Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Thursday, June 24, 2010
This was a special Saturday for me because Kortney actually drove out to Illinois to pick me up once I was done selling and so not only did I not have to wait around to be picked up by my manager, or wait for everyone else to be picked up too, but I also didn't have to wait an hour to drive home before getting to see my wonderful wife. Definitely the hardest part about selling is the ridiculous hours that we have to spend apart. We've definitely gotten better at making the most of our time together, but that doesn't make the time apart any easier. Today, it was less, and that was good.
So from Alton, IL, where I had spent the morning and early afternoon, we drove along the Mississippi, cutting through Granite City on our way to downtown St. Louis. As we crossed the bridge over to Missouri, the rain was just pouring down on us. It got so out of control that we decided to pull over and wait for it to cool down, I can handle driving in snow (I've spent every winter of my driving life in either Utah or Quebec) but driving in this rain is unreal! There were times when it would be coming down so hard that even with the windshield wipers going at full steam, the rain created an immediate, impenetrable curtain of water that made driving an unsettling experience, and that's not even mentioning the standing water.
We chilled at the side of the road for a while and were rewarded by not only arriving at our destination in safety, but also by this amazing rainbow. It seemed very artistic for God to give us this view right before we rode to the top of the Gateway Arch.
So we finally got into the parking garage and we braved the weather, which at this point had picked up again, and ran to the north base of the arch and underground into the Museum of Westward Expansion. It's a full service museum on the expansion of America into its Western frontier covering the years 1800 to 1900, suffice it to say, there is a lot of information. There are also two videos that they show and of course, the tram ride to the top of the Arch. At places like these, I am always all about having the complete experience, so we bought tickets to both movies and the tram, and just like that, the rest of our day was booked.
The first movie was about Lewis and Clark's Pacific Expedition. It was on their super screen and it was really amazing. I find their story so inspiring. The number of times that they were serendipitously saved is amazing. The movie was modern and very high quality. I am of the mind that Lewis and Clark definitely earned their place in US History and deserve to be considered heroes. Early on in our time in St. Louis we went to St. Charles which was their departure point for the journey. There was a reenactment society there that were in full Lewis and Clark garb and one of them talked to us at length about his experience as part of the 200 year commemoration where they reenacted their famous voyage. Since then, I have really appreciated what it is that they went through and did.
You can ride to the top from either leg of the arch in a train of eight cars that are shaped and colored like eggs. They periodically rotate as you travel up the leg so that you are always upright.
The Arch is awesome. A St. Louis MUST-see. You get an amazing view of the city to the west a bird's-eye view of the Mississippi River to the east. The pictures weren't that great since it was at night, but the view was amazing. Take our word for it.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
This is the billboard I longingly looked at every time we drove by on the freeway. However, this time we were in stand still traffic as we passed it, on our way to the show! I didn't realize we were going the opening week, so the roads were packed and the show was sold out. When we finally snagged a parking place we shuffled along to the theatre surrounded by hundreds of other Wicked lovers with anticipated smiles plastered on their faces. Peter decided to try and run across the street when it wasn't his turn and almost got taken out by a car. Luckily he has cat-like reflexes and managed to jump out of the way, apparently he was little more excited than I thought.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
We're down to five reps in our office so we all ride in the same car each day. Each day we vote on who had the coolest experience of the day, the winner receives recognition in the form of "Shark Points". Well today we had to resort to a tie-breaker because we all shared the coolest exorience of the summer. We spotted a UFO on the way home from selling.
Stop shaking your heads! I am not joking! I have four witnesses that will corroborate my story (that is, if the aliens haven't gotten to them already.)
So there we were, on the road between Nashville, IL (yes, IL) to St. Louis, MO, and right near Collinsville, the guys in the backseat start saying things like "what is that?" "is it a helicopter?" "it doesn't look like any helicopter I've ever seen." I turned around (I was in shotgun) and I was seriously SHOCKED.
The ship was above a field about 80 feet in the air. At this point we had passed it and I was looking at it from behind as we were driving away. It was iike a circular disc with four protrusions, each of them with exterior lights, each protrusion a different color. It was hovering, moving slowly, and rotating.
