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City Museum, Fritz’s, and USO All In One Day

Tuesday, June 13th, 2006

Tuesday

Quote of the Day: “Alcoholism is a disease, but it’s the only one you can get yelled at for having. Goddamn it Otto, you are an alcoholic. Goddamn it Otto, you have Lupis… one of those two doesn’t sound right.”

- Mitch Hedburg

I don’t even know how to describe today.

After upping my run to an hour (woo hoo, a whole 15 minutes longer than yesterday and yes, it still sucked. Why is this so tough?), we went to the City Museum.

Now I know what you are thinking, “Why is Jason so awesome?” but stop trying to figure that one out and pay attention to the blog.

What you are thinking is “big deal, you saw a museum.” Well, it’s a bit out of the ordinary. It’s not really a museum at all. I have no idea why they call it that but the shortest, most accurate description I can come up with is a kid’s playground on PCP.

Here is what I imagine the inventor pitching to the investors:

Nutjob: “OK, we’ll take a bunch of metal objects that have no connection. Then we will weld them together, making a kind of a zany maze with all kinds of nooks and crannies for kids to discover.”

Investors: “Metal?”

Nutjob: “Yeah, all kinds of sharp metal pieces like parts of airplanes, old machinery, deckplates from ships, and anything else we can scrounge up.”

Investors: “And WHO is your audience?”

Nutjob: “Kids, oh and the parents can play too but some of the spaces will be too small for them to get through but they won’t know this until they are fully committed by crawling down a long tunnel.”

Investors: “Just to be clear, you want to use scrap metal that you weld together to make a big contraption that little kids will play on? Let’s ask the lawyer what he thinks.”

Lawyer: “”

Investors: “It seems the lawyer has fainted. Moving on…”

Somehow they got this thing built and it really defies description. We paid our money (no military discount) and when we went in, Killjoy instantly disappeared into one of the little caves. What is she, 5?

There are many levels, indoors and outdoors, and along with the aforementioned machinery craziness, there are fake caves with fake rockery like you see at big theme parks. The caves contain an intricate series of spaces and some you can walk through, some you have to crawl through and they all interconnect so you never really know where you’ll end up or if you will crawl down a hole that you can’t get through which makes backing up interesting (read: necessary and painful).

Have you ever gone back as an adult and visited an old park and everything seems smaller and toned down even though they hadn’t changed it? This is because our kid minds tend the exaggerate in our memory so it occurred to me that THIS place would seem psychedelic to the extreme to a kid (because it was) so as an adult, it will probably cause irreversible insanity.

Thanks, Killjoy, for causing my kids irreversible insanity.

Another apt description I came up with was that everything was “off” kind of like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Around every corner was a surprise and everything seemed like something out of a Tim Burton nightmare.

Again, irreversible insanity.

They had two versions of a ball pit (easy!), one for little kids and one for big kids. Our kids were in the big pit with about a hundred other brats and you tell me; what do you think is going to happen when you put a bunch of kids in a ball pit? That’s right, dodgeball, baby. Aim for the head you little monsters! Get them before they get you!!!

But there was this somewhat elderly lady working there that would stop them every once in awhile and tell them not to aim for the head. Come on, lady, they are kids and are in a big ball pit. OF COURSE they are going to aim for the head. That’s like asking Starr Jones to go into Ben & Jerry’s and expecting her to order a glass of water.

We were sitting there watching when all of the sudden, Killjoy runs to the little pit, which was completely void of kids, and jumped in without abandon. You should have seen this, she just jumped full on belly flop and when she hit the rubber balls (easy!), they weren’t as accommodating as she thought. In fact, they were pretty much like a solid floor and I will forever remember the image of her hitting that surface; the way her red hair bounced unnaturally as her face slammed against one of the balls and didn’t give an inch. Then, like a cartoon, she sunk down after the initial slam, like quicksand, and disappeared. I almost threw up laughing.

I eventually jumped in (with a little more caution as not to perform a newly dubbed “Killjoy“) and setting the example, Carrie and Killjoy promptly started pummeling me with rubber balls (OK, go ahead, get it out of your system). My lovely wife eventually scored a direct hit to my face when I went up for a block and one squeezed in as I raised my arm, cracking me right in the nose.

OK, fun over. I was done. I got out. Pissed.

