in due to new improvements.  A frustrated tourist came up to me and asked if there was anything leading out of the park that you can get to downtown St Louis. Told him there might be one where the stop lights are at but I wasn't that interested of going to downtown.  And that's another thing, anyplace that used to be free parking are now blocked off and prices go from 4 to 10 dollars just to park by the landing, a collection of cobblestone streets guaranteed to knock your car's alignment out.  Heaven forbid if you turned down a narrow street, have a Budweiser truck taking up half the room and another car coming from another direction. So basically I said the hell with it and paid the four bucks just to park the car next to the riverbank and hope I could get out of that without going into the river.

For race relations all of the black folks that waited on me were very friendly and helpful.  The dread locked guitar playing bluesman in University City, the dancing guy in the street on River Boat rides, the two that worked at Red Roof Inn, of course there was more than their share of homeless or ones begging for change. Many of them working on the islands leading to the interstates.  The interstates were full of NASCAR wannabees going 80 plus miles and cutting in front of semis or other drivers getting off the exit ramp.  Which was cause after going into Illinois to go to the Chain Of Rocks bridge, cut caught off and ending up in No Man's Land aka East St Louis itself.  The odd standing building, or others that were set on fire years ago and lay waste into ruin.  I curse at every four way stop signs, long delayed red lights and hoping that I wasn't car jacked.  Finally I located the 203 which  led me out of town into Venice, Madison and Granite City. The 203 snakes through these cities into the coal firing plants that turn everything into black soot and the stink they put off is about a couple steps ahead of the sewer plant.  An interest was seeing somebody washing their car off into Granite City and knowing they were fighting a losing battle. The story rains true for those who look for Route 66 is to keep their doors locked and look straight ahead.  Even when you were getting lost trying to get back on the main drag and what short cut that you do take is basically putting your life in your own hands.  Granite City does have a decent Goodwill and Salvation Army which five years ago, the Army benefitted from the closing of Vintage Vinyl in G.C, I found plenty of 45s there.  Five years ago it's back to the usual although I did pick up a Screaming Blue Messiahs CD and a couple 45s for a dollar 40.

The Chain Of Rocks bridge, which looked spiffy when it was reopened in 2000 and okay in 2009 has been falling back into deterioration once again.  You can NOT  have nothing nice around that area (thanks to the asshole Nando or Nanda who managed to defaced the fire engine on the bridge with his name, truly an fucking jerk for the ages).  The fire engine dedicated years ago, now looks like something from the salvage yard thanks to the local gangs and dipshits that thought it would be cute to carve their name into the sides.  Also, the beautiful 66 signs have been tagged by shitheads and basically defaced.  It's bittersweet to see that the main attraction that  is the reason for me to come out there, I can still walk the mile long bridge and back but with vandals and taggers destroying the beauty this would be my only time to walk on that bridge.  You can't park on the Missouri side, it's been fenced off and you really don't want to.  Your car may not be there when you get back. The Illinois side you can still park.  They put up a nice tribute marker which has a Bobby Troup recording of Route 66 playing in the back ground and the colors on this marker changes color.   But give the vandals and taggers time and they will destroy that too.  When I got there at 4 30 the clouds were rolling in but I managed to take some decent pics of clouds and the sun.  I didn't know it at the time but I noticed the sun looked oddshaped, like a football peaking through the clouds.  Turned out that I made it just in time for a partial eclipse of the sun.  Outside of a couple girls who were on the broken down fire engine and a hippie riding a bike, I basically had the bridge to myself.  Which was alright by me.

I went to about 8 Goodwills in St Louis and found the usual suspects on CD and records, mostly country based, mostly Lawrence Welk and plenty of gospel albums from long ago.  About 15 years ago, the old Blockbuster Music Store on Lemay Ferry Rd was a great place to find CDs but like Blockbuster Video they are now history and A St Vincent De Paul took its place. The old Wherehouse Music stores, all four of them now gone after FYE bought them up and now FYE has only one store on Hampton.  The CD era now over and gone, there's not a lot remain in terms of bargains but I did managed to find five CDs of note and a couple of 45s.  In fact, this trip I took home more 45s than anything else. But more about that later.  The St Louis area is losing another record store. Apop is closing their doors but I didn't go there.  They sold punk music more than anything else and I didn't think it would be worth the effort.  However the best stores remain Euclid, which is in a better part of Webster Groves, University City had Vintage Vinyl but if you wanted to seek out 45s.  It was the Record Exchange.  And for five hours on Friday I made the upstairs of that shop my home.

