Archives for: October 2006
Let me apologize in advance for the excessive quantity of photographs of the Gateway Arch that you are about to see and have already seen. It's just such a freakishly weird thing to look at that I can't seem to resist taking snapshots of it. And every time I go downtown, I somehow end up there.
It's fall break now, and I'm enjoying my time off. Yesterday I rode my bike all around the city, for a total of about 45 miles. There really is a lot of run down, abandoned warehouses in this city. I get the impression by cruising around the city that Saint Louis was once an extremely prosperous center of industry. Then there must have been a period of decline, hence the abandoned warehouses standing all around. In the last ten years, however, I'm told that various spots in the downtown area have been rebounding. There certainly are some very nice downtown areas filled with small locally-owned shops that give it a comfortable urban feel.
Today, Sunday, I decided to try public transit and see some more of the city:
I woke up and hopped on the MetroLink light rail to head down to (oh, not again!) the Arch waterfront area.
First, I attended Mass at the Basilica of Saint Louis. Once Mass was finished, I went down into the museum and visitor center underneath the Arch. I watched a very well done documentary about Lewis and Clark and bought my ticket to go to the top.
To get to the top of the arch, one must climb into a tram of some kind. The voice narrating the whole experience explained that these very tiny tram cars, which remind me of some escape pods in a scifi film, were designed using the most advanced 1960s technology. These things LOOK like they're from the 1960s. Check out the groovy seating, man. And the far out lighting. When five people get in there it is rather cozy.
Once at the top of the arch, the space is rather small and filled with people. Finding an unoccupied window was a bit of a challenge.
But once I was able to get next to a window, I was able to see the great view of downtown Saint Louis. Here you can see the new Busch Stadium.
When looking down from up top, I saw tiny people looking back up at me. I waved. They didn't wave back. Jerks.
I know, I know... you're tired of Arch pictures. But I thought this shadow was kind of cool.
Before taking the escape pod back down to Earth, I took this last snapshot of the Old Courthouse (built in 1828) that is nearby.
After the exhilarating arch experience, I hopped back on the MetroLink to head back to the seminary in Shrewsbury. Along the way I decided I should check out Union Station. The historic train station has been converted into a large shopping mall. It seems nicely done. I had lunch at a Sbarro and continued on my way back to Shrewsbury.
MySpace gets a lot of bad press for its use by online predators. Usually, I side with the online service in these cases. As I understand these technologies (and I consider myself knowledgeable in this area), they can be used for good or bad and the problem often lies in society, not the mode in which it communicates. That's true, I think, unless the online service fosters a community centered upon questionable content in an especially irresponsible way. I was recently invited to become someone's "friend" on MySpace.
I signed up, and I was amazed.
Many, if not most, of the ads are for dating sites. That's not bad in and of itself. But the "True" dating site presents itself as a site where morals should not encumber your choices. Any lifestyle is acceptable. I vaguely remember an ad telling me I could search for one night stands.
I've only had a MySpace account for several days but I've already had mass messages from people such as "Sin Girl." I've seen comments filled with obscene pictures of sex toys. I'm a little disturbed. I'm aware all of this stuff is out there, just a Google search away (I've seen my share of the dark side of the Internet, though not for a couple of years now). But I'm not searching for it now. I only wanted to look at pictures my friend Melanie had posted of her family and friends - a wholesome, innocent activity. And what did I find? Sex, sometimes subtly presented, other times explicitly plastered on my screen.
As an adult I can choose to ignore all this stuff and not go to the site. But I can tell you as a former teenage boy, I know this site would be tempting and intriguing. These sorts of things should not be seen by kids! Yet the layout, ads, and design of MySpace appear (to me) to be designed to attract children. And as the leading social networking site these days, that is disturbing.
As a side note from the standpoint of someone who has some appreciation for web site design and layout, MySpace profiles make my eyes hurt. Get off this site, and go over to Yahoo! 360, which seems less disgusting and, in my opinion, is easier to use.
If your kids have MySpace accounts, cut them off. Block the site and educate them about responsibility on the web. Point them to alternatives like Yahoo 360. There is STILL less than desirable content there as well, but one is not forced by the design of the site to view it.
That's all for now. I'm getting off my soap box and getting back to my studies. It is midterm week, after all.
A week ago, my class of seminarians were sent on a retreat at the Saint Louis Jesuit Retreat House, The White House. The idea is that, being pre-theology students who just a few months ago were living and working in the secular world, we require a weekend early on for reflection, prayer, and relaxation. The move from career to seminary can be quite an adjustment, and the weekend was a chance to reflect on how we got here.
