Saturday, December 13, 2008

Shortcuts

I am fond of the neighborhood shortcuts that go through the heart of some south side neighborhoods. Here are three that immediately come to mind:

The Holly Hills neighborhood has a small one starting at Holly Hills Blvd, cutting north to Federer Place:


I imagine this was a shortcut for kids walking to Carondelet Park, directly across from Holly Hills Blvd.

There are two others in the Kingshighway Hills neighborhood. This one starts on Lindenwood, between Kingshighway and Hereford and extends north through the neighbor:

And then another between Macklind and Brannon. This one runs a longer stretch from Pernod all the way to Chippewa.

I imagine a time when these neighborhoods were teeming with kids and families that were allowed to roam freely in a more innocent time. A time when people would walk to the many intra-neighborhood markets and services and churches.

I'm sure there are many others in the city. Are you aware of any of these cut-throughs in your neck of the woods? If so, let me know, I'd like to walk them.

Local man votes St. Louis #1 for dining

St. Louis is a great place for food. And it's usually affordable, no reservations required and less pretentious than some of other big city dining establishments I've been to. We are so lucky to have such a wide variety of top notch, fresh, well run restaurants.

My latest plug for local dining is Meskerem at 3210 Grand (between Humphrey and Wyoming). Here's the play: you've gotta opt for the communal style dining. So choose someone you are willing to share an intimate meal with. By intimate I don't mean lotions, dim lighting and Barry White, I mean you'll be eating with your hands. The food is served on a layer of injera, a mix between a crepe and unleavened bread. It is made from teff, a uniquely Ethiopian cereal grain similar to rye. It is steamed and served cold.


You use the injera to scoop up your selected entree. The vegetarian items are my favorite, with many lentil, collard greens, cabbage selections. It is phenomenal! There are also some delectable lamb and tilapia selections.

This food is fresh, carefully prepared, affordable and extremely tasty. And best of all, it's right here in our fine little city. We kick the suburb's ass when it comes to inventive, indie, affordable, soul-full dining options.

St. Mary's High School Update

I previously posted some photos of the site where St. Mary's high school plans an expansion to accommodate their new athletic fields. The property is at South Spring Avenue and Itaska. St. Mary's High School is a 4701 S. Grand Blvd.

There was an update on this development in the South City Journal. Highlights from the story include:
  1. St. Mary's acquired 6.1 acres of property at the west end of their campus for athletic fields. The property was owned by the Archdiocese until the 1960's when they sold it. Someone developed some hideously designed apartment complexes (St. Michael's Apartments).

  2. Recently these apartment buildings were used by the fire department to do classes and practice in training fire fighters.

  3. These 1970's/1980's looking buildings will be demolished, expected to be completely down by early January.

  4. The new baseball, soccer, tennis and shotput areas will allow the high school's athletics to be on campus, where they are currently using Heine Meine in South County.

This is great news for the south side! Not only will this area be much improved, it looks like the all boy's private HS will be investing even more in it's city campus.


According to the story in the journal, they are launching a $8.5M fundraising campaign which includes the $4.5M for the fields, $0.5M for a center for applied sciences, $0.75M for synthetic turf for the fields, $1.5M for general improvements including A/C, and finally $1M for tuition assistance endowment.


That's a lot of money to invest into this south city property. It looks like St. Mary's high school plans to be here for awhile. They are great neighbors.

Friday, December 5, 2008

This Whoppers For You South Side

Middle child in the middle seat yelling over the radio, "Dad! What's on fire?!?" Nothing little one, that's just the smell of a flame broiled Whopper. "I don't like it", she says. I don't either.

What is the frickin' deal with Burger King. The new one at Loughborough Commons is packed. What's the deal with that? Is South City yearning for more fast food this badly? The BK on Grand closed, why is this one so popular. Maybe it's the proximity to I-55 and it's travelers stopping in for a quick meal.

That place has been packed since it opened. At first I assumed there may have been a coupon for a free Whopper in Town Talk or something.

All I'm saying is that when summer roles around and the Carondelet Mulch Mound blends with the Whopper and the River Des Peres, we're going to be in for real treat.

Shop N Save Mystery

When it's time to bulk up, and I mean the >$100.00 grocery trips, I go to Shop N Save. It's not the best when it comes to produce, but then again, neither is Schnucks. Since Dierbergs, Trader Joes, etc do not do business in St. Louis, I don't consider them as an option.

Anyhow, the Shop N Save locations are very convenient for South Siders. There's the one at Kingshighway and Chippewa (love that walk in beer cooler), the one in Gravois Plaza and then there's the one on Watson, next to Value City furniture.

They're all relatively close, so I usually choose the one on Watson. It's the cleanest and fastest in my opinion. However, I've always wondered if that location is actually within the City limits or if it's Shrewsbury. Do my taxes go to the city? Last night I asked a checker if the store was in St. Louis or the suburbs. She replied that it's actually in both. Part is in St. Louis, the other part Shrewsbury. She even mentioned that when a shoplifter runs out of the store and heads east, they call STLPD, and if the go west, they call Shrewsbury. Another checker mentioned that the first several cash registers go to the city and the last several go to the county. Huh? Is that possible?

After some fact checking, the address is actually listed as Shrewsbury. Does that mean all the sales taxes go to STL county and/or Shrewsbury?

I don't know where to find the actual city limits of both municipalities, so I'm still confused. I am going to stop going to that one, until I can get a straight answer. Anyone out there know how I can solve this mystery?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Am-Shack No More

We have a 2 year old who is crazy about trains right now, so we decided to take him downtown to see the new Gateway Transportation Center. I used to take the train from Carbondale to Kansas City quite often and I did not have fond memories of the Amshack.

The new center is a fantastic upgrade! We were thoroughly impressed. Now the Greyhound and Amtrak services are consolidated in one very convenient location. There is a major Metro bus hub and Metrolink stop nearby; not to mention it's directly under I-64. I really like the central location. This is a really unique station that will really standout to many rail and bus transit users

I like the styling of the building, with the overlapping metal panels and multicolored windows.

Here's a photo the bus depot:

And here's one of what appears to be a decorative addition to the supports for I-64 directly above the station parking lot:

Nicely done! It's great to live in a city that values transit options of all kinds.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Urban Legend or Conventional Wisdom

There's some common lore prevalent in South City: avoid state streets. I've heard this enough times from various people throughout the region for it to stick.

I think the perception is that the state streets are ghetto. Is this true or not? How did this start? All I know is that this is either urban legend, conventional wisdom, or purely outdated logic.

I am leaning toward the latter. We are searching for a home in South City and are considering Benton Park West, Tower Grove South, Tower Grove East, Shaw and Fox Park. Some of these have "state streets" and most are not bad. However there are a few state streets near Gravois Park, particularly Texas, that does seem rather menacing at times. Example: I ride a scooter through the city, searching for streets that I like, businesses, cool buildings, etc. When I encounter large groups of people hanging out in the middle of the street, who don't move out of the way, for whatever reason, that bothers me. That's one of my definitions of "a bad street/neighborhood". I can't deal with that bullshit.

But those are the rare occurrences, the exception and not the rule when it comes to my experience with state streets. It's quite possible that the only way to determine whether there is any truth to the lore on the state streets is in the definition of what is commonly considered a good or bad street/neighborhood. I'll give that some thought for an upcoming post.
I have a feeling my opinions differ from the hoi polloi.

