Monday, August 29, 2005

Planned Mississippi River Bridge To Brighten Entry to Brooklyn (aka "Lovejoy"), Illinois

The reported oldest African-American community in the state of Illinois lies just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. It's the tiny community of Brooklyn, Illinois, originally known as "Lovejoy".

For years, Brooklyn has mostly been known for its seedy collection of strip clubs, built along Illinois Route 3. However, venture into its residential area, and you will discover a mostly tidy, quiet, almost rural-feeling, small town.

Today, Brooklyn has a major new park on its eastern boundary, and with the planned realignment of Route 3 to coincide with plans for the new I-70 Mississippi River Bridge, the little town of Brooklyn will someday have a much more visible and inviting appearance to people travelling into the St. Louis area.

Friday, August 26, 2005

STL: Even our fog is friendlier....

Today on the morning news, the reporters were all talking about the heavy fog. KMOX hosts were reporting that from their perch on Memorial Drive, they couldn't even see the Arch. Little do they know how fortunate we are.

Out in California, especially their Central Valley, which is a veritable boomtown of new housing developments, they have serious fog. They call it "tule fog".

During their frequent tule fog episodes (nearly daily during many months of the year), the fog is so thick that drivers cannot distinguish their home from their neighbor's while driving down their own block. That is tf they can even make it home...

This is the land of the 100-car highway pileup. These horrible accidents are usually caused by white-out fog conditions. Cars are hurtling down the highway at 50-70 MPH, with sight distances of less than 100 feet.

When the accident starts, you can't see it...all you can do is hear it. And you have no way of knowing which way to turn to avoid being the next in a nightmare chain reaction car accident.

So, dear local reporters, keep on reporting about how heavy the fog is in St. Louis, but know that even when it comes to our fog, St. Louis is a pretty easy to manage place.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Use of Eminent Domain Debated in Missouri

St. Louis has long relied on the power of eminent domain to help redevelop blighted neighborhoods and properties. Typically when this is done, it only happens when there is community support, passed by an ordinance of the City of St. Louis addressing the specific blight situation.

Nonetheless, there are some members of the community who consider the use of eminent domain as denying private citizens their individual property rights.

However, when a private owner has abandoned his or her property, and the property has become a neighborhood nuisance, or stands in the way of a neighborhood revitalization effort, shouldn't communities have the right to authorize the use of the eminent domain to preserve or improve their neighborhoods?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Little League World Series a Sham; They Don't Play Real Baseball like St. Louis Kids

On ESPN, days and nites are filled with continuing coverage of the Little League World Series. But what you can't tell by watching the games on television is that these boys are not playing real baseball. They're playing a watered-down version of the game.

Players in the Little League World Series are at the "12 and under" age level. By this age, in St. Louis, all big league rules apply. Players are allowed to steal bases, lead off, and try for first base on a dropped third strike by the catcher. This makes for a faster, tougher, more challenging game of baseball. In fact in St. Louis, the real world rules of baseball take effect by the time kids are in the third or fourth grade.

Not so in the Little League World Series. In this nationally-televised tournament, players are not allowed to steal bases, lead off, nor try for first on a dropped third strike. These rules substantially slow down the game and take tremendous pressure off of the pitchers and catchers -- which are at the heart of the action. Not only that, the outfield fences are positioned a mere 165 feet from home plate, turning mediocre hitters into possible home run threats.

In St. Louis, youth baseball is the real thing. As a result, teams are more competitive, and players develop much sharper skills. The Kirkwood Athletic Association operates one of the areas more competitive programs. In Kirkwood, the off-season draft and recruiting of players is in full wing.

For parents and players seeking a less competitive approach to baseball, the Catholic Youth Coucil, or CYC offers a variety of youth sports. Youth need not be Catholic to play. Around St. Louis there are many other recreational baseball programs.

However, as a young player develops his or her abilities, they are often eager to advance to more competitive programs, and they can find their fill in St. Louis.

One of the reasons we left the San Francisco Bay Area for St. Louis was to be able raise our son in a true baseball environment. Little did we know at the time how true that really was -- at so many different levels.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Robert Moog, Synthesizer Pioneer, Dies at Age 71

Moog's synthesizers have influenced the music of countless artists for more than 30 years, including one of my all-time favorites, Todd Rundgren.

Anyone for a swim?

Waterways in the U.S. are supposed to be fishable and swimmable....

...and environmentalists have sued to have the Clean Water Act enforced in Missouri. One solution is to disinfect MSD's sewage effluent that flows into Missouri streams, including the Mississippi River and the River Des Peres.

However, the Executive Director of MSD is concerned that spending capital improvement dollars to disinfect sewer effluent will divert funds already earmarked to correct basement sewer backups, which continue to plague parts of MSD's 150 year-old system.