We shared our stories about how we felt God's call. We prayed, relaxed, took naps, and enjoyed nature. It was a wonderful weekend. Here I will share some of my snapshots from the Friday-Sunday retreat. Enjoy.
We arrive on Friday night and get settled into our simple rooms in this beautiful building. We notice the rooms each have their own bathroom, which is a treat while living at the seminary.
After unpacking in my room, I went for a moonlit stroll along the "stations of the cross" path. Here, you see the crucifix lit by moonlight with a background of stars. It was a beautiful night.
Saturday morning I awoke in time to stroll down to one of the patios and enjoy the sunrise over the Mississippi in peace and solitude.
After sunrise I again strolled along the path near the stations of the cross. I think this is the thirteenth station, where Jesus is laid in the arms of his mother (but I'm not sure).
Here is a snapshot of a busy bee at work near one of the walking paths.
Pre-Theologians on deck. Here you see my classmates doing some spiritual reading and enjoying the view over the river.
Here we are enjoying another beautiful night, chatting on one of the patios. Our retreat was not explicitly a "silent/no-talking" retreat. But the other retreatants were enjoying a silent retreat, and we got scolded here for talking.
When I woke early on Sunday morning, anticipating another sunrise, I was met with fog over the river.
Just as I finished Morning Prayer while watching the fog burn off the river, my classmate Brian strolled by.
The fog began to burn off and the sunlight illuminated a few dew-covered spider webs along the walking paths.
The sun was finally warming things up. Fog, trees, and a sunrise always means interesting pictures.
Brian, deep into his Morning Prayer, didn't notice I snapped his photo here. This gazebo offers a peaceful place for contemplation.
Ah, fog slowly rising off of the river. What a beautiful, relaxing weekend.
I'm not accustomed to living in a larger city. Saint Louis is a beautiful city full of (in my experience) very friendly people. But this semester the news and crime statistics are somewhat frightening.
Last Friday three people were robbed at gunpoint near the Metro station by the Saint Louis University campus. According to the SLU Crime Log for 2006 these sorts of crimes occur every few days. SLU's crime statistics report indicates that crime is on the rise in the area around campus for the last few years. In the past, car thefts have also occurred right here at the seminary.
For a much worse view of this area, just turn on the news. There is a woman that killed her pregnant friend and several children last month. Also last month, just 40 miles from the seminary, another woman slashed the throat of another mother and stole her baby.
I set out to see how Saint Louis ranked relative to other U.S. cities in terms of crime statistics. I searched Google, looking for a seemingly authoritative source for such data. I don't know which source is good, but it doesn't matter. They all agree that Saint Louis, in every study that showed up in my search, has been in the top four or five most dangerous cities during the last five years. In 2002, ABC News ran a story explaining how this city topped the list. I think it's around forth or fifth these days.
UPDATE: In October, 2006, I spotted an AP news story reprinted in the Bismarck Tribune, that explained that Saint Louis has again topped the list of the most dangerous cities in the United States, beating out Camden, NJ, Detriot, MI, Flint, MI, and Compton, CA. Read the full article here.
This kind of frequent and often violent crime is simply unfathomable to me. What kind of a city am I living in? The place seems so peaceful, the people so friendly. There is apparently a darker side to this city I have (thank God) not yet seen. It's enough to make a man homesick for good ole' North Dakota. Not that violent crime doesn't happen back home. It's just not as frequent.
Don't worry mom, I'll be careful.
I hoped to post pictures back on the 12th of September. But my schedule didn't really allow time for dealing with the camera. So today I took a few pictures of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, where I am currently living, for your enjoyment.
This is one of the angels in the stained glass windows near the main entrance.
Here you see the main entrance area.
This is a view of the front of the seminary building. My room is one of the windows way to the left, on the third floor.
Here's a courtyard on the back side of the building.
Along a walking path through the trees, there is a very nice grotto to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It's a very peaceful place to pray, even at night when it is lit up nicely.
This is sometimes called the "hall of bishops" because of the portraits of bishops that line the wall. It leads to the Saint Joseph Chapel, the main chapel for the school of theology. I pass through this hall several times a day.
This is a view of the Saint Joseph Chapel from the choir loft. The late afternoon sun shines in and lights it up very nicely - just in time for Evening Prayer each day.
You will find me in this smaller chapel, the Mary Mother of the Word Chapel, at about six o'clock each weekday morning. This is where I prefer to spend time in personal prayer.
The pictures didn't turn out that well, but they give you an idea of what this place is like.