Monday, October 31, 2005

No Phone

I don't have a cel phone. Can't stand the things. They're expensive, easy to lose, and unreliable. Nonetheless, it seems almost everyone else has one.

When people learn I don't carry a cel phone, they get that taken aback look on their faces; when kids ask to borrow my cel phone, they're even more stunned when they find out I don't have one.

In the building where I work, people are glued to their cel phones. Rather than greet the people around them, they scurry about from the sidewalk, through the lobby, and onto the elevator, never looking up, engrossed in cel phone conversations.

Same thing with people in their cars. Whenever someone makes a dunce-headed driving move, the first thing I look for is a cel phone. Most of the time, sure enough, they're talking on it.

The other day, KMOX morning news host Debbie Monterey was lamenting our society's growing dependence on cel phones. What dependence? We survived fine before cel phones. Debbie wishes she didn't have to have one. That's easy, just get rid of it! Leave it on the shelf!

I never miss not having one. I feel freer NOT having one. I figure I'm saving at least $50 a month not having one. Besides, unless I'm on a long distance road trip (very seldom), I'm never more than 5 minutes away from a regular land line phone. What's the rush to have instant phone access at all times?

Uncomplicate your life! Ditch your cel phone!!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Talking In Code

On the ride home from work today, I heard a segment of the Sean Hannity program on 97.1 FM, the conservative talk radio station in St. Louis. Hannity was lamenting a lot of the recent travails surrounding the Bush White House. He chalked a lot of it up to a type of left-wing person he describes as a "Child Of The Sixties".

A "Child Of The Sixties? Is he talking about me?

I was a child during the Sixties. I grew up in a sprawl suburb smack dab between UC Berkeley and Altamont. Born in 1959, and if the math is right, turned 13 in 1973. I remember Viet Nam, Patty Hearst, People's Park, Kent State, and 1968.

Looking back, the Sixties were a l-o-n-g time ago. Four decades (or is it five?). That would be like me back in 1977 calling someone a "Child Of The 30s". Huh? No one ever said anything like that. How could we even relate?

The 1930s was a decade out of the history books, the high (or more appropriate *low*) point of the Great Depression.

Nonetheless an equal timespan is being invoked today to discredit some people from participating in our current political discourse.

A lot of the people reading this blog were probably not even born by the 1970s, let alone the '60s. So when they hear someone like a Sean Hannity complain that a modern-day political critic is a "Child Of The Sixties", do they even care?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Scam Warning

Just received an overseas phone call (from India to be precise) requesting a donation to the "Junior Police Academy".

After I ask a few questions about the weather and the economy in India, the original solicitor transfers the call to his "manager". The manager asks if there is "a problem", then refers me to this website. The link takes you to the organization's IRS Form 990.

Look closely...anyone see a red flag raised by the numbers in this report? (For a hint, check out line 30 of the form....)

BIG New Something Rising on The Landing

Just drove into downtown from East St. Louis via the McKinley Bridge, and saw a major new project under construction in the Laclede's Landing riverfront neighborhood.

Based on the size of the basement excavation, it's going to be a huge, skyline redefining project. Any word on what it is? It looks like the footprint for a new hotel or high rise apartment building.

Monday, October 24, 2005

STL Stands Up for Gays In Military

In a resolution adopted last week, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen calls for an end to the US military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy.


No, this entry is not about that famous brewer in South City. It's about the practice in elementary school sports of dividing kids up according to their skill level. Some places call it "gold and silver". Whatever you call it, "structuring" teams according to skill level is a source of constant discontent.

Now in so-called "select" (private) leagues, structuring teams comes with the territory. Young athletes enter these programs seeking a higher level of competition, so the idea of dividing kids up by their skill level furthers that purpose.

However, in school leagues, it's a whole different situation. "Making an A-team" can be a big deal for a kid, or it can be equally frustrating and disappointing for the ones who don't.

Parents get angry about A/B decisions, and systems to select kids for the A or B team are far from perfect. This past weekend, I heard a story about a parent in a suburban school district threatening to sue the school's athletic association if they ended the A-B split. This particular parent didn't want his son playing with "B" level players.

Rationale for having structured teams in school sports varies. One argument is that if you don't structure the teams, the better players will all go to the select leagues. Huh? Aren't they doing this already??

