It was a lovely last day at the conference. After dancing until the wee hours the night before, we took it easy in the morning and then got to the expo hall to break down the booth. It didn't take too long, but the weather was starting to swell. They had been calling for big storms all week and after eating a delicious sushi lunch, we knew it was coming. I decided that I couldn't let the opportunity to see the world-famous St. Louis zoo slip through my grasp because of a little rain, though.
So I headed to Forest Park to see what I could see, still not caving in and buying an umbrella. It rained while I was on the train to the park but as soon as I stepped off it was sunny and warm, albeit very humid and still building. Forest Park is gorgeous! Expansive manicured green lawns, boathouses, running and biking trails, some sort of pavilion where they were setting up for what I'm sure was a BALLER wedding, all kinds of beauty. There are two museums but I didn't go to either. I was beelining for the zoo.
The St. Louis Zoo boasts a wide array of animals. But the real star was this little 2 week old elephant calf.
Toddling around with his mom - precious.
The animals were tired as it was a hot, sunny afternoon. A while ago my brother and I noted that morning zoo is the best. The animals are more active, it's usually less crowded, and it's just a bit more relaxed. By 3pm, these lions had pretty much had it for the day:
So had these dwarf mongeese (mongooses? mongi?)...
So I walked around the zoo twice and saw tons of animals. They really do have a great (though I hesitate to say it) collection. At one point I saw a Grizzly bear sitting or standing on command from his trainer, accepting treats as he earned them, with a crowd of adoring onlookers. In that moment, I remembered seeing a Grizzly bear in Yellowstone when I went in 2009. Being about 200 feet away from the Grizzly in the wild I thought, boy, I would not want to be any closer. Here, I was less than 50 feet away from captive Grizzly and I wasn't at all threatened. Indeed, the power and weight of the animal's presence were markedly absent. He seemed very tame. This left me a little sad.
I finished with a walk alongside a flamboyance of flamingos, which I mention purely to be able to use "flamboyance" properly as a collective noun. My legs and feet were aching from walking so much so I retired to the hotel to rest, pack a bit, and change for my last night out in St. Louis. I figured I was on borrowed time with the weather anyway so I knew I should seek shelter.
I had been looking forward to this night the most. I had learned that a band I've been listening to and enjoying immensely these last two months, The Mowgli's, was playing at a local dive bar. I thought, this show is MEANT for me to be at. How else can it be explained that I show up for a conference and they show up for a show when they haven't ever played D.C.? Perfect. I had been talking to Joanna about going to this one much-discussed restaurant that was only a block from our hotel all week, but we had never made it. So Friday night I took myself to a nice dinner at Remy's Kitchen and Wine Bar and then to a show at the Firebird.
Then there was a tornado... or three. I walked to the restaurant to begin my evening. Joanna didn't want to come with because she knew what was happening with the weather and didn't want to get stuck out in it. I sat at the bar and made friends with the bartender and a group of four regulars to my right. Eating alone at the bar is almost always fun because you get to meet all kinds of new people. As I tucked into my plate of pan-seared mahi-mahi with shrimp and lentils, the heavens opened. A torrential downpour commenced and the tornado sirens went off. I got a frantic call from Joanna back at the hotel, very concerned that I was not in a safe place. The restaurant let us know that they had a basement shelter that would fit everyone and we would be safe if it came to that. We were tracking the tornadoes and they all seemed a bit to the west and north of us. One touched down at the airport, one hit a suburb a little north of where I was in Clayton, and another even further west.
I decided to continue with my night as planned. The bartender and the locals said I'd probably be fine. That was enough for me. I ordered a cab, which came swiftly and without issue, and headed back downtown for the show. I got there right at the end of the opening band's set. American Author's ended with energy and seemed like they had had a great time performing. I enjoyed the last song they played and was sorry I hadn't heard more. I have been to lots of shows by myself but being on unfamiliar turf I felt really out of place and noticeable.
The Mowgli's totally rocked it. Their EP has been a source of great joy for me over the past few weeks. Seeing it performed and the level to which they live the message they sing about made me even more of a fan. Because it was such a small venue and there weren't that many attendees, I talked to one of the lead singers and writers after the show. I had a few questions about his faith and if he subscribes to a particular set of beliefs or not. He had been a philosophy student and says he doesn't subscribe to a particular faith from East to West. He also was raised Catholic and his first job was managing sound for a huge parish in Southern California. He's definitely taken some of Christianity with him on his journey though. Take a look at their song "The Great Divide" (emphasis mine):
I head east towards the city
and when the sun goes down, I'm heading home again
the city lights have left me empty;
they’ve replaced the stars that used to shine so bright.
So I will smile, and I’ll keep you close.
and when the sun brings in the morning
I know today will be better than the last.
As I turn into the evening,
I pray my dreams will come and I’ll cross the great divide.
Don’t, don’t go changin’
please, please come and save me
With your smile, you keep me close
oh how you move me
with your love, oh how it swept right through me
and with your smile you bring heaven
they say the west is home to reason
so that’s where I’ve gone;
I’ve gone to meet my maker.
and when I find what I was made for
this soul of mine will finally find some peace
So I will smile and I’ll see you there
This message of finding purpose and doing good towards others colors their entire being as a band. They preach from their stage, not an overt message of Christianity but a message that at its heart, aligns closely with that of John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
The band further proved this when, over an hour after their set had ended and I was STILL waiting for a cab to come get me in the crazy weather, they were waiting around and concerned for me getting home safe. Both bands ended up packing up all their gear and saying their goodbyes. I got a ride home from three very kind residents of St. Louis, two of whom were very drunk. It was a hilarious ride home and I so enjoyed meeting the Mowglis and their awesome fans in St. Louis. What a trip! And to the Mowgli's - see you in D.C. real soon.