Recommended if you like...

***UPDATE 12/05/08*** Thanks for the recommendations. I think Stellina Pasta will be next on the list. House of India doesn't make the cut. It's not in St. Louis. I believe it is in U City or Olivette or Clayton or something like that. It is good though...


I like the function on Amazon that recommends books based on what you've purchased. Or on iTunes, where they indicate items other people bought based on the item you are viewing. You can learn a lot that way.

So I am a nut for local dining here in St. Louis. I've compiled a short list of some of my favorite places. I'm kinda stuck in a rut and I would like to hear from like minded people who regularly dine at the places I've mentioned and maybe you could make a recommendation or two for new places that I should try. Here goes:

Greek: Apollonia
African: Meskerem
Vietnamese: Bahn Mi So, Pho Grand
Chicken: Iron Barley
Hamburgers: O'Connells
Quick take out: The Pitted Olive
Bosnian: Berix
Fried Fish: Hodaks
Mexican: La Tropicana, El Burrito Loco
Steak: $=Tuckers in Soulard
Pub food: Dressels
Beers: Schlafly and Mattingly Brewing Company
Mideast: Cafe Natasha

Notice there's no French, Spanish, Italian, Indian, Chinese or seafood joints....I'm sure I'm missing some great places. If you like many/all of the above, please make a recommendation!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Shopping the City

I go to great lengths to shop the city. I own a home here, my kids go to school here, I purchased a car here, etc. I try to keep every dollar I spend on entertainment and retail within the city limits. My reasons are simple:
  • Keep viable businesses open within the city limits

  • Support local investment

  • Employees in the city pay 1% earnings back to the city (like it or not)

  • I loathe the suburbs and it's myriad of inane strip malls

Some things are easier to get in the city than others. Here are some things that I cannot purchase in the city and wonder why not:

A TV. We're looking to upgrade to a LCD or plasma tv. Where in the city can I do this? Target has some, but a rather small selection. We need a Best Buy in St. Louis. Why not? And we need one in an old building, not a mega warehouse structure. Although, I'd settle for one in Loughborough Commons or Southtown Center.

So what else do I routinely drive to the suburbs to purchase?

  • Furniture, I think the Value City Furniture near Watson is actually in the county. I know the Shop N Save next to it is partially in St. Louis and partially in the county.
  • Costc0
  • Honda/Nissan/Mazda/Kia/Hyundai dealerships

  • Trader Joes

  • Gap/Old Navy/other national clothing retailers

I think the above businesses would be well patronized in St. Louis. I think Downtown could use some national clothing retailers. I think South City could use a Costco. Damn it, don't we have the demographics to make it sound for the above businesses to make a nice profit? Target is always packed. Home Depot is too. Lowe's seems to do well. I think Best Buy would be well patronized too.




Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President Elect Obama

Wow! Jubilation! Love! Caring! History!

Tears of joy were shared while listening to this momentous occasion. For the first time in a long time, I am optimistic about our leadership at the Presidential level. The possibilities seem endless.

That was the best night we've had in a long time! Way to go St. Louis! ~84% agree in this city that Obama/Biden was a better choice than McCain/Palin. I like living in a city were we can all overwhelmingly agree on that. I live among friends.

I was overwhelmed with the brevity of having an African American as president elect. I didn't think that really mattered to me until last night as I listened to the many black responses to the results. It was moving. I am so happy and proud of the Obama family.

I hope we can use this momentum and optimism to continue to pull people together for common goals.

Like Barack said, this is going to be tough. There will be sacrifice. I for one am ready.

p.s. I cannot wait to watch Michelle and Barack raising those two beautiful little ones in the White House. So go get that puppy and usher in a new era of caring, compassion and humility to the highest office in this great land.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Community Radio: Why It Works and the Gentleman Auction House

Pre-internet, I learned of bands and new sounds almost exclusively from friends and KDHX. Occasionally WMRY would send something new my way, but not very often.

Another local community radio station, KWMU, recently had their pledge drive; and while I know they are necessary, I hate these things. I listen to the station faithful talking about "driveway moments". They are referring to times where you are listening to NPR in your car during your commute and are so engrossed in the program, that you sit in your driveway to finish listening. No driveway moments come to mind for me when it comes to NPR. But, it got me thinking about how many bands I've heard of on KDHX and ran home to see if I could find the band's name.

Now, I like popular music, don't get me wrong. The Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Motown, Miles Davis, Neil Young, etc. All that stuff is great and will be in my life forever. However, nothing beats the feeling of discovering something new and exciting. KDHX has done that again and again for me over the years. In the old days, I'd hear something and have to listen to the DJ and write down the band name if they even mentioned it. Or, I'd call the station and ask what the song was. Then email came and I could email the DJ and ask about songs (thanks Doug Morgan for being so kind over the years). Well, now it's much easier thanks to the great KDHX website. You can simply click on the show, and the song/band info appears. Excellent.

Friday, I happened to take a half day off; I turned on KDHX around noon and heard a song that immediately struck me. First, let me say that I am a sucker for hand claps and cow bells. The song being played immediately hit the spot with some choice hand claps not 2 seconds into the song. The inventive, complex layers of percussion and bass/synth lines kept my attention and the singer's voice and delivery reminded me a little of Conner Oberst. The jingle-jangle guitar part at 38 seconds continued to draw me in. It kinda reminded me of mid 70's soul, like Jackson Five. Some na-na-na's at 2:20 min, and I was sold.

I had to get home to log on to KDHX to see what that was. The show was "Silver Tray" and the DJ was Thomas Crone. He played a song called "ABCDEFGraveyard" by Gentleman Auction House. I googled it and found to my surprise that the band is from St. Louis! I was very happy. So I logged on to iTunes and bought a couple songs.

Thanks to KDHX, I now have a new current local favorite.

I hope to see these guys play soon, and I wish them luck. Here is a link to their website . And here's a nice interview of the band from SXSW. And a video of another good song "Book of Matches".

Now for the real question: are they really from St. Louis or the suburbs? I always gave Uncle Tupelo props for saying they were from Belleville. Being a Belleville product, that was very important to me.

Anyhow, thanks again KDHX for playing songs you can't hear anywhere else on the dial!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Great Rivers Greenway Extension

Took a ride on the River Des Peres Greenway extension this morning. As usual, Great Rivers Greenway has done a careful, excellent job. There is the familiar stone work, decorative pavers with the fleur de lis imprint and well graded paths. In addition, there are a few really interesting touches unique to this extension. First, they installed decorative metalwork on the Morgan Ford overpass, they also painted the buttresses with the flowing water pattern:
Secondly, they added some nice touches at the corner of Morgan Ford and Germania at the entrance to the extension toward I-55:
Thirdly, I like the way they have worked in trees to provide shade and interest at the stopping/resting points:
As usual, the selection and placement of trees is fantastic. There are more ginkos along this stretch and some larger grasses planted toward Germania. All in all, another excellent and beautiful addition to St. Louis. The next extension is planned for 2010; this will take the trail from I-55 to Alabama avenue. It will add an additional 0.5 mile to the River Des Peres greenway.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Missouri Forest ReLeaf

I was in need of some low-canopy Missouri native tree species to plant at the Holly Hills Community Garden at Bates and Arendes. I started asking around on where we could get some trees at a low cost. My sister turned me on to Missouri Forest ReLeaf.