We quickly lost sight of it since we were on the freeway but before long it had crossed to the other side of the freeway and was once again visible to our left. Maintaining the same altitude, still rotating. We rounded a bend and it was out of view for good.
I'll always be sad that we didn't turn around and go investigate.
For the record, this thing was not big. It was thin looking and about as big around as an average backyard swimming pool. So now I, and you, will forever have to wonder, what was that?
Saturday, June 19, 2010
WARNING: I am about to be a bit cheesy and mooshy. If you are not interested in this section of my post, feel free to skip down to the next paragraph.
These 4 months have seriously been heaven for me. I have always been the girl who vowed I would never get married until after I had performed on Broadway for 20 years. I always put a career before marriage in my mind and I promised myself that, that was never going to change. I was young and stupid then, because if I knew how wonderful marriage would be I would have made that my top priority. I definitely did not plan for Pete...even after we started dating it took me a long time before I let myself fall in love with him. Even after I fell in love there were so many times where I almost ran. Marriage terrified me and I wanted nothing to do with it. Thankfully, my heart conquered and overtook my head and here I am. I get to spend the rest of my life with my best friend and I am so grateful for that. Peter is amazing to me and I love him more than I could ever express. I am so happy! =D
All week Peter has been telling me to keep today completely open because he wanted to plan something special. I have thought about it a little and tried to guess what he was planning. Maybe dinner for two on one of the riverboat cruise ships. Maybe dinner and a movie or the drive in. Maybe we would just stay home and he would cook for me. I knew whatever it was I was going to love it. I am usually terrible when it comes to surprises because I don't like to be surprised. I like to know what is going on so I can plan and dress accordingly. However, this time I was going to let him have his surprise, I didn't mention it or try to get it out of him, not once. Well, it turns out he is just as terrible about surprises as I am. Last night, I was finishing up my work and Pete comes into the living room with an impatient smirk on his face. "Do you want to know what we are doing tomorrow?" he was almost giddy with excitement. I hesitated...but of course ended up saying yes. And let me tell you it was much more than I expected and one of the best surprises ever. Peter and I are going to see WICKED tonight!!
I have been talking about WICKED since the beginning of the summer. It is one of my favorite musicals and the touring Broadway cast is here in St. Louis through June and July. I have seen the show twice before, once in Atlanta and once in Chicago, but I really want to see it again. Plus, Peter has never seen it so I wanted him to experience this amazing musical with me. However, I decided it was just going to be too much money to spend on a show that I have already seen. So, I tried my best to dismiss the idea and stopped mentioning it. However, deep down I have still been longing to see it and every time we pass the huge WICKED billboards on the interstate my heart breaks a little. I guess Peter could sense my longing and decided to make all my dreams come true. Oh man, I am so excited and I know he is going to love it too! This is going to be the best 4 month anniversary ever.
I love him!
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
So anyway, to keep me sane I've been writing some jokes for a glorious return in the fall. One has to do with cereal. When I told it to Kortney it took on a life of its own, and on Sunday, we reaped the rewards.
So it has to do with the wierd ideas for cereal that continually pop up on the supermarket shelves (muffin tops, cookie crisp, french toast crunch) and the wierdest idea of all, Rice Krispies Treats Cereal. Come again? A cereal based on a popular recipe that mainly uses a different cereal? Can it even work?
To me, the idea is preposterous, and I was first introduced to the cereal at Kortney's family home when I first visited them last July. I was surprised but I gave it a chance. I did not like it. I mean, just think about what it is. It basically tastes like regular rice krispies except you do not need to sweeten them at all. They are also a bit more chewy. But then, every once in a while you come across this hardened chunk that seriously feels like biting into a rock. It makes for an unpleasant experience. For some reason though, Kortney loves them.
