Wednesday, December 27, 2006

St. Louis Lights Drive

It's the holidays, and our street looks okay. Almost every house has Christmas lights and we get our share of holiday light's visitors, but our block doesn't have a theme; we all do what we want. Some blocks get serious about Christmas lights; the neighbors must plan all year for their light displays. Some are pretty amazing.

Inside our house, the prior owners left behind some nice things and some not so nice things. One of the least favorites was the flush-mounted, "nipple light" in the dining room ceiling. It's been on our list of items to replace.

Kerri wanted a decorative chandelier, so we've been looking for months, years maybe. Mass produced chandeliers come in literally thousands of designs. And they make such a huge design statement in your home that choosing one is not an easy decision. And now, it's the day before Christmas, and like a good man does, I'm still deciding what to get Kerri.

Matt and I went out, shopping. The stores were mellow on this day before Christmas compared to the craziness on the day after Thanksgiving. Our first stop was the new Lowe's on Loughborough. We arrived the back way, through the neighborhood, off of River Des Peres, or Germania, or whatever it's called through there...

The new Lowe's is very nice. If you enter the back way, through the neighborhood, the access is easy. You avoid traffic, and you park right near the entrance. The store is sparking clean, well-stocked, with friendly, helpful employees. We walked to the lighting department, and saw a few possibilities, but we wanted to check some more. So we drove to the Home Depot on Kingshighway. They had a huge selection.

We found a couple of good possibilities, so we started checking the prices. Everything we liked involved ordering and delivery withing 5 days! That wouldn't work. So back to the car and on to the Lowe's in Kirkwood. Theirs was a much lower selection than the new City Lowe's. So back to South City we went.

We returned to the chandelier we originally liked. (There's a picture of it from Lowe's on-line store at the top of this post.) We bought it. Kerri was thrilled when she unwrapped the box on Christmas morning. But we still didn't know if it was the right choice. We wouldn't know for certain until we could see it hung in the room, and lived with it for a while.

It was installed in time for dinner last nite. To break in the new atmosphere, we made a German meal from an old family recipe out of the leftovers from Christmas dinner.

Sitting at the table, and still deciding whether we liked the new light fixture or not, something dawned on me: the design manages to capture certain aspects of St. Louis! In lighting design terms, they call it "transitional", not modern or traditional. The fixture has a wrought iron-looking infrastructure, with a glass center. Twin oval glass cores are surrounded by a light metal frame with metal branches radiating from the center.

Our neighbor's first reaction was. "Is it antique?"

"No, Lowe's" I responded.

Around us, other blocks go all out for Christmas; ours shines on Halloween. Now, with the lights dimmed on the new chandelier, we get a look that is evokes a St. Louis haunted house. We doubt our house is haunted, but St. Louis is known for having lots of them. During Halloween, our block is definitely haunted, so if we ever have a Halloween party, we'll be ready.

We sat and finished dinner, and agreed, the light would do just fine.

Friday, December 22, 2006

This is Not A Strat!


This is not a Strat...

This is not a Strat...

But it's going on the St. Louis cool list...

K-line Guitars, as shown in the picture above, are handmade in a custom shop in St. Louis County by company owner, Chris Kroelein. They are available at G-Gravity on S. Broadway in the City.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Steeplejacks Rising

If you want to see a rare sight, check out the west steeple at St. Agatha's Church in Soulard, just south of Anheuser-Busch, on the east side of Highway 55. Steeplejacks have been working on the steeple for the past few days.

At left is a picture of a steeplejack plying her trade. The actual steeple under repair is the rear one shown in the upper picture...

Our former next door neighbor's father is a retired steeplejack. He would often come over to her house and do small house repairs. Talk about your overqualified handyman!

StL VIP Access

Ted Wight has created a blog that takes you inside some of the most beautiful homes and gardens around the St. Louis area.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Webs Rising

Apparently, it's not just STL that's rising... (cool stuff in Buffalo, NY) (gay bookstore in DC) (for the democratic party) (for a submarine city) (for a theater group) (for musicians) (a strategy to end the war in Iraq) (to combat prostate cancer) (poems, short stories) (moms organizing) (for moderate and conservative black leadership and progress) (documenting your fears) (for Uganda) (dedicated to revitalizing lower Manhattan in the wake of 9-11) (for the rest of us) (online computer game) (magazine supporting the rise of women) (multi-billion dollar downtown St. Lake City revitalization program)

People Are Talking

The Mullanphy Wall Raising effort has people talking all over town. On Wednesday, Mayor Slay's blog gave the effort another boost.

Years ago, the job to save the Eugene Field house got done thanks to school kids across St. Louis donating their pennies, nickels and dimes to save a historic St. Louis building.

Today, it will take a similar community drive if we are to save a threatened St. Louis landmark from disappearing forever.

Do you share a pride in our city and its history? Do you believe in the power of community? Do you believe one person can make a difference? If you do, now is the time to take action based on your beliefs.

We don't have the luxury of time to extend deadlines or wait on others to come up with the first dollar. Every amount helps.

Let's see what we can do if we all pull together.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Mullanphy Wall Raising

Normally we wait until spring to hold a yard sale, but this year, since we are raising money to help the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group save the Mullanphy Emigrant Home, let's start the sale a few months early.

We have a solid oak, center leaf, pedestal table and chairs (very similar to the one in the picture above, just stained a few shades darker), taking up scarce space in our basement.

So, in order to free up some walking around room, and help out the ONSLRG, we are offering to sell the set to the highest bidder (minimum bid $50) and donate all proceeds to the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group. Local delivery is available. If interested, please email me at Deadline to submit bids is next Friday, December 22 at 5:00 PM.

Town Talk Triple Play

You never know what to expect when you read the Journal's Town Talk feature, and this week's selections certainly do not disappoint.

St. Louis is known as the "Neighborhood City", and our first selection provides insight into the strong sense of community and neighborhood pride exhibited by so many St. Louis area residents:

"Ready the boiling oil"

all the crime in the City of St. Louis. Is there any way to keep all those horrible, sick people out of South County? I know years ago they built that River Des Peres moat to keep all the bad city people out of South County, but the city people built bridges and they are able to get in the County. Is there any way that we can call President Bush and have him build a fence like they are doing in Mexico? We keep them out using the moat and then we've got the river on the eastern side that keeps the Illinois people out. There's got to be some we way can protect South County.

