Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Artistic Adventures of an Ardent Amateur: Annie & the Arch

This weekend Annie (yes, our Annie!) and her sister Jessica came to visit me in St. Louis. I was thrilled to see them, and happy to oblige Jess’s one request: that we visit the Arch.

Having not been to the Arch myself since high school I had forgotten enough about the experience to make another visit worthwhile. And when I invited my brother to accompany us I was shocked to discover that, despite having been born and raised in St. Louis, he has never been to the Arch! Apparently, he skipped that field trip in high school, and has never had the impetus to go as an adult. So when Annie & Jess rolled into town Sunday afternoon, we picked up Buddy and headed for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (aka, The Arch).

[Warning: derail imminent!] Though I know this is an artistic blog and not a political one, I do think it would be irresponsible of me to post about the Arch without at least mentioning that I’m not 100% supportive of the philosophical ideation it represents. I’m not a huge fan (understatement) of Manifest Destiny, or any other ideology that promotes the subjugation of cultures or claims that the USA is somehow inherently superior to other nations. So the fact that the Gateway Arch is a monument that was erected with the express purpose of celebrating “Westward Expansion” and is thus not entirely ethically-neutral is not lost on me. However, rather than deny the aesthetic beauty of the Jefferson Nation Expansion Memorial and refuse to visit, I prefer to increase awareness of the one-sided representation of history, so that hopefully one day soon the museum at the base of the Arch will display fewer fawning descriptions of Lewis & Clark’s journey, and more accurate information about the indigenous cultures destroyed as a result of Westward Expansion. [Derail ends here. You may now rejoin your artistic blog post, already in progress…]

We approached the Arch from the north, and enjoyed the particularly beautiful autumn day, and the lovely sight of leaves drifting lazily to the ground in the park. Jess decided to take a picture of herself, attempting to get the Arch in the background. She succeeded phenomenally!

We went inside and immediately got tickets to go to the top. The tram ride up was the least fun part of the trip, as it seems all of us are, at minimum, mildly claustrophobic, and the pictures of the trams’ interiors online truly fail to communicate just how tiny they are, especially when four adults are crammed inside. Annie had the brilliant idea of taking a picture of our knees, all scrunched together at the center of the car.

We chose a rather cloudy day for our visit, so the view was not particularly breathtaking. I know I had a picture of downtown STL as seen from the top of the Arch, but apparently I forgot to load it from Annie’s camera (perhaps she can add it later when she returns home from her road-trip?) True to form, however, I managed not to let the Cardinals-related picture slip through the cracks, so here is a glorious aerial view of the new Busch Stadium.

[All comments referencing our performance in this year’s playoffs or espousing a pro-Cubs view will be deleted and users will be banned from the site. Just kidding! …sort of]

After returning safely to the ground we wandered the museum for a while, marveling at the extreme 80’s-ness of the animatronics, the walls plastered in photos of the wilderness of Idaho and Montana, and the random 18th century paraphernalia that sat in glass boxes hung on the walls without any plaques or identifying texts. Yes, the Museum of Westward Expansion could do with a makeover for more than one reason. Though, as Annie was generous to point out, the lighting was rather well done.

So, while the Arch experience was not exactly new for me, I thoroughly enjoyed being able to share it with Annie, Jessica, and my brother. It’s funny, when I first considered topics for this series I saw myself adventuring solo most of the time, but I have been blessed with friends and family and have so far had the joy of sharing my experiences with loved ones. But perhaps next week I’ll set out on my own? We’ll see…

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