by the time i got up, most of the people scattered around the house had packed and left, leaving it about as quiet as it had been the first day we arrived. i was distinctly flu-ridden and congested, so i had a cup of coffee and a handful of sudafed. john's parents were driving to st.louis to drop us off and to pay a hospital visit. the dogs sat in the back of linda's SUV and breathed on us as we passed through 90F heat and eventually into the city at 4. we came off the freeway outside the city and turned down into a suburb where we'd be staying with one of john's relatives before the 6am flight on monday. when we got there, people were splashing about in the pool and a beautiful chocolate lab was running around sniffing at things. john and his mum drove us into st. louis proper to see the arch. we went into the museum downstairs for a bit, decided that we didn't have time to go up into the observation room, and then came out again to watch the evening grow dark over the river. the arch is one of the most unnecessary things i've ever seen -- a characteristic it shares with most monumental architecture -- but tremendously effective. i liked it a lot (but i enjoy all giant objects), and we spent a while standing on the banks of the mississippi looking up at the giant parabola. after that, we stopped at ted drewes, purveyor of large quantities of frozen custard in one flavour only. the parking lot was full and there were at least a dozen lines each 10 people deep in front of the hut, but superior internal organization kept them all moving quickly. john's assorted relatives had assembled there on the side of the hut before us and had all finished their cones when we arrived, but there was amiable chatting. it had cooled a little and the night air was warm. it was also the best frozen custard i'd had in a long time, so i had two large cones worth.

next morning, we left the house at 4.45am and got to the airport. the lines here were multiple and long too, but they did not move with despatch and masterly precision. i felt unshaved, which is unusual, and sappy. the plane left 15 minutes late from st. louis and arrived at dallas 30 minutes late. as in all airports, there's nothing to do. i hung around for a while and looked at magazines, then went to an au bon pain and ordered a cup of tea and a breakfast bagel. the bagel was doughy, the bacon was greasy and limp, and the egg had been cunningly cooked to achieve the texture of a piece of plastic foam padding. getting to boarding time was a relief and i was waiting at the gate 10 minutes before to be among the first on. first, they announced a 30-minute delay, then an hour. since john and andrew were on a separate flight and i'd carpooled with them to the airport, this was really bad news. we eventually boarded almost an hour late, sat at the gate for 20 more minutes, then on the tarmac for another hour. i took another handful of sudafed and was out for most of it. i arrived in san francisco two hours late and checked my messages expecting john and andrew to have left me to fend for myself, only to discover that they'd been delayed several times and had a flight canceled and rerouted through chicago and las vegas. they were supposed to arrive in several hours, except that their flights had been changed so often that the united agent couldn't figure out where they actually were and when they would appear. i decided to get down to work on my own. this was good since they eventually got into san francisco nine hours late, but also bad because it took me about four hours to get from SFO to mountain view by public transport. about that debacle the less said the better, except to point out that 1) mountain view has no taxis, 2) the bus system is morally bankrupt, and 3) it's only about 2 miles from the corner of rengstorff and california to alta avenue.