So the joke revolves around the premise that Kellogg's is clearly not very creative with their product development and so it is likely that if people started making rice krispies treats using their newer Rice Krispies Treats Cereal (i.e. Rice Krispies Treats Cereal Treats) and it got popular enough, they would naturally come out with the newest Rice Krispies Treats Cereal Treats Cereal. And then we would really be able to make some delicious Rice Krispies Treats Cereal Treats Cereal Treats. Well, Kortney loved the idea and on Sunday we made our first Rice Krispies Treats Cereal Treats. I wasn't very hopeful but wouldn't you know it? They are delicious! I'm not being sarcastic at all, they are chewier and sweeter than normal rice krispy treats. I really think I'm on to something. Everyone should try these and then we'll contact Kellogg's about getting the cycle in motion. I see a future filled with ever worsening cereals matched with ever improving desserts.
Monday, June 14, 2010
My Dad is cool too. He rode in the reenactment of the Pony Express for the 150th anniversary of their first ride. Jealous? You should be.
Robert Pershing Wadlow was know as Alton's Gentleman Giant. He lived in Alton, IL most of his life. Peter found out that this man lived not too far away from us, and that there was a memorial site for him there. Of course, we were off to meet this huge man within days.
Robert was born on February 22, 1918. At age five Robert was 5'6" tall and wore clothes that would fit most 17 year olds. At age ten Robert was 6'5" tall and weighed over 200 pounds making him the largest boy scout in the world. And at age 14 he was 7'4" tall. Robert died July 15, 1940 at a height of 8'11.1" tall and a weight of 490 pounds. He was a very active part of his community, known for his positive attitude and gentle manner.
In November 1939, Robert was on a business trip where he met Mr. C. L. Smith, president of Galax Furniture Co. Smith noticed the blatant discomfort Robert experienced when sitting in a normal-sized chair, so he decided to build Robert a chair that would attend to his unusual needs. This chair was used in Robert's home until his death. At the memorial site they have a life-size statue of his chair. It really was huge!
Robert Wadlow is the tallest man who ever lived. I enjoyed learning all about his life, I almost feel like he is one of my friends now. I'm glad Alton, IL decided to let the legacy of this man live on forever.
Now, see that is what a Giant Statue should look like. If you had told me I'd be seeing a giant man carrying groceries on this trip, I would have gladly driven the six miles out to Metropolis.
Well, we got to the "Superman Square" of the town, and honestly, for a touristy attraction it doesn't disappoint. There was a Superman Museum, which for the sake of time, we didn't go in, and a ton of great photo opportunities.
"But wait!" I can just hear you say. "What about the Giant Statue?" Well, after all that, he was in fact there.
Just kidding, that would have been a dissappointment. The real statue was much bigger. But not nearly as big as Big John.
So the detour certainly proved successful. As we did a little bit of reading on the place afterwards, it actually turns out that every year, second week of June, they host Superman Days. A Thursday to Sunday weekend with all sorts of Superman related hooplah: strength tests, costumes contests, movie screenings, celebrity tents. It basically sounds awesome. It was last weekend. We almost went back, but we wanted to go with some of Kortney's TN friends and meet in the middle so that lodging would be cheaper, and when they couldn't come we decided not to take work off for it. Someday though we plan on going to Superman Days, and maybe even winning the $1000 for best costume.
And yes, I did get a haircut, thank you for asking.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Our summer sales situation just got a whole lot better this week. We were finally able to sell the contract on our Provo apartment. That whole situation has been something of a nightmare, from trying to get into it 6 weeks before our wedding, which created a whole lot of unnecessary stress, to trying to sell it four months before the end of its term. And now its over!
As happy as we are to put that burden behind us, we definitely didn't get out of our contract on any sort of favorable terms. in June there are only two types of people looking for housing contracts that only go through August, newlyweds and failed summer salesmen. The newlyweds for some reason just weren't biting and in the end, we were as desperate as to get someone to sign up for it as Brinn and Anjo--a pathetic pair of down and out sellers giving up on the dream in Colorado and returning to Utah--were to find someone who would pay all their upfront costs to move in somewhere. The intersection of our paths was nothing short of fate.
Anjo had seen our ad on Craigslist and even though we were offering 100 dollars off each month, he was intent on haggling. Basically, he didn't want to pay anything at all until July. Since we had already payed June rent I figured that if he would pay full price for the last two months, we would not ask for June rent back. I thought I was being generous.
