Wednesday, December 20, 2006

walk through the 20th ward

In the much publicized debate over the aldermanic race of the 20th Ward (Cherokee Street) between Galen Gandolfi of Radio Cherokee and the incumbant, Craig Schmid, many issues seem to be getting lost in the hustle. I keep thinking about these, but the other night I set them aside. I was driving a friend home in the wee hours of the morning, and we sat in the car talking. Restless, I decided I needed a walk, and so walk we did. In the cold, in the middle of the night, we set off down the west side of Cherokee. It was impossible not to notice all the Gandolfi yard signs and signs in the windows. It was impossible, too, not to notice the handwritten signs in the flower shop on the corner of Comptom, the owners writing about how certain people were trying to ignore and legalize prostitution, their claim against Gandolfi and in support of Schmid. What I noticed most though, at that quiet time of night, in the 45 minutes we walked through the neighborhood, was how many buildings sat empty or run down. I couldn't help but notice that Cherokee was like a ghost town. I often see people walking home late at night, and friends who live around there mention anecdotes about the prostitution, and I see officers rolling through in their squad cars every ten minutes or so like clockwork. But what remains is a neighborhood that seems half-used.

If Schmid doesn't want bars to open and is looking to set a precedent restricting the type of businesses in the neighborhood, it seems to reason that he is restricting the possibilities of the same place he is trying to protect. Cherokee is this amazing district, filled with diverse people and a huge helping of Mexican-American culture, in one of the few truly culturally vivid areas in our city. It is filled with families, and lately with an influx of younger people because of the cheaper rents (not to mention its accepting artistic vibe). Looking at those empty buildings as I walked, and then looking at the few businesses that weren't Mexican-American, I got a feel for Schmid's vision of the west side of the street. The businesses that aren't food or tiendas or arts oriented are all about rent-to-own, taxes, and paycheck loans. In a place where people are trying to create a community, the other businesses that do exist seem all about making sure that the people who live along there are temporary, their working class seemingly exploited. Schmid's fight over the liquor laws seems counter-productive, to progress, but also to the facts as they exist. Any neighborhood where people are visible, where businesses want to draw others in-- any place where there is foot traffic to retail and services, where certain spots act as an anchor bringing others in-- this is a good thing.

It sure was peaceful walking down those streets the other night, but peaceful in a shadowy way. I just kept thinking there should be more buildings closed for the night, instead of permanently closed up.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Creating Global Leaders

This afternoon I went to see the Springboard to Learning International Dance Festival at the Botanical Gardens. I have wanted to go for years, but the lunchtime show was always an issue with work. I cut out of class a little early today and made it just in time for a packed house. There were 10 dances from 8 countries, and 10 schools were represented. It was fantastic, so much so that there were a few points that I was overwhelmed.

3rd through 8th graders performed in the hour-long show and it was truly stunning, even more so considering that eight of the ten groups had no formal dance training and had learned these fantastic routines in one hour each week during this semester. Many of the dances had students who acted as percussionists, blowing my mind with what they had learned. The highlights for me were the Colombian Dance, which will luckily be performed again at the end of the year at Bunch Middle School. The dancers were elegant, poised, and the movement (especially its sophistication and articulation) was amazing. the costumes were gorgeous. The African dance and music presented by Mark Twain Elem. School had everyone in the house clapping and moving, as the students beat their drums wearing shirts with Africa emblazened on them and the slogan "Born Again". The finale was a swing dance in the purest style. The talent of some of those kids was obvious, evident, and astounding... and I just kept looking at their faces. Some of them were living in those dances and just embodied the movement so naturally. There was such pride, and for many, a true passion.

As I watched kids of all races perform dances from countries that they likely had never heard of before this September, I kept thinking, "This is what it's all about." It was education at its finest: learning, passion, excitement, engagement, understanding, as if borders no longer existed. Those kids didn't care if they were the only African Americans to ever do an Irish jig, or if they would never see Guadalupe for themselves. They just danced, and it made me see proof that giving kids new experiences literally gives them the world.

Sadly, this performance only happens once a year, and likely, you have missed it. But watching it today, I was kept thinking if there is truly to be a renaissance in this city, it will be them to make it happen. It will be them to dissolve the divisions and bring everything together. And sometimes, as you watch things, there is a moment of grace, where you see what can happen. Today, I saw those kids from all over the city understand the world in a new way. Hopefully they will take with them some understanding of another culture, but if nothing else, they learned that people will watch them and listen to them and that each of them has a talent. It seems a lesson we can all learn; the possibilities are as big as we allow them to be.

Maybe I'm a sucker fo the symbolism, but there is nothing like watching people dance.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

'Tis the Season: Plug for Educational Organizations

Usually I like to imagine winter as if I am in a snowglobe, glittery flakes falling all around me, everything placed just so. But there's something to be said for this 65 degree weather as well. I have my tri-weekly weather conversations with the lovely bellringer at the Schnuck's on Arsenal. I hop through there a few times a week, and each time I stuff my change into the little red Salvation Army pot, I keep talking to this lady. We often have the same conversation when I come out again, but it dosn't matter. Her, "Oh, baby, ain't this weather something. They say it will be like this 'til Monday. MERRRRRRYYYYYY Christmas indeed! Yeah, baby!" was filled with such genuine warmth I could hear it over and over without tiring. Even last week, in the bitter freakin' cold, as everyone had heads tucked against the wind into hoods and scarves, she still rang that bell something fierce, smokin' her cigarette, and smiling and blessing all who passed. Every season I have favorite bellringers, and those are the places I will make sure I hit a few times a week. This year, she's my favorite. So if you need a red pot for your quarters and dimes, the Schnuck's on Arsenal is my suggestion.

There's been a lot of recent buzz about giving, as there is this time every year. In a recent report, John Stossel on ABC did a special on who gives and who doesn't. He seemed somehow shocked by the fact that the poor give more than the rich, though anyone who works in a restaurant knows that those who make less are always the quickest to give to others. In STL though, I see us give every week. In recent weeks, I have seen people come out in droves to support the STL Effort for AIDS with Dining Out For Life, and a recent benefit at the Royale to support Reporters Without Borders and an upcoming documentary film in Darfur showed me that we will continue to reach into our pockets and that a little at a time from a lot of people will go a long way. In St. Louis, we give to PBS and KDHX. We even have some great coporate donors in this city, continually making our museums and our zoo better (and always free). We, seem to be, without doubt, a giving city.

So, if you're looking for one more place to give, I have two suggestions that are near and dear to my heart. As you might know, I'm a teacher, and every day I teach, I wish I had more resources to give my kids, and that they had more to work with. We do well with what we have, but with education, you can never have too much funding. Each year in the fall, people, especially parents are reminded that not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to afford school supplies. We take for granted that kids will have pencils and erasers and notebooks, but many don't-- and where I work, most don't. So there are organizations like KIDSmart to make up the difference. Located in Bridgeton, KIDSmart is a virtual superstore for teachers at low-income schools. It's a warehouse full of donated school supplies where teachers can go shop and get the things their kids and their classrooms need. Over the years, I have organized supply drives bringing carloads of donations, and it's one place I can always find money for.

You can go to their KIDSmart website to donate money. Or, even better, through partnerships with over a hundred merchants, you can go to the KIDSmart site, click a link, and shop with their partners, where a portion of your purchase will be donated to the KIDSmart cause. A recent perusal turned up partnerships with iTunes, hotels and car rentals, Restoration Hardware, REI, Omaha Steaks, Old Navy, and 10% (!!!!) of purchases through going to the organization. So, buy some shoes, and let your purchases help an organization that needs it. In the middle of the year, people somehow forget that kids still need supplies.

Or, if you want your money to go more directly to education, especially in the public school system, Springboard to Learning is an organization that's very important to me (and in full disclosure, one which I am affiliated with...). Springboard to Learning furnishes the public schools with arts and cultural professionals who go into classrooms for a semester and share their knowledge and experiences. There are dance programs, math and science enrichment, cultures of other countries, music, art, storytelling, and writing programs. You ca check them out online, get more info. and donate money. $50 will give a Springboard specialist enough money for school supplies for 120 kids for their program, or will give that Springboard teacher the money they need to bring in ethnic foods or create projects with the kids. Springboard has been around, in the city schools, since 1968, and it's largely due to the support of the community that these amazing programs continue. (Trust me when I say this: Springboard is a program that works, and one that matters. It greatly widens the horizons of the kids it serves, and it seeks constantly to inspire and motivate them to be more curious about the big world that surrounds them.)

So if you feel some pennies jingling or have some loose change, these are places where even $5 or $10 can add up and make a huge difference. At this time of the year, I know everyone thinks about toys for kids and the basic home necessities for the 100 Neediest Cases-- both of which I support-- but I just wish more people remembered that helping kids have a great education is one of the best ways for them to not be on those charitable lists later in life. 'Tis the season. Thanks for any help you can give, and seriously, go see the bellringer on Arsenal. She might be one of the best parts of this season.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Notes on Weeks Past

So I've been sick, and busy, and grumpy, and working... not all in that order. But you get the picture. Here are some quick notes on what I have done in the last week:

- bought not one, but two, Christmas trees at Ted Drewes (while eating ice cream... when it was still seventy degrees out)

- watched the first snow fall as I walked down my street in the middle of the night

- surveyed the wreckage of the ice storm in my neighborhood

- had drinks at O'Connell's, the Jade Room, Garavaglia's, and Tim's Chrome Bar (see post on Down, Out, and Hip)

- enjoyed, honestly enjoyed, drinking late at night at Mangia because the lack of power and the cold kept most out, but those who came were treated to the whole place lit by candlelight and quiet, except for the hum of voices

- attended Tavern Night at the Omega Center on the Northside, where I was flanked by my entourage of four men in suits, and treated to a feast of Imo's pizza, red hot chips and crackjack's while we drank beer, champagne, and caramel vodka. I wore a dress, laughed like I have not laughed in months, and was astounded by the lady singing with the Oliver Sain band.

