Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Every Float Trip Has At Least One European

Very similar to the use of the term hoosier, I'm not sure it's well known or not in St Louis that float trips are mostly a regional thing. I can guarantee not too many peeps know what a float trip is up in Chicago and just doing a Google search for the term "float trip" brings up mostly Missouri float trips. Perhaps it's just the terminology. Surely people in other states get on rafts and float down rivers for fun, right? Oh yes - they certainly do. The only difference is they call it rafting and it usually includes white water.
For those unfamiliar with just regular 'floating', here's the breakdown of what's involved. First of all, you camp. Second, you sit on a raft for what's supposed to be 6 hours or so and gently float down the river. Third, you just get absolutely wasted. And that's about it. Well, my description is a little unfair. There are obviously many good things about them because people around here absolutely love float trips and seemingly look forward to them every Summer.
Now any regular reader of this here blog might be asking themselves why I would ever go on a trip that involves a body of water considering my past notes on the subject. That's a fair question. My only answer is that this is something I have brought upon myself. It's such a part of the St Louis lifestyle that, if I didn't at least try it, I wouldn't be truly experiencing St Louis. Besides, I was promised a very low occurrence of dead bodies in these rivers. I thought it best not to check their sources.
Not Our Campsite

Now for a quick rundown of the trip and please keep in mind that I don't enjoy camping, rafting is boring to me, and I don't get wasted (hangovers):

The camping was actually just fine. The Huzzah Valley Resort was one of the nicer campsites I have been to. If it weren't for the unruly guests this weekend I would consider their showers, although a bit low on pressure, on the high-end as far as campsites go. Unfortunately someone decided to do some unmentionable things to one of the shower stalls. And, yes, the unmentionable thing is probably what you assume, unless you're assuming that someone painted the stall in Unicorn blood. Why would you assume that? Gross... And dangerous.
Other than cleanliness, my other big problem with camping is sleep comfort. I can sleep in the craziest of positions and be completely fine. But turn the temperature a little bit too high and I'm tossing and turning. Being that camping usually takes place in the Summer, I usually have trouble sleeping. Luckily this time the temp was just about perfect at night. Right around 70 or under. Can't beat that with a camping stick.
The star activity of the weekend is the float itself, of course. Everyone packs up their coolers with all the finest wine spritzers (read: cheap beer) and piles into either multi-person rafts or two-person canoes. And then... they just sit back and float. Yes, this sounds like a nice relaxing fun time with some friends. And for me it would be except for a few small problems. First of all, we were sitting in these rafts on the river for something like 8 hours. 8!!! I was long ready for it to be over by 5. This is entirely too long although I assume it would be much faster in the canoe. Second, the drunken people are often waaaay too drunk. One good example I should cite was the massive 20 person beach brawl we witnessed about 2 hours in. This wasn't just a bunch of people kind of wrestling around. No, this was serious haymakers being thrown - and landed. And not just by guys! The girls were fighting too. Serious fighting. Like multiple kicks to the head fighting. It was ridiculous, dangerous and there was no one there to stop it. I actually feared someone could die. As we floated away after about 10 minutes of fighting it was still going on. It was ridiculous, but did give me the opportunity to pretend that one of those dudes said something along the lines of, "Welcome to the float trip, Bitch."
There were some funny moments too. Perhaps the highlight of the strange drunken behavior of the river folk was the gentleman offering to wash people with a bar of soap. This inspired one of the most quoted sentences of the weekend. A girl on a nearby raft points to me and says, "He's obviously European, wash him!" The good news was that I wasn't washed- I was, however, confused as to why I'd be "obviously European." According to the drunk girl it was what I was wearing. Please note that it was a white t-shirt, black shorts and sunglasses.
Overall, I'd give the entire weekend experience a 3 out of 10, but again this is personal preference. I certainly can see why it could be appealing to some people. As for why this is such a regional thing, I would guess it's because of Missouri's rivers. They are generally slow-moving, lazy rivers and there are lots of them. If they had more white water I would assume everyone would be just calling it rafting. In it's current state, however, you are unmistakably floating.
So here's something a little different for us here. I just picked up the new iPhone and one of it's many lovely features is a video camera. I planned on taking a lot of video of this trip and editing it together but with the wildness on the river I was very cautious of taking it out of the water-proof bag. That being the case, this should still give you a little bit of an idea of what floating is like minus some of the serious drunken behavior. Listen carefully on the bus we took back clip though. You should be able to hear what much of the day was like. You can probably also sense my enthusiasm for it. Plus, you'll see that I brought Oscar on this trip. I had no idea of how he'd react. Let's just say he would probably give it a 2 out of 10. So without further ado, the first of what will likely be many Arch Observer videos.
Oh, I'd also like to comment on the tons of feedback I received on the terrible picture of me at the top of the page there. Yes, Mom, friends, anonymous people and mythological creatures, I know it's a terrible picture. It's probably the worst pic I've ever taken and that's exactly why I love it! Unfortunately, it's also apparently a distraction so I'm considering changing it. Eh. Maybe the problem is that I just look too European. Yeah, probably.

[Note: Happy 50th post to me!]

