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.