Wednesday, June 27, 2012

More Family Fun

Amtrak coming into the Kirkwood Station
We had company over the weekend again. Jim's sister and her fiance took the train from Kansas City to St. Louis on Saturday. We picked them up at the station in Kirkwood, which is great for us since it is so close. Fun fact is that this station was going to be closed by Amtrak, so the city of Kirkwood purchased the station in order to keep it open. It is run entirely by volunteers! Anyway, the train was right on time and we decided to go ahead and have a late lunch in Kirkwood. We walked over to Kirkwood Ice and Fuel, and then did a little shopping in Kirkwood. With the free parking and good location, it is so much more convenient using the Kirkwood Station instead of going downtown.

Saturday evening we packed up our chairs and headed over to the Streetfest in Webster Groves. They close down Gore Avenue, and a band was playing Beatles music. The temperature was pleasant, so for supper we went to the new Mexican restaurant in town - La Cantina. We grabbed a table outside where we could still enjoy the music as well as the trains that pass by there. The food was great and we will definitely go back there.

Sunday morning we made a nice breakfast and then sat around talking for a bit. We decided on the Boathouse in Forest Park for lunch, and as usual there was a wait. I am not a fan of this place, but for some reason everyone always wants to go there. I think the food is mediocre and the service is always slow. And we roasted sitting outside. I also knew that eating this late was going to throw off supper plans since we had tickets to the Chinese Lantern Festival that night. Anyway, following the mediocre lunch we went to the Civil War exhibit at the Missouri History Museum. It is very well done. We got back to our house a little after 5:00, and wanted to leave for the garden by 6:15 or so. As predicted, we did not have time to eat supper.

Jim and I had been to the Festival on Thursday night as we are taking a two part night photography class at the garden, learning how to photograph the lanterns. It was packed that night! They are letting 4,000 people in each night to see the exhibit. To put that in perspective, they only sold 2,500 tickets each night for the Chihuly exhibit. Lucky for us they have reserved parking spots for the students in the photography class, or God knows where we would have had to park on Thursday. So on Sunday night I was expecting to park in the west lot by Vandeventer. As that lot was nearly empty when I drove by, I decided to gamble on getting in the main parking lot. There were lots of spaces left, surprisingly. It was about 6:45 when we arrived. The lanterns are not lit until 8:00 and of course it is really not very dark until later, so I guess a lot of people come later? That was not the case on Thursday as the lot was full when we arrived at 6:40 that night. Perhaps it was the heat Sunday as well, because the crowd was a lot smaller Sunday night in general, which was great. We were able to sit and watch the show being performed on the main stage.

Performer from the Szechuan region of China
Performers from the Szechuan region of China

While there is a lot to photograph during the daylight hours, it is after the sun goes down that the the garden really shine. Whoever came up with the tagline "Art by day, magic by night" deserves a bonus. It truly describes the transition from ooooh to WOW! when you view the lanterns at night. 

The lantern festival is truly remarkable and I hope people take advantage of the unique opportunity to see it. It is only the second time the festival has been shown outside of China, and the first time in the United States. I am looking forward to our second photography class this Thursday night. (Other than the fact that it is supposed to be well over 100 degrees that day!)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Car Hopping

Recently I have begun to think about getting a new car. It is interesting how your family members all weigh in as if it is a car that they will be driving. Ha! Even the dog is not going in this car if I decide to get one. Jim and I first went out an looked at six or seven cars at the megacarplex in St. Louis County. It is handy to be able to view so many makes all in one location. When we entered the beemer shop not one person greeted us. Apparently we did not pull up in the appropriate vehicle. Or perhaps I forgot to wear my Prada that day. At any rate, while we sat in all the different cars I did not test drive any. I wanted to first be able to wean my list down.

While Andy and Megan were here they went with us to test drive the four vehicles I wanted to take a closer look at. Upon entering same beemer dealer, we were again all ignored. It was definitely a Pretty Woman moment - I had money to spend but they didn't want to help me spend it. That dealership is out should I decide to purchase that kind of car! The two other cars that we took out at the other dealerships were both very nice vehicles. Andy, Megan and I took out a hybrid from a third manufacturer, and while it had a surprisingly decent drive, it does not come with a sunroof or backup camera, so it is off the list.

