Archive for April, 2009
I know this story is a few weeks old, but I am just now getting around to writing about it. Last month it was announced that the rail infrastructure in Missouri and Illinois is getting not one but two major upgrades! FINALLY!!!
First, it was announced as part of the President’s Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act that the St. Louis to Chicago rail line would be receiving substanital funding for high-speed rail improvements. The stimulus money will effectively turn this train route, known locally as the Lincoln line, into a high-speed train route. Among other things, the Lincoln’s portion of $8 billion total investment will:
· Increase the maximum train speed on the Lincoln from 79 to 110 m.p.h.(!)
· Decrease travel time between the cities from over 5 hours to under 4 hours
· Increase the Lincoln’s on-time efficiency dramatically.
What this mean practically is that the Lincoln will finally be worth riding. On this I speak from personal experience.
When I was planning my March trip to Chicago, I looked at the travel time and potential costs of driving, flying and taking the train. Driving to Chicago takes about five hours, and the cost of gas plus the hotel’s parking lot charge was well over $200. Taking the Lincoln train would have cost about $80 but the trip was almost 6 hours in length. I ended up flying Southwest for $130, and the whole trip took about 3½ hours.
I would have preferred taking the train, but the trip time combined with Lincoln lines’ notorious reputation for running late made me think otherwise. When the improvements are finished, the Lincoln line will be faster than driving and still cheaper than flying.
In fact, rates for the train can run as low as $60 round trip. That’s cheaper than driving when gas goes above $2. And when you factor in that the EL Train makes a car not necessary in Chicago, it’s win-win.
Preliminary work on the Lincoln high-speed line is scheduled to begin this spring, with a 2014 scheduled completion date. That’s only five years! Hot damn I can’t wait to ride that train!
The second rail announcement last month concerned the other direction, the St. Louis to Kansas City line. Right now, this line moves quite slowly due to the existing rail infrastructure. Currently the rail line between Kansas City and Jefferson City is only one line each way.
As you might guess, this causes a problem when the faster moving Amtrak train gets stuck behind a slower moving freight train. Missouri approved the construction of an $8 million side track that will allow slower moving trains to pull over and allow faster trains to pass on the single rail line.
There are currently two passing lanes on this rail line, but they are both too small for freight trains to utilize. Construction of this pass lane will allow Amtrak to travel faster and cut down on the delays for a rail line that is even more notorious for being late than the Lincoln line. Construction is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2009.
Of course, what really needs to happen is the addition of an extra rail line each way between these cities. I’m amazed that there are two lanes each way between Jefferson City and St. Louis, but only one line each way between Kansas City and Jefferson. Can you image the uproar there would be if I-70 was only two lane between Kansas City and Jefferson City? Still, this announcement is good news. And the Lincoln line announcement is great news.
As you may know, I am recent convert to trains. I love riding the train! It’s by far the easiest way to travel. They’re quick to board, motion-sickness free, and they give me plenty of time to read or dick around on my iPhone while in transit.
I think it’s absurd how the United States has allowed its rail infrastructure to crumble since the 1970s. Our government has chosen to subsidize automobile and air travel, and has mostly ignored train travel for almost four decades. For an interesting read on why U.S. rail lines are in such bad shape today, check out the Amtrak Wikipedia page.
Meanwhile, most other industrialized nations have extensive rail systems that run efficiently and effectively. Besides being far cheaper for transporting passengers, trains are by far the most eco-friendly method of travel.1
So in summation, I WANNA RIDE THE TRAIN DAMMIT!
Thanks to President Obama and the Missouri State Legislature for making this goal more attainable.
1 Well, besides walking and riding a bike. And I’m be damned if I’m gonna walk to Chicago anytime soon.
Yesterday was about perfect for celebrating five years with Meg. Spring weather FINALLY came to St. Louis and everyone seemed in a good mood thanks to multiple Earth Day celebrations.
Megs and I enjoyed lots of delicious Italian cuisine and had a fun time reminiscing over our five years together. Plus it was finally warm enough for some ice cream!
