December 20, 2005
I used to think I had itchy feet until I moved to St. Louis. When I lived in Salt Lake City, I found myself on an airplane out of town at least three or four times a year. Denver, New York, Connecticut, San Francisco ... it didn't really matter. At least I was out of Utah. I once had a friend who continually tried to move out of Salt Lake, but something always foiled his plans at the last minute. He compared Utah to God's toilet bowl: As soon as you got to the rim, God flushed. And you were swept down again, never to escape.
Every year, I have to go back to Utah for either Thanksgiving or Christmas. And I am always afraid I'll get stuck there. (Insert apocalyptic flushing sound here). Two years ago, it snowed 20 inches in, I kid you not, 10 hours. There was thirty minutes in which the snow stopped falling. And miraculously, that was the half-hour that our plane was scheduled to take off. Take off it did. I survived a catfight between the lady next to me and the old lady in front of her (hair-pulling was involved!) but I didn't mind, because I was coming home. I hardly ever want to leave St. Louis, but sometimes I have to. In fact, I'll be at Lambert on Friday, damnit.
But in the midst of the paranoia and hand-wringing, I made a really lovely discovery. I'm trying to track down lightweight and easily transported gifts to shove in my luggage; things that my family could never find in Utah. Somehow I found myself at the Museum of Western Expansion on Saturday. Bonanza! What a great place to shop for Christmas presents. First of all, they don't charge sales tax (which makes me feel like I'm in Nevada. Which somehow takes the edge of knowing I'm going to Utah). Secondly, they've actually got some great stuff. At the "Levee Merchantile," where the staff all dresses in period garb, I picked up a "Frozen Charlotte" and a pie bird ; a book on Victorian interior design for my mom; some glass calligraphy pens for my sister and a large bottle of Caldwell-Massey lily-of-the-valley perfume for my grandmother. In the more modern, touristy shop across the way, I found screen-printed reproduction WPA posters of national monuments. I don't know if they were originally printed in purples and acid pinks, a la a psychedlic blacklight poster, but the Grand Canyon looks great that way.
I also hit paydirt at the Cahokia Mounds gift shop, too, with some Lewis and Clark-themed wildflower mix (which includes some of the flowers that our two brave explorers named in honor of each other during the Corps of Discovery). They also had some kick-ass Southwestern katsina dolls, but they didn't have prices on them and I was afraid to ask after spying the not-cheap prices on even the modest necklaces in the display case. Plus, I knew that a little balsa-weight katsina, decorated with real feathers and their delicate quills, would never travel well, even if he rode in my purse.
Tonight, just for the hell of it, I stopped by TFA on Grand, too. For those of you tempted to get lazy and go to the mall, stop! Don't! I found the coolest thing I think I have ever found in there: two Jacmar electric-panel quiz games, "Electric Nature Quiz" and the "Electric Travel America for All Ages." Inside the boxes are foil-covered electric panels with two bent-up insulated wires attached, tipped with rather dangerous-looking metal clips at the end. Also, there are stacks of illustrated quiz cards with hilarious squibs on them. F'rinstance. "Archer Fish: This little marksman shoots drops of water at insects with its mouth, knocking them into the water, and then eating them." From the "Cowboy Life" section of the Travel America game: "The chuck wagon usually has a good cook--serves good, plain food and plenty of it."
This is the closest thing I can find to a They Might Be Giants CD for my sister. I can't get her a They Might Be Giants CD, because she already has all them, plus every Dial-a-Song ever recorded, which she has dutifully downloaded off their website, and burned onto CDs, which are then indexed. Plus, she has a science degree, and she is the only person I can think of who might actually get these things to work.
Now, for my dad. The only think I can think of that St. Louis can offer him--that he'd actually be pleased with--is Delirium Tremens, but they won't let me bring that into Utah. I smuggled out some Polygamy Porter for Amanda Doyle one year, but I'm sure they were happy to see even the tinest percentage of demon alcohol leave the state. Now, when you see me at CBGBs on Tuesday night, you will know why I'll have a beer for each hand. Cheers to you Augie Busch! I'll see you on the other side of yuletide, with bells on.