Anyone for a swim in the River Des Peres?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

A class act

"All losses are tough, but this one hurts," said catcher Mike Matheny, the former Cardinal who received a standing ovation when introduced before his third-inning at-bat.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

STL Developer Shares Views on His Success

Action Has No Season: The new book just released by Mike Roberts, describes his views on success in life and business.

St. Louisan Mike Roberts, along with his brother, Steve Roberts, are among the leading developers of downtown St. Louis.

Both Roberts brothers are former city aldermen. The pair has big plans for the city of St. Louis, between Dr. Martin Luther King and Delmar, along Kingshighway.

They note how the area has stronger retail demographics than most prominent commercial locations throughout the entire St. Louis region.

Missouri Leads Nation in Historic Preservation Investments

$350,000,000 in 2004

"$134 million more than in Pennsylvania, ranked second, and more than twice the $157 million invested by developers in Illinois, which ranked third."

Cardinals Set All-Time Ticket Sales Record

3,450,000 tickets already sold.

And all those folks are spending money in downtown St. Louis.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Online guitar tutorial

While most of the time this blog will be devoted to positive things about St. Louis, occasionally we will go in some other directions, including music (which is pretty St. Louis anyway...)

Here is an amazing free resource for guitarists...a place where you can study online, with theory and tablature set out right in front of you, all right on your computer screen.

Open tunings are this instructor's specialty.

Seeking to expand a business?

Via the Arch City Chronicle...

Missouri's a low cost place to do business ...way below the national average.

Getting off a looooong plateau

When I was ten, I started guitar lessons. That was thirty-six years ago. Ever since, I've stayed with it. So in all those years I've learned alot. Rock and roll, blues, jazz, classical, bluegrass, even ragtime. The years of playing have been great relaxation and a meditative escape. But last nite, something new happened and it's opened up a whole new world of sound and expression.

20 years ago, I studied ragtime guitar. My teacher could make a guitar sound like a piano. There was a technique he used that made the difference: he let his fingernails grow so he could "pick" five strings at the same time with his nails. A pick sound is completely different than a "thumb" sound. It's much clearer.

When your skin hits a guitar string, the tone is muted. For comparison, think of playing a piano with the mute pedal depressed. The sound is softer. It's the same with a guitar. When you pick with the fleshy ends of your fingers or thumb, you produce a muted tone.

On our recent vacation, I let the fingernails on my right hand grow. Now they're just past the fleshy tips of the fingers, the ends manicured into the shape of a guitar pick.

Last nite I tried out an acoustic with my new set of nails and there it was: the piano sound. Playing with a pick gives you speed and control. Playing with five bionic picks on the ends of your fingers turns you into a picking machine. Up and down picking. Times five. It's incredible.

Scott Joplin, hello again.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Sprawl or not?

Most St. Louis city neighborhoods rate very low on this sprawl survey..

How does your neighborhood rate?


Surge in Metro East Housing Starts

Responding to increased demand, fueled in part by homebuyers seeking closer proximity to downtown, the Metro East increases its housing production activity.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Joe Edwards Predicts Loop Trolley within 5 years

On KWMU today, Joe Edwards, owner of Blueberry Hill and the Pageant Theater, predicted that a new light rail system planned to connect the History Museum in Forest Park with the surging Delmar Loop arts, dining and entertaintainment district will open within five years.

Read here for more info about an upcoming trolley celebration in Forest Park.

Noah's Ark Site to Become Water Park

Well, at least they are staying with the water theme...

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Free monthly vacation offer

We just visited family out on the West Coast. A decent home in the Bay Area now has topped $600,000. A post comparing lifestyles between the average Californian to a St. Louis resident is a possibility, but for now, we'll just focus on comparing the cost of living.

Most people think of housing costs being outrageous on the coasts - which is true - but what they often fail to realize is how high everything else is too. Food costs more; gasoline and utilities are far more expensive; taxes are much higher.

As ex-Californians, you know what our definition of "California Cuisine" is? You pay a lot and get a little. The higher costs out there are never ending.

Meanwhile, St. Louis has one of the lowest costs of living of any major US city and our salaries are competitive with most places.

Move to St. Louis from a place like Chicago, NY, or San Francisco, and, instead of being a slave to your mortgage payment and other living expenses, with the money you're saving by living in St. Louis, you have the option of jetting to visit those places on a monthly basis, and still come out ahead financially.

At the heart of it all

One of the best features about living in STL is the close proximity we have to the rest of the country. From STL, in about five hours, you can drive to Chicago, Memphis, Nashville and Kansas City. In about 15 hours, you can visit roughly 2/3 of the population centers of the entire country.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Counting Heads

In the past three days, since traveling from the Grand Tetons through to Hot Springs, South Dakota (including Yellowstone), we've seen...