The main reason it happens is for that great all-time rationale, because "everyone else is doing it". If "School A" has an upper and lower division team, and your school "balances" its teams, then you have a problem competing against the other school. Your team is too strong for the "B" team level, and too weak for the "A" team level. To address the inbalance, the athletic association at your school justifies the decision to structure its teams in order to be competitive with other schools. It's about remaining competitive in the quest to win championships.

However, is that the purpose of elementary school sports? To win championships? It's supposed to be about a lot more than that. However, as long as league rules sanction the formation of A/B teams at the grade school level, the practice will continue. Was your child ever cut?

I wonder what you'd find out if you asked kids what they think about having separate A and B teams?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Historic Steak'n Shake Restaurants To Come Down

A general manager of one of our local Steak'n Shake restaurants told me this morning that within a couple of years all of the original Steak'n Shake restaurants in the St. Louis area will be torn down and replaced with larger stores.

They make excellent hamburgers (excuse me...I mean..Steakburgers) and milkshakes, but this is sad news. I wonder if they would be interested in some federal and state historic rehabilitation tax credits?

Magdalen Lanes

Attended a private party last nite at Magdalen Lanes. What a hidden gem this place is! Some friends of ours booked the whole facility to celebrate their daughter's 40th birthday. They had exclusive use of the place from 7 - 11 PM.

If I heard the bartender/bowling lane mechanic correctly, the flat rate to rent the facility is something like $100 per hour. They let you bring in your own food, and the beer, wine, and soft drink prices are very reasonable. The place has ten nice bowling lanes, a pin ball arcade, and lots of places to just hang out and visit with friends.

Among the 150 or so in attendance, there were elected officials with their families, many neighborhood regulars, lots of parents with their kids (we recruited a new catcher for next year's South Sox team), and one lady regular of Magdalen parish. (She has attended every parish event we've ever been to for over 12 years. She doesn't need an invitation. She just shows up, helps out, and keeps the place nice. I get the impression she lives somewhere on the church property, but people say that's not true.)

She said across the street over at Magdalen Church, they're getting ready to remodel the interior of the building (pretty gutsy of them, considering the A-D just closed their school), and that their longtime priest, Monsignor Doerhoff, has been transferred to a parish in South County, so they have a new priest.

Magdalen Lanes offers other affordable package deals for smaller sized groups if you don't want to rent out the whole place.

For a party for one or two hundred of your closest friends, you can't beat it. Stop by their facility off of South Kingshighway to check it out and get more information.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Don't know how this made it by the editors....

STL Rising Gets A Plug

(Scroll all the way down)

Role Models

Yesterday, after the Cards lost the Series to Houston, it seemed like the baseball season was pretty much over, at least here in St. Louis. It was a great year, with some inspiring players. Guys like David Eckstein are the kind of people you want young players to emulate.

Last nite, a meeting on the Illinois side made me late for dinner. After a late start, we barbequed and had a relaxing dinner til around 9:00. Earlier in the day, a package arrived from Matt's hockey coach. Last weekend, we held Matt out of all of his sports activities, since he wasn't working hard enough in school and around the house. Hope we don't have to do that again. Not sure that sort of discipline really works.

Even though it was dark, and we were in the middle of making dinner, Matt wanted to show me a pitch he had been working on. That would have to wait, but it's hard turning down a game of catch. After dinner, the rain had stopped, so at about 9:15 we went down to the park. We found a good new spot under some lights for a catch. We tossed it around for about 15 minutes, and Matt was making some good pitches.

After watching Oswalt mow down the Cardinals, I think Matt has a better idea of what it means when someone talks about "leg drive". Driving through and finishing his pitches, he was throwing the ball noticeably harder. Pretty soon, I won't be feeling completely safe catching for him.

When we returned home, we went through the package his hockey coach had sent. It was full of team information, ice times, and other good stuff. There was also a hand written note to Matt. For anyone involved with kids sports, this note was one of the best things I've seen come down from a coach to a player.


Sorry we missed you this last weekend. I'm sure some of the guys told you about last Friday night's loss.

Keep your grades up. They're a lot more important than hockey! Besides, we're going to need you this year.

Work hard at school and at the rink. No more benchings from home, ok?

See you Saturday.


Lots of people put in a lot of hours coaching kids sports, but too many get the priorities way out of whack. They act like the whole thing is more for the adults than the kids.