- celebrated the repeal of prohibition, despite having a cold, at the Royale

Okay, and I worked. I guess my point to myself is that even in a normal week, when I feel like nothing great is going on and I am slightly uninspired, even then, this city still provides for me. If nothing else, in the middle of the storm, I was treated to a huge outpouring of community, some tasty cocktails, and a whole lot of laughter. Sometimes it's nice when things slow down just a little.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The moment things happen

I am a little bit OCD. I like everything just so... snow without tracks, the silence of it falling, the quiet. It's like some sort of beginning. And I love the moment that things happen, the exact moment that they change. So often in life, we just see what has happened, too late. I like marking these things. It's why I love the very beginning of fall, those first leaves turning color, the first ones to fall. When I was a kid, I always noticed when things happened. I paid better attention, or had more time, or perhaps less patience. As an adult, I often miss it.

The first flurries fell today while I was on the Northside teaching. Like a child, I ran to the window and opened it, wanting to stick my head out, catching them on my tongue. But I was high up in a building, and instead settled on writing a quick haiku, then was vastly dissappointed when my next class got canceled and I couldn't watch the snow with the kids.

The rest of the day became an ice storm, a fairly violent one of sorts, leaving stoplights out and people without power. Then there was the rain. I listened to people tell me of coming and going, but then after work, as I was just about to leave, the snow started, big wet flakes-- those kinds of snowfall you only get in early winter or late spring, thick with possibility, and somehow thick with a certain sadness. Before I knew it, I was skipping to the window, coat on, ready to head out, so excited, but needing to mark the moment, to say to someone, this is the first snowfall this winter.

So I did, and then I drove home, not passing or seeing another car. All the tree limbs down on Arsenal, snapped like old white ghosts with the weight of the ice from earlier. I slid into my parking space, my car more sled than wheels, and then noticed a big tree down across my front lawn, covering my steps. But as I stepped out of my car, it was so quiet, only the faint sound of snow falling-- and it is always only the wet snow you can hear, like quiet sleigh bells. Yes, I'm romanticizing it, but it was a beginning moment, and sometimes, I need those. Sometimes I just need to say, I know when it started, and then I can literally, let the rest fall where it may.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Giving Thanks

I had a customer the other night who was considering a permanent move to STL. I said I loved it here and he asked why. Over the course of the evening, I gave him my quick list of reasons. In the spirit of the holidays, I thought perhaps I'd recount what I am thankful for in this city. After all, it's why I stayed.

I'm thankful for:

- free museums, and museums worth going to
- the quality of the 2 museum-type places I have to pay for-- the City Museum and the Botanical Gardens.
- the fact that this city is one of the least pretentious places I have ever been. I casually refer to STL as a "beer and shorts" kind of town. See and be seen, St. louis, thankfully, is not.
- I am rarely stuck in traffic and can almost always find a parking place (except in the West End, which is one of the reasons why I rarely go there. It makes me angry.)
- everyone here loves baseball and it's not a fair-weather love, but a love deep and pure
- there are many major US cities within a four hour drive
- cost of living is cheap
- people do cool stuff (as in art, and music, and we have great events...)
- the diversity-- I love that while in line at the bank or at the grocery store I might hear six different languages and no one bats an eye.
- St Louisans tip well. Period.
- There're great parks.
- There's a strange history that stops every twenty or thirty years and then we re-invent ourselves in some way, while always remaining true to our roots. Think Gaslight Square. I'm still amazed that happened here.
- We appreciate old buildings, architecture, and things that are truly uniqie and beautiful.
- It will often be in the seventies way past when it should be. Case in point, the last week.
- You can buy your Christmas tree while eating Ted Drewes. (I did that yesterday.)
- There are people willing to live here and make things happen. Good things.

I'm sure the list could go on, but as a short list, rambled off in a couple of minutes, I am not sure what else people need. Coasts be damned. Who needs an ocean when you live in the heart of it all?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

St. Louie Louie

After a weekend out of town, it's always good to be back. I love going out west to Colorado, but there's a general lack of diversity in almost every way-- at least every way that I am used to STL being diverse. It makes it that much nicer to come home.

Lately, I am loving the St. Louie Louie forum, started by Kopper. I have participated in discussions about education, bars, events, and neighborhoods. I found out that St. Louis has its own wiki page (, and there's chat on the forum about a Music Museum. The forum feels exactly like this town to me: comfortable, disparate, a lot of writing from innovative voices, sometimes irreverant, and there's also great news on what's going down and what's up in our heads. These are good things.And each day more people seem to be coming into the discussion, which can only make it better.

Check out the link to the right...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

George, the martians, and Sylvia Plath

Tonight, I braved the rain and the cold to go see the first performance of the Mad Art Radio Hour, and man, am I glad I did. All I can say is: go. And this isn't just some personal advertisement for them... The radio show tonight was the most fun I have had at an event in years. I laughed out loud. A lot. And if you know me, you know I have an often lacking sense of humour, but tonight, it was alive and well. And when I wasn't laughing, I would catch myself realizing I was smiling.

The set was fantastic, complete with APPLAUSE lights and and ON AIR light. The music rocked (Swing Set) and I still have some of the songs stuck in my head. The announcer and the voices were fantastic. George Malich might have been at his funniest, but then again, everyone cracked me up. The sound effects were perfect. Everything about it was enjoyable, and I felt transported back to some other time, so much attention was paid to details. It was creative and smart. I have a tough time listening to things, and I actually hate theatre even more, but this had me riveted. All I am going to say is the first play was about martians and art, and the second was about Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes (the intro song to that kicked ass). My absolute favorite though was the advertisements (Frazer's, Schlafly, the Royale).

Jaime Gartelos (one of the writers and the announcer) hit the mark on absolutely everything. If I weren't busy the next two performances, I would go again. It's hard for me to say how much fun I had. I'm just glad this is one of those things with more to come. Check it out; I promise it will be the best $5 you spend for a while (it was actually more fun than the batting cages, my $5 staple of fun comparison).

Mad Art Radio Hour at the Mad Art Gallery
Performances Thurs. 11/16 and Fri. 11/17, $5 (cash bar)

Note: the Friday performance will be taped and aired later on Brett Underwood's KDHX show, the No Show

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

STL Design Challenge

My first look at the Arch was as a kid, speeding along the interstate, crossing the river, en route to Colorado. My mom woke me up to see the Gateway to the West. I was 11, tired after driving from the east coast, and I just wanted to get to the west, less interested in the gateway there. For my mom, it was different. Her first trip to St. Louis was in the late sixties, right after the Arch was erected. To her, it was still a marvel. It would take me longer to think about it in any real terms.

When I moved to England, the only thing people knew about St. Louis was

1.) it was somewhere in the middle of the country, far from anything of worth or interest
2.) the movie "Meet Me in Saint Louie"
3.) the Arch

Upon returning, I began to think more about it. I have always loved architecture, but what I love consists of the character of old buildings, the brick and stories that built them... and the creative problem solving of new architecture. The genius of Samual Mockbee and the Rural School, Fallingwater which I saw for the first time at 8 years old after begging my parents to take me there, the crazy dream-like structure of Gehry's Experience Music Project, the stunning design of the Oklahoma City Memorial with all its chairs. Lately though, I think not just of buildings, but of design.

A couple of weeks ago, I had one of those days where everything centered around design. I had just read a long article in Fast Company about design-centered business thinking. I had gone to Target in the morning (the mecca of egalitarian design), read Sarah's blog about her frenzied trip to Seattle's IKEA store, and then ended up talking with Toby after a work function about possible design innovations in schools and prisons. In a time where design is everywhere these days, dotted along DIY cable shows and imbedded in all marketing campaigns, I began to wonder, where was design in St. Louis? There are, without a doubt, beautiful places-- parks, buildings, neighborhoods. But moreover, I wondered where is the transcendant design within our city? Where are the places that are made so thoughtfully as to make us think and feel differently? Where are the places that make us comfortable, that are designed for our ease of usage? Where is good design in this city, not just aesthetically, but functionally? Do we have enough of it, or are we missing the mark?

Here are my first contemplations for some STL Design Awards. I am completely open to, and in fact, want, your comments.

This is green space that seemed to be designed with everyone and every purpose in mind. It's beautiful and provocative, accessible to all, free, with plenty of fields for frisbee or picnicking or reading, as well as paths. Every time I go there, I think about that place and this city differently.

Now, here's a space designed with the user in mind. It is constantly evolving and changing. When you walk through it, it's as if moving through a dream where you encounter the things you feel or want intuitively, not necessarily expecting them to be there in reality. It's like a peek into all our secrets and our subconscious, mapped out and delivered.

Obvious, to some degree. But this place changes and flows, moving from one type of landscape to the next, almost seemlessly, from sun to shade, from inside to outside, from wide open spaces to small nooks of privacy. It can be packed, and you still feel amazed that you are in such a small corner of the city because it will take you so many hours to move through the grounds, with minimal disruption from other visitors.

For obvious reasons of proximity, I use TG Park more than FP, but I also think it is just big enough to contain what I need, while maintaining distinctive differences in its parts, and it's easily navigable by car or foot. After seven years living in this city, FP still confuses me and I get lost, no matter what I do.

