Angle to Key West: The Election (11/6)

St. Louis, MO – November 6, 2012

Election results flicker on the TV screen and light a shotgun apartment in the heart of Soulard, St. Louis’ oldest neighborhood. The place is all brick and narrow lots. You feel the building’s age as you step inside, as you stare through three straight rooms from front to back, one door leading to the next. Beaten walls, chipped bricks, it feels like pure Soulard. That is to say, it has character.

“If it gets too cold, just turn the oven on for a little while,” Camille had told me last night.

Yes, character.

She picked me up from the river yesterday in an old moving van with her neighbor Ralph. The boat hung off the back and looked half-swallowed by the van’s rolling door, but Ralph drove slow and the ropes held until we slid the Looksha out. JK helped me walk her into the long apartment and set her down on the wooden floor.

She looked odd then, like she missed the river. Now none of us notice her stretching between rooms and crowding the place. We watch the TV instead, watch stern reporters turn states blue and red.

I’d never met Camille or JK or Ralph before, but that isn’t much of a surprise anymore. I’d never met most of the people who’ve helped me along the way.

JK gets up to wave a bit of heat over from the stove. He takes a giant canvas in two hands and swings it through the air. I wonder what will be on that canvas someday. Touches of art fill the apartment, bits of creativity, small strokes, grand smears. The place breathes imagination.

I watch JK and think the heating system fits the place. It’s perfect for an old, spare apartment filled with books, art, musical instruments, and, now, a kayak. Polls close across the central time zone. I don’t think about art anymore. I watch serious faces on TV.

We’ll all know soon.

I’m glad I voted. I’m glad this is important to me. I’m glad that I care.

Now I’m all nerves. In a moment, I know I will be happy or sad.

I look at the Looksha filling up the spare apartment in old Soulard. I think about Camille’s invitation to a stranger, about how she knew I’d need help in St. Louis and wanted to make sure I got it, about how she worried I’d be cold without a heater even though I’d slept on windswept sandbars for weeks.

I think about people I’ve met along the way, about houses in Grand Marais and International Falls, about dining room tables in Minneapolis and Rock Island. I think of new friends, all of them. I wonder if they are crowded around their TVs. I wonder if they will be happy or sad.

Then I know, they will be both and this country will be ok.

6 responses to “Angle to Key West: The Election (11/6)

  1. Remember discussing, before you left on this journey, how symbolic it was that the Mississippi splits the country in two and how you would be paddling during this important election season and able to kind of take the pulse of the nation as you journeyed? You have eloquently given a story of that pulse, of that which matters,. I am happy to see that the pulse says we are alive and well where it matters most.

  2. I am so glad that you voted and were happy with the outcome. Isn’t wonderful that in American you can still be taken in with safety by strangers?

  3. You did another that gave me the chills. That is my “great” indicator! Hope you had a happy turkey day…was thinking about you!

  4. I enjoy hearing about your amazing journey, and have gotten a smiling laughing kick out of your perspective of staying in St. Louis. It was fantastic meeting you and I’m glad you took up the offer to stay and see the city a bit. There are many that would not find any beauty or comfort in our simple quirky way of living, or more importantly in this area been able to cheer together with us as the elections returns came in. The later has become a running joke with my family of what if’s. It could have been a very sticky day that fortunately turned out perfect!

    Check out the local weekly Riverfront Times feature about your trip if you have not yet at – http://bit.ly/TkvD2I

    And when you come back through the area someday, I hope you do with your kick@$! mom look us up again as we would love to show off all the concrete serpents and turtles hidden around town.

    You now have many in STLMO cheering you on! Be great!
    cam

  5. I enjoy hearing about your amazing journey, and have gotten a smiling laughing kick out of your perspective of staying in St. Louis. It was fantastic meeting you and I’m glad you took up the offer to stay and see our city briefly. There are many who would not find poetic beauty or comfort in our simple quirky way of living, or more importantly in this area been able to cheer together with us as the elections returns came in. The later has become a running joke with my extended family of what if’s. It could have been a very sticky day that fortunately turned out perfect!

    Check out the local weekly Riverfront Times feature about your trip if you have not yet at – http://bit.ly/TkvD2I

    And when you come back through the area someday, I hope you do with your kick@$! mom look us up again as we would love to show off all the concrete serpents and turtles hidden around town left by the City Museum founder.

    You now have many in STLMO cheering you on! Be great!
    cam

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