One of the more entertaining aspects of Town Talk is the way the themes of some calls carry over from week to week, giving voice to a form of community dialogue. Our next selection is in response to our inaugural Town Talk of the Week, "Senior Glut"

"Respect your elders, or else"

I'M CALLING ABOUT the guy that disagrees with the senior citizens voting and holding up the line shopping. I'll tell that punk one thing. I'm 79 years old. I drive a Corvette. I'm dating younger women. In fact, I might even be dating his wife and I take Viagra four times a week and nobody gives me any crap. If I ever see him out in public, I'm going to punch him right in the head.

St. Louis is known as a spiritual, town, steeped in religious traditions. St. Louis also has a significant elderly population. The caller for our third selection does a nice job combining current events, a belief in a higher power, and the concerns of senior citizens.

"End of days?"

have this many power outages, or is the day of our lord approaching? I am 94 years old and don't remember all these electrical problems. Come quickly, Lord Jesus, I am very selfish; I want to see again. My pastor says I will when I get to heaven.

There was a time when I wondered about the usefulness of the Journal's Town Talk service. Now I think I am starting to understand its true value. To help deal with the pressures of every day life, some people just need an outlet to get things off their chests, and the Journal provides it with Town Talk!

Monday, December 11, 2006

San Francisco Visits St. Louis

If you've never been to Northern California, the weather in STL today is just like a winter day in San Francisco: temperature about 50 degrees, light rain and a light breeze. Nothing too exciting. Just all-day gray and cool. That's about it.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

STL Rising: Call To Build

Have you ever heard of those classified ads that go something like this, "I need just 1,000,000 people to send me $1 apiece"? The thinking is that if we all got together to accomplish a common goal, the strength in numbers can be fantastic.

We have a situation in St. Louis that needs people to come together in support of a common cause-the preservation of the Mullanphy Emigrant Home in the Old North St. Louis neighborhood.

Here's a picture of the building in its heyday:

And here's a picture of the building today:

The Old North St. Louis Restoration Group has taken on the task of saving this historic St. Louis building for today and future generations. They need the support of the community to make this happen. Cost estimates to rebuild the storm damaged wall exceed $100,000. It's the crucial first step in rehabbing this landmark.

We need 100,000 people to donate just $1 apiece to get this done. If you can afford more, please dig deep. Now is the the time to pull together. Contact the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group to offer your support. Any amount will help, but time is of the essence. Please consider making a donation before the end of the year.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Cool STL List

Since we're in the middle of cold snap, why not go with it...and have some fun thinking of all the cool things about St. Louis. St. Louis makes it on a lot of lists, but I bet if the list makers ranked places by how many cool spots they have, STL would rate pretty high. We all have different ideas about what's cool, so add your ideas to the list. When it's done, we'll permanent link it as a resource directory for anyone looking for the cool side of the STL.

St. Louis Cool List

Four seasons
Decorated neighborhoods
A-B Brewery
Grant's Farm
The Arch
Cahokia Mounds
Delmar Loop
Soulard Market
Crown Candy
STL Cardinals
Kid Hockey
The Grove
S. Grand
Historic Cemeteries
The Mississippi River
Our Lady of the Snows
Forest Park
Tower Grove Park
Carondelet Park
Fountain Park
Glencoe Steam Trains
Ted Drewes
Old Cathedral
New Cathedral
Doctor to Patient Ratio
Hospital Bed to Patient Ration
Free Art Museum
Free History Museum
Free Zoo
Muni Theater
Hibernian's Dogtown Parade
Krewe Barkus Parade
City Museum
Free Concerts at the Arch
Eads Bridge
Jefferson Barracks
Civil War History
Old Court House
Revolutionary War History
SLU High
Wash U
Sisters of St. Jospeph Reliquary
Lemp Brewery
Steel Guitar Hall of Fame
Gravity Strings
Killer Vintage
Eddie's Guitars
Confluence of the Missouri/Mississippi
Great Rivers Greenway
Heine Meine Field
Missouri Botanical Garden
Laumeier Sculpture Park
St. Charles Historic Main Street
Steinberg Ice Rink
Old Town Florissant, Webster, Ferguson, Kirkwood, Clayton, Ladue, Bel Nor, Normandy
Brick Streets
CWE Street Lights
Brick neighborhoods
Forested neighborhoods
Yard Sales
Neighborhood Bars
Emerging Macklind Avenue
Scholar Shop
Our Little Haven

Would you add anything?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

City Snow

When snow hits a city, it's beautiful. The picture above is of Annapolis, Maryland.

In St. Louis, snow does wonderful things with our historic buildings too. And it's magic when coating Christmas decorations.

Snow even makes our LRA buildings look good!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Cool New Anonymous Blog

Seeing St. Louis

Town Talk of the Week

Town Talk keeps Journal readers coming back by offering the widest possible range of opinions and local personas anywhere in St. Louis media. Week to week, Town Talk readers keep tabs on the unfiltered and unedited thoughts of their St. Louis neighbors.

Sometimes the themes carry over from week to week. Last week there was a comment from a city resident stating how you had to be a "real man or a real woman to live in the City of St. Louis". In reply, this week, there was a call from a County resident stating that some people are unable to defend themselves in the City of St. Louis, the top-rated most dangerous city in the country, and therefore must stay in the County for their personal safety. It's hard to tell whether people are serious or not with their comments, but either way, they do entertain!

As a Town Talk reader, it's fun to try and figure out who the anonymous caller might be, or from which demographic group the caller might fit. Our selection this week is inspired by recent news reports highlighting research proving women are two times more verbal than men. The research has discovered that the part of the human brain dedicated to communication is twice as large in women than men, and as men age, this part of their brains shrinks even further. Based on the few words in this comment, I'm thinking the caller was male.

Big cars are best

I WAS WATCHING the news tonite and they had on about cars. A bunch of experts or somebody in the United States said the best cars to buy and showed them. All foreign or foreign-owned Suzuki's and different ones. That's a shame. You ain't going to catch me buying a Suzuki. Or any of them small cars. I'm a big car man. I'm a Mercury or Ford man. Now that's a shame but somebody here in the United States says buy foreign when the car companies are having such a hard time.

Best Weather Euphemism-Ever!

Listening to the morning news, the weather lady just stated that when the winter weather hits tomorrow, there will be "increasing accumulations along the highway 44 and 70 corridors."

