The Show Me State. Show me...what?
My plan today calls for a four hour drive from
Saint Louis to Kansas City. I anticipate a quick drive with little
traffic. Who would be out driving across a flyover state on Saturday?
Shortly after leaving Saint Louis, I'm stuck in a twenty mile traffic jam
inching along a freeway flanked by big-box stores and car dealerships.
Show me an exit?
Once free of the traffic jam, I'm zipping along
at 80 miles per hour and noticing increasing numbers of signs reading:
"XXX Movies Here!", "Adult Entertainment!", "COMPLETELY Naked Dancers HERE!",
"Strippers THIS EXIT!". These corrugated metal barns turned entertainment
venues beckon from every exit and billboard. Ah, now I know the reason
for Missouri's motto: There isn't anything Missouri won't show you.
hundred miles outside of Kansas City and I pull over at Stuckeys,
a chain of stores I recall from family road trips twenty years ago.
Stuckeys is famous for their blue roofs and pecan logs (a delicacy I can't
recall my mother ever letting me taste). The temperature is nearly
90 degrees outside. I buy an ice cream cone and stroll around the
building looking at the Adult
Superstore across the street and the adjacent
farmland. In my reverie, I walk by an occupied truck whose driver
is missing more teeth than he still has. He looks over at me and
says with a lewd smile: "How yoo doin' today?" I suspect there
is nothing I want him to show me.
arrive in Kansas City, Missouri, just after four o'clock. The radio
says the temperature is just eighty degrees but the thermometer on the
dash says ninety. I believe the dashboard reading when I step outside.
Kansas City is another industrial city decaying
after the loss of its economic base. I could swing a cow without
hitting another person in Kansas City. The city center is desolate.
Many of the city's buildings sport broken or boarded windows, for lease
and for sale signs. Downtown is filled with blocks of empty, handsome,
tall brick buildings waiting for time or machinery to end their life
My hotel seems to be in the one area still occupied
by humans. Someone is conducting a wedding under the hot sun in the
plaza across the street. (I can't imagine wearing a tuxedo in ninety
degree heat and humidity. Does forcing your spouse to recite vows
while fighting off heat
stroke foretell the future of a union?) People in the hotel seem
to be wandering from place to place without leaving the building - like
computer characters materializing and disappearing at the edge of an arcade
security guard in the Kansas City Southern Railway Building starts
screaming at me when I take photographs of the building from the street.
He waves his arms as if to scare me away while yelling his intention to
call the police. I suspect I'm the only other living being he's seen today
and my appearance on a Saturday in this section of town must mean I'm a
threat to Homeland Security. You can never be too careful when a
nun starts taking photographs.
I leave Missouri and head to Colorado, whose state motto is "Nothing Without
the Deity". Well, I suppose that is better than California, which
sports the motto "Nothing Without the Deficit". Tomorrow,
By the way...yesterday's quip about turning underwear
inside out was a joke suggested by MUNI
Guy, who is now angry I used it with attribution and is threatening
to send angry letters to my publisher to have me fired while Erika
Lopez is encouraging to get me to sell the Road Trip 2003 idea to PBS
(sort of like Michael
Palin but without the cool BBC production staff).
[Click on any photo for a larger