Vintage Vinyl had a great selection of 45s but they were all on the floor, upon boxes after boxes of them.  But Record Exchange upstairs of 45s is second to none.  I got there Wed night for an hour and decided I needed about a half day to see what they have.  A lot of these records have seen better days and some sold at regular CD prices.  But the fun was finding forgotten songs and getting to hear them on the record player upstairs. To spend 50 dollars on a stack of 45s may have seen a bit too extreme for some.  But I look at it this way, some folks go into St Louis and spend money going up to the Arch or Grants Farm or stroll down Union Station although the majority of stores and food places are now history.  My idea of tourist fun: spending five hours in 45 heaven.  To which I thank the owner of Record Exchange for that.  BTW, they have more records now in there than they used to have five years ago.  I could barely squeeze through the tight aisles full of vinyl albums and boxes of CDs.

The negative about St Louis, the stop lights.  They suck, and every one I come up to would change yellow red in a second, forcing me to put on the brakes and then see my fucking CD case go flying onto the floor.  That happened about 10 times.  The first night in St Louis I begin to wonder if coming down there was a mistake.  I put about 800 miles on the car, about 100 of that came from going down the wrong road getting to a destination and the Econo Lounge I stayed at, the room some dumb fuck that had it before me, unplugged not only the TV but  disconnected the cable so there was no TV that night. I told the night clerk that twice and although he said somebody would come up there to fixed, nobody did showed up.  But I must have been too tired to even notice or care.  But it did pissed me off to never return to that motel.  The Red Roof Inn, next to I-44 was much better although their cable channels sucked and it was pricey (120 Dollars on the weekend) but I didn't think adding another 100 unnecessary miles on the car to look for another place was cost efficient. 

The big story and headlines: The Ferguson protests.  Ferguson sits between 270 and 44 and well out of the way of my destinations so I didn't have to drive through that area.  The second big headlines was that some black son of a Congressman got arrested for robbing convenience stores in the St Louis area, to which the politician dad didn't comment but rather was campaigning.  However I had my share of Quik Trip sweet teas to get me through the trip and although most of the places I ate at were the usual, a Pasta House one night, Long John Silvers the next day, and a couple Mexican places.  For the most part, I didn't get sick although I had to make a run back to motel to use the toilet and onward to the next record store. On a side note gas prices were as cheap as 2.48 a gallon the average priced I would say was 2.79.

By Saturday I decided I had enough of the St Louis fun and returned home with a pit stop in Hannibal.  Since there's hardly any record stores anymore, these Antiques stores have been the place to go seek out vinyl.  I considered trying the Antique store in finding music and hitting a few antique malls to see what they look like.  Both Hannibal and the Granite City Goodwill stores have moved to different places, but they do things differently in Hannibal.  The Goodwill store was open and in a new place but the Salvation Army was closed on the weekends there.  I took a chance on going to a Swap And Shop a block away from downtown Hannibal and seeing what they had.  They had a big tub of 45s and 78s but most of the 45s were old scratchy country records, some Starday 45s would have been nice had they not looked like they were on the highway for a few days.  A lot of mercury Dave Dudley 45s but not in good shape and one was cracked.  Hannibal is a nice tourist trap but just like St Louis and the rest, the taggers and vandals made a mess out of things.  Of course the drivers have the right of way if you are trying to cross the street, you have a walk sign and watching two or three cars turn on ahead.  Nothing raised my ire more than seeing some fat ass cow bitch cut in front of me in her car with her welfare smoking daughter doing the deed and then parking in the spot after the light.  To which pleasantries were exchanged and the middle finger have a nice day ensured.

Overall, The St Louis bargain hunt was for all purposes served its intentions.  To get out of the house and go some place I haven't been before and get lost in a world of 45s and make believe.  And to walk on the Chain Of Rocks Bridge, even though the memory of once was Route 66 is fading away, just like the paint on the side of the bridge as some of it chips off and falls sadly into the river.  Despite it all, I did have a good time down there.

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