BRENNAN"S Wine Bar and the Maryland House
This is my huge shout out to Kevin Brennan, who has a wicked sense of humour (despite my thinking he did not have one for years) and a keen sense of detail. Kevin puts a lot of thought into his space, thinking about beauty, comfort, design, product, and how his customers use the space. He thinks about how you want to feel and how you want to eat and drink so that you can just show up and enjoy yourself. When I started thinking about bars, his place immediately came into my mind. And the great thing: though he does put effort into it all, it's also intuitive to him. So his building seems natural and the experience there un-forced. He might have the most user-friendly establishment in STL, though I am sad that he took down the polaroids in the ground floor bathroom.

Obvious, yeah, yeah... But it looks different every single day, every time I walk by or drive past. It's reflective-- in every sense of the word, and that's why it's good design. Instead of taking a stance, it allows itself to be what the visitor sees and projects-- and that my friends, is good design. Oh yeah, and I guess it's some kind of architectural feat-- whatever...

SKIF International
Yep, I still always think of the Matrix when I think of their sweaters. But there is something fantastic about beautiful clothes that look so different from other things we can buy. And there's something great about the same sweater looking different on every person who wears it. Rather than giving you style, their products seem to blend into your own personal aesthetic in a fairly amazing way.

52nd CITY
It's pretty, people. And well-written. It's that simple.

So, I'm opening the floor. Where else do we have good design? What immediately comes to your mind? That's the stuff we need to talk about, and it's certainly something to celebrate.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Election De-Briefing

Tuesday night just about killed me, not because of the anticipation, but because of the sheer volume of democratic voters out in the City-- celebrating, waiting, discussing, and oh-so proud of themselves for voting. The swarms of voters, campaigners, and judges hit the Royale Tuesday night for $2 and $3 beer and drink specials, and the city certainly got their drink on, with almost all Schlafly products running dry by the end of the night. There was loud applause and cheers running through the building with each development, and from where I was standing, the crowd cheered with the same enthuasiasm and loudness as they had a couple of weeks ago during the World Series. Politics suddenly seemed very rock n' roll and very sexy.

I went out yesterday afternoon, on 2.5 hours of sleep, to de-brief with some folks from work, and the word of the day at Mangia while we were coffee-ing and iced-tea-ing was very much "voting". I saw old women on the street talking about celebrating. Kids in my classroom this morning asked me if I was happy about McCaskill. The city ward turnouts, according to numbers posted at the ACC, ranged from 32%-the high 60's, which I thought was pretty damn great. As I walked through the streets yesterday, I just kept seeing all the signs that said "2006 Vote Democratic Team", and something seemed to work. Instead of being bombarded with names or campaign signs, the voting signs were a pleasant repreive, and seemingly much more efficient. One way or the other, our country is still reeling. Personally, the best part for me, was seeing how proud everyone was of voting. Instead of the whispers of voting, their were roars, text messages, and voicemails going out person to person on Tuesday. All election day, I was tuned into the ACC, which had great coverage and photos from their staff which was roaming the city. Big media has nothing on the smaller outlets when it comes to writing about politics in the city, so kudos to PubDef and the Arch City Chronicle for keeping us on the front lines and giving us the info. we wanted. This whole election felt different, and for the first time in my life, it felt like what it should be.

Here's to hoping we keep that feeling.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

as the confetti flies

It's completely late, after 2 am on Election Night. I will get maybe three hours sleep before hitting work int he morning, and I just got home from work now. But something has to be said. Tonight was like little else I have experiencd before. Some said they were surprised (happily so), but I was not. All day, I could feel it. There was an energy and an excitement, and a strange innocence to the voting-- a giddiness like we were all doing it for the first time. And for the first time, I saw people afterwards and they felt like what they did mattered. I don't care how you vote or if you win or lose, but we should all feel like that, every election-- like we matter.

It's a good thing. As is sleep. More tomorrow on the crazy returns bash from tonight.

Ahhh, change... that renaissance, it's a comin'!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Their eyes were watching STL

So in recent weeks we have:

1.) won the World Series

2.) been "discovered" through somewhat fuzzy math to be the most dangerous city in the USA

3.) had a lot of national media attention because of the candidates and issues on our ballots

So, do me a favor. If you think all that hype about STL being the most dangerous city is crap, go vote. Here's how we show what dangerous can be: a city of informed voters barraging the polls because we are ready for change and tired of the status quo. Or here's how dangerous we might become: a city that is ignorant, lazy, and does nothing to improve its own fate.

You decide. Your vote counts. Make it matter.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Go Vote

Last night I went to the Claire McCaskill rally in Forest Park at the World's Fair Pavillion, but like most people I know, I went to see Barack Obama. In a nation so cynical about politics and so beaten down by recent policy, he seems like the one shining beacon we have urging us forward.

I. Waiting.
It seemed like a great afternoon to hit a rally, a Sunday in autumn, leaves on the ground. There was hot chocolate and coffee, kids running and climbing on things and dogs barking and being lead around. Black, white, young, old, students, hipsters, families-- it seemed somehow like America should look. People were in suits and Sunday best, in jeans; old women rode up on bikes in helmets and the volunteers wore their standard uniform of fleece jackets with khaki pants (why is that standard garb?). Democracy was the agenda, and there was a strange fashion to that as well. The "democracy for sale" camp was selling shirts and buttons (with a portion of the proceeds going to the campaigns, though it felt more like souvenirs from a football game to me). There were people in stars and stripes top hats, and an unfortunate array of fleece stars and stripes scarves. I just watched the crowd as I waited, alone in the cold, the rally starting an hour and a half late. It was a big group, well over a thousand, and given that we all stood there in the cold and into the darkness, the crowd seemed a good number, and in good spirits. There was an optimism, but also a strange determination that felt more like confidence. This did not seem like the pie-in-the-sky democrats gathering that I have seen in other election years. This seemed like a group of people who thought something new was about to happen. It wasn't about promises, it seemed, but about commitment.

II. I ran into several people whom I work with, all more or less by coincidence, but it seemed to lend some credence to our business being rather political and indeed, rather democrat-centered. Steve walked around, hat and overcoat on, trying to figure out who was spinning the records, and trying to figure out a better person to program the music. Katie asked me if I had ever been to a Republican rally, as she wondered what those looked like in terms of diversity. Listening to the terrible music and waiting, we discussed the invariable merits of Rock the Vote.

III. I Want Charlie Dooley To Be My New Best Friend
The rally got under way with an all-star list of Missouri dems-- Jean Carnahan, Russ Carnahan, Maida Coleman, Charley Dooley... Several spoke, but then Charlie Dooley blew me away. Listening to him is like listening to the gospel in church. I find myself somewhat spellbound. His words had a richness, a realness, and a passion to them. He was not giving a speech, he was speaking, and it seemed a stark contrast to so many political functions. Last night was the second time in a week I have heard Charlie Dooley speak. (A week ago, I heard him speak at the STILL dinner, and his message was that we need to help our children get an education so they can come back and bring that knowledge back to their communities, and so they can help create jobs to continually retain our talented young minds in our city... Hooray for that message!). Last night, as County Exec. Dooley spoke, he was funny and real, telling us what a great lookin' audience we were, and then... some not so great looking. He told us it was okay though because the ugly votes count as much as the pretty votes. It was in that joke that he seemed to shine through. In politics, we are all equal, and we all count. He urged us to be counted, and I loved listening to him. It was the first time I wanted to live in the County, just so he could represent me.

III. Barack Obama Can Tell a Story
Claire McCaskill spoke, and despite the rally point being to support her, last night was really about change. Obama got straight to the point with a great phrase, saying it was time we "vanquished" the politics of fear in our country. It seemed like a Jedi word, and I commented to Steve perhaps the Force would be with us; Steve commented Obama was the next JFK. There is always an energy to Obama, but an honesty. He told stories of being tired, and then told stories of people continuing onward and moving forward. He gave us the narrative of America, beginning with something like, "Our nation began with a ragtag group of thirteen colonies who wanted to beat down the most powerful country in the world." Such a simple statement struck me. We all know where we came from, but we forget at times what we have accomplished. He continued his American tale telling the audience how we set out with these ideas to create a completely new government, how we had a vision. It's that kind of talk, those images of a common history, those reminders of how we are the same, of how we are unified-- it's those things that make me excited about where we might go next, about what American might become again in my lifetime.

Obama talked about the blight of slavery as our "original sin", and I have to say, it was the most amazing thing to see a nationally prominent politician, one who is so dynamic and respected, and one who is not white, stand at that podium and talk about our future.

People were there to support McCaskill. And they were there to get information out about the issues. They were there to remind us how important Missouri is in this election. But I couldn't help thinking we were also all there to support this man whom we would so like to see become the next President of the United States. We were there to support his ideas and take them up as our own when we go out and vote on Tuesday.

IV. So go vote. It's that simple. Just go vote. And make everyone else you know vote. Drive someone to the polls. Cover their shift if they are late to work. Let someone out early. Go vote. Talk about politics. And then see how much a single vote counts. Over and over in the last few years, we have seen that each vote counts. This election is no different. We may not be voting for a president, but we are voting for the people who will fight for us everyday, for those who will shape and create the laws that govern us. We are voting for the people who will either give us freedoms and responsibilities, or we are voting for those who will take those things away. We are still that same nation Obama spoke of; don't let the government take that away. The erosion of America has happened long enough. Vote.

For more information on local STL elections, candidates and issues, check out the Arch City Chronicle and Pub Def. (link at right)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Day of the Dead Beats

No, not dead beats, as in people who don't pay child support. Day of the Dead Beats, Brett Underwood's brilliant tribute to the Beat writers, which just happens to occur around the Day of the Dead every year.