This got me thinking about just how significant five years really is comparatively. There are many things in my life that had a profound impact on who I am today, and yet most of them actually lasted less than five years. So in that vein, a here’s a fun little list:
Top 5 Significant Things In My Life That Lasted Shorter Than My Relationship With Megan
1. High School: August 1992 – May 1996
At the peak of my teen years, high school seemed like it was taking forever. In reality, it was only a little over 3½ years long. Even now when I picture Hazelwood West it sounds much longer in my head.
2. Boy Scouts: August 1989 – April 1994
I joined the Boy Scouts in sixth grade and stuck it out until my freshmen year of high school. I managed to get my Eagle Scout by the fall of 1993, which was rather quick by BSA standards. Afterwards I promptly lost most of my interest in the organization; I became rather preoccupied with my high school’s theater program and also with high school girls. I eventually quit by the end of my freshmen year after 4½ years.
3. College: August 1996 – May 2001
This is actually quite surprising to me. Considering that I wound up taking an extra year to graduate from Missouri State, I was still only down in Springfield for a little over 4½ years. Even though I tend to live my life hard and fast back then, it still feels like much longer than it actually was.
4. Any Lease I’ve Signed: June 2002 – June 2004
Since I moved out of my mother’s house the longest I’ve lived in one place was for two years. And even during my two years living in University City, I spent a good amount of 2003 traveling the country for my job at the time.
I did some quick math and discovered that I’ve signed 10 leases in the past 12 years, putting my average stay at 1.2 years. Apparently I must like moving?!?
5. Every Other Relationship I’ve Ever Had, Combined: 1990 – 2004
My first girlfriend was in junior high and my last girlfriend is now my wife. In between that time I managed to date several ladies, but always for relatively short periods of time. Prior to Megan my longest relationship had only lasted one year; most tended to last anywhere from three to nine months.
Even if I estimate on the high side, the combined time would still only be around four years. What can I say? I guess I was just waiting for the right one!
“We’ve got five years, stuck on my eyes
Five years, what a surprise
We’ve got five years, my brain hurts a lot
Five years, that’s all we’ve got”
– David Bowie
In my early twenties David Bowie was pretty much in constant rotation on my stereo. Back then my favorite song of his was Five Years.1
There are numerous things to love about the song: the rhythmic chimes, the throng of background singers, the slow-built crescendo to the ending chorus. But more than anything I remember the lyrics having a profound effect on me. In retrospect, this seems rather strange considering that the lyrics are mostly nonsensical.
Still, there was just something about the way Bowie kept screaming “Five Years!” for the last two minutes of the song that I found captivating. Back then five years seemed like such a long time. It was hard for me to contemplate anything in my life lasting for five whole years.
Well, as of today five years is officially not long at all. In fact five years can breeze by rather quickly.
If it is not already apparent, something rather significant happened five years ago today. It was April 22nd, 2004 when I went on my first official date with Megan.
Even as I type it, I still can’t quite believe I’ve been together with Megan for five years! That’s considerably longer than just about anything I’ve ever done, yet it feels so short comparatively.
It was just over five years ago when I first heard that Megan had moved back from NYC. And not only was she back in town, she was inexplicably single! It seemed too good to be true at first. No one in New York managed to lockdown my high school crush?!?
Wasting no time, I threatened my old friend Josh for several days until he provided me with her in-town phone number. It turned out it was her parents’ number, which required me leaving an awkward message with her father. I felt fifteen again. “Well sir, aahheemm, could you have her call me…”
We eventually decided to meet up at the Delmar Loop. Even though I don’t drink coffee, I wanted to seem cool so I had her meet me at Meshuggah’s coffee. I arrived early and pretended to drink a cup while waiting for her to arrive.
At that point, it had been roughly five years since I had last seen Meg. This left me ill-prepared to meet the gorgeous woman who walked in the door.
For the next few hours, I tried to seem cool while bumbling through conversation. Eventually I managed to trick her into going out on a date with me. While it may have been a little underhanded, it worked like a charm.
First, I casually asked her if she would like to grab dinner later on in the week. She agreed, and I moved on to another conversation. Later, I was talking to her about an old friend and I managed to slip in “Man, DJ is never gonna believe that I’m going out on a date with Megan.” She didn’t renounce my statement, so it was officially a date. Sneaky!
