About a month and a half later we were on our way with a stopover in the charming Ozark mountain village, Eureka Springs. It’s a cozy spot, with steep curvy streets and springs seeping out everywhere. Tall Victorian buildings with iron balconies are built right into rock walls. The off-season was quiet, even so a handful of buskers strummed hopefully on their guitars here and there.
Where could we play music? We had seen an enchanting picture of the Blarney Stone online, but that was shut down. We visited the Pied Piper, and were welcomed. It was an option. We wandered around asking locals where to play: street painters, merchants, hotel employees, folks walking dogs, waitresses. They all said Chelsea’s....
We tuned up at eight o’ clock and played a couple hours for the lively bar crowd. There’s this certain kind of dance people do when they hear our music, there was a lot of that going on, that and eating pizza. The new fiddler for Mountain Sprout approached the stage and introduced himself. He threw some cash in the tip jar, and voiced many kind words. Another new friend and Ozark Harvest Radio host, Richard Pille, raised his glass and proclaimed, “We’re not used to such classy musicians around here!” As we left Nate shook our hands and spoke, “You always have a home here at Chelsea’s!” We love Eureka Springs!
Next morning we were resurrected by outstanding breakfast and strong coffee at the Mud Street Café. Not being used to strong delicious coffee at our house, we drank a great deal, and it was a white-knuckle ride on the hilly winding road toward St. Louis until the caffeine wore off. Around four we arrived at TJ and Jill’s and instantly went to a heavenly local place, Pizzeria Tivoli. We caught up with each other before our first gig in Downtown St. Louis at The Dignitary Meet and Greet.
Every Saint Patrick’s day, the Irish government sends a representative for St. Louis’ most popular parade. This year the parade committee welcomed Paudie Coffey, Minister of the State Dept. of the Environment. In the penthouse suite of the immense Ballpark Hilton, the Green Jackets celebrated their guest of honor! Beer and Irish whiskey flowed beside appetizers galore. We had been hired to play exclusively Irish music, but late into the night, requests for Cajun, classic rock, and pop songs brought out the more raucous side of our repertoire. We played on, under the flags of Ireland and America, surrounded by the Parade Committee, its members all proud descendents of the Irish Diaspora.
At this point we were off the hook musically and sat down at the table with our hosts and committee members: TJ, Mark, their father Michael along with the rest of the Minden clan, including two very pregnant women. We were honorary Mindens for the night (our name tags said so.) In a lilting Irish accent, visiting dignitary, Paudie Coffey gave an eye-opening speech about contemporary Ireland and its flourishing culture worldwide. Then together we bowed our heads solemnly in prayer, but soon we were chuckling as the cheerful priest (the same who had been expertly dancing earlier) blessed the company with heart and humor.
We returned to the dogs and couches of the TJ’s basement to watch an epic Hollywood adventure in surround sound. Five minutes in, Casey got some much-needed shut-eye in the snoozing dog pile.
Saturday morning everybody woke up fresh for the BIG DAY. I donned my beloved green gingham square-dancing dress. The last and most anticipated gig of the trip was before us, playing for thirty-thousand St. Louisians at the Parade!
TJ lead us to the front where all the Green Jackets (the parade committee members) had converged with their bags of beads, ready to walk and wave. The route was 1.2 miles down the center of town starting at Union Station heading directly toward the arch on a crisp morning.
On the way home, a stop at local grocer Schnucks brought us face to face with Grocery Store Musicians! We were surprised and delighted to meet our compadres. At home we relaxed as TJ cooked. Then we ate ice cream, played cards, Yahtzee, darts, told and listened to stories. Later, in the basement, August and I watched a movie which again Casey slept through.
Next morning it was time to pack out and cruise to Oklahoma. Everyone hugged goodbye. On the way out of town we decided to grab some breakfast at a place we remembered from our last visit, the Southwest Diner. That place is soo good. Then we settled into the drive and arrived back late afternoon on the Ides of March, a day loaded with significance both good and bad for Casey and me. We reflected on all that had changed. Spring had arrived. It was a young and hopeful new year.
Recommended reading: St. Louis Fall Break Friendship Tour 2013