We'll save the note from Matt's hockey coach. We might pin it to the wall in his room. I might pin it to mine.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Perfect Weather

It's cool, gray, and raining softly today. This rain is not the hard driving, warm weather thunderstorm variety. It's a moody, quiet, sit by a fire sort of rain.

This is definitely not baseball weather. Fall is here, and winter is coming fast. The cool and gray is good for today. Baseball is over for the year. Busch is coming down. It's too early to think about next year.

Most years, St. Louis is blessed with other good professional sports teams to carry us over til Spring Training. But this year, the Blues and Rams are not looking very promising.

We'll be paying more attention to SLU soccer, Affton hockey, and CYC basketball. When those are through, the new Busch will be getting ready to open, the Cards will be starting new in Florida, and the warm weather will be back again.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Memory Made

Last nite was beautiful weather, but after the Cardinals stunning 2-out, ninth inning, comeback victory over the Astros, it wasn't a good nite for sleeping. My mind is still overcharged from the wattage flowing from Pujol's bat.

In games like these, Kerri can't stand to watch the television. Matt and I were watching it, and the game played out very slowly. The Cardinals took an uncomfortable 2-1 lead late into the game. You had a sinking feeling there was no way the one run Cardinal lead would hold up. Especially in the "Juice Box"

Then on a weak swing, the Astros' Berkmann connects for a 3-run, opposite field home run into the short porch "Crawford Boxes" 318 feet away in left, giving the Astros a 4-2 lead. With the Cardinals now having to deal with the Astos lights-out bullpen in the 8th and 9th innings, things looked grim.

It was closing in on 11:00 PM, way past Matt's bedtime, and we're watching the Astros methodically erase the Cardinals hopes. I was getting close to turning off the television and sending Matt to bed, but this was one of those times when it seemed more important to let him stay up watch the game together, win or lose, til the end.

In the 9th inning, the Astros came with their closer, Brad Lidge. He dominated the first two Cards' in the ninth, J-Rod and John Mabry, with fast balls hitting 97 miles per hour and sliders that were exploding down in the strike zone. The Cardinals were down to their final out, trailing by two runs, facing the hardest thrower in major league baseball, and Tony LaRussa couldn't have had things set up better for a Cardinal comeback.

The next batter was David Eckstein. I'm thinking to myself: there's no way Eckstein lets himself make the last out in this Cardinal's season. Lidge gets him to two strikes, but then Eckstein grounds sharply into the hole between short and third for a single. The Astros were within one strike from going to their first World Series ever, but now they would have to face at least one more Cardinal. Enter Jim Edmonds. The Astros fans were going crazy. They had been on their feet screaming since the 8th inning.

Edmonds had been in a similar situation last year, coming to bat in game six of of the NLCS against Houston, winning the game with a walk-off home run and sending the series to game seven. But this time, the Cardinals didn't need a home run; they needed another base runner. Fox starts going nostalgic on Busch Stadium, retelling some of the great moments about the soon-to-be-demolished ballpark.

Edmonds stood in against Lidge, and Fox announcer, Bob Brenly, a former major league catcher, notices something off in Lidge's rhythm. Edmonds works Lidge for a walk, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate in Albert Pujols. Earlier in the game, Fox showed a sign hung on the stadium wall that read "Walk Pujols". The Astros infield and pitching coach met on the mound to ready Lidge to face Albert. Brenly says, "Better not get those wrecking balls out just yet..."

On the first pitch, Lidge fools Albert with a wicked slider down in the zone. Strike one. The Astros fans are going nuts. On the second pitch, Lidge hangs a slider out over the middle of the plate. Throughout the series, the Cardinals were swinging at bad pitches, and taking good ones. Not this time. Albert had a bead on the ball, and he connected with it in classic Pujols fashion.

On slow motion instant reply, Astro's starting pitcher Andy Pettitt mouthed the words "O-h m-y g-o-d". With a one strike count, Pujols launched a monster 3-run home run shot that went over the stadium wall beyond the left field grand stand, landing on the silly train tracks that run high above the Crawford Boxes. Matt and I jumped up and exchanged "High-5s". Upstairs, Kerri could hear shouts of celebration coming through the open windows of neighbor's homes up and down the street.