Highway 44 and 70 corridors? That means St. Louis is right in the bullseye of this storm! We're gonna get hammered!!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I don't understand it...but I like it!

You never know what you might hear on St. Louis' own community radio station, KDHX. The last show I heard was a rock and roll and soul presentation of Native American tribal music.

I've never heard anything like it. The native words made no sense to me but still the sounds, the stories told in english, and the passion in the singer's voices had a hard hitting edge. Indian messages, rock and roll guitars, solo tom tom drums. It was truly original. Uniquely American.

It made me stop and think about Native American connections to St. Louis. It made me think too about the many voices in this town. It made me appreciate how here in St. Louis there's no one regional accent.

I have a friend who does great impressions of St. Louis voices from different parts of town, like the Patch and Southwest city. There definitely are some unique differences.

At the same time, with our mix of northern, southern, and western influences, a person with no detectable accent isn't automatically pinpointed as a non-native.

It's an easy place to fit in. For a sense of our diversity, check out KDHX.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

New STL Rising Feature: Town Talk of the Week

Thanksgiving is all about tradition, so it is appropriate that this week we will be starting a new tradition at STL Rising: Town Talk of the Week.

Nothing quite sums up life in St. Louis like the Suburban Journal's weekly "Town Talk" feature. Town Talk is a collection of anonymous reader comments phoned in to an answering machine and then chosen by Journal editors for publication in the paper's editorial section.

Whether comments about alleys, street cleaning, dumpsters, the mayor, neighbors, or various cultural traditions, Town Talk provides St. Louisans a unique opportunity to offer their true thoughts about life in our neighborhoods and city.

So, once a week, STL Rising will feature a Town Talk comment that especially reflects the unique nature of life in our city, as made by one of our neighbors.

For our first selection, we have chosen a comment entitled,

Senior glut

"I DON'T MEAN to be disrespectful to our seniors in the area, but when it came to voting day, as someone who has to be at work at 8, I get to the polls early. There is absolutely no reason in the world that they need to be in line when they have all day to vote and they tie it up for those of us who need to get on to work. So I would just like to ask them to be more conscientious to the working people. And it goes for those shopping on the weekend as well. Do your errands during the week when the rest of us are at work so that we've got the weekend to do our thing. The voting is really an important thing so leave that time for those of us that work."

"Noodles" Coming To Hampton Village

In the ongoing quest to balance amenities available in the City of St. Louis with suburban neighbors, the City of St. Louis is landing the popular "Noodles" themed restaurant in Hampton Village. Noodles will be moving into the space of the B. Dalton's bookstore.

Pull quote from the Suburban Journal article:

Serafin (Noodles owner) said they wanted to locate in St. Louis Hills after visiting the neighborhood.

"When we got to St. Louis Hills we tried to do anything to find a location in that center. We don't have neighborhoods like that in Denver," he said.

STL Rising: Results

"Do It, Did It, Done It" or "Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda..."

In St. Louis, we have more and more of the "Do It, Did It, Done It" types, and it shows.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

STL - Civic Engagement

One of the best things about St. Louis is how accessible our public realm is. If you want to become active in public life, St. Louis is a place that offers everyone multiple points of entry.

Whether in neighborhood organizations, elected office, or nonprofit groups, there are countless opportunities for citizens interested in making St. Louis a better place to get involved.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Bay Area's A's, Niners Going Suburban

Bucking recent trends, two of the Bay Area's professional sports franchises are moving out of their urban settings to suburban locations.

The Oakland Athletics, unhappy with their current stadium facility, are moving to the South Bay suburb of Fremont.

The San Francisco Forty Niners have announced plans to leave Candlestick Park in San Francisco for a site across from the Great America amusement park in Santa Clara.

For years, despite many championship seasons in Oakland, the A's have struggled to maintain fan support. Locals would often say, "there's just too much else to do in the Bay Area." This year, things had gotten so bad, they closed the entire upper deck and covered it with tarps.

The Forty Niners have been negotiating with San Francisco officials for a major mixed use facility including a new stadium. However, negotiations failed. Now with the Forty Niners announced departure from "The City", San Francisco's bid for an upcoming summer Olympics has been called "dead".

Frustrated San Francisco officials have threatened to sue the Forty Niners in an effort to prevent the team from continuing to use the name "San Francisco" Forty Niners. It is doubtful, however, that the NFL would support the city's case.

Meanwhile, South Bay residents are pleased with the two announced moves; it will make attending games much more convenient for them. On the other hand, for most residents of the sprawling ten-million strong Bay Area, moves south will mean much longer drives to games and increased traffic on the Bay Area's already congested roadways.

For comparison, consider St. Louis, whether as destination or hometown, a place providing families, young creatives and high tech professionals a convenient and affordable lifestyle with center city major league attractions, affordable housing, a strong job market, and tight knit neighborhoods.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Coming Attractions: Macklind Avenue Deli

From the Press Release:

Macklind Avenue Deli to open Thanksgiving weekend

Macklind Avenue Deli will be celebrating its grand opening with an open house on Saturday, November 25 from noon – 6 p.m. The event will include several samples of the outstanding food that Macklind Avenue Deli will have to offer, as well as a wine and beer tasting.

In April, Dick and Carol Krekeler, owners of the Macklind Avenue Deli, decided to move their efforts in a new direction. They closed Krekeler's Market after over 20 years of business to focus on bringing customers a unique dining option in south St. Louis city.

"We won't be carrying a full grocery line like we did in the past, but our prepared foods will be expanded, offering something for almost any taste," Dick Krekeler said. "We have worked hard to provide a comfortable atmosphere for dining in and our carry-out customers will find it easy to get dinner on the run." There will, however, be several similarities between the offerings of Macklind Avenue Deli and its predecessor, Krekeler's Market.

"If you shopped at Krekeler's Market and loved the Karl's Special Poorboy [sandwich], you'll still be able to find it at the Macklind Avenue Deli," Carol Krekeler said. "We will also carry several of the cakes that our customers have missed over the past several months. Our chili and lasagna and several other dinner options that were popular at Krekeler's Market will still be available as carry-out items."

Macklind Avenue Deli will offer its customers a large variety of freshly prepared deli sandwiches, both hot and cold, as well as several entrees and sides prepared in house.

"We will have a core sandwich and entrée menu, and will also offer several daily specials, hot soups, coffee, tea, fountain and gourmet sodas," said Dick Krekeler.

