Bush Strikes Out

Our commander in chief takes to the mound, Missouri gets its very own dinosaur, an Old Kid on the Block remembers when he was New, and Unreal learns a little something about love and basketball

When Unreal's hero Jerry Berger broke the news that President George W. Bush is coming to our humble, eleven-electoral-vote battleground state to throw out the first pitch at the Cardinals' April 5 season opener against the Milwaukee Brewers, Andy Ayers got mad. Ayers, the swashbuckling owner of Riddle's Penultimate Café and Wine Bar in the Delmar Loop and a self-described "shit disturber," fired off a call-to-arms e-mail to 50 friends, complaining that "our non-sectarian municipal celebration of spring...is being hijacked this year for partisan political purposes."

"To have the president turning this into a political stunt, well, that's just not right. He is usurping our celebration," Ayers fumes between sips of California merlot at his venerable eatery. "He's going to make us all part of his campaign commercial, and that's not right. And we've got to do something about it."

An inveterate Cards fan, Ayers says he has a contact in the Cardinals' front office who told him that as many as 50 bomb-sniffing dogs may greet members of Cardinal Nation who venture out to Busch Stadium for opening-day festivities.

Just another sign that spring is here.

Response to his missive has been overwhelming, Ayers reports. He's now pondering devilish ways to smuggle a little anti-Bush sentiment into the ballpark -- perhaps slathered on in the form of body paint, or painted on bed sheets and pillowcases that fold up for easy concealment or on T-shirts that could be distributed to incoming fans.

It wouldn't have surprised Unreal (few things, after all, surprise Unreal) to learn Cards management had made the call to the Bush bullpen -- not because the team's starting rotation is suspect, but because principal owner Bill DeWitt's friendship with Dubya dates back to the days when the latter dabbled in Texas tea (and baseball). During the 2000 campaign, DeWitt raised $100,000 for Bush; he's raised twice that for the current imbroglio.

Turns out it was Bush -- the same man who once told New York Timescolumnist Maureen Dowd that baseball is his favorite "cultural experience" -- who pursued the Opening Day invite, according to Cardinals customer-service rep Megan Noel.

"I don't know," says Noel, "it might be a political thing."

You think?

Missouri's Hadrosaur: Deterring Vandals Statewide

Long ago, on the ground where we now sip our lattes and eat our flaky croissants, a humongous vegan creature once roamed. It had a bony head, a duckbill, 1,000 teeth and (probably) twinkly blue eyes. Today, 67 million years later, we honor this creature, Hypsibema Missouriensis, which has crawled from the deep crevices of history to stand one step away from recognition as Official Dinosaur of the State of Missouri.

On March 8 the Missouri House of Representatives passed a bill honoring the dinosaur. And while they were at it, they passed a bill designating Andropogon gerardii (or Big Bluestem Grass to you and Unreal) as the state's Official Grass. With the bills awaiting senate approval, Unreal called the Bollinger County Museum of Natural History down in the boot heel, which dinosaur expert and curator Guy Darrough likes to call the Smithsonian of the Ozarks.

Our new dinosaur, Darrough tells Unreal, is a type of hadrosaur. "All the duckbills have the very same body -- almost identical -- but on the tops of their heads they're different," he explains. "They have crests, and all different types of ornamentation, and the shapes of their bills are different. Even though Hypsibema Missouriensis isn't a meat-eating dinosaur, the teeth are very serrated -- much more than other duckbills. Which leads us to believe that the vegetation here in Missouri was probably pretty harsh, pretty heavy-duty."

Did the Official Dinosaur of the State of Missouri ever feed on the Official Grass of the State of Missouri?

Alas, no. There was no grass yet, Darrough says. "It's a funny thing to think about: a world without grass," the curator muses. "It was low vegetation of other types -- bushy, shrubby fern-type things and low-growing vegetation."

Though we fretted that Officially Designating might not be cost-effective -- what with the budget crunch and all -- Darrough was quick to ease Unreal's concerns.

"The amount of tourism that is drawn to states by their dinosaur fossils is enormous," he says. "If you're a state and you have a dinosaur site, you make lots of money off it. I have no idea how many millions of state dinosaur T-shirts will be sold, but I can't think of any reason why anybody would not want the Missouri state dinosaur. It's just a cool thing to know that we have such a cool thing in our state. And think how many kids there are in this state! They can either be breaking windows and getting in trouble, or they can be learning about something. And it takes dinosaurs to catch their imagination."

Old Kid on the Block

Jordan Knight isn't new anymore. By some people's standards, the thirtysomething ex-New Kid on the Block heartthrob is, in fact, old. But not too old to release a remix of all the New Kids' hits and get his croon on live. Knight, who performs tonight (Wednesday) at the Enigma Lounge in Ballwin, took time out recently to discuss his life as an old kid.

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