The Cards had a 5-4 lead. They never gave the dimensions of the home run. It might have travelled 500 feet. The Astros fans were crestfallen. From deafening cheers to stunned silence with one mighty swing of the bat. Watching from a luxury box, Nolan Ryan had a look of total disbelief on his face.

Cards closer Jason Isringhausen took the 5-4 lead into the bottom of the ninth and pitched flawlessly. He shut the Astros down 1-2-3, securing the victory and sending the Series back to St. Louis.

We went upstairs and talked about the unlikely win for another half hour.

Eckstein the spark plug. Edmonds the seasoned veteran. Pujols the legend. It was all too much to believe. There wouldn't be much sleeping tonite. At least for me. We sent Matt to bed, and he was out after about five minutes. I'm not sure if I ever really made it into a deep sleep the whole night.

I think I am starting to understand why people love baseball. It's not so much whether your home team wins or loses. We just love the game. Memories are made. The love of the game is passed on from one generation to the next. Late at nite. Past bedtime. We want the season to continue. Everything comes down to one pitch, one out, one game, win or lose. Last nite, the Cards won it.

Now it's one more game for Busch...maybe two, maybe more...

Excellent article on Pujol's heroics: ESPN-How Pujols Changed the World

Monday, October 17, 2005

Painting by Flashlight

This weekend was a good one for doing a lot things besides watching the Cardinals hopes fade down at Houston's Minute Maid ("Juice Box") Park. Plus, since Matt was sitting out his sports activities for providing too little effort on school work and chores around the house, we had his help all weekend to work with us on our collective "to-do" list.

Our place is one of the oldest homes in the neighborhood, and as a result has a slightly wider lot than most. Typical gangways run 8 feet or so; ours is closer to 14. When we bought the home, there were no fences, which wouldn't work with a family dog. Over time, we've been completing the fences.

The one in the west gangway was the most complicated to design because of the layout of our yard and the neighbor's lot. By building it, we would be permanently enclosing part of the neighbor's yard into our lot. It's always been an area that we've maintained since it's on the back side of their garage and inaccessible from their yard. Nonetheless, permanently enclosing it into our yard makes the situation appear more official in terms of them acceding part of their lot to ours.

So, for a couple of years we've talked with the neighbors about how to work it, while avoiding any downstream legal entanglements. We agreed on the concept of preparing a shared access and licensing arrangement, no prescriptive easement implied or otherwise, and so we started building the fence this weekend.

It's solid wood, three posts set in concrete, to be painted all-white, with a gate and arbor creating a nice entry into the backyard.

From their kitchen window early this morning, the neighbors might have seen me painting by flashight. Hopefully, when the project's complete, they'll believe the end result makes both homes look better.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Time Extended

St. Louis has a reputation for being one of the most haunted cities in the country. I wonder if the ghosts of Busch Stadium are weighing in on this year's post season?

If it weren't for the Cardinals making it to the post season, the wrecking ball would already be knocking down Busch.

And now, having the season extended for at least one more series, Busch will play host for another week of baseball.

If we win the League Championship Series against Houston, then Busch Stadium will host the World Series, and baseball will be played in old Busch until the end of October.

Leaving one to wonder if we end up winning the World Series this year, are we setting up the "Busch Stadium Curse"?

Busch Stadium ends its run in glory, giving St. Louis a World Series Championship, only to curse future generations of St. Louisans with a hundred-year drought on future world titles for tearing her down after a championship season...

That wouldn't happen, could it?

Maybe if they'd built the new ballpark outside of the city, then maybe it would have...

Home Mortgage Deduction Limits Proposed

A panel appointed by President Bush is proposing to cap mortgage interest deductions according to a forumla based on average regional housing prices.

It's a plan intended to level the playing field (and generate increased tax revenue to government). Holders of large mortgages would no longer receive greater tax deductions over moderate income housheholds living in averaged priced housing.

On the plus side, the proposed law would lessen the incentive under current tax law for homeowners to always seek higher priced housing, removing one of the pressures that rewards urban sprawl.

Given that capital gains tax rules have changed, including lesseing the tax on the gain on the sale of an existing home, presumably people moving to St. Louis from higher priced areas can "buy-down", still get a comparable or superior home, and pocket most (if not all) of the gain on the sale of their old residence tax free.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Team Parenting

Lots of articles talk about the benefits of raising children in a two parent household. No question about it, raising kids complicates your life, costs a fortune (the braces go on today...), and we only have one. Families with multiple kids really have their hands full.