After all this fun, my knees were killing me (knock it off, pervs!) and we had dinner at Fritz’s. It was for Stephanie’s birthday and we let Killjoy pick out a fun place for her to go. I had never heard about it but it seems that this place was big on root beer. I had only known of A&W but Killjoy guaranteed us it was world famous. They had a “send free Fritz’s root beer to your deployed serviceman” offer but when Killjoy inquired, they told her it was expired. So even though there was no military discount, Fritz’s scores half a point.

When we entered the restaurant, there was a car parked out on the street right in front with the windows down blaring loud rap music. It was making the restaurant windows shake, you know, totally obnoxious but no one was saying anything about it. I thought the restaurant should say something but it was soon forgotten when we entered and the car drove away.

We were seated outside in the little courtyard and after ordering our food, the car returned with the music bumping once again. We sat there for a minute and I was getting more and more upset. Here I was with my family trying to have a birthday meal with my daughter and some punks were being stupid, ruining it for everyone. I looked around and all the patrons were stealing glances at the car, clearly annoyed, but no one made a move.

When I pushed out my chair, everyone at the table and the entire restaurant was looking at me. I knew I was taking a chance because the potential for trouble if things went bad was high. Plus, I really had no authority. He could tell me where to go and where to shove it as I go there, but I couldn’t sit there and take it any longer.

I walked over to the little fence that separated the restaurant eating are with the street and hopped over it, keenly aware every eye was on me. As I walked up to the car, I really didn’t know what I was going to say. There were a lot of people in the area but it was obvious no one was going to say anything to the driver or they already would have.

It’s no secret that St. Louis is a violent town; Killjoy had told us that much. So I was really hoping this wouldn’t go bad in front of my family. I was kind of hoping no fists, guns, or knives would get involved either. That would tend to put a damper on the meal. But I wasn’t sure. The only thing I was sure about was that this guy was ruining a lot of people’s evening and someone had to do something.

As I walked up to the passenger door which was along the curb and open, I saw a young punk of about 15 or so, sitting in the passenger seat with his legs out on the sidewalk. He was wearing a white wife-beater and obviously enjoying the negative attention the loud music was attracting. I didn’t see the driver yet and really hoped he was going to be of the same age/build.

As I walked forward and it became evident I was on my way to say something, he looked at me and started to get a defiant look in his eye. As I bent down to see the driver, the passenger punk said “WHAT!?”

“I’m not talking to you, punk, shut up.” And I looked right past him.

What I saw in the driver’s seat was a young Hispanic kid that didn’t look like a ghetto rat. He didn’t look all that tough and I was relieved that it wasn’t one of those people that have an intimidating look from the get-go. I didn’t think there would be trouble.

“Excuse me!” I yelled over the music.

The driver looked at me and I said in a firm but polite tone, “Excuse me, can you please turn that down?”

To my surprise, the driver took on a guilty, nervous smile and reached for the volume knob as he looked at the other kid who was still trying to stare me down even though I hadn’t even looked back at him since I told him to shut up.

“WHAT?” repeated passenger punk again.

“I told you to shut up. This doesn’t involve you. (turning to the driver) “Now, there are a lot of nice people out here trying to enjoy a meal and you are disturbing them and me. Please keep the volume down, it’s called common courtesy.”

At that, I raised up and walked off. Passenger punk had sat there frozen after my second demand of him to do so but with my back turned, I heard passenger punk say something. It was too soft to make out and I hesitated ever so slightly, debating whether I should go back to inquire what he actually said or let it go. I figured I shouldn’t push my luck so I let it slide.

As I walked back to my seat, every eye was still on me. I was actually a little embarrassed and the humorous thought hit me that I might have caused a bit of embarrassment to all the guys in the eating area. It may have been a tense moment when the music went down and the ladies were looking at their man thinking or saying “Why didn’t you do that?”

The punks were depending on people’s tendency to “not stir the boat” and knew that no one would challenge them. When they WERE challenged, they folded like a house of cards. The vast majority of these situations would play out just like this one did if people stood up. But the problem is that the small percentage that go wrong gets all the attention and no one wants to get hurt which is exactly what the punks bank on. Hell, I was nervous doing it but my outrage and sense of right and wrong overcame my fear and it all worked out.

My son told me that the young punk stood up and made some gang signs at my back when I walked off. Even Alex recognized the cowardice of doing so when I had my back turned. In a last act of defiance, they turned the volume back up but it was just as they were leaving, probably talking about how they “were” gonna kick my ass and how I “almost” got my ass handed to me.

I’m really glad my children got to see what happened. Not only do they know that I would never allow such behavior from them, I’m also glad they saw that as citizens, we collectively have the right to demand common courtesy and they have a duty to stand up when no one else will.