I submitted an application for Eastern Red Bud and River Birch. These are 2 of my favorite trees as they are native to our region and are very hearty and low maintenance.

The application was submitted and I got an email back the next day indicating that I got 10 red buds and 10 river birch, all free of charge! I was ecstatic. You know, St. Louis is such a great place. There are so many connections to meet caring and well intentioned volunteer organizations.

The trees were ready for pickup at their nursery near Creve Coeur Lake is far west county. They are now in the ground skirting the edges of our garden. In several years, we will have a beautiful stand of trees that will provide a natural border to our garden and also convert more CO2 to O2 while providing additional pollination sources for the Hemitera and Coleoptera that help pollinate our flowers and crops.

Thanks to Gateway Greening and Missouri Forest ReLeaf for all the support over the years. It's organizations like these that make me want to stay in St. Louis for years to come.

Cheers!

Kingshighway and Neosho

Notice the newly constructed front overhang on the building facing Kingshighway between Itaska and Neosho. I wonder what's going in there; and more importantly, what's up with that cart?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

St. Mary's High School Athletic Field Expansion

According to this information on the urbanstl board, changes are in store for St. Mary's High School. Plans to extend their athletic fields to include new baseball diamonds will affect the apartment complex below:
There are a lot of these 1970s (?) style apartment complexes in my hometown of Belleville, Illinois. They were not particularly well received there, and it appears that they don't fit in any better in St. Louis. The suburban nature of these complexes add very little to the neighborhood.
Good riddance to these. I've never understood the center courtyards either. I am pleased that St. Mary's high school will be expanding. That means they are committed to St. Louis. It also means there will be more education options for residents who choose private education.

There is a neglected little city park just west of this apartment complex. Let's hope this park will receive some much needed attention when St. Mary's completes the work.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery

I recently rented the 1959 movie "The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery", shot almost entirely on location in South City. It stars Steve McQueen as the getaway driver in the heist of the Southwest bank at Kingshighway and Southwest.

Some of the actual STL cops and bank employees were cast in their actual roles. There is some really choice footage of some familiar sections of town.

Here are some places I recognized:
  • There is a meeting of the thieves under one of the ornate pavilions at Tower Grove Park.
  • McQueen's character steals a license plate for the getaway car in the Famous Barr parking lot at Chippewa and Kingshighway. As far as I could tell, there was a sea of surface parking at the southeast corner of that intersection.
  • Of course the bank at Southwest and K'hway. The site of the current BP and former Don Brown Chrysler/Jeep was also a sea of surface parking.
  • There was a nightclub in the movie, directly across Kingshighway from the bank. It is an empty lot now, but I wonder if there was once a happening deco-style nightclub there, or was it shot at another location?
  • There is a murder scene in the film where a woman is pushed down a fire escape in the back of an apt. building. I'd love to know where that was shot.
  • There is a great scene at the opening of the film where they are driving across the Eads bridge from the Illinois side. My how Downtown has changed. This was before the grounds were cleared for the Arch.

I won't say this was a great film by any means. It was a simple noir style typical of the 1950's. Yet, as a STL history lover, it is a must see. Man, I wish I could have seen St. Louis when it was still a bustling, densely populated city.

Again, the movie was released in 1959. That means it was probably shot sometime in the mid to late 1950's. The population of STL in 1950 was 856,796 and by 1960 it was down 13% to 750,026. Still a lot of people lived here then, almost double the current population. It is clear from this film that by the late 50's, the destruction of older buildings to make way for the car was clearly underway.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Delor Decor and Halloween Cheer

Halloween in St. Louis is always fun. The weather is beautiful, and the South Side looks a little different in certain places. Here's one on Delor:

Can you think of a home with more decor than this one? If so, let me know the address. I'd like to take a photo and post it. Is this folk art?

Avalon Cinema

I always thought the Avalon would make a great music venue. Ever since Mississippi Nights closed, I think we've been lacking a venue of it's size. Looks like change is ahead once again for the Avalon. The marquee may be coming down.And a close up:

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Good Bye Suburban Journal

As of Wednesday, November 5th, the Suburban Journal will move to a subscription-only service. YES! We have a choice. If you are a fan of the weekly paper, you can pay a mere $19.99 for a one year subscription to continue your service. However, if you don't want it, it'll be discontinued shortly.

I guess I have mixed feelings over this one. On one hand, I am sick of these things soaking up rain water, littering many porches, sidewalks and steps in the City; these have been the object of both my scorn and affection.

I've enjoyed many a laugh reading the crazy and sometimes creepy Town Talk. I will also miss the occasional incite provided by Jim Merkel and Shawn Clubb on some important local issues.

All in all, we have decided to discontinue the paper delivery service. We don't read the vast majority of the content. And, this will decrease the amount of waste we have in our recycling bins.

Let's be honest, newspapers are becoming more and more irrelevant with the onset of the many, many blogs and websites reporting on STL issues.

Cheers to the folks at the paper who finally decided to make the delivery optional.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

You Simply Must

If you haven't already:
  1. Donate to KDHX, our greatest asset on the FM dial. KDHX, Uncle Tupelo and the Replacements are responsible for steering me clear from an alternate path in life. I am pretty sure if I hadn't had these influences, I may be installing windshields in Belleville listening to 96.3. I'm just sayin.
  2. Find a romantic partner, lace up some ice skates on a cold winter night and look to the east over the trees toward the beautiful skyline of St. Louis' best neighborhood. Now go get a cold Schlafly and enjoy the rest of the evening.
  3. Splurge and go to Terrrene. Not necessarily my scene (a little too high falootin' for me), but the food is fresh and fantastic. I didn't know brussel sprouts could steal the show.
  4. Eat at the bar at Iron Barley. This place is like South St. Louis' version of a Northern Exposure scene.
  5. Try the eggplant pizza at Onesto's

What else?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Where do the burbs change to the city?

Traveling east on Conway Road, south on Ballas Road, east on Manchester to St. Louis. It starts to feel vaguely like St. Louis right when you cross Brentwood Boulevard. That's when I start to feel like I'm close to home. The suburban landscape let's up a little right there at the intersection near Frederic Roofing. Maybe it's just familiarity, "for a hole in your roof, or a whole new roof".

Heading east, seeing the Metro train tracks, brick, less mish-mash construction, people walking, it just starts to seem livable right around there.

And for you? North, south, east, west...when does it feel like St. Louis?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Holy shit, I'm white

I was in the mood for some light reading. I heard something on NPR about the newest David Sedaris book, so I went to Left Bank to make the purchase.

They didn't have the book in stock, but another one in comedy caught my eye:

"The Definitive Guide To Stuff White People Like, The Unique Taste of Millions" by Christian Lander.

This is some funny shit. And as it turns out, much of his findings hit very close to home. There is an entry (#25) on Davis Sedaris and another (#44) on public radio. Oh shit, I'm fucked, I'm white! Or wait, I mean, I'm set. Or....never mind, see for yourself.

Anyhow, there are 150 separate entries on, you guessed it, stuff white people like. It is written as a kind of guide for the reader who is trying to understand, and get along with urban white people. That is just part of the hilarity. If you are white, and offended, you are supposed to be. The last 7 pages are devoted to a check list and simple formula to determine just how white you are on a percentage basis.

I can't wait to see where I score. I'll post the numeric value and highlights as soon as I finish.