Jim and I then drive a beemer from a different dealership and yet another make of car. I have the list down to my three favorites, and even completed a spreadsheet of their features because I cannot make up my mind which one I want to get. The spreadsheet did not help, but my mechanic concurred that I had made three excellent choices and proceeded to tell me how he would rank them. That was helpful.

Last Thursday my workout buddy wanted to go test drive an SUV made by the company currently #1 on my list, so we decided to go together so that I could take my possible choice out for a second drive. I also thought it would be fun to get the input of my friend on the car. I had contacted my salesman to let him know that we were coming, and he said he would be available. He had my car ready for us to take out, and confirmed what my friend was looking for so that he would have it ready when we came back from the first test drive.

When I got into the car I immediately noticed that there was a hump coming from the center console into the driver's side, and that it was rubbing up against my right leg. What the heck?!? How had I missed this the last time I took the car out? I was driving the version with reduced horsepower this time, so maybe that was the difference? I really didn't like the feel. Besides that, the drive was as wonderful as I remembered. Following that we took out the SUV, also a nice ride, and then for fun tried out the SUV Hybrid. $67,000!!! It was loaded, as you might imagine. It was a wonderful car, but not worth the price in my opinion.

I had noticed that we did not have the salesman's full attention, which I thought was odd as I had brought him another potential customer. Then my friend made the comment that she wondered if we would be getting the same treatment if our spouses were with us. Sadly, I think she is right. And all my original warm, fuzzy feelings for this salesman disappeared. Why do women continue to be treated this way? After all, both of us were looking at cars for ourselves. Not our families and certainly not our spouses. And for that matter, why do you rarely see female car salespeople? I will probably take a trip to the other dealership in town that also sells this car just to see what the treatment is there. And you can bet that I will be blogging about it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Retro Voting

Yesterday I exercised one of my constitutional rights - I went to vote. I "knew" that there was only one issue on the ballot, and that was whether or not we should approve a bond issue for the Metropolitan Sewer District. That way they can stick it to me now at a lower rate as opposed to sticking it to me later at a much higher rate. I figured voter turnout would be light due to the lack of other issues on the ballot. Frankly I think it is ridiculous that anyone is allowed to call for a special vote when there is nothing else on the ballot, but no one asked my opinion. As usual.

When I walked into my polling place I did the usual and customary photo i.d. check and signed my name in the book. Then I was handed a sheet of paper containing ten questions, a pen and a piece of cardboard in the shape of a t-shirt. Huh? The man walked me over to the voting booth and explained that I was to fill in the ovals indicating my vote beneath each question. It reminded me of the standardized tests we had to take in school, only we were not allowed to use pens. No. 2 pencils only, thank you very much. I felt like I was cheating as I used the ballpoint pen to fill in the ovals.

As I looked at the first question, one thing became With the low light inside the school there was no way I would be able to read the questions without my reading glasses, which of course I did not have with me. "Do you need me to read the questions out loud for you honey?" asked the elderly woman behind the table. To say I was embarrassed would be an understatement. Then one of the officials remembered that they had a magnifying glass, which they quickly retrieved for me. It did not look this 
picture at all. Instead it was about 8" long, made out of acrylic and was two sided sort of making an inverted V. I could not even find a picture of one on the web to show what it looked like. Anyway, it was difficult to use, but I eventually got the hang of it. In the meantime my new BFF wannabe reader was blathering on about how the questions are stupid, no one is going to be able to understand what is being asked, people are going to be mad, blah, blah, blah. Even though I knew what the first question was talking about, it was hard to concentrate with her telling me how terrible the whole ballot was. By the time I got to the second question, I began to understand what she was going on about. I really didn't know the implications of what voting Yes versus No would be. Ditto with the remaining eight questions.

Suffice it to say that I spent longer in the ballot box on this "one" issue than I have in some presidential elections. So my bad for not downloading a sample ballot to review before I went to the polling place like I do with most elections. But I also feel like no one made it clear to voters that there was going to be more than one Yes or No decision to be made. As for the cardboard shirt I was handed? I though it was just to make it easier to fill in the ovals with a pen. Wrong again. I was supposed to slip my ballot in between the pieces of cardboard before I walked it over to the ballot box. Then I had to place the cardboard so that the "neck" faced me and slide it into the box, where the paper ballot was then sucked into the metal box. I guess no one wanted to pay for high tech voting machines for the pitiful election. Or was that just at my polling place?