When I was a kid, my grandma introduced me to the 1944 musical, Meet Me in St Louis. She had a copy on VHS, which was one of a grand total of about four videos available for rotation at grandma’s house. Pre-Netflix, obviously.
It would eventually become one of my favourites. It is a visually stunning film and stars Judy Garland who was a visually stunning person. It’s got a killer soundtrack including the title track and “The Trolley Song” which is essentially a love song about public transport. If you have a spare hour and fifty-three minutes (plus maybe a penchant for 1940s Hollywood cinema), I highly recommend it.
Hoff took me up on my recommendation once. Or at least, I badgered him until he watched it with me (potato/potahto). He was not a fan. He couldn’t believe that one of the central conflicts is that Judy Garland’s love interest misses the big fancy ball because he forgets to pick his suit up from the tailor before it closes so has nothing to wear (spoiler alert).
But this simplicity is my favourite part. I love that old mate missing the ball is akin to a disaster. It makes a nice change of pace from the barrage of modern-day films that are about actual disasters.
Anyway, when we originally planned this trip, we intended to start with five days in Chicago. Then at some point I was left unsupervised with a map and I noticed that my beloved films namesake, St Louis, was only a relatively short drive from Chicago. So even though I couldn’t convince Hoff to love the film in the way that I do, I did convince him to start our journey there instead.
(Actually, my original proposal was that I go there, and he go somewhere else nearby so that I could ring him and warble “Meet me in St Louis” down the phone in a context that would make sense. Denied.)
I should be clear though: virtually the whole film was shot on a soundstage in Los Angeles. There is very little in present-day St Louis that harks back to the film. Even the beloved trolley is currently out of commission, which I think came as a relief to Hoff because I fully intended to re-enact “The Trolley Song” complete with a giant hat, had it been possible.
This came as no surprise though; I had done my research. The point is, I knew that even if it turned out to be a dodgy place, I could always say I’d been there. Kind of like a little in-joke with myself.
In fact, it wasn’t at all dodgy.
We arrived after the obligatory long haul flight (damn you Australia and your epic isolation) and headed straight to Ballpark Village. St Louisans are pretty wild about their baseball, as evidenced by the giant precinct in honour of it.
It was here that we tried toasted ravioli, apparently a St Louis specialty. Who knew pasta could get any better? Well-played, St Louis, well-played.
Post-Ballpark Village we headed to dinner at Blueberry Hill, which is a St Louis institution and boasts some of the creepiest restaurant décor I’ve ever seen. More toasted ravioli too. I’m not even sorry.
Unfortunately though, not long after round two of toasted ravioli, the dreaded jetlag set in and we had to haul ass to bed. We would’ve liked to take more advantage of St Louis by night in all her neon glory but it we had a big day of driving ahead of us so had to do the grown up sensible thing and stop for an ice cream sandwich before heading back to the hotel to hit the hay.
It was an almost insultingly short amount of time to spend in such a charming city but I’m so glad we did. Even though my beloved film really just provided a jumping off point for our overall itinerary, I’ll always feel pretty chuffed that I actually go to go there. Plus I can always recreate “The Trolley Song” on the 109 tram when I get back to Melbourne.