Macklind Avenue Deli will also offer a large selection of beer and wine. The beer selection will include everything from Anheuser-Busch and Miller products to microbrews such as Schlafly and Shiner to imports like Unibroue and Heineken. The wine selection will include premium domestic wines and imports from Italy, Australia and other countries.

"Along with having a large selection of six- and 12-packs of beer and bottles of wine, we will also offer single bottles of beer and glasses of wine that our customers can enjoy with their meal," Dick Krekeler said. "We will also sell mix-and-match 6-packs of beer for those customers who like to experiment with new and different beers."

The Macklind Avenue Deli will open for business on Monday, November 27 at 10 a.m. and is located at 4721 Macklind Avenue in south St. Louis city. The deli’s hours will be 10 am – 8pm Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Sunday. For more information call the Macklind Avenue Deli at 314-481-2435.

Seeking STL : Some Nice Riverfront Property Along River Des Peres

Recently, we were analyzing some of our retirement options and thinking, hmmm, a nice riverfront property along River Des Peres wouldn't be too bad!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

St. Louis Times

Mention St. Louis to some people, and images of "Corkball", "Bottle Caps", and "Brain Sandwiches" come to mind.

Nowdays, for most, these STL traditions are a distant memory. It's hard to find a brain sandwich any more. Corner taverns no longer have corkball leagues. And bottlecap games, well they were probably the first to go.

They must have been fun times. Imagine being outside in the back of a neighborhood bar, poles and metal screening enclosing the area, with wild 3 or 4 person games of corkball going deep into the night.

Summer nights in an alley, young boys and girls hurling high speed bottlecaps at pint-sized batters, the hitter swinging a broomstick-bat, trying to make contact with the sailing, curving discs.

Or old-timers sitting on bar stools, feasting on greasy, breaded, brain sandwiches.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Indoor or Outdoor?

STL City voters just approved a 1/8 cent sales tax increase to fund community center improvements in the city. Plans are in the works for brand new, state of the art community centers, one north and one south.

The south city site is planned for the eastern end of Carondelet Park. In north city, there is talk about locating a new center in O'Fallon Park.

New swimming pools are planned. Would you rather see them built indoors, outdoors, or perhaps both?

If we only get one choice, I say build it outside! Summers in St. Louis are better by the pool!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Like an Emerald City

People talk about the subtle nature of St. Louis. It's a place with both great and elusive qualities. A good or bad St. Louis experience depends on where you engage it, and it varies with time.

As a conventioneer, my late father-in-law visited in the 1960s. He had lasting memories of St. Louis as a hell-on-earth, and discouraged us from ever moving here. Then there are others who get mild impressions, mostly from passing by on highways (from the air, especially during summer, we are a beautiful, "emerald city").

You might enter in and see a place of beauty, with riches to be uncovered, often strange, even haunted places, great history, and discoveries to be found.

Or you might come and still miss it all. You have to be open to it.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Monday, November 06, 2006

Decision 2006: CNN On Location at Hampton Village

The day before the election, Claire McCaskill was on the campaign trail greeting shoppers at the Hampton Village Schnucks. Outside the store was a CNN film crew interviewing St. Louisans about Jim Talent, Claire McCaskill, the war in Iraq, and stem cell research.

Friday, November 03, 2006

STL: A Great Home Town

We are getting to one of the favorite times of the year in St. Louis. STL people like to decorate and dress up, and Halloween lets us do both. The tradition makes STL more beautiful and interesting. Go to the lake, and you find St. Louisans with decorated campsites. Drive through STL neighborhoods and you see decorated houses.

When a whole block decorates, it turns the neighborhood into a wonderland. We closed our street for a Halloween night block party. The shots above are from our place.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

City In The City

News readers on the Big 550, KTRS, were discussing the recent crime report which puts St. Louis on top as the most dangerous city in the nation. The news people were asking, "Do you feel safe downtown". Most replied "yes".

One caller asked for the news people to give their definition of "downtown". George Woods, the anchor, stated he included the entire city of St. Louis when he thinks of downtown. Others in the studio were debating the defintion. Is it Washington Avenue? Does it include outer neighborhoods? They were pretty vague on city geography.

Downtown is one of 79 offical city neighborhoods, and represents about 5 percent of the city's land area. It's also one of the safest neighborhoods. For a different angle, it would be good to hear interviews with leaders from St. Louis' neighboring communities.

A couple possible questions to ask..."What would happen to the crime rate in the city if it were merged with its adjacent communities? Would that be good move for the region?"

Monday, October 30, 2006

Another List We Could Make

In STL, misleading as we know it is, we receive negative press for being a city with a high crime rate. Here's a different sort of list we could try to make...

Make it and we'd instantly drop from those lists of top ten crime story cities...

2006: A Great STL Year

2006 will go down as one of the best years in St. Louis history.

Visitors to STL Rising will note a recent drop off in posts. The last entry gave a list of possible St. Louis Cardinal accolades. Hesitant it might be bad mojo, I figured better to not change the blog until the Cardinals finished their post-season run.

Better still, after a Cardinals' loss in game 2 in Detroit, Fox 2 in St. Louis did a live remote from a block party, game-watching event in one of our neighbor's back yards. The reporter asked me for an on-air prediction. "Cards in 5" was mine. And it held!

The list of good things happening in STL is starting to boggle the mind. A great example was the ribbon cutting last week in Old North St. Louis at North Market Place Apartments. The event had a quality unique to any ribbon cutting I've ever attended. The success celebrated in Old North represents the culmination of over 30 years' effort by neighborhood residents.

Like Jeff Weaver, the cast-off pitcher salvaged from baseball's trash heap and finding new life in St. Louis, abandoned buildings in Old North are being rehabbed, despite gloomy forecasts of "experts" around the country predicting their demise.

The day the Cardinals won the World Series was the same day a deal was announced for Ballpark Village. And early indications are that even our town's most vocal urban critics are showing love for the plan.

Word on the street is that Target (and Trader Joe's?) are scouting locations in Midtown St. Louis.

Today, news reports say that St. Louis is the most dangerous US City. Tell that to San Diego, New York, and Detroit. I'm sure they would agree.