Anjo pushed his luck even further by asking us to also pay his deposit, which he assured us he would pay back over time. The deposit was $500. At this point we have to wonder how desperate we really were...do we really trust two strangers to hold up their end of the bargain? After serious discussion, we tell them we will front them $400. Again, we are feeling very generous.
Anjo and I had retreated to our respective camps to see what our wives thought of our negotiations. When we got back on the phone again, Anjo has the audacity to tell me that they think they can get a better deal elsewhere...Say what?? What poor suckers are gonna pay a month rent and 400 bucks. Well, I was shocked but I had a pretty good feeling they would come crawling back. We had given them an offer that was essentially unbeatable.
Sure enough, the next day they called back and told us they would agree to our terms. Sadly, it got worse for us when The Branbury told us they would not transfer the rent from our account to theirs and they would have to come up with whatever was left of June rent, at this point $505. Who do you think had to fork over that dough? That's right, us. Fortunately, we'll get that money back within a few weeks so aside from the hassle of coming up with the money upfront, we wouldn't lose anymore. We reluctantly agreed. They would pay 100 dollars of the deposit and we would put up 905 dollars for them to start their new lives. They would be moving in on Monday.
Well, they called us Monday and to my utter astonishment, they had even more demands to make! "umm, we were wondering if it would be ok if you guys paid the full 500 for our deposit because we came across some unexpected expenses on the drive home, so we don't have that money right now..." ??? Are you kidding me? And you're telling me this now?? Who do you think...I can't believe this!
So yea, it took us 1005 dollars plus transaction fees to free ourselves of this Albatross, but, after that final road bump, they did actually sign on our contract (wouldn't you with that kind of deal?) and we are free. We are free at last!
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Forest Park is at the heart of St. Louis. As Peter and I were trying to find fun things to do here, every single website we went to and every person we talked to mentioned Forest Park. It is 1,293 acres, that is about 500 acres bigger then Central Park in New York City. Besides all the normal "park" things (biking, tennis, baseball, jogging, boating, fishing, golf, ice skating, rollerblading, etc...) Forest Park offers many other unique, fun, and free things. This park is home to some of the most popular activities to do in St. Louis, such as: The Zoo, Art Museum, History Museum, Science Center, and Muny Opera. It gets about 12 million visitors each year. Obviously, we have not experienced all these activities yet. You will most likely be hearing about Forest Park many more times in the future. However, last Sunday we decided to go take a bike ride around the park and see what it has to offer. It really is beautiful. I has a place where you can rent paddle boats, a restaurant on the lake, and an amphitheater. I was pretty impressed.
Most things in the park are very normal touristy, park things. However, there was one thing that I have NEVER seen before. This feature of the park is not even on the main Forest Park webpage, though it is on roadsideamerica.com. It is called the Turtle Playground! Turtle Playground was constructed to be a kids area in 1996. It contains 3 HUGE cement turtles (named Richard, Sally, and Tom), 4 small cement turtles (Antonio, David, Adam, and Emily), two cement snakes (one forms a sitting area), and seven cement turtle eggs (three of which have emerging baby turtles). These turtles were sculpted and donated to Forest Park by Robert Cassilly. He sculpted them to resemble real live reptiles, and he did an amazing job.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit St. Louis, Forest Park is a MUST see! And while you are there, you better not leave without taking a few pictures with these huge, awesome turtles! =D
Monday, June 7, 2010
I plotted a group of the rather non-commital attractions (the teeth require a tour, the pencil is part of a larger museum, etc.) and made a route that would take us on a loop of the city, stopping at six points that boasted giant sights. It was estimated to take one hour and forty minutes on MapQuest, the whole adventure ended up taking us about an hour longer, but it was a blast. Here are the highlights of our "Giant Day".
Stop 1--The World's Biggest Wrench
13 miles from our home sits Skyway Auto Repairs, home of the world's largest wrench. It is big. It was built by Branden Strange about five years ago in an effort to promote the auto repair shop. It is 25 feet long, its ends are six feet tall, and it is 10 inches thick. Parking was easy for this one and aside from running across the street to get better perspective on our photos, our lives were not really risked at all. We came, we saw, we marvelled, and we moved on.
