On the Loose in Missouri

After feasting on a breakfast of cold fried chicken and cinnamon rolls, we headed north on the interstate towards St. Joseph, Missouri.  The further we traveled north, the heavier the fog became, eventually turning into a light drizzle just as we arrived in St. Joseph.

We'd come to St. Joseph so I could share the Glore Psychiatric Museum with Mark.  After visiting the Glore in 2008  it became one of my very favorite small museums in the U.S. and I knew Mark would truly appreciate seeing some of the terrifying old tools once utilized by his trade (he's a psychologist).  When we walked in, there were several classes of callow scholars being led about by Intro to Psych 101 professors.  Hearing the high points of the tour came close to being cringe-worthy for me.

The first few rooms we entered gave me a bit of a scare.  On my last visit to the Glore, the thing that had enchanted me most about the place was the widespread use of 70s era mannequins to reenact delicate concepts like electroshock therapy, inhumane restraints and witch burning.  Those grossly incongruent glamour models had lent an air of absurdity and intimacy to the display that I found vital.  It was apparent that the museum has been undertaking renovations and several rooms have been freshly painted and had their Joey-Heatherton-style mannequins updated with featureless silver plastic forms.  I think I must have been visibly forlorn.- it's certainly the way I felt.

Until, at least, I entered one of my favorite areas of the museum (mental illness through the ages!) and saw that all the mannequins that had made such an impression on me on my last visit were still intact.  Here are some pictures of them so maybe you can understand what I'm talking about:

It also helped my spirits to see some of my favorite exhibits at the museum - like the mandala which is a graphic display of the stomach contents of a female patient at the hospital who was obsessed with swallowing non-food items.  They operated on her in the 1929 to remove this vast array of items from her gut, and the surgeon who removed them sewed and glued them into a huge mandala, including a exhaustive typewritten list chronicling the objects.  Compelling, revolting and fascinating all at the same time.

I don't remember seeing this wonderful piece of embroidery the last time I was there.  A patient who was reputed to be a mute endlessly embroidered various rags and sheets during her protracted stay at the hospital.  The staff allowed her to sew and sew and sew her stream of consciousness ramblings onto fabric as a therapy modality.  I found the phrase"hair on fire" embroidered on one side.  You just have to wonder.

As we made our preparations to leave, we noticed frequent loud rumbles of thunder.  When we went to the door to confirm that what we were hearing was in fact thunder, we discovered that the wind was blowing a gale force, the rain was coming down in big heavy drops and lightning was striking quite close.  As we stood there watching in awe and surprise, little pellets of ice began to rain down.  We dashed out to the car when it seemed to let up a bit.

We found a place that made real coffee drinks (surprisingly rare in the Midwest) and plotted the rest of our afternoon over a nice cup of latte.  The weather made most of our previous plans untenable, so we decided instead to meander on county roads toward St. Louis, stopping in little towns at antique malls and anyplace else that looked interesting.  Our drive yielded several good junk stores and a variety of excellent finds.  It was a delightful way to spend the day, especially considering the trees are wearing their splendid fall regalia in this part of the country.  We oohed and aahed as we crested hill after hill to see the countryside awash in yellow, oranges, reds and greens.  The rain was persistent, but mostly light.

In the last town we stopped in for a collectibles foray, we decided to have an early dinner and chose a Mexican restaurant recommended by the shop owner.  It was time for our traditional travel margarita!  Mark and I like to sample Mexican food and margaritas all over the world, and Lexington, Missouri seemed like a fine place to collect our next specimen.  The margaritas were pretty average, laden with sweet and sour mix but tasty nonetheless.  I could only drink about half of mine since I was driving.

Mark did have to add hot sauce to the hot sauce, though.  Unmitigated, it was pretty much ketchup with salt.  Fortunately, the bottled hot sauce on the table perked the bowl of insufficient sauce right up.  The food was surprisingly tasty, and earned our authentic Mexican comida seal of approval. 

One last hour of rainy interstate driving and we settled for the night in Columbia.  Tomorrow we're off to St. Louis.

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