Strange thing, by all accounts, the 300,000 people enjoying the streets of downtown yesterday were totally at ease!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

STL Pride: 2006 Cardinals

As of last nite, the Cardinals are only one win away from another trip to the World Series. A Cards/Tigers series would be a rematch of the 1968 World Series, when the Tigers beat the Cardinals. Baseball legends were born in those days, with players like Bob Gibson, Denny McClain, Mickey Lolich and others starring.

The 2006 Cardinals have a legitimate shot at a year-end honors sweep...consider these possibilites:

MVP: Albert Pujols (or runner up)

Cy Young: Chris Carpenter (or runner up)

Rookie of the Year: Chris Duncan (or runner up)

NL Manager of the Year: Tony LaRussa (should be in the bag)

NL Champs: STL Cardinals (one win away)

World Series Champs: STL Cardinals (five wins away)

Cover of Sports Illustrated, Time Magazines: Cardinals Rookie Bullpen

Comeback Player of the Year: Jeff Weaver (in the bag?)

Post Season Clutch Personality and 2006 Fashion Statement Impresario: Scott Spezio

The Cardinals victory last nite against one of baseball's best, Tom Glavine, was the best yet. Unlikely pitching star Jeff Weaver has been lights out in post season.

The young Cardinals bullpen is showing the heart of the team and the solid leadership and excellent coaching of Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan form the foundation for the team's success.

Who's up for a Cardinal parade down Market Street, ending at the new ballpark, say in about ten days?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

STL Rising: Historic Golf Settings

Being situated along the west bank of the Mississippi River, St. Louis holds the distinction for being first for many things "West of the Mississippi".

Among those many firsts are some great historic golf courses. You find these beautiful old courses located in historic neighborhood settings with mature trees and well manicured grounds. This time of year, if you don't mind occasionally searching for your ball under fall leaves, October is a great time to get out on one of our historic courses.

Built in 1903, Normandie Golf Club has the distinction of being the oldest golf course west of the Mississippi.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Feburary of 2005, Norwood Hills Country Club (private) is one of our area's most famous courses.

And this weekend, we're going to try and reserve a tee time to play a great 9-hole, very affordable, public course in University City, now celebrating its 75th year, Ruth Park.

Monday, October 16, 2006

STL Rising: Promoting STL Progress

The theme of this blog has officially changed from "supporting" the continuing progress of St. Louis to "promoting" that progress.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

STL Rising: More Taxis For Downtown?

Yesterday I left the house without a jacket, unaware the temperatures were about to plunge. Then around noon, I had an appointment on the other side of downtown. An easy fifteen minute walk, but with just a shirt and no jacket, it'd be a chilly one.

What about more cabs downtown? Yesterday I would have loved to take a cab, but there are hardly any around. And the ones you do see are mostly looking for airport fares. Nothing annoys a cabbie more than getting a short ride fare when he's waiting for a $25 airport fare.

Cabs buzzing around downtown livens the street. Riding in cabs is fun. It's romantic. It's a city experience. Do you think there'd be cabbies interested if they could get a downtown district license?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

STL Rising: Uncomplicating Your Life

This late 70s moped is the model I drove during college and back and forth to my job waiting tables. It was a belt-driven, Peugeot 103, 49 cc, 2-stroke. It made about 60 miles per gallon. On a flat road, with the wind at my back, it would get up to 40 mph. I paid $450 for it with about 1000 miles on it, drove it another 10,000 miles, then sold it some years later here in St. Louis for about the same price.

And here's a picture of the first model of car I bought for myself. It was a 1967 Volvo 122S. Mine was stock (picture it without the alloy rims, fog lights, and racing graphic...same color though). I bought it in 1978 and paid $2,200.

Back in those days, I was my own mechanic, body and fender guy. There was a sense of accomplishment, not to mention cost savings, in performing the maintenance ourselves on the cars we drove. Cars today have become so hi-tech that most people never do their own work any more.

Simplifying life, including figuring out ways to get back to basics with transportation, is definitely making more sense every day.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

STL Bloggers Rising

When the story of the successful revitalization of STL is written, internet activists will have played a key role. Maybe even a nomination for Jeff Weigand on the U City Walk of Fame?

However, there is heavy lobbying going on in Congress to make the internet a pay-to-play, corporate dominated media.

What that would mean to the free STL bloggers we like to read, I'm not techie enough to know. It doesn't sound good.

Read more about the "Network Neutrality" issue here:

Save The Internet

Monday, October 09, 2006

New Stadium The Rx for Cardinals WS Drought?

The Cards are entering their second round of post-season play this year. So far, they have celebrated twice in their new Busch digs, once for clinching the NL Central, and last nite for winning round one of the playoffs.

Back in the early years of old Busch, the Cardinals dominated the National League. The middle sixties were the last real dynasty years for the Cardinals, just following the opening of their then-new ballpark.

Could this be the year they return to World Series greatness? Maybe all the Cardinals needed was a change in scenery.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Thomas Kempland Glass Plate Photography Collection

Check out this site for great historic views of St. Louis.

Thomas Kempland Glass Plate Photography Collection

Mr. Kempland found these images at a STL yard sale.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Macy's Cleans Up Downtown

What a beautiful sight it was on Olive today in front of the new Macy's.

There was a team of workers with a power washer cleaning off those brand new black awnings on the front of the store.

The awnings haven't been up for maybe a month, and already the management team at Macy's has them on a maintenance schedule.

Way to go, neighbor!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Scoreboard Watching

Around 11:00 yesterday morning, the family team is working the front lawn, core aerating and overseeding. Then in a total surprise, our neighbor walks up to us and offers us two tickets to yesterday's Cardinal game. It would be the biggest game of the year, with the Cardinals having a chance to clinch.

The seats were incredible, 9th row of the field boxes, between home plate and the mound. It was the last day of the season, with the stadium filled to capacity, including standing room areas.

The Cardinals magic number was down to one. A Cardinal win or a Houston loss would mean another post season trip for the Cardinals, their 6th in 7 seasons.

At game time, according to the right field scoreboard, Atlanta was already beating Houston 2-0.

LaRussa changed his pitching plans for the day, opting to start Anthony Reyes on only three days rest, and saving Carpenter for either the first post-season series, or a decisive one-game playoff situation.

Reyes was wholly ineffective, allowing 4 earned runs, giving way to a 1st inning reliever. Not to worry, though, by this time, Atlanta was up 3-0.

Now it's late in the game, and the Cardinals are down 5-0. But most people are watching the Atlanta-Houston score in the outfield. Atlanta is up 3-1, but Houston is batting and it's taking a life time to finish their half of the 7th inning. Is Houston having a big inning? Why is this 7th taking so long???