Since this is a STL blog, here's a pertinent entry from the book:

#73 Gentrification: "In general, white people love situations where they can't lose. While this is already true for most of their lives, perhaps the safest bet a white person can make is to buy a house in an up-and-coming neighborhood.
White people like to live in these neighborhoods because they get credibility and respect from other white people for living in a more "authentic" neighborhood where they are exposed to "true culture" every day. So whenever their friends mention their homes in the suburbs or wealthier urban areas, these people can say, "Oh it's so boring out there, so fake. In our neighborhood, things are just more real." This superiority is important as white people jockey for position in their circle of friends. They are like modern day Lewises and Clarks, except that instead of searching for the ocean, they are searching for old houses to renovate.
In a few years, if more white people start moving in, these initial trailblazers will sell their property for triple what they paid and move into an ultramodern home. Credibility or money; either way, they can't lose!
When one of these white people tells you where they live, you should say, "Whoa, it's pretty rough down there. I don't think I could live there." This will make them feel even better about their credibility and status as neighborhood pioneers."

Hilarious. Probably written with Brooklyn in mind, but applies to STL as well, no?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Exciting Projects in St. Louis

What are your most anticipated developments in St. Louis?

Here are some of mine:

The proposed Drury Inn at Kingshighway and I-64.
*This could extend the CWE, Barnes money and activity south to the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood.

The Bohemian Hill development in Lafayette Square.
*The addition of a some needed services in that part of town could be a main boost for that neighborhood.

The CVS drug store in Boulevard Heights.
*they are new to this market. If they can build an urban drug store (to the street with parking in back), I'll never go to Walgreens again.

The Great Rivers Greenway pedestrian trail
*The Morgan Ford to I-55 extension is nearly completed, the next step is from I-55 south to Loughborough Commons.

BPV
*I'm still optimistic it will add activity to this part of Downtown. I'm hoping it doesn't end up a TGIFridays, and a nail salon & instant check cashing strip mall.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Suburbanite Misconceptions

****Negativity Alert****You've been warned!

Working in the exurbs for nearly 14 years has taught me a thing or two about the misconceptions of non-St. Louisians living in the region.

Here are a few to get me started. I realize these are generalizations, but I've tried to compile the ones that come up time and time again.
  1. St. Louis County people refer to St. Louis as "Downtown", meaning the entire city is "downtown"

  2. Very few suburbanites know where to park for free at Cardinal games (maybe this is for the better). There are many, many spots for free within a 15 minute walk of Busch-III.


  3. When many suburbanites read/hear of new businesses, restaurants opening in the city, they will say it won't last. Nothing in the city lasts long.


  4. They think you can't be a pedestrian in the city. They fear muggings. Most of all though, they just aren't familiar with St. Louis streets and neighborhoods, and don't know how to get around.


  5. Few suburbanites will admit that racist tendencies influence their school district and home choices. I realize mentioning race is inflammatory to many; but, I truly believe this to be the case in my personal experience. I actually find it refreshing when the rare person is honest about their demographics needs.


  6. They don't realize that they are NOT living/working in St. Louis.


  7. They don't know where the city starts/ends and where the county starts/ends.


  8. Many exurbanites are completely unaware that there are nearly 10,000 Bosnian/Croatian/Roma living in St. Louis and the inner ring suburbs.

  9. Many exurbanites think you need a big yard to give a kid a "good upbringing".

This of course drives me nuts. Am I missing any?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Alley Power

Where does the alley fall in the urban experience? What does it mean? Is the alley the behind the scenes star? Is the alley to the house like the bass/drums to the band? The screen writers and cinemetographers to the actors and directors? The less visible star of the property and neighborhood? I'm not sure, but one thing recently became quite apparent to me: the alley can be an active, functioning addition to your property and immediate neighborhood.

I recently witnessed what I would characterize as a fully functional alley. There were children playing, it was spic-n-span clean, it was an adult meeting place (mainly male). It was beautiful.

It was akin to the familiar alley scenes in King of the Hill:

Again, there were kids grinding out skateboard techniques and riding bikes, kids peaking over fences to search for potenital playmates. It was a thing of beauty.

The next neighborhood I live in will have an alley. I've not yet experienced this in St. Louis. The roll out cart cannot compare to the dual dumpsters for yard and house waste. I long to have an alley.

The neighborhoods we are looking at for a potential move are Tower Grove South, Tower Grove East and Shaw. The occupied homes in these neighborhoods are generally very presentable from the street. However, a quick trip through the alleys can be a very telling story of the owner's, occupant's and neighbor's lifestyle choices.

We recently fell hard for a home between Compton Heights and TGE. It was priced realistically and had a lot of potential. However, a drive through the alley revealed a rusted out, flat-tired Winnebago, a trashed hooptie Caddy and garbage beyond belief. This was not a positive, active space. There was bad karma here. I can't have that. You can either take the chance with lazy, unclean neighbors and try to clean up the alley to the best your ability. Or, you can choose to not move there. You are either part of the problem or the solution right?

Anyhow, I am reengized with the possibilities of St. Louis City living from my recent alley experience.

St. Louis Rams 2008

The Rams looked woeful today in their season opener. Linehan, Bulger, Jackson...are these supposed to be our leaders? These guys look hapless. Remember how fun Sundays were when the Rams were good? Will we ever have that again? It's good for the city when the Rams are doing well, or at least competing. Bulger has no personality/offensive leadership, Linehan is hapless, Jackson is full of hot air and doesn't lead his team to victories. Who am I supposed to like on this team? Who do you rally behind? Who's going to save the rest of the season?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Continuity and the Neighborhoods

I read several STL blogs regularly. One of them is STL Rising. I find this offering a good mix of personal stuff and city related stuff. And, the author has a positive vibe. Anyhow, the following post has stuck with me:

Breakaway Union (August 11, 2008)

My favorite parts:

"St. Louis is described as a city of neighborhoods, and it is. It's like a bunch of little villages all pushed together. Each has its own flavor and personality. The neighborhood feel of our city is one of it's greatest assets. However, maybe all of the neighborhood distinctions aren't necessary? Maybe it's time to consolidate some neighborhoods? We talk about "addition by subtraction" (a topic for a future post), but maybe we should also consider how combining neighborhoods might make them stronger? Down in South City, a quiet area, the Southampton neighborhood (that's one word with one "h"), is gaining positive attention in the media. Neighbors have branded the area with a hip new name, "SoHa", and it's catching on."

"Soha has good momentum.So much so that maybe it's neighborhood organizations should combine? The distinction is so minimal, many people don't even know it exists. But according to official records, the area is actually made up of two neighborhoods - Southampton and Princeton Heights. The difference between them is misunderstood and the boundaries change depending on who you talk to. The city considers the boundary between the neighborhoods as Eichelberger, but the neighborhood organizations put it a few blocks south at Milentz...or is it Rhodes...Ask a neighbor, and many would have no idea what you're talking about. Some would tell you they live in St. Louis Hills, or give you their parish name. Some of the restauants and businesses in the area don't even think of themselves as part of Southampton or Princeton Heights, but rather, Soha. And why not, that's a buzz they want to be part of. A combined Southampton/Princeton Heights, aptly renamed Soha, would have double the population of each individual neighborhood. The combined organizations would carry double the weight down at City Hall. Major streets would be the boundary: Hampton/Chippewa/Kingshighway/Gravois. Board members of existing neighborhood organizations could form one new consolidated board. Fewer meetings would be necessary, and the area's fundraising base would be significantly increased. The combined groups would have double the membership."

