So a number of years ago myself and three friends were going to go to St. Louis to watch the Cardinals in a regular season game against my buddies favorite team, the Cincinnati Reds. Having never been to St. Louis to see the Cardinals play, I was extremely excited as not only would I get to see the new Busch Stadium but, I was also going to visit the Busch Brewery, which was a personal pilgrimage that I felt compelled to make, as Busch Light Draft was a mainstay of my college diet and a critical component of my spiritual development. (having forced me to pray before the porcelain goddess many a night)
Making it to the game we were pleased to find our seats were very close to a beer cart, so we knew this was going to be a great start to a fun overnight trip to the 'Lou. Trying to keep up with the Chick McGee "Beer an Inning Rule", I found myself 4 beers into the day before I knew it. Going up to the beer vendor for a 5th time and having already started what I was sure was to be a lifelong friendship, she questioned me "Now you aren't driving back to Indianapolis today are you, honey?" Assuring her that I wouldn't be driving anything "Not even a nail!" She laughed at me and served me another.
Well, the game went on, the Cardinals won an we all decided to go back to the hotel to get cleaned up for a night on the town. Following what was a very long bar crawl in St. Louis, the group got split up and I found myself navigating the streets of St. Louis alone to find our Hotel. After walking the circumference of the city, I found the hotel and asked the main desk if they could recommend someplace to get something to eat as I was rather hungry from the day of drinking and needed something to take the place of what would have at the time in Indy no doubt have been a La Bamba's run.
The gentleman at the front desk (We will just refer to his as A-hole from this point on), mentioned that there was a place that serves breakfast all day just across the street. Thanking the a-hole (who hadn't earned his name yet), I left the hotel after having logged 10k on the streets of St. Louis already, and walked a few blocks to the pancake depot. Unfortunately, all day does not mean 24/7, as they were already closed for the day. Walking back to the front desk, I asked Asshole if he had any other ideas and mentioned that he might want to make a mental note that "the Pancake Depot doesn't stay open past 10pm" "and as it is now 1am, they definitely aren't serving pancakes". A-hole assured me there was another restaurant that he believed was open till 3am "just a bit father down the same road." Not to be defeated at this point, I took him for his word and assured myself I was less than 10min away from finally getting something to eat and drink….
About 15min later, I found the place and had a quick conversation with the owner… as he was locking the place up for the night. Apparently, he had "very little business that night, and was closing early to get some sleep". Being unable to persuade him with my plight, I asked him if he knew of anything that was open "this late in St. Louis.". He thought for a moment and asked me if I knew where Busch Stadium was. I told him I did and he said , well just past the hotel near the stadium on the "Other side of the interstate" (this is a very important point) is a White Castle that is open 24 hours. Thanking him and now resolute in my determination to get this late night feast, I trudged on...
Heading to the White Castle I made pretty good progress and quickly found myself at the interstate underpass. Quickly I realized where the city of St. Louis had stopped putting money into its infrastructure. The street lights were now few and far between and the volume of abandoned buildings started to multiply. The underpass itself seemed to be a makeshift home for half a dozen homeless people who were asking me predominately two questions as I walked the gauntlet of them:
1. Can I spare some money. 2. Am I lost.
Now, the first question is rather standard for those down on their luck but, the second question made me wonder where I was if these guys were asking me if I was lost..
So, only slightly daunted and pressing on as I believed the White Castle was just on the other side of the underpass, I picked up my pace and once out from under the interstate, I saw it there, like a lighthouse to a ship passing in the night. The beautiful neon glow of the White Castle lights, so warm and inviting. Congratulating myself for finally making it to White Castle, I was interrupted by the sounds of very clear and loud bass speakers and car hydraulics. Unsure as to the cause of this sound with my line of sight obstructed by a fence line I puzzled as to what it might be. My question would soon be answered. As I turned the corner, I found myself in what I assumed was a shot for shot re-make of Dr. Dre's "Nuthin' but a G Thang" video from 1992 which was a bit intimidating for a caucasian who hadn't been invited to the casting call. Knowing I was a bit of a fish out of water but, not letting that stop me, I headed toward the door to place my order.
Making my way through the throng of people in the parking lot and getting quite a few glances from people who were no doubt wondering how I had gotten so far from the tourist sections of St. Louis, I made it into the restaurant and got in line to order. When it was my turn to order I figured I should go ahead and get enough for my entire group as they were by this point most likely back at the hotel. So I ordered "A crave case, please." The lady at the counter asked "You want 30 Sliders?" "Yes, I do." I assured her. "Anything else?" she asked. "A large Cherry Coke, please" I retorted. She gave me the price and told me it would be right up.
After sitting in silence for a few minutes I paid for my cardboard suitcase of sliders and my large cherry coke and made my way out of White Castle and back towards the hotel. Doing my best to avoid the homeless who wanted a slider "Sorry, I don't have any extra" (I surely wasn't going to share this crave case with people I didn't know, after all the walking and adventures I had had)…
Arriving at the hotel and brandishing my Crave Case to the A-hole at the front desk, I made my way to the room and found my buddy who had just made it back to the hotel as well. As happy as he was to see me he was even more pleased to see the crave case. Between us and the two girls we killed nearly all of the case before we retired for the night. As a footnote to this story… after waking up and walking down to the vending machine to get a coke in the morning, it wasn't until walking back into the hotel room that I truly appreciated the noxious smell of processed White Castle and Beer that one could actually saturate a room with. I'm sure the next guests after us demanded a new room.