Heads keep turning from the action on the field to the scoreboard. The score stays 3-1, but its still the top of the 7th. The 7th goes on, and on. Then finally, the asterisk switches to the bottom of the 7th, with Atlanta batting, still leading 3-1.

Now its the 9th in Atlanta, and the Braves are still up 3-1. Fans in the left field corner at Busch start peforming the "Tomahawk Chop".

If there's a team I detest more than the Houston Astros, it's the Atlanta Braves, and there can't be a more annoying cheer than Atlanta's "Tomahawk Chop". But now, in St. Louis, it's the 9th in Atlanta, and the fans at Busch are standing, all doing the Tomahawk Chop. If Atlanta can "chop" Houston, the Cards win the NL Central.

Then along the right field line, fans start cheering. No sign from the scoreboard yet. Then on the big screen, they show the Houston manager, Phil Garner with a sour-milk look on his face, then they show a ninth inning play, with Houston making an out, then the Cards fans get louder with their Tomahawk Chop, now chanting that horrid "Chop" theme, backed up by the Busch sound system.

Then the score board changes the "9" to an "F" for the Braves/Houston game. Braves win. Cards clinch! Celebration breaks out at Busch.

Beautiful Day on Cherokee

For getting downtown from points in South City, Cherokee is an excellent connection, bridging the stretch from Gravois to Broadway.

Before 8:00 AM, the strip is quiet, with only the occasional group of school age kids gathered at a corner or a rehab contractor unloading equipment from the back of a pickup.

Buildings are in a rapid state of repair. A couple of half-rehabbed ones are available for purchase.

The Lemp Brewery complex is reportedly up for sale, with commercial real estate brokers estimating its value at around $30,000,000. The property was purchased just a few years ago for a tiny fraction of that amount.

Broker-developer types are touting the Lemp complex as a world-class, adaptive reuse development site.

Dumb there a parade on Cherokee? Tiny neighborhood commercial streets can make the best parades.

Think Mardis Gras on Bourbon Street, the Chinese New Year Parade on Grant Avenue in San Francisco (before it was moved to a wide street in the Financial District), and the Hibernian parade in Dogtown down Tamm.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

$540,000,000 More or Less...

As part of the original plan for the new Busch Stadium, the St. Louis Cardinals promised to build a $60,000,000, privately financed, "Ballpark Village" next to the new stadium.

The Cardinals have gone back to the drawing board, and come back to the City with a much larger vision for Ballpark Village. The plan they are proposing calls for a ten-fold increase in the size of the project to $600,000,000.

Using big city development cost estimates of $250 per square foot, at $60MM dollars, the project is 240,000 square feet. At $600MM the project is 2,400,000 square feet. Under the expanded project plan, the developer is proposing a project that would alter the skyline of St. Louis, including new towers rivaling the height of the Arch.

The larger project would be financed through a public-private partnership including TIF (Tax Increment Financing). An allocation of the new tax revenues generated by the project would be used to pay for the cost of the project.

So, if you had a choice, which would you rather see? A much smaller scale, fully privately financed project? Or a much larger project, financed through a public private partnership?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

STL Rising: Window Restoration

One of the best things about old city houses are all the windows and natural light they let in.

On the other hand, most city homes come with old, wooden windows that vinyl window sales forces would love to see replaced.

Radio ads talk about the savings you will see from replacing your "drafty old wooden windows" with new "low-e", "dual pane", "tilt-in" vinyl windows.

However, lots of older homes don't look very good with shiny new white vinyl windows. On the other hand, it's fair to say that new vinyl windows can be an improvement in a home where there are no windows at all!

Some neighborhoods require certain types of windows, and there are rehab incentive programs that mandate specific historic replacement windows to qualify for certain program incentives.

The real question I'd like to pose, though, is what about those old, original wood windows? You know the kind, the divided glass ones, often covered with ugly aluminum clad storm windowns?

I was speaking with a friend of mine who restores old windows. She likes them best when the storms are removed. And she maintains that an old window, properly painted and sealed, is not much different than a new double-paned window when it comes to energy efficiency. Maybe yes, maybe no.

Then there are the vinyl window advertisers. They talk about energy savings of up to 30% with new vinyl windows.

Our annual energy bill runs around $3,500. 30% of that is about $1,000, give or take.

Our house has 16 windows. (Our last house had even had 20). There is a wide range in price for new installed windows. Let's take a middle of the road price of $500 per window. Complete window replacement in our last house would have cost about $10,000.

In our new home, it would cost about $8,000. However, to use the appropriate historic windows our house deserves, the cost would be closer to $12,000.

Based on these costs, it would take about 8 to 12 years to break even on the cost of energy savings from new window replacement. Most people don't even live in the same house that long.

Recently, a very savvy real estate agent and I were discussing the subject of original versus new windows. His advice? Buyers don't pay much attention to the presence of original wood windows in a house. If anything, they prefer the charm the old windows offer.

He suggests doing kitchen and bath upgrades instead.

Email me if you'd like a referral to the original wood window restoration specialist I referred to at the start of this post.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Is This Heaven?

No, it's Parkway South

This fall, Matt is trying out for a baseball team which plays a more competitive level of ball. The team plays opponents throughout the St. Louis area on great amateur fields. This past weekend, the team ventured west of 270 to play a game at Parkway West High School.

The groundskeeper said most of the upgrades to the facility came through private donations to the public school. For baseball purists, a visit to this wonderfully developed facility will feed your soul.

Friday, September 15, 2006

"Children of Garbage Collectors" Send Message

Our son Matt is in 8th grade, which means now is crunch time when it comes to making a high school decision. And we're no nearer to finalizing the process than we were this time last year.

There are tons of issues to consider. Having listened to others and now living through the experience, we are learning first hand about the whole "where did you go to high school" tradition. It's definitely not the only option, but we are considering a parochial high school.

With thirty to choose from, the St. Louis area, just a middle-sized region, has the greatest number of Catholic high schools in the country. Tuition ranges from about $5,400 to over $14,000 per year.

In St. Louis, there's a lot of high school pride, tradition, and some social stair climbing, when it comes to where you attended high school, where your parents attended, etc.