Stop 2--The Giant Vess Soda Bottle
OK, we got a little turned around on this one and headed the wrong way for a while, which cost us five minutes of driving time. We had tried and failed to get to this one once before. The pictures online show it lit up at night, and we headed to it at night several weeks ago. We found it, but it wasn't lit, and since certain roads were closed we couldn't get to it without walking through a creepy abandoned worksight in downtown at 12:30 at night. Kortney's vote was no on the one, and I had to respect her wishes. Now we were back. In broad daylight, and coming from the opposite direction to avoid all the pesky closed roads. This one still ended up being the most challenging one to get to.
We pulled off the interstate and certain roads our sometimes-trusty GPS seemed to believe existed ended up being figments of its digital imagination and we found ourselves with no way to turn off from a road that took us on a bridge over the Mississippi and into Illinois. We about-faced and came back to Missouri as fast as we could. We ended up at the same dead-end as we had two weeks ago, facing the same creepy abandoned work sight. This time we were on a mission. We parked and walked.
The Giant Vess Soda Bottle seemed to be in disrepair, which to me was surprising. After some poking around, I discovered that this location was the bottle's second home. At its last location it actually spun around and was lit by neon piping. This made it the largest spinning, neon-lit bottle in the world. This of course is a dubious honor since it suggests there a both larger spinning bottles, and larger neon-lit bottles, and this particular Vess only qualifies for the honor under very specific criteria. Sadly, in its new home it is neither lit, nor spinning, and seems to be well passed its prime.
The good news is, its future is bright. Its new home is a soon-to-be-developed entertainment district, complete with restaurants, casinos, and clubs (none of which are yet built) that will bear the name "The Bottle District". Hopefully during all the construction they will take the time to fix up the neon lights that were missing in many places along the letters of the bottle's label. And while they're at it, maybe they could even make it spin...
Stop 3--Giant Cherokee Indian
This one was a wild card, only about 10 minutes away from the Vess bottle, it was the only one of the six that I hadn't seen a picture of. Only a vague description exists on Roadside America and so it was naturally steeped in a lot of mystery and we drove with great anticipation into the rougher part of town. Apparently the area that the Indian is located in is called Cherokee Station. This statue was commissioned by local businessmen in honor of the name. It was made by Bill Christman whose work is all over Roadside America. This would be our first experience with him.
The only thing that seemed remarkable about this Indian is that it is UGLY. The website said so and we concur. In fact, Christman is quoted as having said "To my everlasting mortification I was the sculptor of that". Well, we found it. Looked at it, and couldn't help but feel pity for Christman. We plan on visiting his studio later on in the summer.
Stop 4--Giant Farmer Fred and his son Clyde
This was a step up from the Indian, although they still kind of look creepy. The history behind these two iconic landmarks is quite interesting. According to legend, a giant creepy clown used to have their spots and vandals actually burnt it down. Supposedly, the locals were actually pleased with the destruction since noone cared much to have a giant creepy clown watching the town 24/7. Mysteriously, these two farmers just appeared and noone knows from where. Anyway, they are pretty cool. We really got a kick out of these two. They are definitely worth a visit.
Stop 5--The World's Largest Amoco Sign
This one we actually came upon yesterday as we were touring Forest Park but we needed gas anyway and we wanted to do it justice. In the context of the day, the sign actually impressed us a lot more than it did the day before. It is seriously HUGE. Not even joking. We had a tough time getting to a good place to take pictures since its right off a freeway exit and we at this point running kind of low on time. But we made it. After filling up the car, we hit the road for the last stop of our Giant Tour.
Stop 6--Giant Shoe of Shoes
Wow. If anything is worthy of a visit, this giant shoe made out of regular-sized shoes is most definitely worthy. We had actually done this once before since its the closest one to our apartment but since we didn't have our camera with us, the return trip was a welcome one. We had about four minutes to spare if I was going to make it to work on time so we booked it. Coming back to it was seriously like seeing an old friend again. This thing is freaking cool. I am a huge fan of this type of thing (giant versions of something made from its regular counterparts) and this one is just so perfect. I want to see more of this type of thing. Definitely an amazing way to end the day.
