So I was afraid that this stupid travelogue was boring. But Allie said it was boring. As we all know, whatever Allie finds boring the rest of the world finds interesting. So I was a bit relieved to hear that from her.

There’s another part of the trip I neglected to mention. So, Dave was bringing some of his stuff home, so the car was pretty packed, even after he had shipped tons of stuff already. So trunk space was at a premium. Thus, we all tried to pack light. I mean, there were 4 of us going.

So for the most part, we did. Except for me. Partly because I was going to be gone the longest, but partly because I’m lame. I brought books. That was a mistake. Anyway, it was the biggest bag of the 3 accompaniers by far, so they were annoyed.

Even worse though is that I hardly used any of it on the first leg of the trip. Like, I only showered every other day, I wore the same shirt twice in a row, I didn’t wear socks; I ended up needing very few of my clothes the first few days. So my luggage violation seemed that much more egregious. As it turns out, I needed pretty much most of it (sans books) so whatever. But if you look carefully at the pictures from the trip, on the first part, my wardrobe looks awfully similar from day to day.

So the next day, Henry took off early in the morning, taking a shuttle to the airport. It was Sunday, and we would have liked to go to church, but we had no idea where to go. Secondarily, we slept late. But whatever.

Honestly, I wasn’t that excited about being in Kansas City, and doing the Kansas City thing, so we didn’t. Plus, we had to meet Leo for dinner. So we went to Burger King, and then set off for St. Louis.

I should add that at this point, I decided to check the coolant level again, because the engine was continuing to overheat and it really made no sense. So, I added some water to the coolant reservoir. I’d say about 1 cup. Perhaps less. After doing this, the engine never went past halfway on the temperature gauge. It was insane. Just that such a little amount of water could make such a big difference. But we didn’t have to worry about the engine again.

So we went to St. Louis, which was a piece of cake after the driving we had done. Along the way, being the losers that we are, we listened to I Want It That Way I’d say maybe 20 times in a row. I really know that song now. Dave was trying to figure out which key it was in. I was trying to memorize the parts to every single instrument and vocal on the song. I succeeded.

We got into St. Louis a little before dinner. It was actually a reunion of sorts, as me and Dave had visited Leo in St. Louis in the summer of ’96. It’s crazy how time flies when you’re older, because it does not seem like that long ago, but it was four years. Insane. Anyway, that time was the first FiCCentral Time Zone. I have organized others since. But that was the first.

At any rate, I kind of remembered his house, and we went up and Leo got the door! It was Leo! I hadn’t seen him in two years, so it was good to see him, and he’s just the same – nearly impossible to detect emotion. I’m just kidding. But you know, Leo’s a little more stoic than many.

As Dave mentioned on his page, one of the first things (if not the first) we did was sit down and watch TV. The U.S. Open (golf). Nicci was there, and she was helping cook dinner.

By the way, a sidenote. Nicci is just an incredible girl. She joined us for dinner and hung out at night, and the entire time she was at Leo’s place, I’m talking the entire time, she was doing something, like cleaning, or cooking, or serving, or washing the dishes or something. I’m not even joking – she was busy for like 2 1/2 straight hours just helping out. I don’t know, I just thought that was amazing. Nicci’s cool.

Anyway, she was cooking, and she came out and couldn’t believe we were just watching TV. But I don’t know, Dave’s right, it just felt comfortable and right to do that.

This has kind of been a theme of the trip, but the amazing thing to me is that when I saw Leo, whom I haven’t really had contact with for 2 years, it still felt really comfortable. I don’t know, I just thought that was special. It was DLD all over again! Anyway, I think the reason we could watch TV was because we were comfortable. I don’t know if that makes any sense. But it’s like, if we weren’t comfortable, we would have to kind of talk. If we weren’t comfortable, we couldn’t just watch TV. That wouldn’t feel right – we’d have to like, talk and be formal and whatever with each other. It’s just what you have to do when you’re not comfortable with someone.

But we did feel comfortable, so we watched TV. Maybe you don’t buy this, but that’s my take on it. I don’t know what it was. To me, though, it was just kind of like, this knowledge of each others’ pasts and stuff. Just that we pretty much know who the other person is, and accept that, so we don’t need to be any certain way. At least to me. I don’t know, it was honestly kind of shocking how comfortable it felt, but it was a good feeling.

So we watched Tiger, then some Simpsons, and then ate with Leo, Nicci, and his parents. It was good to see his family. Like I said, we stayed with Leo four years ago, and a lot’s changed since then, and it was just kind of good to see them.

So after Nicci washed the dishes (amazing girl), we went to paint St. Louis red. First we went to the driving range. A theme on this part of the trip is Leo’s insistence on taking the scenic route. But it was cool. It’s a very St. Louis thing to do.

So Leo, for whatever reason, has gotten into golf. He has some clubs and whatever. So we went to the range, and, I was terrible. I batted around .600. Pretty bad for a nonmoving object. I was probably the worst one there. Dave, surprisingly, was pretty good. Our standards were pretty low, though. It was impressive if it went 20 yards. Golf’s hard.

