Monthly Archives: September 2012

Crash the Lou

Picture of fountain.

A fountain with unexplained green water.

Crash The Lou, an event I had been looking forward to for a long time, had finally arrived. Stephen and Kevin came to Madison from St. Louis back in July for our couch crash, and they really talked up St. Louis. They did a good job, too: eight people from Madison drove to The Lou for a weekend of fun festivities. Several of us stayed with Stephen and his roommates Aileen and Brion in their spacious town home. They were amazing hosts and put together one helluva crash.

After a quick bite to eat at Food Truck Friday in Tower Grove Park, we headed to the Balloon Glow in Forest Park. A hot air balloon race was happening the next day, and the tradition is to gather all of the balloons together and light them at dusk. The park is huge and thousands of people came to see the colorful display. A sort of VIP barrier prevented us from getting really close, but it was still nice to see, and I got to meet some of the other surfers.

The highlight of Friday night was the City Museum. If you ever get to St. Louis, you have to check this place out. Rather than being a museum in the traditional sense, this is a twelve story building that has been turned into a massive playground for adults and kids alike. I spent hours slithering through the caves, climbing up to the airplane fuselages outside, and even scaling a bell-shaped set of monkey bars on the roof.

As I was waiting in line for the ten-story spiral slide, I leaned against the rail, which was waist-high. I looked over the side, expecting to see the ground just below me, but there was about a one hundred foot drop-off into the abyss. I jumped back, heart pounding, and wondered how they avoided getting sued. Turns out they don't. In fact, they get sued all the time, mostly from people looking to make an easy buck. Please don't do this unless you actually get hurt and it's not your own damned fault! The museum is so much fun, I'd hate to see it close. Also, careful of which railings you lean against.

Picture of dome.

The Hilton's Dome.

On Saturday morning I took an architectural tour of downtown St. Louis with a knowledgeable and energetic guide named Doug. He had tons of wacky facts at his disposal, like how the basilica has writing in four languages, the arch is as wide as it is tall, and how just about every big project the city has ever done cost the same amount ($15 million). We also walked through St. Louis' version of Wall Street, which included several old banks that had been converted into hotels. One of them had an angled floor so the tellers could roll coins underneath the lobby and into the money bin for safekeeping. I think the strangest building we saw was built with sixteen corner offices on each floor so practically everyone working there could feel special (and pay more rent).

After lunching on St. Louis' signature thin-crust pizza at Imo's, we headed back to Forest Park to see the hot air balloons. We couldn't stay long enough to see the start of the race, but somehow we got around the VIP barrier and were able to walk right up to them. Even more impressive than the glow from the previous night was feeling the flames as the balloon operators pumped in the hot air. I almost had to jump back it got so hot at times. You could tell these people really enjoyed their jobs.

Next on the agenda was a tour of the local Schlafly microbrewery. Our guide explained the four primary ingredients that go into beer (malted barley, hops, water, and yeast) and showed us how they created their beers, but after a short time he said “You guys just wanna drink beer, don't you?” Uh huh, yes we did. We got a sampling of four of their beers, my favorite of which was the milk stout.

The Friday night party was possibly the best event all weekend. There was a Rubik's Cube theme, meaning that you show up wearing the six colors of a Rubik's Cube and swap with other people until you're only wearing one color. I left my camera – and incriminating evidence – at home, but suffice it to say it was a lot of fun.

Finally, on Sunday we had a potluck lunch at a local coffee shop/bar in a really interesting neighborhood. I got caught up with friends old and new while indulging in many a culinary delight. At one point, a percussion band walked past the shop and somehow ended up coming inside for an impromptu performance. Awesome!

Picture of friends.

Junerose, Shakela, and I share a laugh.

I'm really grateful to the couch crash's organizers (especially Stephen) for showing us a large part of the city they love. St. Louis has a bad reputation for its high crime rate, but I saw several neighborhoods being revitalized, and it still had the edginess I love in a city. It would be fun to go back and spend a few days walking around and photographing the interesting neighborhoods someday.

More photos from the couch crash.

Prepare to Believe

Picture of kids.

The Creation Museum

I made an enlightening trek to northwestern Kentucky to visit the Creation Museum. It's housed in a 70,000 square foot building with some amazing exhibits, including dinosaur fossils believed to be several thousand years old, and “Lucy” standing on all fours, which included a holographic display of her bones. The museum showed how the Earth looked six thousand years ago, before animals started eating each other and before the modern continents and other geologic features were formed. There were many animatronic animals and humans, including one of Methuselah, who lived to the ripe old age of 969. Some of the other exhibits blamed the problems of the modern world on a lack of faith.