We zipped home and made it at exactly 12:02, which is the latest you can legally arrive within being counted late. Perfection.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
When I first started poking around for fun things to do in St. Louis, I came across a really great site called explorestlouis.com. This site originally inspired me to get the most out of this amazing city. It is full of really useful information about upcoming events, interesting attractions, and it has a list of the top 25 things to do in St. Louis. Of course visiting the Arch was number one, but the list was surprisingly diverse and interesting. Now if you know anything about me, its that I have a thing for lists. Make me a list and I will accomplish so much more than without one, and this list acted as a great jumping off point for my own list. We have something like 46 or 47 things to do in St. Louis this summer. One by one, we are checking them off.
This Wednesday we checked off number 23: Play Scott Joplin's ragtime tunes at the composer's historic home. That's right, Scott Joplin himself once lived in the heart of downtown St. Louis where it is believed that he wrote some of his most famous works including the Maple Leaf Rag and the Entertainer. Needless to say, this was something we could not miss.
The Scott Joplin House is the only historic house that made the list of top 25 things although St. Louis has several homes on the National Register of Historic Places. It is the second historic home that we have visited where very little details are known about the person's life outside of the body of work they left behind, the first being the Edwin Carter House in Breckenridge, CO. What I find most interesting about these places is the insight they give you into how history actually works. When you hear someone's life story, while visiting some historic place, you take it for granted, but when there is no life story, you wonder why, and then you get a glimpse of the info historians use to piece together the past. The problem with Scott Joplin is that certain courthouses burnt down and marriage records and other such documentation was lost. Furthermore, the only reason people even knew he lived in that house was based on one existing document in a phone book, listing him as Musician, and placing him on Delmar Blvd. I found it so interesting that this whole museum existed only because of one little line in an old phone book. If it hadn't been for that, there would be no Scott Joplin house.
Another thing I thought was so interesting was that Scott Joplin married three times and there isn't a single known picture of any of his three wives. Isn't that crazy? In our day of digital photography, online albums, and facebook tagging, the idea that not a single picture exists of any of his three wives is so foreign. Only six photos of Scott Joplin himself have survived. Since no one knew the legacy that the king of rag time would leave behind, none of his original belongings are around, and the house has been restored to "period". At first, I thought that was disappointing, but you know what, an old stove is an old stove whether or not Scott Joplin ever warmed his feet by it. Touring his house, I really got a feel for what life was like back then, the iron especially was crazy, we have it so easy nowadays. And the washing machine...oh boy.
One interesting insight our tour guide gave us was about the way taxes worked back then. You would be taxed for how many rooms your residence had as well as how many doors you had. Many doors were designed to be more of windows that opened really wide, rather than actual doors, in an early form of tax evasion. Some things never change.
As we ate breakfast that morning, we played a bunch of youTube videos of people playing his ragtime tunes. Unfortunately, I didn't have any memorized and didn't know how I would actually accomplish number 23 on the list which clearly doesn't state "visit the Scott Joplin home" but rather, "play Scott Joplin's ragtime tunes". Problem solved when we came into the ground floor's main room where they have a wonderfully cooperative player piano and an enormous collection of various ragtime pieces to stick in the middle and play. By pumping the pedals on the floor, the piano literally played itself. The piano was open so that the gears and inner workings were visible to all. It was a lot of fun to play.
Here's a video of me giving it a spin, if you look very carefully, you can actually see that my fingers never touch the keys...
I tried to do some tricky camera work, a la Miley Cyrus in The Last Song, (not that I ever saw it...ok, second day in theaters), so that you might actually buy into the illusion.
Success! It was a nice way to start the morning.
Here was what I took away from this experience.
1. Greatness is almost never appreciated at the time.
2. You have no idea what your legacy will be once you are gone.
3. Never believe what you have done is a failure, time casts a different shade of light on the past.
Scott Joplin died of syphilis in near poverty as he spent all his money trying to get his rag time opera Treemonisha off the ground. Kind of depressing. Gutzon Borglum and Eero Saarinen never lived to see the completion of their biggest projects. It seems like a recurring theme in the sights that we have gone to see that one lifetime isn't long enough to accomplish one's full potential. But the monuments that stand to this day seem to say that this fact shouldn't discourage us from trying.