Lately we've been noticing some trends. Maybe its the age. Matt and his classmates are in 7th grade now, and their hormones are starting to flow. They're testing their boundaries, getting more independent, and trying new things-not always very bright things.

The girls are chasing the boys, and the boys are chasing the girls. Girls calling the house and asking for Matt is a daily routine. Gossip and rumors abound, and hurt feelings result. And for some of the boys, the grades are not all pretty. We're seeing that, too.

In addition to two parents in the home, we've started expanding the parenting boundaries. We live in a fairly tight knit community with most of the kids attending the same school, playing sports and doing other activities together. The parents know most of the kids, and the kids know most of the parents.

As parents, in addition to caring for our own kids, we watch out for our neighbor's and friend's kids too, and we openly talking about it with the kids.

Maybe the kids like it; they're probably not excited about it. We don't know how this will work out. Whatever happens, it's somewhat reassuring to be in a place with lots of people willing to give it a try.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Local Talent

The St. Louis Hills Neighborhood Association held its annual house tour this weekend, and this year's event was expanded to include an art fair, day-long concert, and food booths featuring local restaurants.

The Pink Sisters came through and the weather was perfect. The homes we visited on the tour were beautiful, most interesting of all the home of Tom and Linda Bess of Tom Bess Automotive. The Bess's home includes an original 1950s vintage "Brady Bunch" bathroom that is still in like-new condition and someday should be the highlight photo spread when another of those "what's old is new again" interior design stories makes news.

Jim and Joyce Legrand of Legrand's Tom Boy Market were selling brats, burgers and hot dogs; Paul and Pete Manzo of Manzo Importing Company, Inc. were serving their best in St. Louis salsciccia sausage; Gino's served meatball sandwiches, red wine, and A-B products in the new metal bottles, and Michael and his wife Elise from Bartolino's was serving pasta, wine and beer.

Artists lined the lily pad pond of Francis Park, with musicians performing in the center of the park. The headline music act was Erin Bode, who drew over 500 jazz fans. Earlier in the day, the jazz trio of Intuicion/DJC featuring Jan Marra on vocals and guitar, Carol Eder, jazz guitarist (and ceramic artist at the art fair), and Darrell Mixon on bass performed in their first live gig, and by some accounts stole the show.

Across Nottingham from Francis Park, in an outcome similar to a soccer game played two weeks previously, the 7th grade boys of St. Mary Magdalen Church were defeating the St. Gabriel's team in a CYC volley ball match. Maybe in its parish closing and realignment efforts, the St. Louis Arch Diocese was trying to figure out a way to break up that 7th grade Magdalen juggernaut?

By dark, you couldn't even tell a day long neighborhood celebration had taken place at Francis Park, as dozens of St. Louis Hills Neighborhood Association volunteers had everything picked up again.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Not Ready for Prime Time

Due to the fact that San Diego and St. Louis play in the two smallest media markets of all the teams participating in this years' baseball post-season, the Cards/Padres series is being relegated to odd hours for the games.

The first game was held at 1:00 PM STL time on Tuesday, yesterday's game started at 3:05 CST, and Saturday's game begins at 10:00 PM CST. Meanwhile, yesterday, at Busch Stadium, the Cardinals defeated the Padres 6-2, taking a commanding 2 games to none lead in the series, in front of a standing room only crowd of over 52,000 fans.

Down in Atlanta, last nite's prime time game had the Atlanta Braves going up against the Houston Astros. The game featured two of the league's marquis pitchers in a classic matchup: John Smoltz for Atlanta and Roger, "The Rocket", Clemens for Houston.

The Atlanta fans showed how not to act on national television. Camera shots showed Atlanta's stadium with thousands of empty seats. (Did that mean the Braves owners demanded a media blackout in Atlanta?). With Atlanta holding a comfortable 5-1 lead over Clemens, they booed him as he was walking to take his turn to bat. And then in every pressure situation, with the Atlanta organist leading the way, the Atlanta fans would begin their "Tomahawk Chop" chant and gesturing ("Whooa-whooa-whooa...whoooa-whoooa-whoooa.... [repeat ad nauseum]).