This year's event is Thursday, Nov. 2 at the Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood, beginning at 8pm. Doors open at 7, and the event is free, though donations are kindly accepted. Reading this year will be a slew of local (and talented) poets including K. Curtis Lyle, Anne Haubrich, and Mr. Underwood himself, who usually finishes with a raucous rendention of Bukowski.

Now, truth be told, I hate the Beats, dislike Bukowski even more, and really don't enjoy poetry readings (despite having attended hundreds in my life), but this event remains to be fun. Despite it all, it's well worth going to. And, like the Beats, you can sit and drink the whole time you are listening... just liek heaven.

So go and get your Howl on.

And don't forget, Friday, Nov. 3, check out Caroline Huth's show at Mad Art in Soulard.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Fat and Dangerous

Apparently, we are a fat and dangerous city. At least that's what studies and news outlets would like us to believe over the past few years. I'm waiting for someone to suggest that our city is so dangerous because we are so fat we can't run away from crime. Anyone who works in statistics knows that you can find data to support just about anything, but if you take a look at the recent study published by Morgan Quitno (of Kansas), you'll see conflicting information.

The survey (and accompanying article) report that STL is the most dangerous city amongst those with a population of 75,000 or more. What it does not say is that these results are within cities that have a population of less than 500,000 people, or that when studied, they only looked at the city crime stats, not the metro area (that whole county thing causing confusion--again). On rankings by population, it puts STL at #3 most dangerous. What we are also not told is that they look at the crimes then create their statistics based on our crime rates versus a national average. It does not clarify if that national average which they then use for their math is based on cities with similar populations, or American cities in general. So frankly, I'm not sure where that leaves us, except slightly confused.

I received an email from KDHX stating that STL is actually ranked 94 in the "Most Dangerous" category when compared to other cities. Again, math making a difference. So what's the hype? And how much of this do we believe?

Our city has crime, this we know. I beg you to find a place that does not have crime in America and then perhaps we can learn from that locale. Recent events have shown us that even insular communities have crime, violence and terribel tragedies (shootings in Bailey, CO and the Amish slayings come to mind). So, now we'll talk of danger and fear, and we'll get caught up in arguments of math and statistics. I wonder if we will have the discussions that we need to have, as a city, and as a country?
To be plain, that conversation exists mainly around: how do we change this?

There will be arguments and blame placed-- on the city, on the police, perhaps on the legal system and the prison system as well. We will look to issues of income and race, and of division. And then we will further divide ourselves doing complicated math. We will wonder who is not doing their job properly? We will wonder who is responsible. And the same people who are balking will take the issue no further.

Yep, there's crime. Welcome to the world, folks. I've been a victim myself, as have most people I know, and it ain't always pretty. Does that mean our city is going to hell, spinning out of control under the grip of criminals and violence? Does it mean we should move about differently under some new knowledge of fear? God, I hope not. Maybe if we spent as much time trying to find solutions as we do talking about the problem, things would start to change. Maybe if we put our money into programs that would give the city (and its inhabitants) options, things would start to change. Maybe if we had real discussions about race, about education, and about community-based projects, we would get somewhere.

So we're fat and we have crime. Move on. And then do something about it. I, for one, am totally open to comments.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Go to Mad Art, Nov. 3

Caroline Huth is an artist whose work haunts me. Truth be told, she's also a friend, but I knew her work long before I knew her. I am a lover of Joseph Cornell, so the idea of the shadow box is extremely intrinsic to my love of art. I like the idea of found objects being used. I like the idea of the distance of once personal objects being juxtaposed with foreign things, and all of it existing just a little bit too far away from us, behind glass. Huth's artwork retains some of those same notions, while at the same time having a very distinct character of its own.

Huth often uses text in her assemblage work, and some of my favorites involve old scrabble boards. Her work is like pop noir art in my head, but with these quiet, almost ephemeral qualities. I can't explain why, but when I look at them, I like that she is a woman making the pieces, and they seem almost to provoke me more.

Regardless of my opinion, you should check out Caroline Huth for yourself, and lucky you... her work will be shown at Mad Art Gallery, a perfect spot for her, with an opening this coming Friday, Nov. 3. Huth will be showing with Janice Nesser, whom I do not know, but whose work seems equally engaging as she blends the art of quilting and patterns with photos and found objects. Huth's current work deals with the relationship of found objects, small spaces, and the mathematic balance in between.

Opening Reception, Friday, Nov. 3 from 6-11pm (cash bar)
Mad Art Gallery, 2727 S. 12th St. (in Soulard, across from AB, and damn it if it isn't a gorgeous venue)
Through Dec. 30

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Down, Out and Hip

All right, my bar blogs have found themselves temporarily without a home as our time at has come to an end. For that reason, I began my own home.

Check out the new blog. There will be quasi-regular features coming soon.

And don't worry, I'll still keep the renaissance one alive.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Metrolink goes South

Wednesday, Oct. 25 from 5-7pm at the Lift For Life Acad. on S. Broadway, there will be a Metrolink planning workshop. This workshop is for the Southside stops, so obviously, I'm interested. Presentation is at 5:30. It should be well worth the time.

Lift For Life Academy, cafeteria
Metrolink Workshop
1731 S. Broadway (in Soulard, near Russell)

Northside Workshop on Thurs., Oct. 28 from 5-7pm
3736 Natural Bridge, at the Fifth Missionary Baptist Church

I can't wait for our city to be more connected.

The Glory of the Game

Man, I love baseball. I don't love it in the wearing-red kind of way (which is obvious if you know me). I don't love it in the I-always-go-to-games way. I don't love it in the I-really-know-about-it way. I just love the game, pure and simple.

I love baseball because it reminds me of my mom. Growing up, my mom would sit in front of the TV-- I could see it flicker in the dark from the street when I came in from playing-- and she would watch the Pirates by herself, hooting and hollering at the TV. I love it because my mom used to take the train in Florida when she was a kid with my grandfather, travelling to see Spring Training. I love it because I never saw my first game until I was 22, and I was with my mom 2 weeks after I had moved to St. Louis, on a humid September night in the old Busch. The Arch was there and flags were waving, Mark McGuire still played, and when that anthem was played, it was like everyone in the stadium was suddenly the same-- all in one place, and it was amazing.

I love baseball because it seems American in the best possible way. I remember watching the first game that was played after 9/11, and thinking maybe it would all be okay.

I love baseball because it's egalitarian. You know the rules, and the rules are simple and fair. Generally, calls are straightforward. Everyone gets their chance to score and defend. You take turns. There's no contact, no pushing or shoving or manhandling of one player by another-- not like basketball or football. Baseball is a team sport made up of individuals, each having very specific jobs and territories-- but they need to work together, in rhythm.

I love the tradition of baseball. I love that kids play it all over, in different versions. A stick, a ball, some land. It's still meant for families, and there's none of the glamour or glitz or bling that some other professional sports have adopted.

I love baseball because it makes me wonder if life is really about talent, or if it's just about burying our nerves and having confidence. It's a series of decisions and a guessing game at the same time, almost like rocks-paper-scissors, where you are not so much thinking of what you want to do, but rather what your opponent might think. You have to out-think and then react, but still, you never know.

I love baseball because I am amazed at what can happen in the few short seconds between hitting the ball and running to the base. So much can change in that distance, and yet the runner must simply run, not worrying about where everyone else is. They must follow their own path once they set the field in motion. I love how everything can change in that quick flash as we barrel and careen towards our targets. And part of me loves the idea that you can steal bases, the thrill of having nerve and the fact that if you succeed, you are not punished.

Maybe I just like the metaphor. But if that's the case, I like it because it's a metaphor I know intuitively. It doesn't need to be overthought or even articulated. We all get it. We know it. And we understand. It's like knowing the secrets of death and then forgetting, but it doesn't matter because you are too busy living. Baseball might mean more, but ultimately, all that matters, is it's one hell of a game to watch. And we live in a great city right now to watch it.

I love October. Go Cards!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Tower Grove Harvest Festival

Today, Oct. 21, and Sunday, Oct. 22, the Tower Grove Farmers' Market is celebrating the end of its season with a big ol' colorful bang. There are tents up everywhere along the main drives (predominantly on the east side of the park, off the Grand entrance). There are folks selling wares and produce. There's a pumpkin patch and kids' activities, music and free tai chi lessons. Sunday there is bellydancing. It's a rollicking good TG event, the kind where there is as much to see and watch and there is to do. Teams are out playing kickball, softball, and football. The leaves are blazing orange and dropping. If you haven't been all season, this might be the most beautiful weekend in the park. Go. And when you're done, hit the Royale on Sunday for $5 Subcontinentals. When you don't want summer to be over, go have some juice and a bit of booze, listen to some records and remember what fun you had.

Tower Grove Festival

Friday, October 20, 2006

City Rewards, and no, I'm not talkin' about a credit card

For those of you who think living in the city means an anonymous lifestyle, getting lost in the crowd, and ducking in and out of places unrecognized, you obviously don't live in St. Louis. We seem to have the biggest small town around. I was thinking about this today. It's not just that a huge amount of people live their whole lives here, or grow up here, leave and come back... If that were just the case, we would each only feel it in pockets of th city. But truth be told, most of us can go anywhere and run into someone we know. That amounts to the fact mainly, that though we might each live in our repspective neighborhoods, our city does not have the same boundaries that other might. We shop in other neighborhoods, drink in other villes, go to plays or art openings across town. In short, we travel for what we want, in the process making the whole city ours', not just one pocket. And we all do it, which is the great thing.

What that means is, we know our city, each of us, intuitively.