Hell yes. How insightful and articulate was that? Hell yes, that hit the spot. (How inarticulate was that?)

What this town needs is a little continuity. A bridge between the fantastic neighborhoods and the mundane ones. The anchors of each zip code, region, neighborhood, whatever need to be linked, named and marketed to masses.

Everyone knows the Hill is a destination place. Same can be said of South Grand and Washington Blvd., etc. Why not capitalize on that popularity? Why not let the name brand spread. Share the wealth, consolidate the parties, entities, etc.

How hard would this really be? It certainly wouldn't be as hard as combining tiny municipalities like Brentwood and Richmond Heights. There is too much money and political gain at stake there. But, the point of combining neighborhood groups is brilliant. It combines resources and opinions and perspectives. It requires less meetings and hours and undirected/unfocused efforts.

Addition by subtraction. That is the best idea I've heard in a long time. I think that thought is worth continued debate and action. STL Rising, if you can make this happen once, as in the case of the Princeton Heights/Southampton example, it could set precedent. Maybe Boulevard Heights and Holly Hills would be next in line.

Daydream #367

sitting there and his cellphone went off
"Bad To The Bone" ringtone
and wondering how I could have lost respect any quicker
man, I gotta get out of here
12th ward blues are still blue

Daydream #368

The drum set was a good idea, right?
It was only 5 bucks
It has a bass kick, snare, crash and tom
Rhythm is important in the formative years
She shuddered when I mentioned adding cowbell

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Holly Hills Community Garden Update

The garden, she grows. This year, I've got red cabbage, green beans, cantaloupe, cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli and brussel sprouts. Some fellow gardeners also shared some starter potatoes with me. We'll see how they turn out.

Here's the latest addition to the garden at Bates and Arendes:
A special thanks goes out to Andy Cross, local artist/craftsman who hand carved our sign.

If you are interested in starting a community garden in your neighborhood, contact me here or by email.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

I don't set aside enough time to read for entertainment. My limited reading time is reserved for STL blogs, music reviews and Newsweek.

In fact, I read novels so rarely these days that I feel I am not qualified to speak objectively about them. I am so happy to be reading a novel and so happy to have finished one that I feel I will unfairly gloat about it simply because I read it and experienced it.

The same can be said for live music. I go out to see bands so rarely now, that when I finally do go, I am overwhelmed by the power and beauty of live musicianship, that I am prone to being awash in praise for bands or shows that just aren't that great to someone who sees tons of shows/bands.

I am trying to make changes in my life to see more live music and read more non-fiction. I saw Built to Spill in March at the Pageant, the Breeders in May at Pops, and Tom Waits at the Fox in June. I also read the Road by Cormac McCarthy.

I feel compelled to summarize my thoughts on this book, because it's themes and styles have stuck in my head for months after actually finishing the book. Briefly, the book follows a father and young son in a post-apocalypse setting. Here is the beauty of this one:

McCarthey writes of the love between a father and son within the context of the story. He does not use a heavy hand. The relationship is subtle and true.

The writer perfectly captured the realistic love a father and son can share. Having both sons and daughter, I know the relationships are different when it comes to gender. It's different between sons and daughters, and McCarthey must be a father.

Here are the topics that I've been going over in my mind since reading the book:
  1. how far would you go to survive
  2. what is your definition of hope
  3. good vs. evil
  4. what are your survival instincts
  5. how far would you go to protect your child's innocence and naivety?
If these are topics you enjoy, or ponder, you will love this book.

Other books I've recently enjoyed:

Winter's Bone (set in the Ozarks)
The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting: An Oral History
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalacian Trail
















Mine is not a high horse

I gave up the Parliament Lights on November 13, 2007. Cold turkey. If I didn't have kids I'd still be a blazin'.

So, Illinois went smoke free in restaurants and bars. Will Missouri ever go this route? I doubt it. Missourians love their tobacco. We have the 2nd cheapest state taxes on cigarettes in the U.S. Here's my source.

New York $2.75/pack
New Jersey $2.58/pack
Massachusetts $2.51/pack
------------------------------------
Mississippi $0.18/pack
Missouri $0.17/pack
South Carolina $0.07/pack

Damn, North Carolina and Kentucky even have higher taxes than the old Show Me state.

Anyhow, as time goes by I am tempted less and less by the smokes. Recently, I was actually turned off a couple times; yet, I am not one to judge how someone else should or should not spend their evening. I think smoking is a personal right that everyone has, just like drinking.

If you want to smoke or drink or whatever, knock yourself out. Smoking has become a club. So why not keep the club alive, and make it an exclusive one at that. Why not market smoking-friendly environments to smokers and smoke-free environments to nonsmokers?

Let's face it, a smoky bar has it's allure. Smoking is fun. Smoking is dirty, bad and rebellious. Smoking and drinking go hand in hand for many. So why not have Missouri bypass the whole ban on smoking in restaurants and bars, and opt for a smokers only or non-smoking only law?

If a bar choses to be hip and/or badass it could be a smoking establishment with a sticker/sign on the front door announcing this fact. If you are the hard core or casual smoker, enter and have fun. Let freedom burn. I likes me the smell of stale cigarettes at Courtesy. It makes the stale pie and coffee taste better. It makes the jukebox better.

If you are the healthy or high horse type, you can make your moral judgement call and eat/drink only in smoke free environments.

No place shall have a non-smoking section. The rules will be clear. Let's maintain our state's long history and love for tobacco. Let's embrace smokers.

I don't think St. Louis is in a position to be turning potential patrons/residents away. If the suburbs ban smoking, let's be the ones to (selectively) keep it alive.

I'm sure this is not a novel concept, but merely one that been on my mind.

Jury Duty

I spent 1.5 days downtown recently for jury duty. I didn't get selected but I got to the courtroom and was part of the voir dire.

I've never been called for jury duty before so this was a novel, if not interesting experience for me. Anyhow, here are some observations from my 2 days away from work:

1. I really enjoy riding the Metrolink. Scooter from home to Shrewsbury stop, train to Civic Center stop. It takes a lot of time to get there, but the ride is enjoyable. Working in the exurbs for ~14 years has made me a robot. Commuting in the city is way more interesting, flexible, fun and relaxing. My stress level is nill when the iPod is going and I'm reading a book or watching the city pass by. Driving from So. City to Chesterfield is hell. I am getting to the point where I'm considering serious salary cuts just to work closer to my home.

2. Downtown at lunch was hopping. Never, never thought I'd say this. I mean, as much street level activity as any other big city in the U.S. There was a particular area, 9th street I believe, between Olive and Pine that was really alive. What a pleasant surprise. I guess, in many ways, Downtown really has arrived. I hope the momentum continues.

3. It's amazing how many of us, as STL citizens have been touched by crime in our lives. On the official jurors form, you have to check a box if you have been a victim of a crime. I didn't check mine.

However, during the voir dire, nearly all the prospective jurors had to explain why they checked the box. It got kind of personal in many cases. This is a violent country we live in and the city is an honest representation of this fact. Anyhow, after hearing what other people described as crimes, I had to change my mind and bring up the fact that I guess I've had crimes committed against me, even though I didn't check the box.

