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2005-05-04 - 10:56 a.m.

I’m not sure what it is about these cities. They plaster themselves in towering buildings that tower over huddled streets, and then offer nothing on ground level. Count St. Louis as the second time I’ve been to a city where, despite buildings with a five-thousand person capacity there are only three people walking around the town at any given moment. It’s terribly disconcerting to a New Yorker who expects tides.

But then again, I’m not used to NASCAR commercials either.

I thought my four-year stint in Iowa would prepare me for just about everything one could bump into in the Midwest. I know what a “sack” is. I know what “pop” is. And I know what “monkey fucking” a cigarette is. For those not in the know, monkey-fucking is the practice of lighting your smoke off someone else’s cherry. Somehow that explanation doesn’t seem any less pornographic.

And yet, here I sit, somewhat stunned by drivers with more patches than a hyper-active boy scout, peddling at least two of their embossments at any given moment on any and all channels. Including Lifetime.

‘Why were you watching Lifetime, John?’

Sometimes a very bored man can get caught up in ‘one woman’s struggle against rickets,’ okay? Leave it alone.

Beyond the Monte Carlo’s spinning up Annapolis, I took in the following:

A furniture store ad, where the owner, seated before several shrine like artifices to the Virgin Mary, explained that his store was closed on Sundays, despite it being a big retail day, because the day should be spent on more important things, with one’s family.

The very next ad was a better dressed gentleman flashing his chairs, tables and beds, with toothy grin, and the words writ-large: “OPEN SEVEN DAYS A WEEK!!!” Fuck the Sabbath! Praise Satan, and our Zero Financing!!!

I do love the smell of muckraking in the morning.

Add to this the ad for the Pink Galleon. The ad consisted of a woman curled over a pool table, and lining up a shot. The camera then pans down her frame, to the taut mini-skirt jutting out just past the edge of the table. With nothing but a frame full of tushie, the message “Nice Shot” appears in the corner. To my utter shock, especially with a name like the “Pink Galleon,” this locale was NOT a strip club. Not even Hooters. It was simply a Billards Club and Sports Bar. The ad concluded with a collection of somewhat respectably dressed women, asking you with a smirk to: “Bring the whole family.”

I do believe you’d be shot for that in New York, not to mention your mangled carcass being displayed for at least a week in the Museum of Modern Art.

This is not to say that we don’t appreciate booty in New York, but generally we’re a little more discreet about it. Re: “You look really trimmed down, sweetheart. You’re looking great!” Read: “Man, I wanna spank that ass!”

All of this East Coast mind-fuck was drizzled over the top of the cranium basting that was my journey down here on Southwest Airlines. This particular organization forgoes all that complicated assigned seating, by simply telling you: “Go ahead and find yourself any old stool to squat on, son.”

This then means that instead of praying that the nubile young co-ed will be seated next you, you are offered the opportunity to walk up to said ravishing raven and plead, “Is this seat taken?”

“Oh, my boyfriend is just getting some snacks. Sorry.”

Fifteen minutes later, ten rows back, squished into the window by the rotund business man who decides to lay out every last TPS report since Boys II Men were on the pop carts, along with his laptop, three different snack varieties, and a rather surprising amount of boiled over blubber, you look up to see the girl seated next to an elderly woman, wearing the expression of one just out of a nunnery, stitching together an orange scarf.

M'lady certainly has interesting taste in men.

Thankfully though, rejection is much easier to take at forty thousand feet. Less oxygen and all.

Southwest also makes you pay for your meal, if you want it; a whopping four dollars for the same stale muffin, rubbery sandwich, and pretzels that have the texture of the Sahara. A few people chimed in on the exquisitely prepared meal, but as they dolled out the faux-food, I hear this over the loud speaker…

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking…”

I prepare myself for disconcerting weather conditions, or maybe a small problem with the plane, or, if he were feeling gregarious, a few notes on the topography just out our window. Instead…

“…Ladies and gentlemen…if anyone has change for a twenty, please come to the front.”

On occasion, I use a little bit of exaggeration to make the story better. I think it stands out, and that most people can recognize that I’m engaging in a little light-hearted hyperbole.

This is not one of those times.

I had grabbed a ticket for the Path train from one of their machines a couple days earlier. Unfortunately all I had was a twenty, so the big silver box made my change in a large collection of Sacagawea and Susan B. Anthony dollar coins. With these in pocket I was able to break the twenty, so I plodded my way up to the front.

I dropped the coins into the pilot’s hands and he stared at them.

“Awww, this is not good.”

“It adds up to twenty dollars, sir.”

“Yeah, but I need paper dollar bills.”

“Why?”

“I’m going to the Pink Galleon after the flight.”

I fucking knew it.

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