It's great that the RFT puts out its Best of St. Louis edition, but really, do we need some nationally owned corporate media outlet telling us what rocks in STL? Sometimes they hit the mark, but ultimately it seems they are trying to be too many things to many people all at once. When I look at their picks, more often than not, I can't figure out what they are thinking (though recent exceptions are the RFT highlighting Hoffman Lachance Fine Art and Bill Streeter, respectively). That's why I am always so happy when indpendent media honors independent people.

On Thursday, Nov. 9, from 7-9pm at Atomic Cowboy, those creative folks over at 52nd City will be honoring the Kickass Award Recipients. Want to talk about not corporate? When "kickass" is in the title, I think you know that they hit the mark and will be championing people who truly deserve the accolades. 52nd City will honor individuals and groups alike, both in the arts and in the social arena. Check out for more details.

Also on the horizon, Vigilant Communications and Dave Drebes' Arch City Chronicle are taking nominations for other folks who are out in the trenches working to make STL a better place. They will start to feature some of these people in the ACC. Go to to submit a nomination.

Part of the thing that makes this city so great is its people. I am freakin' thrilled that those who we all know when we're out on the street are finally getting some of the recognition they deserve. So go on... honor them. And along the way, think of something you can do yourself to help make STL kick some ass.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What I Learned on Vacation

Okay kids, I am back in action. It's been a while, I know, but I needed some time. A week in Florida with the family, and then a week being sick in bed, and then the past few days to process all the things I thought. I thought to get back in the game I would tell you all what I learned on my (summer) vacation.

I joined my family in central Florida for a week. It was the first time we have all been together in the last ten years or so for more than a few days. Slightly overwhelming at first, I grew into the multigenerational thing we had going on. Moreover, the trip seemed a constant meditation in memory and a process of thinking about the future. Here's what I learned:

Everyone needs a break at times, even me.

Hyperreality is a really interesting place to think about reality. I think that's why I studied cultural theory for so long in grad school. There's nothing like the extremely themed and the surreal to make you look at what you overlook each day. (Read that as I had a couple of days at Disney World and a lot of thought of philosophy and Baudrillard.)

Where we come from matters. I always say I am not from anywhere. Sometimes I answer I am from all over. It's the curse (or blessing) of having moved my whole life. I claim nothing and everything at once as my home. However, for all intents and purposes, I guess I might be from Florida. It certainly seemed like that while there. I was born there. My brother was born there. My parents were born there. The few folks who share my last name still reside there. Some part of those swamps, orange groves, lakes, and beaches remains in my blood. It is the first place I understood as a place, and the first place I had a sense of myself. Growing up in Florida in the seventies and early eighties was vastly different from the Florida of today. When I think of Florida, my mind naturally wanders to postcards of sandy beaches, desperate co-eds on spring break, and Disney. My Florida growing up was a world of hurricanes, pulling over on the side of the road to cut down sugar cane, and shooting at alligators in the lake of our suburban neighborhood. I remember the truly Floridian theme parks: Weeki Wachee, Cypress Gardens, Reptileworld, and Parrot Jungle-- the Florida of bathing beauties, Southern belles, and true wildlife. My Florida is closer to Ponce de Leon's dreams of the Fountain of Youth than Disney's dreams of Tomorrowland, and that has always been part of my personal mythology.

Neighborhoods mean something. They seem lost in many parts of Florida, especially central Florida. Neighborhoods there amount to status and real estate. In STL, we have real neighborhoods, and that is one of the greatest things about this city. Each neighborhood is distinct, and that helps to preserve our sense of place in STL, as well as our diversity. Imagine if Dogtown or the Hill, Soulard or Dutchtown got erased and became just about tax brackets, and not about history. We are lucky, and we need to remember that.

Chains and coroporate retail establishments erase place. Support small businesses and independently owned establishments and you are supporting originality, and helping to sustain a sense of place.

Going away makes you see your home more clearly.

It was nice being in sunny, humid, hot, hyperreal Florida. But it is a place where no one lives, an empty place without its own personality. It exists on borrowed history and by recycling reality. And there is something to be said for that. It's a fine place to visit, but I like my home to have meaning-- and real meaning at that. Here, we are writing our own story. In too many other places, someone else is controlling the action.

I'm back in the game, folks. And I'm ready to kick myself in the ass and make something happen.

Sometimes we all need some perspective. I just got mine.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


It's funny that things that are listing are about to tip over. I like the double entendre here. That these items are both getting ready to topple, and/or are reaching their tipping point. Fielder's choice on the following; though I am taking the literal of listing as a form, I choose to think that these are all things that others are about to realize, and the sooner, the better.

1.) This is the last week of our blog on
Sarah and I (and a host of our friends) have enjoyed hitting the dives we've always driven by and answering our own cusiosity about what else is out there in the world of bars. Let's not kid ourselves, we live in a bar, so if we can find places where we still want to be, that's a good sign. Check out my latest post, on Dapper Dan's downtown... and then check out Dapper Dan's. (click on $20:Code Red at the top left corner of the page)

Moreover, get out, start exploring different parts of the city and find your own new haunts. Don't just take our word on it.

2.) Driving to the North side, yesterday and today, in haze and semi-darkness, I was once again struck by my favorite part of 44. Headed east towards downtown, just before you hit 70 west to bend around the city, there is that beautiful view of Soulard up ahead, the factory chimneys and church spires dominating the skyline... and then the Arch. There is nothing to make me love this city more each morning than hitting that bend, the red brick glistening in the late dawn. It reminds me where we come from, as a place, and where we are headed. Moving from our industrial and religious routes into some new frontier, and better yet, it's a frontier we are stil defining as a city.

3.) On the N. side, I took Natural Bridge east towards downtown the other day. Driving past burnt down and boarded up buildings, I was left with one image-- that of an old corner building made into a church. Above the door, where it once had more painted words, there was just one left: FAITH. That one word painted in black on that white building made me see it all differently-- that drive, that part of the city, and what we're all doing today. It seemed like a mission statement, or a request: hold on, we're coming back, the N. side in all its glory.

4.) That was echoed by my drive home from school today. I generally go up there via 44/70 and then circumnavigate my way through the city back to the south. Today, I took a straight course on Union towards the park. Passing Soldan High School, I delighted in seeing the high school marching band and its dancers completely closing off one whole block of a side street as their horns blared and bowed and young girls waved flags. For a school that can get a bad rap, it was great to see this music and dancing literally shutting down traffic and breathing life... and all those kids the ones doing it.

5.) On a more personal note, today I received several letters from my students as part of an activity in class. Previous to that though, a sixth grader walked in with a thank you letter for me she had made over the weekend. In the middle, in between what she has learned, it simply said, "Thank you for believing in me." Later, another student new to my room wrote me a note that said, "Thank you for choosing me to learn." For anyone out there who doesn't think kids are curious or that they want to learn, head on up to the N. side. I am constantly amazed at how bright my students are, how curious they are, and how much they want to think-- really think. Case in point, today, my fourth graders and I had an amazing conversation about Henry David Thoreau and how he thought about truth. They got it. The quote: "It takes two to speak the truth-- one to speak, and another to hear."

On that note, maybe when some of these things are noticed again, by others, instead of them listing, their tipping point will begin.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

When we used to believe...

I stood in front of my classroom the other day, all those eyes shining up at me, attentive and excited. It was beautiful. And as I jumped around the room, talking, asking questions, telling them all the things they would have a chance to try, and explaining that when they entered my room, they were writers, a question in me flickered. It was question that would later persist, repeating in my head.

I teach children to write. Not just the grammar and mechanics, or the thinking and structure, but I teach them that they have things to say. In my classroom, over and over, I try to show those kids that language is power, that everything important that is accomplished is accomplished by communication-- that the ability to understand and be understood is our highest purpose. That's what writers do. And write they can, in different ways, at different levels. But I have never heard one of them in years say, "I can't write." They just accept that they have a talent, and they work mightily, and diligently to uncover it.

As I was explaining that some things would come naturally and some would be hard work, that while one person might be great at haikus and another struggled, that they would each find what they loved, and they would each be great at some type of writing. I was using examples, trying to tell them what I was naturally better at, and what I had to work hard for, and the rewards that rested within each. I am a notoriously bad speller, yet somehow a great proofreader-- go figure. I cannot do math, but I can do calculus with ease in physics and chemistry. I have to figure out how things work, and I have to care, but there is nothing we cannot learn. As I spoke and asked questions, I said, "Who here is good at math?" and every little fourth grade hand shot up without hesitation. In later groups, with slightly older kids, when I asked similar questions, there was hesitation, some hands up right away, some staying folded in their laps.

I wondered the thing I have always wondered being a teacher: when do we stop saying we can do anything and start volunteering our weaknesses? When do we let our failures trick us into thinking goals are unattainable, and when do we start self-identifying with our talents or weaknesses as others have laid them out for us?

Think about it. There was a time when every one of us would draw. We would craft stories and make them up and delight in anyone who cared to listen. We would struggle for hours over a math problem because it felt so good when we solved it, like the whole world suddenly opened up for us alone and started to make sense. We would build things and imagine the world looking differently. We believed. In everything.

And we thought we were good at everything. Who knows: maybe we were.

But at some point, that fades away. We know more. We have more experiences. We start listening to others more than we listen to ourselves. Doubt creeps in. But I wonder, each day, how many more brilliant thinkers or dancers, artists or architects we might have if they weren't told somewhere along the way that they weren't the best at something. Since when does our prowess at eight years old or eleven determine the rest of our future? It's like some kind of sad brainwashing so that we can better deal with people. Janey becomes the writer, John the future doctor, little Neil who needs attention and causes fights the one likely to go to trade school or drop out altogether.