After that, we went to the world famous Ted Drewes Frozen Custard.

It’s a very St. Louis thing to do. You can’t tell from the picture, but it was absolutely packed. It’s just like a stand, there are no indoor seats or anything, and there were just tons of people around. I was pretty surprised. But, the custard turned out to be very good. They’re famous for having their custard so thick, that it doesn’t fall out when you hold it upside down.

As you can see, it’s true. Anyway, my favorite ice cream flavor is pralines n’ cream. I have no idea why, it just is. So I got that there. Oh my goodness. It contained the most amazing pralines I have ever had in my entire life. That sounds Paul Lee-esque, but it’s true – Nicci can back me up on this. They were just incredible. I was very impressed. I think the others liked their ice cream also, but mine was great. I had never had pralines like that before.

So after that, and a brief, delightful tour of the area around Leo’s med school, I believe near East St. Louis, we went to hang out at the Loop. This is another reunion type thing. The last time we were in St. Louis, Leo hyped up a few things. Including Denny’s on Olive, Crab Rangoon, Breaded Ravioli, K.C. Masterpiece, and the Loop. The Loop is this area of St. Louis where all the cool (read: weird) people hang out. The last time we were there, Leo showed us his old hangouts, including the skating stores, the weirdo music stores (where we discovered Cajual and listened to weirdo Chinese music), and such. We also had that ravioli thing, with Nicci. We hung out with her that day because, after she had met us for the first time, and not seen us for two days, she said that she missed us.

So it was like a reunion type deal. We went to this place called Blueberry Hill, and hung out there.

Careful readers may remember that I’m lactose intolerant, and from the picture, may have wondered why or how I was consuming what is essentially a large cup of lactose. Good question. It caught up to me at Blueberry Hill. I really had to take a liquid dump. Leo warned me that the restrooms weren’t that great, but I really had no option.

So I went to the toilet, and it was beyond ghetto. The toilet stall didn’t have a door. Instead, it had a little wooden standing separator about 4 feet high, which you had to physically pick up and move in front of the stall. So I did, and went about my business.

After a while, this guy comes in, and goes to the toilet (of which there was only one), and we make eye contact. After the Memorial City Mall incident I’ve written about before, stuff like that doesn’t phase me anymore.

Anyway, he goes, “Whoa, sorry” and backs away. And I expect him to leave the bathroom, but he doesn’t. He just kind of stands there. After a while, he asks, “You gonna be much longer?” And I say, “Uh… give me five.” And he says, “I don’t know if I can wait that long. I’m about to crap in my pants.” I didn’t know what to say. It was kind of strange, having a conversation with a strager in such a vulnerable position, making strange diarrhea noises no less, and then having him pressure me. He asked me again if I was almost done, so I kind of finished up, not totally complete, which is not a good feeling. It was surreal. I’ve never had an experience before. Fortunately, I stunk up the stall good, so that’s what he gets for pressuring me.

So we just played darts, making up our own rules as we went along. Around the room were pictures of national darts champions. They were amazingly non-athletic, even for champion darts players. But whatever.

Another amazing thing about Nicci is that she knows just about every song from the 80s. All these songs were playing, and she knew every one. It was incredible.

Then we left. Actually, I think Leo allowed us to tour seedy St. Louis at this point. We also listened to Aaliyah’s Try Again, one of their favorite songs. It’s pretty good, although repetitive.

One of the coolest things to me about hanging out with Leo and Nicci was just seeing them interact. I’ve been lucky enough to know them from before they got together, and seeing them from the beginning, from her monthlong Leo birthday celebration until now, when they’re engaged, and it’s cool. They’ve reached a point when they’re a lot more comfortable with each other, and so a little more blunt. Like, you know, when you first get together, and go through that honeymoon stage, or even before you get together, you’re kind of still not totally yourself. Or you are, but you’re still kind of trying to present yourself in the best way to the other person, and still blinded to that other person’s weaknesses in some part.

But you know, after a while, you get to know them, and the nature of your relationship just kind of changes, and you reach this level of comfortability, where you really know the other person, and know that they know you, and it’s just a different interaction. Leo and Nicci are (obviously) at this stage, and it was cool to see, because it’s very clear that they care about each other. It’s just changed from the last time I had seen them, and it was cool. They’re a cool couple, and a fun one to hang out with, I think. That’s one of the best things I think that can be said about a couple.

Anyway, we dropped Nicci off at her car, then went back to Leo’s place. Partly being with Leo and Nicci, partly other reasons, I needed to talk to Jieun, so I called her from Leo’s basement. The cool thing about the midwest is that all the houses have these huge basements. I think it’s cool. Leo and Nicci are going to be living in his parents’ basement after they get married. It’s big enough to be able to do that. That’s kind of cool.

Anyway, we were pretty tired so we went to bed pretty soon after that. All three of us slept in the living room. It was another great day. The reunion of DLD! There was evening, and there was morning. The 5th day.

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