I absolutely loved this museum. Walking around, I could tell that a ton of money and thought went into building it. It was designed to take visitors on a journey and did a great job of evoking powerful emotions through imagery and sound. After my emotional roller coaster, I left the museum in a state of serenity and was glad I came. I'll have to return in a few years when the full-size replica of Noah's Arc is complete.

Click for photos of them Creation Museum.

Back in Dayton

Picture of spacesuit.

Neil Armstrong's spacesuit.

I made the trek back to Dayton, mainly to help Dr. Turk with his website, but we also had time to stop at a few other places.

We started with Wapakoneta, Neil Armstrong's hometown. A museum dedicated to him was just off the highway, which was housed in a golf ball-shaped building. It contained some old posters, space suits, a launch capsule, and even a moon rock, but the main reason to go was to pay our respects to Mr. Armstrong as he had passed away the previous day. He was an American hero who will be greatly missed.

After the museum, we continued our northbound journey to Lima (pronounced like the bean) and had a wonderful dinner with two of Dr. Turk's friends, including smoked barbecue, wine, and an Italian ice cream dessert. On top of that, I made another trip Columbus to visit some friends, and I got to see the small town of Troy, including its impressive county courthouse, when my flight home was canceled. I think I've seen a fair amount of western Ohio now.

We also went south to Cincinnati for a visit to the Natural History Museum, located in a Depression-era train station. The museum featured all sorts of relics of the last ice age, which was important to the area because it was as far south as the glaciers reached. Afterward Dr. Turk took me to the Montgomery Inn for their famous ribs, a tasty lunch.

On top of all that, we checked out the Wright Brothers Museum in Dayton, which clarified the history for me. I knew they made their first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, so I didn't know why the Ohio license plates stated Birthplace of Aviation. Turns out the Wright Brothers were from Dayton, but did a lot of the early testing, including their first flights in North Carolina because its beaches had plentiful wind. However, their first few flights in the waning days of 1903 only lasted a few seconds and the original Wright Flyer wasn't a very functional airplane because it couldn't be steered or landed controllably. The brothers returned to Dayton, where they tested new models of their aircraft at the world's first airport. In September 1905, they finally had a functional airplane that could fly for more than half an hour. They promptly stopped flying so they could apply for patents without fear of a spectator copying them. I'm sure North Carolina has many monuments and museums dedicated to the Wright brothers as well, but Dayton has claimed them as their own.

It was another fantastic visit and I can't thank Dr. Turk enough for his hospitality. He was about to leave for Italy, so the new blog isn't quite up yet, but I'll be sure to include a link once it's ready.

More photos from this Dayton visit.


Picture of craps.

This cigarette tastes sweeter than normal.

As many of you know, my employer decided to shut down its Madison office, so I no longer have a job. It was a sad day when I found out, as I greatly enjoyed working with everyone there. Being a rather large office, we had a lot of stuff to get rid of like refrigerators, televisions, a grill, and an old arcade game called Robotron: 2084. Some of the guys at the office got the idea of having a mock casino night and a raffle to decide who gets to keep what.

The casino was set up with several blackjack tables, a roulette wheel, and a craps table. I decided to start at the craps table and was given a generous $1500 of chips to play with. There were a few rule changes – a “phantom five” was added to the field bet, payouts were rounded up, and most importantly, when someone crapped out on their first try, the dealer gave them a do-over. I wish the real casinos worked like that!

I ended the night with something like $7000, which I exchanged for raffle tickets to be used for individual items. Each employee was only allowed to keep one item, and while winning a grill, television, or refrigerator was appealing, I had my eyes set on Robotron. I decided awhile ago that Robotron is the greatest video game ever invented because of its difficulty and its dynamic nature. There are so many variables, including the layout of the boards themselves, that the game never gets old.

I put about half my tickets in for Robotron, and spread the rest around the more practical items. Prize after prize went by without me winning anything, and then the moment came. Dan M. fished around the many tickets inside the box and called out “Dan Perry!”

I won! Now I just have to figure out how to get it to my house.

Here are the rest of the casino night photos.


Picture of trapeze artists.

Some flying trapeze.

August 24-26 was the annual Orton Park festival on the isthmus in Madison. Among many musical acts, there was a performance by Madison's Cycropia aerial dance troupe. This performance is special because instead of hanging their apparatuses from the rafters of a gym, they use a giant oak tree in the park. It was incredible to see the performers doing complex aerobatic maneuvers on trapezes and hoops suspended from tree limbs. The fact that my former coworker Nataraj was among the performers was icing on the cake.

More Cycropia photos.