After we finished our meal, we decided all this was just not enough for one day so we ended up going to the USO at the airport where Killjoy volunteers. We wanted to go incognito and maybe just talk to some of the military members. I didn’t want to advertise that I was a Captain of Marines just for the simple fact that many newly minted Marines tend to freeze up when they are talking to Officers.

It didn’t end up that it was going to be a problem because we struck up a conversation with the most unlikely-looking PFC I had ever seen. It ends up he was 32-years-old.

He looked like the Terminator cop from the second Terminator movie and as we cornered him, we got his story of why he would enlist at such an advanced age (for a new Marine). Like many young Americans, the combination of a life going nowhere and a strong patriotic streak combined to motivate him to join.

He seemed to have a good head on his shoulders and I gave him some advice about what he would likely encounter. I told him he would be put in leadership positions early due to his age. I told him he’s have to PT twice as hard to stay with the younger pack and that wouldn’t be good enough. He’d have to excel, overcompensate to shut the others up. I told him it might be tough at times when someone much younger will be put in charge of him and that he would nothing in common with his rank-peer group and be excluded from his age-peer group due to rank differences.

He appreciated what I had to say and I was impressed with him overall. After we left, it occurred to me why I was so knowledgeable about the subject and it was because I was a 29-year-old Second Lieutenant. I had the same issues when I was a junior officer (they have evened out a little more now that I’m a Captain) so it was easy to recall some of the bumps in that particular road.

What a day.

Free Advice for Today: “No libre.”

- Yo

10 Comments - Join in the conversation below

  1. First, I have to describe the ball pit a little better. When I think of ball pits, I think of the little, hard balls. These weren’t like those. These were like kickballs, so when I did the moshpit dive, it really wasn’t THAT BAD. I did hit pretty hard, but I came up laughing.

    Second, we ate at Fitz’s Rootbeer in the UCity Loop. Not Fritz’s, which is actually a popular St. Louis frozen custard shop.

    Comment by Kill to the joy — July 9, 2006 @ 10:13 pm

  2. Kristi, It is good that you went along or we would all have half of the story! The ball pit and the musuem sounds so fun!

    Comment by Sharon — July 9, 2006 @ 11:23 pm

  3. Sharon, we’re only three days into the trip here on the blog, but I can see I’m going to be doing a lot of clarifying.

    While I’m clarifying, I think it would also be fun to mention that at dinner at Fitz’s Jason and I were at each other’s throats so badly that the kids were actually becoming annoyed with our bickering, not to mention poor Carrie who was playing referee. I don’t remember what we were bickering about, but I do know it was something that Jason kept bringing up and wouldn’t let go.

    Comment by Kill to the joy — July 9, 2006 @ 11:32 pm

  4. I know, for god sakes, I didn’t know which was more annoying, the loud music from the car, or their arguing, I had to leave with my mom to the car, just to get a break from it.

    Comment by Alex — July 10, 2006 @ 1:13 am

  5. Alex, Just remember that when you and Steph are bickering!

    Remind dad how he acted. I remember Chris and Jason doing a lot of that when they were younger. We would hear Moooooooom…Jason did… or Mooooooom…Chris did…

    Somethings never change!

    Comment by Sharon — July 10, 2006 @ 8:33 am

  6. Well I never bicker anymore, even ask my dad. ;)

    Comment by Alex — July 10, 2006 @ 1:40 pm

  7. You and Steph are great kids and I think I only heard you argue once while you were here. I think that was just some good teasing! Remember the marathon UNO game? Oh what fun.

    Comment by Sharon — July 11, 2006 @ 9:32 am

  8. Kill,

    Don’t downplay it. You hit like a B-52 coming in shot up and without landing gear. It was exquisite.

    Second, Fitz, Fritz, Futz, whatever.

    Comment by Jason — July 30, 2006 @ 1:20 am

  9. Sharon,

    Killjoy is a dirty liar. Don’t believe her. Half the time she had needles sticking out of her arms and cussed like Andrew Dice Clay drunk.

    Oh, and you spelled her name wrong but that’s OK, it made me laugh. At her. Like I do. A lot.

    Comment by Jason — July 30, 2006 @ 1:21 am

  10. Kill the Joy, was it the Arch thing? Or the street clothes on the bed thing? Or the bath mat thing? Or the you finishing up the sex-change thing? I can’t remember, there were so many.

    Comment by Jason — July 30, 2006 @ 1:23 am

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