It saddens me. And it saddens me mostly because I had teachers who fell into two categories: those that told me I should write because I was good at it, but who didn't think I should do anything else, or like anything else; and those that told me I was good at nothing, that I lacked focus, that my excitement was too intense and I got bogged down in details of wanting to ask questions that were irrelevant. (And incidentally, I still have never met an irrelevant question, some that are oddly timed, like the other day when a sixth grader asked me in the middle of a vocabulary lesson, with all seriousness, if she could feed her pet rabbit carrot cake since there were carrots in it...). The few teachers, and I will name them here for the record, that were good were the ones who thought of me as a person foremost and a student second. I was not to be their project, but I have grown up to be their friend: Mr. Carlson (whom I still write to every year), Ms. Lipowitz, Mr. Toler, Mr. Holbrook, Mark Costello and Brigit Kelly. There, out of how many hundreds over 20 years and 12 schools, only 6 stand out as fantastic. Thank god for those six. They never once limited me to what I was good at, nor did they discourage me away from the things which I struggled with.

It was like my heart filled up to see every single fourth grader say they were good at everything, and then it sank to see the older kids so very hesitant, thinking of what others told them. If I've learned nothing else in life, I've learned that persistence and curiosity are what make us great. So I'm going to keep telling those kids they are writers, because when I look at them, I have no doubt that every one of them, if they want to, can be. And they will be great. And for right now, for this year at least, they will hear me saying over and over, "You write well. You have important things to say," and hopefully later, they will remember that.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Will the real leaders please stand up?

In the last 36 hours, I have had several charged political conversations. Beginning with my attendance at the McCaskill rally where Wesley Clark spoke yesterday to a bunch of veterans, and then ending with conversations with friends and some material I found on blogs, I can only wonder who is really running our government, on any level.

Something strange has happened nationally in the past several years, we have stopped being a democracy. We have stopped even expecting to be active in politics. We react and we blame. Sure, some people still work in their communities, and some still voice an opinion, but mostly, it seems people are just complaining. I am from the old guard of "If you don't like it, fix it." The thought of standing by while others decide our fate is foreign to me, and we are better than that, as individuals, as communities, and as a nation.

One of the things I was struck by while at the McCaskill rally yesterday was the issue of veteran benefits. Not only that though, I was speaking to retired civil servants who have experienced similar unfulfilled promises regarding their pensions and healthcare. We have social contracts in this country, and we are not honoring them. We ask people to risk and risk, and to give and give. Habitually, those are the people who are paid the least, who give the most, and who we are most in danger of losing. It is the same with teachers. It is a culturally problem of value, of how we think of service. But it has become a legislative issue. Sadly, I don't see others interested unless it is their lives directly being affected. I wonder when we might actually realize that we are all connected, and that what is bad for some members of our community, or our city, becomes bad for us as a whole.

But this example of veterans' benefits fits into it all on a different level as well. We ask people to do a job, and then we are not accountable to what we have promised them. We ask our citizens to vote, to attend meetings, to give feedback, and yet we don't listen to what they say. We are a people producing America over and over again each day, and yet, while we are good enough to do that, we are not good enough to be valued or to be truly represented.

With these musings running around my head, I read the Ordinance yesterday that is proposing a moratorium on all liquor licenses down on Cherokee. In an area that so desperately seems to need businesses to help pull it up, create foot traffic, and craft some stability, I can't help but wonder why there is so much effort being wasted in fighting people who might want to open businesses on what has often been perceived as a blighted area. It seems archaic, simple-minded, and silly to blame liquor for the problems of an area. It begs the questions of the root of social problems and takes a strange Prohibition-era stance on alcohol, sin, and community. Even if we take the exact location out of the equation, isn't this a strange precedent for us to allow?

In the last two days, I have heard several people complain about local politicians, and let's not kid ourselves, we're all complaining on a national level. The point is, as I see it, my main question: when did we start to allow government to tell us what was good for us? When did we abandon the idea of our voice, of our desires and needs as being valid? I am not looking for a government to mandate my rights and wrongs, on any level. I am looking for leadership...

And here's what I keep coming back to. Several years ago, I had a bright college student who wrote a paper for me in response to a question that I ask all my students every year (kids and adults): What is the biggest problem facing our nation? Many answers are predictable: the war, rantings about Bush, poverty, AIDS. But then I read this one essay and my student said it so clearly: "Our biggest problem as a nation is our inability to elect a worthy leader." 2 key things here-- OUR inability to elect, and the idea of a leader being worthy of actually representing us. I don't see government anymore as representation. That idea that I was brought up on seems to be disappearing. Politicians are now simply power, and they each carry out their duties according to what they think is best for us. To some degree, that is the job, but on a larger scale, we have all lost sight of the true meaning of government. The issue of service seems largely lost in politics. There are exceptions, of course, but come on; service should be the rule. We need leaders, creative people with ideas and practical implementation. We do not need more people limiting our futures, nor deterring us from what might amount to great progress. Government is not the status quo; it can't be. It's forging ahead with innovation and vision.

When I teach sixth graders about government, they get it. They have the ideas (not the practical ones, often, but the ideas) and they still realize that to be a leader is a tough job and with it comes a contract. My kids understand that our government should be about leadership, but mostly it's about responsibility and fulfilling a social contract to listen, advocate, and create progress, not to block it.

We're missing something, and I am wondering what price we will pay if we continue to keep waiting for change and representation rather than demanding it. If we want good leaders, we are going to have to work to find them, we will have to reward those who are civic-minded, and we are going to have to fulfill our end of the deal, as voters. In a government predicated on checks and balances, when the balance subsides, we need to put our city in check.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Skipping Around the 'Lou

For some reason, I decided to dust off my bike (literally) and hit the Riverfront Trail today. I managed to finally lower the seat (it was a hand-me-down from my brother, who is much taller than I am) and after pumping up the tire three times (it refuses to hold air, thus my excuse for not biking in the last two years), I grabbed my helmet and my camera and left.

Then I promptly detoured. There are a few bars I had been meaning to find, so I ventured down S. Broadway, marvelling at how beautiful the stretch is right at Jefferson and Broadway. I went a little West, driving down Virginia, where I have recently found a wealth of great bars I can't wait to hit: The Office, The Wedge Bar. On Michigan, I found a little place that made me happy. And then I continued my meandering to finally find Frank's First Alarm Bar and Grill. I am a sucker for names, and this little ditty did me in by its title.

I drove up Broadway, finding a beautiful mural on the side of a market.

I went to Bellerive Park and watched the barges and the trains.

And then, I went North, up to the Trail. After pumping up my tire (again-- and I had to do it twice in my 3 mile ride), I biked. I passed no one else. The sun was shining. I heard the trains whining and wailing as they passed just west of me. I watched the river, and I thought over and over what a great city we live in. I ws thinking of Steve Smith's latest post on his blog, Word on the Street, about anti-love letters, people posting who are none too happy with St. Louis. I just kept thinking, if only they could feel this. I felt like a kid, my legs pumping as I cycled, and yet all I kept thinking of was what I had driven by in the previous hour, the amazing ways our city changes in just a few miles, and how the people who live in each neighborhood own that neighborhood and give it a feel, a vibe.

I drove home via Chouteau's Landing, marvelling at the Grafitti Wall. I drove the distance, 0.9 miles along the road before the road dissolved into train tracks. I had never seen the full span of grafitti before, and I was in awe at the things people need to tell, to show, to put down somewhere where it will have a life, an audience, and also a quiet solitude.

Maybe it was just the texture of the road on my old bike, thumping and rattling-- or perhaps it was walking and talking to the folks on S. Broadway who seemed so perplexed that I would find small slices of their street beautiful, but today, this city felt alive. And further proof of what a great day it is in STL, on the radio, there was talk of the BalLoon Race, and as I came home, I was awash in a sea of red-- Cardinals fans. If you can't find something to love here, all I have to say is, get the hell out.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Explorer, 2006

We are a nation of explorers. We were borne of a desire to transcend boundaries, to continually move, to find new things each day. There is that sense of adventure within us all.

I think a lot of exploration. I wonder if there are truly explorers anymore. It seems impossible that there would be new Magellans or de Vacas, but still we go up into space. We circumnavigate the globe, alone, in a sailboat. We climb Everest and trek through the Gobi. We hike the Appalachian Trail. And all of us, when we were kids, traveled and traversed urban alleys, suburban yards, forests, and cornfields. We still explore, it's just different how we do it.

As a modern culture, we have stopped exploring geographically and started exploring information. We have moved beyond exploration to take bounty to our king, or the want of naming a land after ourselves. Exploration, and its sibling of discovery are now personal, and we explore things for ourselves. We travel to learn, to collect stories. People used to travel to see how people are different. Now we travel to see how people are the same. It is the places which hopefully will continue to remain distinct.

I was thinking of all this as I drank iced tea and watched the traffic on S. Grand this afternoon. And then Sarah called. We hatched a plan to hit the N. side, have a shake at Crown Candy and take some photos. They skies were grey and the air cool, the streets virtually empty, and the buildings devoid of life. We found ourselves zig-zagging in Sarah's car, turning quickly onto streets where something interested us. Sarah wanted to roll by Bluemeyer Housing Project. I saw a sign that was training ground for... we're not sure what really. It just said "INC.", and I loved it.

We drove through Old North St. Louis, seeing a mural of a fountain, and a small park on N. Market where they are rehabbing a couple of blocks. New storefronts, old buildings, flying fish painted in the medians. There was progress, beautiful progress.