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The New Look

Tomorrow brings something I never thought would happen when I started this blog. Press.
Welcome, to anyone coming here for the first time after reading the article in the Suburban Journal by Shawn Clubb. I know the past month has been a bit lacking post-wise but I haven't eaten, visited, or generally been out of the house for over a month now. Ok, that was a lie. I have been doing all those things. Being your first time here this feels a little awkward now. How's this? I'll promise to never lie to you again if you promise to... I don't know - something. Just pay it forward like Haley Joel Osment (or HJO as I call him. My plan is to turn him into the next Neil Patrick Harris).
Original Arch Observer Header
Anyway, to celebrate this big day in the short life of ArchObserver.com, I've updated the look of the site. Now you'll see my giant unkempt head every time you come here. And yes, that's what I look like when I'm "observing." It still needs some tweaking but that's going to be the look for the foreseeable future. Let me know what you thinkies.
I seriously do have a large backlog of posts I need to write so don't think you're getting away from here without the promise of more of what makes St Louis, St Louis. You have an awesome, unique city, folks, and I'm going to continue to write what's awesome about it (even if I don't like it - I'm looking in your direction St Louis-style pizza).
It's crazy how this blog has gotten to this point. It all began as a way for my friends and family back home to see what I was up to and it quickly become something else entirely. What that is, I really don't know at this point. I think I'm just going to let this bad boy do it's thing. Unless it's thing is nuclear missile war like in War Games. I have no patience for such things unless it's starring Matthew Broderick.
And lastly, while this isn't a formal AO post, I'd like to take a moment to applaud the city on the All-Star festivities. I had never seen the City so alive in my short 7 months here. I just hope we can keep it up. Visit the City everyone! It's safe and awesome. Promise. For real this time.
More to come... Soon.

Most Popular Posts Of All Time! (Yes, only 6 months):
*** Update ***
Leave it to my Mom to let me know the article is already out. Suburban Journal it up.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Blackthorn Of Pizza And A Shocker

Within weeks of moving to St Louis I began to hear whispers of the Blackthorn Pub and it's delicious yet slowly served Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Claims such as "best pizza in town" were being bandied about - which made going there all the more intriguing considering my hereto search for good pizza in St Louis had been somewhat fruitless. So, after a long 6 months, I finally made it to the Blackthorn Pub and I was hungry for some awesome pizza, or awesizza.
Now keep in mind what this place is known for, the first being, of course, the pizza. The second, though, is waiting. Whenever you hear about Blackthorn people will regale you with tales of waiting for 2 hours or more for these pizzas. They usually claim it was worth it, but still, 2 hours is a long time for a hungry boy.
The place itself really is worth a visit. It's dark, beat-up and, although not completely original (they have dollar bills stapled to the ceiling), it does feel like it has a personality. There's plenty of room for eating/drinking and the bar is plenty big enough to cozy up to. And you better be ready to hit the bar because that's the only way to order anything at Blackthorn Pub and I mean anything. Even your pizza. You'll know your pizza is ready when they warble your name over the loud speaker. The older intercom isn't crystal clear so make sure you listen for the vowels that vaguely resemble your name.
As for the pizza - Yes, it is good. Very good. If you like Chicago deep dish style this pizza should fulfill your pizzaing needs. Keep in mind though it isn't a deep dish in the traditional sense. This is a stuffed pizza through and through. The difference is in the extra layer of pizza dough on top but under the sauce. It's more like an actual pie and while this is very popular in Chicago, it is not the traditional deep dish. Luckily it tastes fairly traditional. The sauce is tomatoee enough with a hint of spice. Frankly, this is what makes the Blackthorn pizza. Their crust, while obviously fresh and cooked perfectly, is unfortunately not my favorite as I prefer a buttery crust. Don't take my word for it though- many deep dish pizza lovers would consider this crust extraordinary. The cheese was excessive enough so no complaints there. Thankfully there was no Provel to be found. All in all this was a greatly enjoyable pizza and I look forward to eating it again.
Now here's where you should all be very surprised... Or not. I don't know enough about this place. Either way, I've found real Chicago-style deep dish. And maybe it isn't made with as much care as Blackthorn and I can't account for anything else there, but Caleco's at Broadway and Chestnut, Downtown St Louis has my favorite pizza so far in Missouri.
Why is this a shocker? Probably because this isn't even a pizza place. It's a fairly commercial looking chain-like restaurant that has a billion other things on the menu besides pizza. Just perusing the menu if you're not careful you could miss the pizza section. They even call their deep dish "Sicilian Pan" and maybe it is, but it certainly tastes like Chicago-style to me. I really like Blackthorn's sauce but I *loved* Caleco's. Chunky bits of tomato and a real zing to it gives this sauce the upperhand. Their crust is even buttery just how I like it! While it still wouldn't be able to hold up to, say, a Giordano's pizza, you'll be hard pressed in St Louis to find anything closer. So far...

I still haven't been everywhere obviously so I can't equivocally call this the St Louis pizza winner just yet. I have tried Obama's fave, Pi, which I enjoyed enough but for an awesome hand-tossed try Feraro's in Soulard. If I'm going to eat a hand-tossed, Feraro's is the place. Plus, they make Buffalo Chicken Pizza- One of my favorites. I know there are few other places I need to hit that escape me for the moment, but I'll hit them.
In the meantime, if you're hungry after a ballgame don't forget there's a place just two blocks away busting out pizza better than most. If you like deep-dish I don't think you'll be disappointed. Consider me shocked. I'm not even sure Caleco's knows what it has there.