Yesterday I heard a funny comment about how the students from one of the more affordable high schools in St. Louis trounced the kids at one of the most elite, expensive high schools in athletic competition. Parents from the expensive school were stunned at how the "children of garbage collectors" kicked the butts of their ivy-league bound youngsters.

I wish I could have seen it. I wish Matt could have seen it. Underdogs in St. Louis have a fighting chance. And where they attend high school doesn't have a thing to do with it.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Fourth Quarter Comeback

St. Louis is gaining a national reputation for being a comeback city.

As we enter the fourth quarter of 2006, we all have the opportunity to support the city's resurgence by visiting downtown during this upcoming holiday season.

Some of my favorite childhood memories are from this time of year. Holiday gatherings. Football parties. And downtown shopping trips.

One of my favorites is of the five-story tall Christmas tree they put up each year in the old City of Paris department store in downtown San Francisco. Downtown St. Louis has a similar high-rise Christmas tree in the lobby of the Metropolitan Square building.

This year, let's all be part of the revitalization of St. Louis by renewing the tradition of visiting downtown during the holidays. There are plenty of reasons to do so.

Downtown has more and more stores opening, more restaurants and hotels to visit, and more people on the streets. And we can look forward to the excitement building every year as more downtown projects are completed.

Why not be part of the comeback of downtown St. Louis? Between now and the end of the year, make plans for a visit downtown for some shopping, strolling, romantic dining and even an overnight stay! Maybe even some fireworks on New Years Eve?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

STL Rising-Local Clothing Designer and Manufacturer

A friend of mine emailed a note about his sister-in-law, an immigrant from the other side of the world, who has settled with her husband in South City where she makes and sells her own clothing design originals. She markets her products through her website at

Okay, so people don't usually ask me for fashion advice - just ask my thirteen year old - but her designs look good. Now if there was just the right up-and-coming, garment district venue where some serious clothing experts could see her work...

STL Rising: Great Deals on Tacky Art!

So I'm taking it easy watching television, clicking up and down the dial from the new ESPN Monday Night Football double header format to VH1's documentary about the loss of innocence in the 60s psychedlic days. I surf by Bill O'Reilly interviewing Pat Buchannan about strategy in the Middle East and Iraq and stop to listen for a minute.

Buchannan is dressed in a suit, sitting behind a big desk in what supposedly is his office. He's discussing his views about what he believes to be our misguided efforts in the war in Iraq when I notice over his shoulder, on the back wall of his office, a framed piece of art work that looks very familiar...

Now I'm not paying any more attention to the interview, but rather am leaning closer to get a better look at the art work on Buchannan's wall. It looks exactly like a piece we have in our bedroom, frame and all. I walk upstairs and, sure enough, they are identical.

The setting is a scene from what looks to be England during the 1600-1800s, displayed in a rope patterned, gold leaf frame. It's a product marketed widely through Bombay mall stores.

The only thing is, we didn't get ours at a Bombay. In fact, we didn't get it at a store at all! We paid ten bucks for it at a STL yard sale!! Buchannan always struck me as a fiscal conservative. Maybe he sends his people to buy cheap art at STL yard sales too?

Monday, September 11, 2006

STL Rising-What Would You Preserve??

In a region bestowed with so much rich architectural heritage, there is a constant debate over preservation.

While STL Rising is all about the growth and renaissance of St. Louis, we won't be successful in our renaissance if we lose our unique STL identity.

However, sometimes there are tradeoffs which take us forward. The demolition of old Busch into Busch III and Ballpark Village is a good example.

Without Busch III, many believe that downtown STL would have lost the Cardinals. Instead, we are now on the threshold of seeing $1,000,000,000 in new development downtown on the site of old Busch and a massive surface parking lot.

On the other hand, many of us were very saddened to see the demolition of the old Arena. Some advocated for a plan at the site of the "Old Barn" that would have combined new construction with preservation of the landmark sports arena.

This weekend, we enjoyed some local ethnic flavor at the annual Polish Festival in North St. Louis. Just across the back fence from the Polish Falcons picnic area is a severly deteriorated building. Based on many years' returns to the Polish Festival, the forlorn building has stood there mostly unattended to, year after year.

At this year's event, I overheard one of the seasoned patrons of the Festival talking about moving the event to some different location. For me, when it comes to preservation, I care less about the future of the nearly collapsing building behind the Polish Falcon's back fence, than I do about seeing the annual festival remain at its St. Louis Avenue location for generations to come.

In St. Louis, we are an interesting mosaic of differing ideas and perceptions. There may be no other topic that generates so many varied perspectives than the preservation and redevelopment of older sites. What's your take?

Ballpark Village - Tale of The Tape

In baseball, a "tale of the tape" is a popular expression to measure the distance of a monster home run. Soon, the expression could take on added meaning when describing another potential home run in downtown St. Louis: Ballpark Village.

Negotiations are underway to expand the scope of Ballpark Village to a $650,000,000 project. Investing $650,000,000 into eight downtown acres means achieving serious urban densities, and will be another big step in the transformation of our downtown.

If we estimate development costs to run $200 per square foot, Ballpark Village grows to approximately 3.25 million square feet. On 8 acres, that's about 400,000 square feet of new construction per acre.

Combined with new Busch, the total investment on the site of old Busch and its adjacent surface parking lot comes to over $1 billion dollars!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Downtown Runway Rising

Early this Friday morning, workers in front of the downtown Macy's have closed off the 600 block of Olive, and are erecting a stage for some sort of high profile, celebration.

For the past two weeks, construction crews have been working to install sharp new Macy's awnings on the Railway Exchange, replace all the glass and upgrade the interiors of the sidewalk window displays, and remodel the 1st floor space of store interior.

Yesterday, red Macy's stars were painted in the street, and workers were rehearsing for an Olive Street block party.

Just in time for fall, check out downtown for some new retail excitement.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Blog Hangover?

I have followed the work of Toby Weiss in her B.E.L.T blog, seen some of her beautiful photography, and heard her on KDHX discussing the importance of preserving our mid-twentieth century St. Louis architecture. Then last nite, I had the strangest dream.

I am visiting an open house somewhere in St. Louis. The owners are an elderly couple, beyond retirement age. On the outside, it's a simple, fifties vintage, curving building, following the "art moderne" style, except there's no ceramic tile; just stucco walls, simple windows, and a flat roof.

On the inside, the rooms have curvilinear outer walls, with some of the living areas further divided by four-foot tall curving half walls. Even the ceilings having curving lines, especially where they meet the hallways.

