Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Seven Days in St. Louis

I’m just back home after seven days in St. Louis – and what a time it was! Of course I didn’t get to see everyone I miss – that would take a month or more – but it was great fun. Here are some of the highlights, in no particular order, and with personal mentions of only a fraction of the many people who made the week so very special. (You know who you are!)

First, the hugs! 
Hugging reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and lightens up your mood – so says Psychology Today. Happy to report I hugged dozens and dozens of people, and also laughed with them, cried with them and sat grinning at them as we caught up on present lives, looked back and pondered the future.

Missouri Botanical Garden
Thank you, Henry Shaw! A visit to the garden in April is such a gift, because now that I am fully acclimated to San Francisco’s Mediterranean climate, spring is the season in St. Louis that I tolerate best. And it was glorious!

Because I showed up with a bit of vertigo (if you are old, you too are eligible) and with limited mobility (healing from Achilles tendon surgery takes two interminable years), my friends got a wheelchair and all four of us took turns pushing it. I visited all of my favorite ginkgo trees (top fave pictured above), the breathtaking Japanese garden and the lovely Chinese garden.

I also took in assorted plantings of tulips and daffodils and meandered under dogwood and cherry trees in full bloom. I fed the koi, which are the size of Mississippi River catfish, saw turtles celebrating spring and peered into the ponds across from the Climatron, where no lily pads were in evidence.

Bonus: A rowdy thunderstorm showed up that evening -- and I miss those!

Paying Tribute to Steve Woolf
Spent one evening at a Special Event honoring my friend Steve Woolf, who is retiring after almost 33 years heading up the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. I got to sit by him at dinner, I wrote the program that four splendid actors brought to life and I got to hug Steve as he starts a new adventure. Also, it was a special joy to sit in a theater next to Edward again, something we started 25 years ago. And my ego got a big boost as people I’d never met rushed over to meet me, recalling that I used to be famous!

Excellent Food – Lots of It
Dined with my old writing group at Big Sky, dear friends at Cravings, Layla and Louie (get the amazing hummus!) and caught up with legendary women of the Post-Dispatch over Happy Hour at Llewellyns. Also sat around friends’ tables enjoying wonderful home-cooked food on several occasions. Went to Missouri Baking Company (twice!) for cannolis, cookies, bread and a peanut pastry I’m still thinking about. And Carolyn and Linda both packed homemade cookies for my trip home.

Excellent Lodgings
Thank you to everyone who offered me a bed! I chose to move just once, in the middle of the trip, from Beth’s splendid, spacious new condo to Judy and Scott’s comfy rambling home that comes complete with two cats and my red bathrobe, which lives there permanently. Stayed up until almost 2 a.m. one night in a rowdy gab fest with people I’ve cherished for almost 45 years! (Hit the sack early the next night. We Are Old.)

A Storm of Selfies
Many people took many pictures of me during my visit -- including this one with Stephen Winter! As I looked at each photo, I thought I was looking at my dear Aunt Betty, who is no longer on the planet. Confirmed the remarkable resemblance when I was with one of my cousins, who said with my gray hair I now look just like her mother. So be it!

Received a wonderful gift from former P-D photographer Robert LaRouche – a print of a photo he took of the Mississippi River just below Alton, to remind me that though I yammer on about now living near the sea, I am from a river city. The photo means so much to me! I learned a lot about photography from him while we worked together, and in his honor, I have named every camera I’ve owned “Bob.”   

Favorite Footwear
Sandals! I got to wear my red Ecco sandals! That doesn’t happen too often in San Francisco because of cooler temps. Plus, I have been restricted to Serious Athletic Shoes (Brooks Addiction, which are super supportive) for the last 18 months. I did spend a bit of time in my Grown-Up Lady Shoes (Archipedia’s Mary Janes) and even got to flash the whale tail tattoo above my ankle on the evening I wore my Fancy Palazzo Pants. 

HugFest 2019
When I told Edward about the title I’d given this open house (see above), he asked a crucial question: “Will there be merch?”

There wasn’t, but in spite of the absence of tee-shirts and bumper stickers, memories of the heartfelt reunions with so many people will live on. At one point at HugFest, I was able to introduce my first journalism teacher from ninth grade and the editor of my junior high newspaper to two of my editors at the Post-Dispatch.

At this same gathering, I eavesdropped – a professionally acquired skill – and heard many people recognizing each other from my Facebook page, and feeling like friends though they’d just met. It was a wonderful event, with a great deal of hugging!