Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Missing the Mardi Gras

The Plan:
Fly to Chicago on Friday evening, meet a couple of friends, then drive out to St. Louis early Saturday morning in time for the Mardi Gras parade. Stay overnight in St. Louis, drive back Sunday morning. See the city (if you can ever see a city in one evening) on Sunday. Fly back early Monday morning and head straight to work.

The Problem:

Meeting friends on a Friday evening, and expecting to drink sufficiently little that evening to wake up sufficiently early the next morning.

The Reality:

  • R wakes up at 6, as planned, and begs, grovels, for an extra hour's sleep. Since he's going to drive, and since we're all in the same shape as he is (but too dignified to beg), we aquiesce.
  • R wakes up at 7, and begs for another hour. We agree to half an hour.
  • By the time we're all ready, it's 8:30. After stops to buy coffee and food and for smokes, we reach St. Louis finally at 2:30 p.m. The parade is over, and only its junk remains - debris from the floats, broken beads on the ground. We settle for being tourists, go up in tiny steel cubicles to the top of St. Louis' arch. The view is strangely disappointing, as the trip has been so far. As must be, when strangers decide to be friends taking a trip together somewhere. Starving after no meals throughout the day, there is, really, only one option: alcohol.

The TrainWreck:

We walk into "TrainWreck" - a restaurant / pub / nightclub, and things begin to get happy. Copious amounts of beer and vodka are consumed, happy people at the next table join us, and we all get up and dance (around the tables, thankfully, and not on them), and exchange phone numbers. S calls from Delhi, and I speak to him for half an hour, but have no idea what we spoke about the next day - I only have a vague memory of using the F word fairly often.

R wants to drink on the way back, so I drive back part of the way on Sunday. Open roads, miles of nothing all around, wonderful driving. R plays DJ, inserting CDs and going ga-ga over some song before losing patience and skipping to the next one, till we are at the end of our tether. (It is annoying, when singing along loudly and tunelessly with Billy Joel, to suddenly find oneself singing loudly and tunelessly on one's own while the CD searches for the next track.)

The Madness:

Chicago is big, and R doesn't know his way around yet. But we manage to find our way to a comedy club, where there are some decent performances, then onto downtown Chicago. As we drive around, R, who can barely see straight by this point, shrieks at us desparately to keep our eyes open. "Quick, what's that road? what's that road? Is it Michigan?" "We're on Michigan already, aren't we?", I ask, poking my head out of the window to check. "Shit. OK, so is it Congress Parkway?" And so we navigate on.

The Sight-Seeing:

And so, if you visit Chicago, let me recommend that you see (based on my somewhat unconventional tour, which comprised coming across things more by accident than design, and my even more unconventional and somewhat pickled tour guide who made up for his lack of information with liberal doses of scorn, alternating with careless inventiveness) the Millennium Park (which we saw from a distance, and which, as per R, "has some structures and shit"), the famous Chicago theatre (which is "famous for some shit") and the Magnificent Mile (a mile of road on Michigan avenue, famous for shopping, but with some old architecture that is interesting). The Millennium Park, R says, letting go of the steering wheel and gesturing grandly with his arms to the near-detriment of the car in front of us, is the biggest park in the US. P and I both look suspiciously at him. "Bigger than Central Park?" "Oh, Shentral Park!" says our guide, "yeah, that might be bigger. OK, sho it'sh the shecond largesht." Moments later, he tells us that Chicago's Hard Rock Cafe is the second oldest in the US. A moment of thought, while we just look at him suspiciously. "I jusht made that up", he tells us proudly. "Do you even know this city?", I ask him. "Not really", he says in rare moment of honesty, following it up immediately with another whopper. But to do him credit, he does find his way to the House of Blues (where we missed B B King playing the previous night), entirely by the hit-or-miss method of "that looksh short of familiar, let'sh go that way", and eventually does manage to find his way back home.

The Epilogue:

I sleep through the ride to the airport the next morning, and all the way back on the flight. So we missed the Mardi Gras parade, and so we didn't end up doing anything we couldn't have done in New York or Chicago... but it was a fun trip anyway. And it's fun to have strangers become friends.


Pictures are here

Further update: cross-posted here


shakester said...

thats a lot of interesting shit.
sounds like fun- but what a bummer you missed the parade. what's next?

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

1 - There's a great short story in here. Fill in the dialogue. Go write it.

2 - Billy Joel, did you say? Aahhh .. to be on a highway singing along to our Long Island homeboy on "The Downeaster Alexa"!

3 - Most appropriate music - Paul Simon on "Take me to the Mardi Gras".


progga said...

Yep. 90 miles and hour (with the occasional scanning of the horizon for sneaky cop cars parked behind bushes), with Billy Joel, S&G, The Police, a little Nirvana, some Beatles, Springsteen, The Doors, some old stuff - Everly Brothers et al. Mucho fun. The one thing missing was the Going Home track from Alchemy. If I'd had that, I could have lain down and died right there.

AKR: dunno yet. Any ideas? Missed tickets to Gilmour in NYC. The thought of driving down the Montana - Utah area is compelling, but can't happen tomorrow... Nor can Latin America. So... wondering.

Prerona said...

the trip that matter and all. How's Bootle?

Ph said...

Ah, one of the nicest things about the US. Driving. Throw in good music and good company and all looks good in the world.

yesbob said...

nice !! write !!

progga said...

JAP: I thought over your comment, and I agree. Too bad I suck at writing stories.

Prero: Bootle's doing well, thanks! And pics will happen in the fullness of time!

YB: Have you winged your golden way back to the homeland or are you still freezing your ass off somewhere in the land of the leal?

mobius_tripping said...

lol.. hysterical

had visions of asterix and durrell all rolled into one with your comments of "Oh, Shentral Park!" OK, sho it'sh the shecond largesht" ..

whr be pics, of various bits and peices of adventures in new B.B?

progga said...

MT (hah! didn't realize how the abbr looks till now!), it's the B, not the BB, dammit. Adventure pics will happen when the moment is ripe, a la Humphrey.

yesbob said...

oi !! am standing with one leg on the coast and the other in the air stretching all the way across Europe et al towards home...

shakester said...

i'm afraid you are tagged. no, don't moan. sorry. but i'd be interested to see your take.

maverick said...

hey...howz u? btw mitul's in chicago nowadays.

everytime i think abt a train journey i remember your bag flying out...which trip was that? NLDS Goa or was it Hyd?

u shud do a seperate travel blog...yes?

progga said...

YB: those are some long legs, kid. What exactly are you on?!

Maverick, you bring up unpleasant memories. I spent a year re-imbursing the family for the money that went out with the bag! And it was on our way to Nat Cong, Blr (via Hyd - that was some trip! Who the heck did the bookings?)

Wish I'd know Mitul is in Chicago - would love to catch up with him. Send me his numbers.

As for travel blog... yes? You think? Hmmm... interesting. And flattering... thinking about it. But what would it contain - our insane journeys on tops of buses and floors of trains?

maverick said...

i'll mail u the nos.

travelblog is a good idea...other people can pitch in too.

progga said...

interesting thought. let's do it!