I would guess that ~20% have had their cars stolen. ~15% had been mugged and assaulted. ~40% had experienced abuse of some kind. Many, many have a distrust for the police. I've always known STL was a violent place, but this kind of hammered it home.

I don't really consider car break ins or garage break ins as crime. In many cases, it's partially the owners fault for being stupid. My car had gotten broken into so many times at one of my prior residences, that I quit locking the doors, so the assholes could rummage through without breaking my locks or windows. I got smart and secured my home entry doors. I got smart and never (ever) keep valuables in my car. I figured that was an urban lesson to be learned.

On a side note, gangstas don't bother with pennies (nickels, dimes and quarters yes). Cassette tapes, forget about it. I did have a friend who's car was stolen and they even took his newly purchased diapers out of the trunk. That's cold. I was reminded of Raising Arizona. This might be one of the funniest things I've ever seen.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Boulevard Heights Progress

I have posted before about the intriguing Boulevard Heights housing project in the 12th ward. The site is located between Blow St. and Robert Ave. on the far southside of the City.

Here's a bird's eye view of the site plan:
I like the trees, alleys, closeness of the homes to each other and the street. I really like the townhomes, I believe the site refers to them as "the Nottingham":

I hope this site gets fully developed. It will add a lot of life to this part of Boulevard Heights.
Here are some progress photos:

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

More thoughts on the underdog

I really love my neighborhood and city. It's got a lot of problems and I think about how better it would be if we didn't have these problems. But then again, if I love her now, why fret over it?

I'm not laying down my arms or retiring my will to fight to make this place better. It's just that I've come to expect and eventually become used to failures and disappointments. Maybe that's healthy. Maybe that's naive, maybe it's defeatist. I can't really tell.

All I know for sure is that I continue to meet great and down to earth people here. I think St. Louis citizens have a common appreciation and respect for their sense of place. I think we are more united in our needs, expectation and desires.

I don't get a feel for this commonality in Creve Couer, Des Peres, Chesterfield, Ellisville, Ballwin and some of the other towns I spend lots of time in due to my job. Maybe it's there and I just don't get it. I just don't relate to the St. Louis County experience. I just don't see what's so great about the burbs. Obviously, it's the popular choice for most in the region. But I find it way to generic at best, unpalatable at worst. Most of these little suburban cities have no identity.

That's not to say some cities in the County are all bad. Maplewood, Clayton and University City are exceptions.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Perfect Automotive Shit Storm

I am of the auto generation. I was raised on cheap gas. If you didn't have a car in high school, you were nobody. However, now I find myself irate with my addiction to the car.

Cars are a financial disaster. They are very expensive to own, maintain and now operate. Insurance, safety inspections, emissions inspections, tires, brakes, you name it. They are money pits. Every car I've ever owned, I ended up hating. Here's the list of offenders that have jaded me over the years, including the reason for it's demise:

1980 Ford Mustang (orange with maroon interior...a hot look for hot times)
-Hole in the floorboard (convenient and fun way to get rid of cigarette butts), overheating
1985 Dodge Omni GLH Turbo
-Engine was running funny, pulled over, popped the hood, engine block was glowing orange
1991 Chevy Lumina (a hooptie if you will)
-Fuel injection went out
1995 Saturn SL
-The first new car I've owned, eventually (~130,000 miles) overheated with head gasket issues
1992 Dodge Dakota
-Total piece of shit, gas hog, overheating
2001 Toyota Carola
-used qt. of oil every couple weeks
2001 Chevy Venture
-intake manifold gasket, transmission
2000 Saturn LW1
-so far so good @ 120,000 miles. It is starting to run hot though.




The point I'm trying to make is that I feel trapped in the auto web. The Chevy Venture outage made us go with a new Toyota minivan. The Saturn is getting old too. It's only a matter of time. I like Honda Fit, Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris, but we can't handle 2 car payments at once.



My options are go to one car, work closer to home, or constantly drive a hooptie.


I live 22 miles from work. Something has got to give. We need more biology/biotech jobs in the city.




Anyone out there work at Solae or Sigma? If so, what do you think of it?

Top 3 activities to improve the city

I often think about the most noble efforts that could provide the greatest improvement to the city.

Outside of educating people on good development (something I'm learning from reading urbanreviewstl and ecology of absence blogs), here are my thoughts:

1. Rehabbing a property that is currently out of use to one that will be in use.
2. Opening a business/creating jobs in the city.
3. Sending your kids to the public schools.

I think #1 and 2 go hand in hand. If we had more attractive housing, there would be more people. If we had more jobs, there would be more people/activity/tax base. Rehabbing our fabulous housing stock is in my mind the most important thing you can do for the city. Since the city's population has precipitously declined since her hey day, it is also noble to take 4 families down to 2, or 2 families down to single family homes. Creating a livable, respectful space out of ramshackle dump amazing. We need more of this on every scale.

#3 is also at the front of my mind. So many urban minded people leave this town when their kids get to school age. Many of them don't even try the schools before they leave. They choose to be part of the problem, not the solution. In my mind it is apparent that responsible, active parents are less likely to put up with incompetence and b.s. when it come to the teachers and students currently in the schools. The school system is less in need of more money or newer schools, what they simply need are more kids with parents that give a shit. Parents that will fight to make the places better. Parents that aren't scared to speak up. Parents that teach their kids self respect at home will go to school armed with self confidence and pride. Those kind of families need to fill up the halls and classrooms with their kids....not run to the private schools, parochial schools and the suburbs.

What makes a good street?

My wife and I have lived in St. Louis since 1994. We've rented/owned in Soulard, Dutchtown, Holly Hills, Kingshighway Hills and Boulevard Heights.

We are beginning the search for a new home. Actually, we are looking for the perfect home, street and neighborhood to move into in ~2-3 years.

My 49cc scooter allows me to zip around the city at all times of day/night to investigate the various neighborhoods and streets.

I really like Tower Grove South and East. I like Shaw, Lafayette Square and Compton Heights. Carondelet, Gravois Park, Benton Park, Fox Park are cool too, but we're looking for a little more street life and services/businesses.

I like the Hill, St. Louis Hills, Southtown, North Hampton, Holly Hills; but we're ready for a change.

Here's a list of items that are must haves for us to relocate to:
  1. tree lined streets
  2. coffee shop within walking distance
  3. decent bar within walking distance (not a sports bar or hoosier joint)
  4. at least 3 independent, tasty dining options within walking distance
  5. community garden within walking distance
  6. majority housing stock pre-1940
  7. continuity with it's surroundings (not sided homes on one street, brick on the other)
  8. park within walking distance
  9. off-street parking with alley-garage
What makes the perfect neighborhood or street for you?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Gen X Yuppies?

The first I heard the term yuppie was back in the 1980's. I thought it meant people like Michael Keaton on Family Ties, or on the other side of the spectrum, those people in L.A. Law. I think of the term yuppie tied specifically to baby boomers.

I thought they were aged hippies. I thought they were self absorbed ladder climbers hell bent on making as much money in as little time as possible. I thought they ate pink tofu. I thought they wore trendy designer clothes. I thought they had cheezy hair cuts. I thought I rebelled against them in my SST, Sub Pop days.

