Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sundance Rides Again

So, I find myself heading downtown to the Gateway Terminal at 2:00 a.m. on a Tuesday July 17th to pick up my brother, Sundance. He purchased a bus ticket from Chicago to St. Louis. He gave me fair warning of his plans to visit but never a clear indication of his timeframe. I know it will be fun to see him but I also know enough about him to know that having him around is an all consuming thing. He is a Hurricane Katrina survivor from New Orleans. He has visited Thailand and Asia. He is a teaching professional who makes his base of operations for his tennis business in City Park. He’s been a community leader, organizer and activist for the Mid City neighborhood organization. His wife is a twin and since Katrina (2005) she has made the Chicago suburb of Highland Park her home. He is interested in politics, economics, the dramatic arts and popular culture. All of this is fuel for his tendency to take center stage in an ongoing performance one might expect of an all night talk radio program host (never allowing “dead air” and only occasionally permitting callers to ask a question or offer an observation). Sundance will expound on the offered topic or maneuver back to one of his personal favorites so as not to lose control of the show of which he is the star.

He is convinced that he is an easy house guest who will not be any real imposition. He is used to living in modest surroundings with not too many amenities. Our guest room is sparse but clean. We are “empty nesters” with more space than we need. Still an extra person in our house means modified routines and little accommodations that are not apparent to our guest. He is louder and larger than life in many ways. July and August are the months he likes to go on hiatus from his New Orleans routine of teaching tennis, studying acting at a local community college and interfacing with a variety of characters who have managed to keep moving ahead in spite of the hurricane catastrophe that resulted in a smaller city core.

“Don’t feel like you have to entertain me,” he says a few days into the visit. He’s completely content with a schedule that starts around 11:00 a.m. I am a morning person. So is my wife Lynn. In the week he was with us, I scheduled morning meetings (a job interview, a consulting group meeting, a trip to the bank, a few chores etc.). Lynn is running a deli and coffee shop during the week and that leaves me to occupy Sundance. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday activities included (in no particular order): a trip to the St. Louis Art Museum, hitting a giant bucket of golf balls at the Golfport Recreational Center, Going to AMC Creve Coeur Theater premier of the new Batman movie Dark Knight Rises, hanging out at the Galleria Shopping Mall (with stops at Pandora Jewelry Shop, Build-A-Bear Workshop and St. Louis Bread Company).

A highlight of the first three days was securing Sundance’s return ticket. He is going back to Chicago. (He is not in a hurry to get back to New Orleans.) “Highland Park has everything I might need within walking distance, it just isn’t a place where I can function. I have all the doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs in New Orleans,” he explains. “Nevertheless, I’m not ready to go back.” There are many layers and storylines in and around the world of Sundance. Time shifting from first love Suzie Sanders to TMI (too much information) about relationships in the more recent past. Georgetown, San Francisco, France, the Navy, acting class vignettes, tennis, restaurants and sculpture parks. The talk show continues. At times, it is exhausting to follow. The truth is stranger than fiction. But it isn’t all about Sundance – sometimes it’s about Sundance’s take on the news or sports or global warming. If you want to change the subject you have to barge in with an opening line. He will take it from there and run with it…Who is your favorite president? “Living or all time? Well I think Thomas Jefferson for all time but Bill Clinton if you are talking about modern day…Did you know…”     

Impromptu entertaining on a low budget continues through the weekend but I now know his departure plan begins with a train ticket out of Kirkwood, MO at 12:30 (early afternoon) on Monday. Our activities are of the cheap thrills variety and include a visit to Drace Park, a mini haven for dog walkers with a small playground, gardens, a couple of renovated Civil War era vintage structures and visitor friendly park benches. At Drace Park we happen to connect with our father on his 94th birthday. The cell phone call from Tampa (placed by our sister from Cleveland who is visiting Dad in Florida). The call is full of distortion and marginally audible. It is hard to hear but pleasant small talk never the less. Dad sounds happy with the celebration at Greg’s house. My sister, Mary Wasmer (with her signature laugh) with a couple of her daughters visiting from Naples, FL and Greg’s family keep the party going on this July 21, the 94th anniversary of Dad’s birth.

A week went by with chunks of time consumed with conversation sandwiched between retail, movie and eating occasions. We lingered at Five Guys Burgers & Fries, Denny’s, First Watch, St. Louis Bread Company (two separate locations) and watched video of the St. Louis Cardinals capturing the World Series Championship (#11 for the MLB franchise in 2011 – 11 in 11), Atlas Shrugged (the movie) and Andy Griffith with Patricia Neal in Face in the Crowd, a classic B&W film from 1957. Sundance joined Mary Hanson and I on a golf cart docent tour at the Laumeier Sculpture Park. He even tried hard to listen as we pointed out various features of that St. Louis institution (founded in 1976 on the estate of Henry and Matilda Laumeier).  

Before you know it, Sundance and I are enjoying the short wait inside the Kirkwood Train Depot. He boards the Amtrak car with his luggage. The train pulls away. It’s midday but it feels like he is riding into the sunset. I wish him Godspeed!           

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