1 wolf
1 moose
1 fox/coyote?
1 bear
2 or 3 badgers,
3 pronghorn sheep
6 or 7 chipmunks,
dozens of elk
1,000-2,000 buffalo


...about 50,000 Harley or other motorcycle riders at the annual Sturgis Rally...


Saturday, August 06, 2005

Best Ribs

We've been to Bandana's and Phil's and some other St. Louis places. And over the years we've toured some of the familiar KC barbeque haunts. We've sampled 'Q down in Memphis, New Orleans, and Austin, Texas. They're all good places...but we just stumbled across a barbeque place in an unexpected neck of the woods that beats them all: "Bubba's" in Idaho Falls, ID.

Everything we had was outstanding. The meat on the ribs was the pinkest I've ever seen; a local ice cream, "Reed's" huckleberry, reminded us of Gelato from the Hill; and, when you're in Idaho and you're offered a baked potato as a side dish, you take it!

This little town, nestled in the southeast corner of Idaho in the Snake River Valley, is a mini-Metropolis, started during the Gold Rush of the mid-1800s, and survived to this day through the irrigation of farm fields thanks to the Snake River.

Now it's a burgeoning progressive community. Lots of arts, music, and (this is the west after all...). And it's the gateway to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

Geologic remains of ancient volcanic activity dot the landscape, and apparently, they get more dramatic as you get closer to Yellowstone. Here's to hoping that giant caldera they've been talking about on the Discovery Channel doesn't awaken from its 600,000-year slumber in the next week or so...

Mystics predict that won't happen till around 2012, and who knows, maybe New Madrid will slip a few hundred feet by then.


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

City School's Chief to Meet with Residents Re. Proposed Nottingham CC

Dr. Creg Williams, Superintendent of the St. Louis Public Schools, will meet at 7:00 PM tonite in the cafeteria of St. Gabriel's School, 6303 Nottingham, with interested persons concerning the proposed Nottingham Community Center. The meeting is open to the public.


Closing Streets

For years we lived on a one-way, residential street that suffered from a lack of street trees and speeding traffic. The auto presence dominated the feel of the street. Neighborhood safety was subordinated to the convenience of the car.

Then one year, we tried something that hadn't ever been done before: we proposed a block party. Lots of other blocks had them, but no one ever thought we could-the street carried too much traffic.

So? Why should that stop us? We went on with the planning. And the block party was a huge success. There was even a police helicopter fly over! Never before did anyone know so many young people lived on our block. As soon as the barricades went up at the end of the block, the neighbors poured out into the street. For that one day of the year we really controlled our own space. The street was ours. It was a neighborhood space, not a traffic cut-through.

It is in this same spirit that I suggest the idea of closing 2 or 3 blocks of Memorial Drive between the Arch and Old Court House downtown. Anyone who has ever attended the VP Fair knows how the closing of that section of Memorial Drive instantly converts it from a cut through for traffic (mostly entering or exiting highways) into an active community space.

There is the sand sculpture. There are water fountains. There are thousands of pedestrians (not fearing for their lives from speeding traffic).

Granted, there are visionary ideas for closing I-70 at the depressed lanes, or lidding over them. They have been talked about for decades. How many years before those plans may become reality? Conventional wisdom is saying 10-15 years. Let's hope those decade-plus projections are way off...

But for the meantime, what about an interim solution? Closing those couple of blocks of Memorial Drive, then programming the park in between the Drury and Adams Mark into an outdoor arts and busker music space, would instantly transform the connection between the Riverfront and Downtown.

How does having 30,000 or more cars each day using Memorial Drive to exit downtown via acces to the PSB, Hwy 70, or Hwys 44-55 do anything to make our downtown more of an interesting, urban space? Let them use other onramps, and free the DT pedestrian.


Monday, August 01, 2005

Danforth to Sponsor Design Competion to Connect Riverfront/DT

Danforth boosts city's efforts to reconnect riverfront to its downtown:

Just announced


STL Tops in Twang

If you like checking out custom hardware with lots of chrome, and the sound of angelic music played by some of the giants of the studio music industry, be sure to stop by the International Steel Guitar Convention next month in downtown STL.

34th Annual International Steel Guitar Convention:

Steel Guitar Convention

Steel Guitar Hall of Fame at the Millenium:

Downtown St. Louis Home to the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame

Slide Guitar Open Tunings:

Get your Coke bottle or lipstick case ready...


Nascar Draws 60,000 to Gateway International Raceway

Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Illinois (St. Louis Metro East) sets all-time attendance record:

Busch Series draws estimated 60,000 fans to St. Louis Nascar Race


Nottingham Community Center - Virtual Tour

Click on the "Southwest St. Louis Community Center" image at the link below to take a virtual tour of the proposed Nottingham Community Center.

Nottingham Community Center Conceptual Plans

Design concepts are preliminary in nature, with the organizing committee seeking additional public input as the planning process continues.