We walked around ONSL, Sarah telling stories of her grandmother selling newspapers and running into Crown Candy for shelter when it rained. We saw decaying buildings, and then homes with life. A beautiful corner park where they showed a movie outside last week, a community art studio where they had boxes of the painted flying fish. The rowhomes, often overlooked, were as old and intricately ornate as any in Soulard. And then, as we walked South, it was clear again where we were, that graveyard of parking meters rising out of the pavement, the likes of which we never see on the street anymore.

For some reason, everywhere we walked and drove, people stared at us. The place was silent, and it was as if people did not want the silence broken. But we have begun to do this lately, Sarah and I. I often drive around neighborhoods, but lately, we have been picking a destination and getting out and walking around for a half hour, an hour. And it's magic. Like exploring lost lands. Like charting something new.

as we walked today, I knew we weren't the first people to see these places, nor even the first to understand them as we did. But for us, it was still discovery, even if discovery of a place we often pass through. It was the experience of it, the walking, the touching of places that are not ours, but have been loaned to us in a certain way. I may not be finding new things in the world by doing this, but I did feel like a kid again, adventuring, my eyes full of wonder at what I saw, my head making up stories as we went.

Maybe in other ways it's gone, but there's still a lot of exploring to be done in St. Louis, and I'm happy to walk to those discoveries, and through those graveyards of lost lands.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Things not to miss, on Sunday...

Think nothing worth seeing is happening in this town? Well, there's a gigantic convergence of culture high and low, art, music, and events, and it all seems to be going down this Sunday, Sept. 10 in the 'Lou.

If I were you, I would not miss the following:

ST LOUIS ART FAIR, Clayton, all day, all weekend
Look out for STL painters Alicia Lachance and Michael Hoffman. Alicia's beautiful botanical paintings graced all the posters for last year's art fair. Alicia, Michael, and Bill Lachance own Hoffman Lachance Fine Art-- the best art around without being up its own ass. Check out Lachance and Hoffman; their paintings will make you think of poetry, both be-bop and soul.

STL's newest sport weaves entertainment and endurance with physical prowess and style. Part punk, part cultural phenomenom, these girls are well worth the watching.

Yep, it's the RFT, but at least they still are supporting and showcasing local talent with this huge affair. On Sunday, all over the Loop, for many hours, great bands, in all kinds of genres will be playing. Most covers are around $10, not bad for lovin' your local sound. My recs:

Bad Folk, 6pm, Cicero's-- Their music reminds me of trains and driving, and they are just damn talented and nice.

Bob Reuter, 7pm, Riddle's-- Fantastic songwriter. See why he was nominated as one of the best in the city.

Corbeta Corbata, 8pm, Halo Bar-- punk at its best, although not my usual thing, these guys rock

The Bureau, 9pm, Cicero's-- I just saw them the other night and I'm hooked: electronic.

The Earthworms, 9pm, Blueberry Hill-- I've been missing Jive Turkey and this is their future. Hip-hop.

Tight Pants Syndrome, 10pm, Riddles-- Just go; you'll thank me later. And think of Gavin Tartowski.

Red Eyed Driver, 10pm, Blueberry Hill Duck Room-- rock, at its best and most beautiful.

After hitting these events, try and tell me there ain't a renaissance goin' down.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Red Bones

For any of you lookin' for a new place to go, Red Bones Den is back in business, after taking the summer off. Bones is back from his farm and he kicked off business for his 34th year on Labor Day. Located at the corner of Kossuth and Vandeventer (right by fairgrounds Park), Red Bones Den opens at 9am and is open until 1:30.

He might have one of the friendliest staffs in the business. And man, does he have stories. Check out the picture of him and Muhammad Ali behind the bar. And take a look at all the antique farming equipment he's got up on the walls. This is not your normal N. side bar.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

KDHX, a drink on the rocks

We all love KDHX. It's simple; we do. The idea of a community radio station is almost gone in this country. We have a great one and it's time we support them. So what can you do? Go out and eat and drink. You're going to do it anyway, so make it count.

Wed., Sept. 6 is KDHX's Tastes for Tunes event. There is an astounding number of restaurants in STL (and some in IL) participating. All are donating from 15-50% of their profits on Wed. to KDHX. The Royale is one of those places (and host to the After-Party). So go out, eat some great food at local restaurants, have an extra drink, and know you had a good time for a good cause.

Check out more info at: KDHX website

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Yep, I'm obsessed and finally coming out in public. Check out my nascent flickr account.

STLRenaissance Photos

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Things to do... on Sunday

This Sunday, Sept. 3, hit the Ground Level Block Party outside Mekong. They are closing off the street at Hartford and S. Grand. Bands. DJ's. Fun stuff. A great prelude to the holiday. And be there at 7pm when the Bureau hits the stage. It's Jamie Toon's band, and I am very excited to finally not be at work and get the chance to see them.

The fun kicks off at noon, and goes all day and into the evening, ending in DJ spins inside The Upstairs (free entry before 10:30 pm; $10 afterwards).

Friday, September 01, 2006

7 Things We Could Do Better

We're doing a lot of things right in STL, The two things that always come to mind first are a.) how well we support local businesses, especially local restaurants (tough to find an Olive Garden in the city, thank god) and b.) we have a lot of really, really talented and creative people here-- maing art and music, writing, solving problems, working in our communities. It's good stuff.

That being said, there are some simple things we could stand to improve on. My list is as follows (and in keeping with my 7 Series):

1.) RECYCLE OLD BUILDINGS. We do well with the warehouses (duh, they're lofts now-- too pricey for me, too)... and people are good with old storefronts and rehabbing and stuff. But in the 2-mile radius of S. Grand alone, there are tons of old gas stations that no one is doing anything with. Bar? Dry Cleaners? Restaurant? Cool studio space? I don't know, but we need to take a nod from Austin and some other great cities that have started recycling mid-century buildings. Or all those beautiful old movie theatres. We could do much better than what we've done.

2.) BIKE TRAILS. Yeah, yeah, there's the "Bike STL" signs or whatever, but very few streets actually have bike lanes. And, we're asshole drivers when people are on bikes. Half of the people I work with don't have cars, so there are plenty o' people out there a bikin'. Look at all really great cities of comparable or smaller size. Lots o' bike paths, folks.

3.) PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION. I know we're working on it, and it's beautiful to see that N-S running Metrolink, but we need more. This is such a car city, and by extension, so very divided in many ways because of it.

4.) COULD WE ADDRESS RACISM, please? This is a huge one. It will never get better until we say there's an issue. And there is, a big one.

5.) COMMUNITY CENTERS. We need community centers-- real ones. Places to meet and gather. Places for kids to go and learn and have fun and be safe and engaged. We need places to come together, and we're not working towards it, really, not at all.

6.) MEDIA. I don't even have to say more.

7.) JOBS AVAILABLE FOR THE CREATIVE CLASS. Ditto. We all know the score, but we need to be the ones to change that.

This is a great city, but it's not going to stay great or go anywhere if we don't start working, and if we don't have real conversations about what we want, what we need, and how to get it done. The floor is open...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

My favorite... gas station

Now, I'm partial to QuikTrip, mostly because they are clean and well-lit and safe for a girl alone at night. I do, of course, enjoy the 7/11 Citgo combos, but mostly because I like a slurpy about as often as they come. But I do have a favorite gas station in STL, and nope, it's not the free world's largest AMOCO sign. There's a Phillips 66 off of Delor and S. Grand (way South). They have a basket of fruit by the checkout, and a whole big swivel stand of greeting cards (many of which had something to do with George Bush, if I remember correctly). It's clean, and the staff are way friendly. I don't get there very much, but there is something about the things they think to include that make me want to go out of my way. Gas is a simple necessity for most of us folk. Going somewhere that makes you happy is purely a bonus.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Tourist Tuesday: The Hideaway

I, oddly, always wished I was born in an era where people dress up for cocktails. I love the Roarin' Twenties, knees showing, flapper dresses flying. There was both a formality to entertainment and an irreverance. Entertainment came, in some form or another every night. Now, except in rare cases, the place has become the entertainment itself, and long lost are the days of getting dressed up to go out for the evening. No one (other than Vance Thompson) seems to get dressed up and go out for a spin anymore. And yet, the Hideaway, on Arsenal, just east of Hampton still exists.

I came across some notes I made in the spring for a piece for (and never got around to writing), and I decided it made the perfect Tourist Tuesday suggestion. It's not tourist-y, but it has all the symptoms of being a place we don't usually go to, and one which we overlook for its obvious grace. The Hideaway is a throwback, straight-up, a piano bar that perpetually has a sign up saying "barmaid wanted". Barmaid. They have an older man and an older woman who play the piano and sing-- on weekends, usually together. She likes showtunes, and sings a fine dandy about seduction.

The place is bathed in red, and one of the first things you notice before entering is they have a dress code, allbeit a lax one, but it's posted. It's also posted in the entry, as well as behind the bar, "no profanity". Ah, class, and standards. I told you it's a throwback. Each seat at the bar has its own ashtray and its own little crocheted red placemat. When I mentioned this to my mom, she remembered all kinds of places she went to while growing up that offered these little luxuries.

My favorite part: there's a disco ball and small dancefloor. And if you're lucky, any one of the half dozen older couples that inhabit the place will be up dancing. And when I say dancing, I mean dancing for all it's worth: without a care in the world, in total joy of one another. It's beautiful, and though I don't dance, it makes me want to get dressed up every time and it makes me wish I would.

As tourists, we're looking to encounter new things, find new places, and discover some local color. Along the way, most of us want to find out something about ourselves. This Tuesday, I can't think of anywhere better to recommend.

