Wednesday February 18, 2004 01:26 AM

They say a bad day fishin' is better than a good day at work. Well, I haven't been fishin' in years (though the other day Isaiah asked if we could go fishing sometime), but I do appreciate a day off work.

Monday was President's Day here in the US, a day designed to remember our leaders past and present, though to be honest I don't think I had one single thought about any of our presidents past or present the whole day. I suppose I'm just not very politically minded.

We kind of wanted to do something for the holiday, but weren't sure quite what. It was too cold to go to the zoo or any kind of outside stuff and nothing good was coming to mind in the days approaching the holiday. Over the weekend I'd had the idea that it might be interesting to go see the new mall built near where I work- St. Louis Mills.

I'm not what you'd really call a capitalist. I'm not even very materialistic (Of course claiming to be 'not materialistic' is kind of like saying 'I'm a humble guy', but I don't think I am- and I do think I'm fairly humble, too...), but I am a product of my environment and though I'm not particularly proud of it, the idea had popped into my head. When I mentioned it to Ruth, she said she'd had the same idea so we decided to do it. I had also been thinking that it might be fun to celebrate the day in a way I had been fondly remembering as President's Day drew nigh. Though, when I subtly mentioned it to Isaiah he declared that he had no interest in seeing the ducks, though he would like to see 'Saint Mills'.

I knew what the place is like. I'd been there one day for lunch with a buddy from work since it's only about a five minute drive from the office. It's very similar to Grapevine Mills in Grapevine, Texas which we looked at instead of the Firefighter's Museum on a trip to Dallas to visit Uncle John ("We can look at the museum after the mall, Roger, it's open till four, right? We'll have plenty of time." Yeah, I knew how that would turn out...)- 200 stores and maybe seven maybe eight that would be of the slightest interest to me. It is big, though, and even if the stores I'm walking by attract my interest like sand does a camel's, a walk around the place would be an outing.

We got there about twelve-fifteen and Ruth was ready to head for the food court. Between the entrance we parked by, #6, and the foodcourt was the PBS Kid's Zone, an indoor playground accented with characters from children's shows on PBS, and two toystores. I told Isaiah that Mommy was hungry and that we'd come back to the toystores after lunch as we walked on by headed for food. When we got to the foodcourt about half past noon, we decided that perhaps we'd look at the toystores first after all and come back when the lines had died down.

The foodcourt at 'St. Mills' is underwhelming: six fast food places, Johnny Rocket's and Tony Roma's. Now, let me say there is nothing underwhelming about Tony Roma's. Some of the best ribs I've had in my life came from Tony Roma's and I've been saying St. Louis should have one for years, but as far as the other choices went, I was expecting a little more diversity. I had been there for lunch before, but forgotten how limited the choices were. I'd never heard of Johnny Rocket's before. It's made up to look like a 50s diner, but the high prices coupled with the fact that Isaiah did NOT want it, put it out of the running. The winner, based on line length and price was Burger King. Yeah, I know, I know. We should have eaten lunch at home. If I would have known I'd spend more time in line waiting for such delightful fare than it actually took us to eat it, we would have eaten at home. You live and learn. Isaiah was good waiting with Ruth at the table, though, and ate a good lunch. Gideon continued to slumber oblivious despite the fact that we had to raise our voices to be heard across a small table due to the crowd noise and the background music which I got an agreeing chuckle from Ruth by describing as "running the gamut from unappealing to yukky".

After lunch, the next place of real interest was the NASCAR Speedpark. I'm not a big NASCAR fan. There, I said it. Any southern readers I ever had have just deleted my bookmark, but I'd really rather watch something like sprint cars on dirt or the World Rally Cup, but race cars are race cars and there's not a one that isn't interesting in its own way to me- or Isaiah. Race cars definitely rank below spaceships, but they are still high on his list.

This place is pretty cool. It's got eight or ten NASCAR simulators- one-fifth scale car bodies with motion bases and three large screens in front of each- linked together so that the people in the cars are actually racing each other. It's very cool to watch- especially when someone crashes and the sky and track spin around and around on the screens in front of the bucking and shuddering car. I bet it would be very cool to drive, too, but I didn't even bother to ask how much it was.

There are also some kiddie rides like you'd see in a carnival which Isaiah wanted to ride, but didn't get to. Yeah, I know, I'm mean and cheap. He got over that fairly well, though, when I let him play for a while on the play equipment much like a scaled down McDonald's playland by the 'PitStop' snackbar.

The coolest thing in the Speedpark, though, is the indoor, electric, two-storey go-kart track. The track is shaped like a figure eight and has probably fifteen feet of elevation change from the top level to the bottom. Sticking up right next to the track is a rock-climbing wall. You pay the tickets to climb (everything's tickets inside the Speedpark), strap into a harness, climb about twenty-five feet to the top, and repel down. Once again Isaiah wanted to climb. This time, though he was officially too small. He was also officially too small for the go-karts which he also, of course, wanted to ride.

Due to my understanding, yet firm skinflintedness, we escaped the Speepark with zero dollars outlay. Isaiah and I both would have liked to get more watching out of our admission price, but Ruth was getting tired and feeling under the weather.

The next place we stopped- actually Ruth stopped was a girl's store. Candles, household items and stuff like that. Isaiah and I walked on down to 'The Carnival of Fire'. It's really just a place in the main thoroughfare where the walls are all painted orange and the backs of the orange benches are carved like flames, but there's an interesting, for lack of a better word, sculpture there.

There's a post in the middle of the circular area that runs about fifteen feet up to two large red and orange fan blade/flower things one above the other. About three feet off the ground there is a wheel attached to the pole and when you turn the wheel, the fan blade/flower things spin in opposite directions. It held Isaiah's attention until Ruth caught up with us. The wheel is harder to turn than you'd think and he needed a little help to keep it going, but he did.

The next destination was Books-a-Million which I was disappointed to learn is not an outlet or a discount store. It's just a big bookstore, though, I don't think there were anywhere near a million books there. The only expenditure other than lunch was for ten dollars worth of ninety-nine cent, one dollar, two and three dollar books for the boys and a four dollar magazine for me.

We were all nearing the end of our respective ropes for the day by this time. We were ready to make our way back around to entrance #6, but there was one more thing to do. I had earlier told Isaiah that if he was good he could play on the playground equipment in the PBS Kids's Zone, so we went on past our exit back to where he climbed, and ran, and played, and even 'made a buddy' while I waited and watched and Ruth and Gideon checked out a baby clothing store. After ten minutes, Isaiah was hot and sweaty and he must have had enough fun for one day, because he came without a single word of complaint when I called.

We didn't see any ducks, but we had a good time.