A busy day in River City
Saturday, May 22, 2004
A schoolgirl friend of my wife's is visiting us for the next week. Alina is a remarkable young woman. She grew up in Minsk, Belarus, before emigrating to Israel. After serving in the Israeli army, she worked in a cellular phone start-up in Tel Aviv. She moved to New York City last fall where she studies computer programming and interns with the city government as a technology consultant. At night, she makes extra money as a hostess at a hip, downtown Manhattan jazz club.
One of my favorite stories about Alina took place at my wedding. As maid of honor, she took her responsibilities seriously, albeit with a mischievous laugh. Later in the evening (or, more accurately, early the next morning) when one of the wedding guests returned to the hotel and discovered she didn't have keys with her, Alina scaled the five story building and entered through a window to retrieve the keys from inside the room.
I found out about this stunt the next day. A petite young woman, it didn't seem possible. But that's Alina.
Victoria has been planning for Alina's visit for several days. Neither of them eat beef, pork or chicken, so our refrigerator and countertop are overflowing with even more fruits and vegetables than usual. There's also a lot of dried, salted fish in the fridge, a favorite from their childhood.
"Americans like to have peanuts or potato chips for snacks," my wife says. "We prefer salty fish."
Preparing for Alina's visit has been fun. The main challenge has been trying to fit in the many activities that define our life in Cape Girardeau while leaving her enough time to prepare for final exams.
Take today, for example.
Plans are to sleep late and then head to the riverfront for the ArtsCape festival. Live entertainment begins at the parking pavilion in front of Hutson Furniture at 10 a.m. At the arts council gallery on Main Street, a flute duo performs at 10:30 a.m., followed by a magician, story-reading and more music. There will be artists competing for prizes in sidewalk painting and booths set up with all types of jewelry, stained glass, pottery and other crafts.
We expect to see lots of kids there with their families (the beautiful hallmark of life in our area), taking advantage of the activities for them, including: spin art, weaving, origami, face painting, jewelry making and more.
Between the entertainment and arts contests, we plan to stop by some of our favorite antique stores and other boutiques. Of course, there are the riverwall murals too, which have been taking shape in exciting colors and energy.
In the early afternoon, we will depart for an excursion on the Grampa Woo, a river yacht that has been taking passengers on a Mississippi River tour from the redeveloped riverfront park.
While they probably won't fit into our schedule -- although I'll try to get one or two stops in -- there are open houses at the city's police headquarters and fire stations as well as at the expanded water plant. Boring, you say? Perhaps. They might also be fascinating. And the views from the water plant are some of the best in town.
To really show family fun, what's more quintessential for this area than a soccer tournament? A huge one is on the bill for Shawnee Soccer Park. If you've never been to one, and if you like energy and color (soccer uniforms are spectacular), let me give you an idea. Park at the Brink Street entrance to the Cape LaCroix recreation trail and make the walk to Shawnee Park. It will be a mile both directions: great exercise and a good opportunity to simply talk.
We haven't decided where dinner will be, but if we go out: Broussards? Buckner's? California Juice Bar? Cafe Azu? These are some of the downtown restaurants we're contemplating.
And after dinner, maybe we'll take in the rodeo at the Brase Arena, which starts at six o'clock, or simply relax in a cool movie theater or take a breather at home before heading downtown again for pool and darts, a late dessert and some dancing.
That's just the first day of Alina's visit. There is so much more to see and do. Maybe we'll even see you out too, taking advantage of the fun activities this area has to offer.
Jon K. Rust is co-president of Rust Communications.