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Meet Me in St. Louis

I've always wanted to go to St. Louis, but in the ten years I've lived in Chicago, just 300 miles up the road, I never went there until yesterday. Patty had to go to read at Left Bank Books, in the west end/Forest Park area of the city. She and her fellow Elephant Rock Books author, Stacy Bierlein, were doing a joint reading as part of their promotions for their books, "The Temple of Air" (Patty) and "A Vacation on the Island of Ex-Boyfriends" (Stacy), both of which were published by ERB in the last eight months.

Left Bank Books is at the corner of a street in a neighbourhood that looks astonishingly like parts of Vienna, or Prague, or the un-bombed bits of Berlin:

Not surprising given the massive German influx into the area in the late 1800s. Home of Budweiser, Anheuser-Busch, and all that. I understand that this area has been through several up and down cycles, and is currently enjoying one of its upswings, with cafes, bars, restaurants, boutiques, interior design shops, and art galleries working out of these elegant old Bohemian style buildings. It felt like a relaxed, low-key, hip but not precious area -- a great place to buy books, read books, and listen to authors read from books.

The reading started at 4 pm, and was attended by a princely, bushy cat called Spike, who is the bookshop presiding king, it seems. Here is a collage of the reading:

That's a bronze statue of T. S. Eliot outside the door -- the great poet was from this city. On the other two corners were statues of two other writers associated with St. Louis, Kate Chopin and Tennessee Williams.

After the reading, we were taken to dinner by Sheena and Dan, owners of the Shlafly Breweries in St. Louis,   at one of their places downtown:

It was an added delight to be hosted by two well-travelled, interesting, and generous people. Sheena is Scottish, which might (or might not) explain why we ended up talking about Curly-Wurly chocolate and Gary Glitter concerts.

Stacy's delightful 7 year old daughter, Elliott, also drew something in my sketchbook:

I know that I only caught a glimpse of one fairly well-heeled corner of St. Louis, but I came back from this 24 hour trip mightily impressed, and keen to go back and spend more time exploring its different neighourhoods.

UPDATE: And I also just found out that Newt Gingrich, who was in town for the NRA convention (grr!), visited the St. Louis zoo and was bitten by a penguin. I love this city!

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