5900 Arsenal (645-8822)

Monday, August 28, 2006

You should know... Matt Krentz

Too often in this city, those are truly helping to build our culture and give St. Louis a good name get left out. Boo hiss, I say. Or, if we talk about national contribution to the entertainment landscape it comes in the form of Nelly or Chingy or ... you get the picture. That's why you should know Matt Krentz.

Matt Krentz has been getting some media attention the last few weeks for the film Streetballers, a feature he wrote several years ago, and one which he is also directing and acting in. I caught a quick profile of Matt on Fox News the other week and Matt made a point of saying repeatedly that there were people who thought that he should make this film in NYC or LA or Chicago, that he needed to go to a big city to be successful. Matt stood his ground. He wrote the film in STL, about STL and he wanted to film it in STL. I admire his perseverence, and I applaud him standing his ground. He wanted to make this film in St. Louis, and that's what he's doing.

Why people think STL is not a place where art and culture can be created, I don't understand. But I love that someone with talent (and a budding reputation) stood up for this city and saw something here that could not be translated into another locale.

Matt Krentz is a filmmaker who was born and raised in St. Louis. I met him years ago when I first moved to town and we worked together for a spell while Matt was in between gigs working at the Sundance Institute. He has made several acclaimed shorts and worked on quite a few productions. His own company, MSK Productions is now making Streetballers. While Matt might possibly be one of kindest and most genuine people I know, he's also a visionary. Despite him not living in St. Louis full time anymore, he is often back here for work, and he brings his work with him when possible.

So if you see a crew out filming, it could be MSK. But more importantly, if you see a crew filming, think about all the things that they are bringing to this city. It's one thing for us to make great art here; it's quite another to fight with financiers to come back here and help make STL a city of great art.

I wish Matt luck, and I can only suggest that if you meet him, pay attention. Matt may go all over the place to make films, but when he had his choice, he came home. That kind of risk and vision is what we need, and it's what will help pave the way for our survival, as well as our renaissance. So really people, you should know him. He's going to make a difference.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Hoobellatoo Hurrah

Okay, so those cool cats over at Hoobellatoo, the St. Louis-based arts collective are putting on a Happening this weekend at the Royale. Sunday night (8/27) from 6-9pm at the Royale (3132 S. Kingshighway), the Hoobellatoo-ers are throwin' an Experiential Auction. This is not your momma's PTA school auction where you go home with some golf package or a basket of muffins. This is an auction for all of us.

Entry is $10, which goes to help fund Hoobelletoo and all their cool endeavors. (Your entry also goes towards your first bid). It's okay: what's an experiential auction, you ask? Well, the organizers hooked up all sorts of St. Louis specific ways to have fun. There are private meals or outings with the likes of Joe Edwards and Bill Christman-- two U. City visionaries, as well as private Schlafly tours with the head-brewer, a sound recording done by Jason Hutto, or performance pieces done by several great artists in different mediums. There's stuff for kids, couples, entreprenuers. Ultimately, the way I see it, for a donation, you get to experience this city the way the movers and shakers do. If you ask me, that's pretty f-ing cool, and fairly priceless.

My two favorites:

*Despite my hating Bukowski, I think it's pretty awesome that KDHX No-Show host Brett Underwood loves him so much. Brett will record a bit of Bukowski for your outgoing message on your voicemail. (And if you've never heard Brett before, there is some spirit of Bukowski in him-- luckily not the womanizing part though...)

*A tour o' the city with Steve Smith. I've had a lot of travels with Steve. If you want to see this city like you never have before (and he's likely to give you the historical as well as the seedy underbelly-ful trivia), bid on this one. And the bigt bonus, you get to ride in the Caddy. I know, it might seem like show, but I guarantee you someone you know will see you while you're out, and I promise you it's almost like being the star of your own parade (with some great narration).

So help out the Hoobellatoo folks. None of us need more crap, but we do still crave genuine and creative experiences. Those sorts of things are the kind you can't put a price on (so instead, bid a huge donation).

For more info, check out their website at:

Friday, August 25, 2006

The 7 Series, Reason #1

If you don't know about Hoosierweight Boxing, you're living in a hole, or perhaps so far outside of the city so as to be removed from all things progressive and interesting. Now, Hoosierweight Boxing is great-- the brainchild of Steve Smith, but its predecessor of Backyard Boxing. I know, strange but true. Boxing is the thing that kept me in St. Louis.

The above picture was taken in March of 2003 at the City Museum (the first fights there, and the fights that day were far superior to the ones that would follow at that venue). Pictured are Bradley Bowers (my business partner) and Keith Savage, with Steve's father, Pat Smith, in the back as the referee. I had heard tales the previous years from people who worked at KDHX and people who knew Steve-- tales of backyard boxing.

When I first heard these whispers, almost always right before or right after the summer holidays when the bouts were held-- I did not think much of it. Frankly, I am not a boxing fan. And I (very mistakenly) supposed that if people were fighting in their backyard that it was some kind of drunken fest of stupidity. Oh, how very wrong I was. If you lived on the South Side in the early 2000's, you knew of those matches. And when you knew more, you wanted to be there. Steve would put on fights, complete with belly dancers, fire eaters, trading cards, refreshments, and a few hundred friends and neighbors coming to watch. Backyard Boxing, to me, symbolized the greatest of an underground confluence on the SS. It was organic. The entertainment stemmed from people Steve knew. It came from suggestions and hypotheses. Some of those early fights were moments of great boxing-- boxing for the science of it, for the pure pleasure of it. It was adrenaline and creativity flying out in sweat and blood-- the exact recipe of almost all successes, this one just a little more literally.

So, in March of 2003, just when I thought I was done with St. Louis... just when I thought I might have to leave, I went to go see Bradley fight at the City Museum. I knew Steve and Thomas Crone, Bradley and Keith, and some of the others by name or sight. It was an exquisitely warm March day. I remember standing in short sleeves and drinking beer outside underneath the nascent MonstroCity. There were children running, loud bands playing, belly dancers walking the catwalks above. People brought their dogs and food was on the grill. Hundreds of people stood outside, and there was an electricty in the air. Here were all these artists and writers and bar/restaurant owners duking it out. Here were people who trained, and wrestled with themselves and got to that ring. Watching, as I looked around, it was the first time I saw STL reflected back at me as I had always wished to see it. I saw a city of disparate people-- different races, classes, styles, interests. I saw people with kids and dogs, hipsters, and teens on skateboards. I saw musicians and school teachers and accontants. And everyone was just there, in one place, celebrating this strange spectacle. All those disparate forces that collided that day (including the punches I saw thrown) demonstrated a certain energy to me, a certain possibility.

That day was the reason I stayed. I saw St. Louis our way. Our city. Not the one written about in history books. Not the one that people simply drive through without stopping, or the city that barely gets mentioned on the coasts. Not the city that is mediocre or racist or conservative or Catholic or old-fashioned. I saw a thriving, breathing city that day. And I saw people cheering, late into the night, even when it got cold and jackets were pulled on... No one went home. No one moved other than to scream in support or disappointment. Everyone stayed there, and for that night, I felt a part of the moment.

That night, I knew what St. Louis could be, because I'd just seen it played out, acted out round after round. I knew I'd probably never be in the ring, but I also knew something else. If I wanted my life to be as I envisioned it, I would have to begin fighting. I'm still waiting for the crowd to come watch, but I haven't been knocked out yet.

Thanks, sweet science. And STL, thanks for the ride.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The 7 Series, Part III

[Continuing the list...]

Okay, there are some who say how great Forest Park is. Over and over and over. "Forest Park, Forest Park, Forest Park". And I'll grant you, it is cool. It's huge-- gi-normous even. And it does have those great free museums. And I love the fountain. And it's good people watching. But other than the museums, to be honest, I don't really do much IN Forest Park. It is a strange labrynth to me, and it is the park that I always look at and think, "That's for other people." Don't ask me why. Sometimes these things are not logical.

Now, Tower Grove Park, on the other hand, that's my park, and not just because of proximity. TG is big enough to be a PARK, yet not so mammoth that you get lost or need to take a GPS to navigate off the trails on foot. And people really use TG-- everyday. It may not be a destination park like Forest Park, but check out TG on the weekends, or right when people get off of work-- even in the winter, that place gets used.

In honor of the sevens, I am going to make a quick list of the 7 things I like most about Tower Grove, listed in no certain order.

1. the Victorian pavilions-- beautiful architecture. It makes me feel like I am in an old movie.
2. the pond at the old ruins-- ditto
3. the fountain, west of Circle Drive-- In the summer, the fountain is packed out with kids running through it, laughing, dogs barking, parents chatting on the side. It is the life of the park on a hot day, and I love that it gets so used.
4. in every storm, at least half the trees fall down in the park, yet there are still tons of trees. It's like a Weeble myster to me. I don't quite get it, because so many fall (see the piles of mulch that are the trees from The Big One in July)-- but there are still so many beautiful trees.
5. Kickball. League Kickball. I don't play, but 'nuff said.
6. Surprisingly, if you take the southernmost road along the east side of the park (which is closed to traffic), it's great for rollerblading. Only about 1/2 mile long, I just do it several times. you can go fast, and there's hills, and it's wide (so if like me, you flail, there's lots o' space to fall without killing someone or being killed).
7. Tower Grove Market. Tower Grove Movie Nights. Festivals in Tower Grove.

Basically, I just love the park, and everyday when i drive by, or walk in it, or see others running or grilling, it makes me happy. We use it, and it is truly our park. Forest Park belongs to everyone, but TG is in the heart of all South Siders. Yay.

#1... You know you want to know what was the kicker that made me think this city could be mine. What was the one thing that made me think, I want to live here, to fall in love with this city everyday, to make my life here? It might surprise you.