Maybe I was wrong. Or, maybe I'm a yuppie. By definition on wikipedia: The term yuppie (short for "young urban professional" or "young upwardly-mobile professional")[1] refers to a market segment whose consumers are characterized as self-reliant, financially secure individualists.[2] Since the late 1980s, the phrase "affluent professionals" has been used as a synonym, stripped of negative associations with the once-homogenous market.[3]

Hold on....young urban professional? That's a good thing right? That's what the City needs more of (in spades). But do people my age and younger still have a negative, baby-boomer, connection with the term?


I was recently having a conversation with a fellow city dweller regarding bowling alleys in the region. We were both lamenting over the loss of Redbird Lanes, Carriage Bowl and other alleys in the City. I asked him if he's been to the Flamingo Bowl downtown. We had a kids birthday party there and I was really impressed. His reaction was not the same. He called it a yuppie bowling alley. He dismissed it as expensive and soul-lessly swanky.

Everyone is due their opinion (that's what these blogs are for, right?). However, I was kind of surprised to have a place I considered cool described as a yuppie spot. Maybe he was right though. I did spot a couple people that I would consider urban professionals; even young upwardly mobile professional would apply as well.

Should I retire or rethink my negative connotation around the term yuppie? Can Gen-Xers be yuppies? Do I have yuppie tastes? Is the city trying to lure yuppies? Is downtown too yuppie?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Recycling In the City

I used to take advantage of curb side pickup. It was very convenient, but I decided to save some money and take my recyclables to one of the City's 26 drop off sites. I wouldn't be able to re-join the city curbside program even if I wanted to. They are maxed out on their participation. The city offers several zip codes discounted prices on curbside pickup, it is a cost shared with the refuse division. The website indicates that the maximum fund was reached.

Anyhow, I am very impressed with the amount and variety of items you can recycle.

In the last 6 months or so, they plastic recycling options have improved. Previously only 1's and 2's were accepted. Now 1's through 5's and 7's are acceptable. This make sorting much easier. Even though the majority of household items are 1's and 2's, 5's are becoming more and more prevalent.

Anyhow, I'm glad that I can recycle almost all of my plastics now. I wonder why the change was made. Is it a result of oil prices increasing, making recycling more economical? Is it a technology improvement? Is it supply/demand?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

South Sider Experiences Another Positive Year in SLPS

Newsflash! Good things occur in the SLPS. My 6 year old rides the bus to school. He is the only one on the bus for >95% of the days. As a result, he formed a fairly close relationship with his bus driver Tonesha. They like each other. They talk.

Anyhow, we started talking to him about the school year winding down and things that will change over the next couple weeks. He wondered what would happen to his bus driver. He said he'd miss her. We would too. He drew her a picture (that's like cash money to a Kindergartener) and insisted that we give it to her. Turns out, she missed his last day of school and was replaced by a substitute driver. He came home in tears with his picture in hand. He was crushed that he couldn't give his bus driver his picture and well wishes for the summer.

My wife made a special trip up to school to make sure that Tonesha would get his picture. Apparently the message got to her, because she took the time to stop by our house (bus parked out in front) to say thanks and to return a gift to Ben. She gave him a card saying she loved his picture. She also gave him a gift of 2 little airplanes. He loves them. He is so proud. She is so sweet. We are so happy.

These are the success stories that rarely get to the mainstream populous. These are the good vibes that I feel in STL that don't get on the news or in the paper. These are worth their weight in gold when you're a parent. Fear not the SLPS. Give the system a chance before fear and ignorance send you to the burbs and the private schools.

Cu

Some asshole decided to break into the house on the street next to mine and steal all the copper pipes. He tore up the place in his lame ass quest.

What makes a person wake up in the morning, and start planning their copper heist? How hopeless must that be? What an asshole. What gives you the rite to think that's an acceptable way to spend your day? What does copper trade for these days? I've found that $10/lb sounds about right.

Anyhow, get a job and quick sneaking around people's homes.

STL Popular Recommendation

Here's a list of things I don't like that most people do when it comes to the Lou:

Ted Drewes I like that it's vibrant. I like that they keep the original one on Grand open (the one I go to). I like the mini-baseball hats at the STL Hills one. Heck, I like that so many people like this stuff. Sorry, I just don't get the product. Give me some ice cream or gelato.

Chris' pancakes Huh? Uncle Bills is weirder. Courtesy is weirder. Eat Rite is weirder. Buttery is weirder. So. City Diner is better.

Busch III Don't get me wrong, I love the Cards. Okay, we won a World Series here, that's great. But, until a stadium has sticky floors and smells like piss, I don't qualify it. Building concession stands, souvenir stands, etc out of those cheezy cinder block things is unacceptable in the Brick City.

Parades I just don't get it. Yeah, the kids like these things. But I don't. BFD

Hodaks I've yet to find a place in STL that has good, no great, fried fish. The chicken is good, but the fish is so-so.

I'm sure I'll add more later.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The New I-64

I recently noticed that MoDot is putting up those sound blocking walls in the inner ring suburbs near the I-170/I-64 interchange. I really hope they don't put these walls up along the interstate corridor in St. Louis. I think we need to show off the view of the city from the highways, not block it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hummers

Is it possible to be a thoughtful, considerate, intelligent person and drive a Hummer?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Chess vs. Sports

I have a six year old at Kennard Classical Junior Academy. I recently discovered that the school has a chess club. I thought about it for a moment. Would chess team be a good thing for him? Does he have the patience? Is it better than spending time/effort on Catholic sports little leagues (baseball and soccer)?

My son recently learned how to play chess from his older cousin. He is pretty into it at this point. I'm not really into chess, but maybe I need to start. The other day I was kind of day dreaming while we were playing and he beat me. In one fell swoop he came in with a bishop and took my king in a check mate situation. It was a wake up call on 2 fronts. One, I guess I need to take him more seriously. Two, I need to brush up my chess skills and nurture his progression if he's really into it.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Healthy Adult Crush

The Breeders are playing tomorrow night at Pops in Sauget, Illinois. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh, the Breeders are playing tomorrow at Pops.....Ahhhhh.

All right that's enough. The Breeders are the only female led band that I can think of that rock hard with true originality. Can you challenge me on this? I am looking to be proven wrong. By rock, I mean in a Ramones, White Stripes, Rolling Stones, Husker Du way.

Janet Weiss, Kim Gordon, Kim and Kelley Deal....these are the best women in rock EVER. I am close to adding Carla Buzolich too. I'm just not there yet. Am I missing anyone?

Anyhow, I will be there tomorrow to see the Breeders for the first time in my life. I've also never been to Pop's.

Here's one of my favorite Kim Deal moments, covering Guided by Voices. Damn. Damn. That's kim in the red sweater. Yeah, that's kelly in the white sweater. Cooler than a well digger's ass. They define female rock cool like Keith Richards in 1968 defined male rock cool.

Local Bands

A much trusted old friend of mine casually played an album from a local band, Miles of Wire. I loved it. It was solid from start to finish. The singer had Jeff Tweedy inflections and intonations and they kind of had a Wiskeytown vibe, yet were very original. I tried to find this album, but it is not for sale on their website. The copy my friend played was burned and had no title. Anybody know anything about these guys? I'm tempted to go and see them.

What are the best St. Louis based bands/musicians of the last 10 years?

I'm certainly no expert, but here's some local shit that has made an impression with me over the years:

Son Volt
Chuck Berry and his daughter who plays a wicked harp.
Henry Townsend
Bennie Smith
Highway Matrons
Gentlemen Callers
Nadine

What am I missing?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Shop the City

Have you seen those stickers around town that say "Shop the City"?