I picked her up for our first date at her parent’s house on a stormy evening five years ago. After stopping by Drunken Fish and ordering the largest cocktail on the menu, we went to dinner at the best Italian restaurant in St. Louis, Trattoria Marcella.
And now, five years later Megs and I are headed back to the same restaurant for dinner this evening. In between these two dinners, we’ve managed to fall in love, move to Florida, get married, and move back to St. Louis.
These past five years have been the happiest and most prosperous period of my entire life. There are countless wonderful things I want to say about my lovely wife. But I am actually planning on telling her in person later this evening, so it looks like you the reader will just have to take my word on it. Suffice to say, Megan is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
So yeah, five years always sounded like a really long time until today. Now it just seems like a piece of something much larger. Five years, that’s not all we got; it’s just the beginning…
It snowed on my way to work on Monday. April 6. Opening day of the Cardinals season.
WHAT THE FUCK?!?
And that wasn’t my only WTF moment this weekend. On Saturday nite, Megs and I went next door to the Tap Room with her best-friend Maggie and her husband Darren for a couple of beers. After a few pints I ran into an old friend of mine, local music all-star Kevin Buckley. We chatted it up for a minute at which time he mentioned that a few people he knows would be stopping by in a bit to play some music.
I didn’t think much of it until about an hour later. That’s when I noticed a rush of folks who started piling into the bar carrying musical instrument cases. Numerous violins began appearing, along with several flutes, a few banjos, a couple of accordions, and even a bagpipe!
Eventually I remembered hearing about some sort of Irish festival that was taking place over the weekend and I put two and two together.
People kept piling in every hour till eventually there were like 75 assorted musicians scattered throughout the bar. Small little groups started playing impromptu little jigs until eventually the whole bar became a collection of Irish hoedowns. Here’s Kevin leading a jig right next to our table.
The music was quite enjoyable and the experience quickly went from being a bit surreal to highly entertaining. The whole thing was rather strange, but I guess one never really expects an Irish hoedown to breakout. Good times.
And now back to the rather ominous snowy start to the Cardinals season. I would be lying if I claimed that I was 100% behind the team the Cardinals is fielding this year. There are more potential problems going into this season than I care to ponder. The Redbirds will need several things to go right if they plan on contending this year.
But I’m a firm believer that the first day of baseball season should be about hope, so I will keep things positive. Assuming the pitching staff stays healthy, I think the team has a great rotation this year. I like that after years of paying lip-service to the idea, the Cardinals are finally relying more on home grown talent from their minor league teams. And I think that the added spotlight on St. Louis from the All Star Game will make the team more determined to succeed.
And while I’m staying positive, I’m glad that I have tickets for tomorrow’s game instead of this afternoon’s game. Good call D! And good luck Cardinals. Bring home another trophy so we can pose for another sweet-ass pic like this!
IT’S FINALLY HERE!!!
Yesterday the first trailer for the upcoming Bruno Film hit the web and I’ve watched it approximately twenty times since then. I encourage you to watch it at least twice; It’s So 2009! Here it is:
While it looks to be roughly the same format as Borat, the set-ups look to be way raunchier. For example, last month it leaked that Brüno lured Ron Paul into a hotel room and then tried to seduce him. Filthy!
And let me take this opportunity to say that Sasha is one brave man. Showing up in a mall chained to a guy in bondage gear with a toilet brush hanging out of his mouth would take guts for any man. But for Sasha, he would be immediately deported from America if he were ever arrested during a stunt like this. It’s amazing he managed to make another movie without getting caught!
I can’t wait to see this film, seriously can’t wait. I may take off work just to see the first screening. Does that make me gay?
And while I’m putting up funny clips, here’s an instant classic by an old friend. Several friends have already posted this, but it’s just too good for me not to mention.
That has to be the best slo-mo-air-guitar I’ve seen in years. Well done, Ben. Well done.
One last note: I wasn’t sure how to find the clip of Ben on YouTube, so I typed in the search box “lovin’ every minute of it + beard” and found it on the first try. The beard truly does make the clip!