[Aside-one of my favorite scenes from TV would be to see Jane Fonda standing behind home plate reluctantly performing the Tomahawk Chop alongside Ted Turner. Talk about a seeing a conflicted person in action.]

Atlanta calls itself "America's Team". Shouldn't that title more rightly be given to the Cardinals? The Cardinal fan base stretches throughout the midwest and beyond. Apparently the media brass does not take that fact into consideration when scheduling time slots for televising post-season games.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Our Civic "Great Room"

It doesn't matter if you're black, white, brown, or green, in St. Louis, the one color that unites us is RED.

St. Louis is steeped in tradition and a sense of community. There is strong neighborhood and community identity.

However, there's one place where it doesn't matter which side of town you're from, which side of the river, or which side of Skinker: it's Busch Stadium and it's like our civic "great room".

New homes are built with large center rooms where friends and family gather together for parties, meals, and celebrations. For St. Louis, our favorite gathering place, for more than 40 years, is Busch Stadium.

In a region of 2,500,000 people, Cardinal Nation draws over 3,000,000 fans. St. Louis becomes a sea of red. The family tradition of getting together over the Cardinals is going strong, where it belongs: in the heart of our region, in the heart of downtown.

Red is the color of passion, and St. Louis is passionate about the Cardinals. We've won more World Series championships than any other national league town, and are in the hunt once more in 2005.

Will this be our year? Maybe. But win or lose, we're in it together, the same as we have been for over one hundred years.

Can you feel it? That sea of red that binds us together? What do you want to bet the other cities and teams can. It's our mojo. It's an awesome thing. And there's nothing they can do about it. They can only imagine.

Respecting Our Elders

The City is looking to find the oldest living city resident, and the person who has lived here the longest. We pay lots of attention to the young people in our community; let's think of our seniors too.

Maybe you know someone who might be the city's most senior citizen, or the person who has lived in the city the longest (not necessarily the same person). Let's find them and give them some credit.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Proposed 16th Ward Community Center To Take Next Step

Community Center advocates plan to submit their offer to purchase the Nottingham School to the Board of Education before the end of the year.

Before the project becomes a reality, there will be a signature drive to establish a Community Improvement District to fund construction of the facility, and the Board of Aldermen would have the final vote.

Put A Bow On It

The new Target at Hampton Village opened yesterday. Employees at the store could hardly believe the anticipation from neighborhood residents about the opening of the new store.

Word was that the old Target was the highest dollar Target in the entire St. Louis area. With their new offer, they should expect to see even higher sales volume.

Has there ever been such a love affair between a neighborhood and a chain store?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

We Have A Name!

Last month I posted about a project I've been working on for some time where people network together for bartered services, ultimately resulting in a financial contribution being made to a worthwhile community-based organization. We were looking for a name for the project. Now we have one!

We're calling it the "Community Service Exchange", and tonite I'll be issuing the first voucher for services rendered: five guitar lessons for a serious young guitar student.

Here's how it works. Caleb, the student, has his fifth guitar lesson tonite (he's sticking with it...yeah!). His dad attends the lessons, and will leave this evening with a voucher describing the donated services along with a contribution form directing his payment to the community organization, in this case, our local school's music program.

I never see a payment, nor know the amount of the contribution. However the coupon to be sent with the contribution describes the nature of the donated services and bears the name "Community Service Exchange" on the form.

If you'd like more information about this project (which hopefully grows over time with more service providers, customers, and resulting donations), please drop me a line or post a comment or suggestion here. Thanks.

Block Party Season

This is the time of year you see block parties breaking out all over. We had ours this past Saturday. Overall, it was a pretty low-key affair.

Before things got started, there was Steve Patterson cruising by on his scooter. He even let me try it out for a ride. Thanks, dude.

At the block party, we had a cake walk, PA'd music, one of those inflated get-inside-and-jump-around things kids love, basketball, bike riding, a wine taste, and a big screen projection movie show for everyone after dark. Oh, and a campfire and s'mores. Everyone had a good time, and to follow up, this year we plan to circulate a block directory for neighbors to fill out and share their contact info with each other.

During the day, one of our old neighbor kids, "Johnny C", came back for the block party. He's a fourth or fifth grader, the middle child of three high-energy, big-fun kids. Little Johnny could out run kids twice his age. He was a demon during alley wiffle or b-ball games. Everyone would want Johnny C on their team. His brother and sister weren't too shabby neither.