I agree with the sentiment. I go out of my way not to spend money in the burbs.

I recently attempted to simplify my life by dropping the non-local bank and cell phone company I've done business with for years.

The last straw with the bank was that they built a brand new headquarters in a flood plain in Chesterfield. I realize money is not stored in banks, but on principal, I cannot trust my money with an institution that settles down in a high risk flood plain. That just seems counter intuitive to me.

Secondly, ATT seems to be a big employer in STL. I went with them, dropping Verizon who does not employ as many in the city.

Speaking of city related stickers, where would one pick up one of those oval shaped CITY stickers I see about town?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Peterman Reality Tour-STL Style

Yeah I like Seinfeld. I like Kramer. I know there is a real guy in NYC that Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David crafted the Kramer character after. The "real Kramer" does bus tours of the legendary Seinfeld sites in NYC.

I work in the burbs. Unfortunately. Most (~90%) of the people I work with live in the sub and exurbs. Most don't know STL at all. They know the city mainly as legend. An interesting yet scary place best left alone.

They just don't get it. They have no idea what St. Louis is like. Yet, they usually claim her namesake as home.

Is there a market to give reality tours of the STL I know and love? Would suburbanites be willing to pay money to see the real STL? Many of these people I work with are not from the metropolitan area. They see pictures I have of STL in my office and they'll ask "is that NYC?". Or, "wow, that beautiful where's that." I reply, that is STL, a city 25 miles from here. And you're right, it's beautiful.

Most county suburbanites have no clue what STL is about. Maybe we should reach out to them and spoon feed em and drive them around and show them what they are missing. Maybe we should show them the neighborhoods and local establishments that the vast majority of people don't know about.....Or, maybe they don't deserve to know. ...After all, Red Robin is acceptable cuisine to some of these folks.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Carondelet Rec Plex and Mayor Slay moving to Boulevard Heights

Today the Post Dispatch has an article on the new rec plex being built in Carondelet Park.

I am very optimistic on this deal. I think this will add to the quality of life and add to the property values of the area. But, this is St. Louis....there are going to be naysayers on this deal. Believe me. Let's break down the story in the Post, my comments are in bold italics:

'Bulldozers are making way for a $20.8 million recreation center in Carondelet Park that is designed to give city residents a suburban-style place to heft weights and zip down a water slide.'

Some will complain about the loss of trees. High winds and lightning take out old-growth trees too, at least we get some progress on the loss of these old beauties. Remember, trees are a renewable resource.

Suburban-style? What does that mean?

The Southside Community Center, within view of Interstate 55, will have indoor and outdoor swimming and water park features. Its two-story building will include two basketball courts, weight and exercise rooms, an overhead jogging track and general meeting rooms.

This is great. The Southside needs an option for swimming. The indoor pool at the Carondelet YMCA is very small, but serves it's purpose. There currently is no outdoor pool. There is a pool at the Concordia Turner building though. I would imagine they will find it even harder to compete when this opens.

The YMCA of Greater St. Louis is in line to manage the gym and swim parts through membership fees, but the general meeting areas will be open to all residents.

"We're trying to provide some of the amenities that people have in St. Louis County, and make city living that much more attractive," said Alderman Fred Wessels.

Agreed. Loughborough Common also did that, for better or worse.

Scheduled for groundbreaking this fall is a similar center in O'Fallon Park, on the city's north side. Both are being built through a one-eighth-cent sales tax that city voters adopted in 2006.

Will the YMCA run the North Side center? Will their prices be the same. Will there facility be comparable? I certainly hope so.

Mayor Francis Slay, who is moving soon to a new home just south of Carondelet Park, plans to be among the center's first members, a spokesman said. Slay said city residents will be getting "high quality" recreation complexes.

Now this is the big story of the article in my opinion. Let me first say that I am not criticizing where a man chooses to live. I too live in the 12th ward where Slay is moving to. I believe he is moving to the Boulevard Heights new housing development. This kind of confirms was other bloggers say....Slay is a wanna be suburbanite. He could live anywhere in the city he wanted. He did not choose a uniquely St. Louis neighborhood like Downtown, Compton Heights, CWE, TGS, you name it. Instead he chose the most conservative, suburban like neighborhood in the city. I am not criticizing his personal choice. I kind of like the condos in this dev. as I've stated in previous posts.

Politically, this is kind of strange to me. He chose the furthest south reaches of the city. He chose a new housing development that mimics suburban designs. He chose the only GOP led district (Heitert's the only Republican alderman).

Does anyone else think that's a little strange? At least from a political standpoint?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Good Family Vibes in St. Louis

I know I'm in the minority when it comes to my beliefs and tastes regarding the City. This probably goes against the popular metropolitan region opinion, but I think St. Louis is a great place to raise a family. One of St. Louis' primary hurdles has to be retaining young families with school-age children.


I don't want to get into the school issues. I'd rather keep it on the bright side. Having 3 little ones 6 and under, we've recently discovered the following gems in the city. Here's why St. Louis kicks the suburb's and exurb's ass when it comes to kid friendly vibes:


The Tower Grove park wading pool and farmer's market: This is the place to take your kids on a Saturday morning in the summertime. Parents can shop for some tasty, locally grown produce and goods, get a smoothie, crepe or coffee from Hartford's stand. Then you can walk over to the beautiful wading pool directly adjacent to the market. There is usually live music playing at the bandstand. Many people are walking to the park from surrounding neighborhoods. Other's drive there. It gives you a really good feel for just how diverse the city is when it comes to different races, ethnicity's, economic situations, etc. It's a really nice scene with a good feel. Kind of like the Sesame Street episodes with little kids playing, shot in 1970's New York boroughs. I really love this place.


Forest Park streams near the Muny: Much like my last discovery, another place to get the kids cooled off in the summertime. There is a man-made stone based stream near the Muny. There is a surprising amount of water life (frogs, minnows, etc) and birds ranging from ducks to hawks to waders. There are plenty of trees for shade, and it is almost never crowded. The kids can take of their shoes, roll up their plant legs, and wade through the stream, crossing the shallow waters that flow over the huge, tiered stone structures. Definitely a great place to enjoy nature in a serene environment right in the middle of the city.

Christy Park Pedestrian Trail: Starting at Holly Hills Blvd and Christy in Boulevard Heights, you can travel south to Germania, then east to Morgan Ford, or west all the way to the Shrewsbury Metrolink stop. Again, almost never crowded, you can enjoy a leisurely pace with kids in tow. Also a great place let the kids practice on skateboards, scooters and bikes. There are hundreds of new trees that are starting to root and take shape. The cross walks at Loughborough and Germania benefit the ped, and stop traffic within seconds. It is well marked, lit and safe. I look forward to witnessing the extension from Morgan Ford east toward I-55.

Youth Bocce League at the Italian-American Bocce Club: This private club on the Hill opens their fabulously maintained bocce courts to the public for an 8-week children's league. This is a great way to get the kids out of the house on our grey winter Sundays. The games are only an hour, so no big commitment. They even have free shirts for the kids and throw a pizza party on the final week. These people are gracious and generous, and simply ask in return that the kids "work" a spaghetti dinner fundraiser for the bocce club. Very good scene.


I didn't even include the obvious choices and benefits of St. Louis like the Zoo, Arch, Science Center, City Museum, etc. Those are all great too, but almost don't require further mention.

Am I missing others?