Saturday, July 1, 2017

Signs Of The Times In St Louis

Today marked the biggest day of driving on our trip. We went from Bowling Green, Kentucky, to Kansas City, and after three days on the road I am pretty tired. This is fine, because we will be hitting the town in KC tomorrow, instead of hitting the road.

One of the best sights on the road today was crossing the Mississippi River, in St Louis as it perhaps flows mightiest at this point, absorbing the massive Missouri. We are hoping to get a closer look at St Louis on our way back to New Jersey, since I haven't really hit the town there since 1995. A lot of what I saw in St Louis today was a lot less inspiring than the river vistas, however.

My wife and I both like watching the signs on the highway, since they tend to reveal a lot. For example, once we saw a sign for a Joe's Crab Shack we knew that we had entered the more affluent outer suburbs, where the more upscale chain restaurants can be found. In St Louis I was taken aback by the number of aggressively Christian billboards, more than I've ever seen in an American city. In a big surprise, the Catholics seemed to be taking part as enthusiastically as the Bible thumpers, with billboards featuring the Virgin Mary mixed with those decrying evolution. It was at least interesting to see some ecumenicism when it came to simplistic billboard theology for a change.

As common as these religious messages were, they may have been outnumbered by tons of advertisements for casinos. I found all of this rather depressing, as these billboards often overlooked empty warehouses and abandoned buildings. St Louis' population loss rivals that of Detroit, and in the wreckage shysters are looking for easy marks whose despair can be manipulated into church pews or the craps table. Either way, the house always wins. It's also a sign of America writ large, where the search for easy, billboard-length answers to jarring changes has led to the current disaster in the White House.

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