It was nice seeing Johnny at the block party, and we welcomed him back. He still plays for the parish soccer team, even though his family moved out of the neighborhod this summer for a house on a big lot out somewhere around Manchester and Hwy 40.

I asked him if he missed anything about the old neighborhood. He said he didn't like the way houses were so much farther apart in their new neighborhood, and how it made it harder for them to visit their friends. And he said he didn't like the neighbor who lived up the hill from them very much.

Johnny said the neighbor was sort of an older man, and how whenever he or his brother or sister would hit balls from their backyard into the neighbor's, the neighbor man would get real angry with them about it. I don't remember the "C" kids ever getting into much trouble around our block. And if there was a problem, we'd talk with them about it and that would be the end of it. If anything, I remember them always being the first ones eager to help out with things if it meant our Matt could join them in some sandlot-styled game.

The "C" kids were chatty, fun kids to have around. And they had tons of kids to play with on our street. In fact, the kids sort of took over the place, and we figured that was a good thing.

Downtown Itinerary With Kids

We have family coming in for a week at the start of November. Grandma, grandpa, brother, sister-in-law, and two boys, ages 4 and 6. They're here for a national science convention, and this time, instead of staying with us, they're staying downtown at the Mayfair.

Brother and dad will be attending meetings, and mom, sister-in-law, and the boys will have days to explore. Starting with downtown, what would you recommend for things to do, places to eat? Remember, the boys are only 4 and 6, so fancy restaurants are a little beyond their attention span.

Things to do?

City Museum
Old Court House
Campbell House?
Downtown library
Shopping at Macy's
Union Station

Places to eat?

Bread Co
Lion's Choice

But I know mom (grandma), likes to eat at nicer places, so what about some of downtown's nicer restaurants that would be okay with a couple of semi-active, nice boys? (appetites are not a problem.)

I was thinking of:

Downtown Cantina
Beffa's (but they won't have a car...they could borrow mine though; that'd work)

There must be some others. What about things to do?

Monday, October 03, 2005

What's your story?

St. Louis conjures up completely different realities for people, depending on who's experiencing it. For many, the city is continuing on a steady path of recovery. Neighborhoods all across the city are seeing major improvements. Billions of dollars of new investments are happening. Property values are up. Things are the best they've been in over forty years.

Yet, despite the progress, there are still those who see St. Louis as it was back in its down days. This morning, on KMOX, the owner of 2 Cents Plain, the historic downtown pastrami sandwich place, called downtown "Done-town". He's sold his building and is going into retirement.

Standing in the crowd at Sunday's "Parade-A-Palooza" sponsored by KMOX, two elderly gentlemen, both retired, while discussing St. Louis, called one particular neighborhood "the only good neighborhood left in the City". Where have they been???

It's strange really. One city. The same facts, visible improvements, and plentiful positive news stories available to everyone, and there are still those that see St. Louis as a place in decline. The negative sentiments always amaze me. Try to convince them otherwise, and some of these old-timers (either physically or in spirit) look at you like you have two heads.

So, what's your story?

Downtown Tops Lively STL Weekend

St. Louis lived up to its motto this weekend as "The Place To Be".

The day started with a parade down Market Street featuring Mayor Slay, Lou Brock, the Vashon High School marching band, Police Chief Mokwa, Fred Bird, Father Time, and many more.

After the parade, Taste St. Louis continued on the Gateway Mall, along with a downtown street fair at Kiener Plaza.

Later in the day, the St. Louis Cardinals rallied from a 5-0 deficit to complete a 3-game sweep of the Cincinatti Reds, winning their 100th game of the season on the occasion of the last regular season game in the storied history of Busch Stadium.

Following the game, there was a celebration of Busch Sstadium and Cardinal Nation as most of the current and former Cardinal players were introduced on the field, along with many of the long-time workers at Busch Stadium.

As the festivities at Busch were coming to a close, things were heating up over at Savvis Center. The St. Louis Blues were closing out their preseason with a rousing 2-1 defeat over the Chicago Blackhawks.

Fall is a great time of year in St. Louis. There were things happening all around the region, and downtown was leading the way, attracting tens of thousands of visitors.