However, the most interesting of the 50s vintage, art moderne "features", were the molded plastic, ceiling-mounted, ornamental air conditioning units in the hallways. The units were burgundy in color, featuring a thin-line gold star motif, cold air vents formed in the plastic, and a rounded shape that molded into the ceilings and complemented the rest of the interior design scheme.

Maybe it was something I ate for dinner?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Unsecured I-55 Load Rising

So I am driving along northbound I-55 minding my own business, wondering how much of the original interior of the historic Lemp Brewery is still intact, when I notice a pick up truck in the right hand lane with a heavily loaded bed. It appeared the driver was headed somewhere with a full load of alley castoff items.

Holding down the load was one of those farm-issue galvanized cattle watering basins (about 10 feet in diameter and 3 feet deep) adaptively converted into backyard swimming pools by generations of St. Louisans. The only problem was there was nothing holding down the galvanized pool. In the next moment, a high speed current of wind worked its way under the metal tub, sending the metal pond airborne in the middle of highway traffic.

At fifty-something miles per hour, the tub completed one and a half somersaults through the air, landed on the pavement and skidded to a stop in the middle of a traffic lane. The stunned pickup driver immediately pulled over, presumably in an effort to recover his high flying swimming pool before it cost someone life or limb.

Combined with the number of people driving while on a cell phone, I can't count the number of times I've seen unsecured items blow out of the bed of trucks. After quickly recounting the moments of my (hoped for) half-lived life, I made a note to myself: better stick to the much safer city neighborhood streets!

STL Rising-Total Access

For the past two months we procrastinated about buying tickets to last nite's Steely Dan/Michael McDonald concert at UMB Bank Pavillion. Just a couple of weeks ago, friends from California emailed us about buying tickets. They missed the show there, and were thinking about flying here to see it. St. Louis would be the last stop on the tour.

As of yesterday morning, we had no tickets and the show date had arrived. It's the last minute, and we decide to take the plunge. We drove out to UMB (about 25 minutes from South City), walked up to the box office (no line), and bought three lawn tickets.

We planned on returning to UMB early to get a good place in line for our lawn seats. We arrived at 4:20 PM, and were first in line (nobody camped out). When the gates opened, we made our way to the lawn, and got the perfect front row, center lawn seats.

Across the "depressed section", dividing the lawn from the seating section (about 40 feet away from us), people were paying upwards of $200 per ticket on the secondary market. Our California friends saw tickets for the front few rows selling for $500 online.

But right here in St. Louis, it's still possible to wait until the "day of", buy your tickets at the box office, invest a little time waiting in line, and enjoy an excellent concert with minimal to no hassle.

Accessibility: it's one of the perks to living in the STL.

Friday, September 01, 2006

STL Rising-STL Music

STL is a music town. It's a blues town. Our music scene is not as organized as say Nashville or Austin. But it's here, and it's getting more notice.

Playing the blues sounds great with slide guitar. And slide guitar is easier than it sounds. Almost anyone can do it.

Here's an easy way to start:

Open tuning is the key to easy slide playing.

For a fun and simple slide tuning, try tuning your guitar as follows:

E (standard first string guitar tuning)
C (1/2 step above standard "B" second string)
G (standard third string tuning)
C (1 step below standard "D" fourth string)
G (1 step below standard "A" fifth string)
C (2 steps below standard "E" sixth string)

With your guitar thus tuned, you are playiing an open "C" chord.

When playing with a slide, all your notes will be following an open chord format, so easier harmonies are produced.

Accompany a rhythm musician playing the blues in "C", and in no time you will sound like an old school STL blues side player.

The other secret to playing slide guitar most people don't tell you is this: when playing with the slide or bottle or whatever you're using to "barre" the strings, hold a finger down lightly on the strings behind the slide (toward the tuning head of the guitar).

See the picture above. The guitarist is doing it differently. If her index finger were held down on the strings, "behind" the slide, she would be able to better control the slide effects. To her credit, she's probably lifting and pressing her index finger to gain even more tone variation.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Remaking STL



If things weren't going on in STL, there wouldn't be so many discussions like these taking place.

Whatever your take on improving St. Louis, there are lots of opportunties to be an active part of it.

Our greatest asset is us.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Open Windows

The cool weather that arrived yesterday gave us the opportunity to open the windows and let fresh air back in the house. It also marks the first sign of fall and the end to our summer heat. A few months ago, I entered the summer driving an older, paid-for, mini-van with no air conditioning.

Our independent mechanic quoted us a $1,000 price to repair the A/C. Rather than sink that kind of money into a vehicle barely worth the cost of repair, I decided to try the summer with no air conditioning. There were a few times when it was real hot. But overall, it wasn't too bad.

A car driving in hot weather with open windows is a sure sign of a vehicle with no air conditioning. When it was hot, I'd look around in trafffic to see how many other cars had their windows open, us drivers suffering the heat together. There were always a few, and sometimes, depending on where I was driving, there would be alot more.

So next year, if the van is still rolling, I'll go again without air conditioning. On the other hand, driving without a heater in the winter, that's a different story. I remember a bizarre incident from about 20 years ago. It happened at a convenience store located on a frontage road to Highway 70 in St. Charles County.

It was nightime and I was driving from St. Louis to Kansas City during a snow storm. I pulled in to the quick shop for a cup of hot coffee. While paying the cashier, a man rushed into the store, covered in snow, wearing goggles and a ski hat. How could he possibly be so snow covered? Was he riding a motorcycle? I stepped outside, and the answer to my question was immediately obvious.

He was driving a car with no windshield. Now, seeing someone drive a car without a windshield is odd enough, but for someone to be driving through a snow storm with no windshield is, well, let's just say we have a word for that type of behaviour in the St. Louis area, and we're not talking about basketball players from Indiana...

Monday, August 28, 2006

STL Rising-Favorite Historic Reads

Life in St. Louis in the 19th century must have been fascinating. It looks like it was a beautiful place.

A great book that takes you back to early St. Louis is called God Sends Sunday by Arna Bontemps. Bontemps is a writer from the Harlem Renaissance.

Any other interesting life and style reads about old St. Louis?

Macklind Rising

Neighborhood dreams are becoming fast reality along Macklind Avenue in the Southampton neighborhood.

Krekeler's grocery store is being remodeled as a neighborhood deli.

The old D and J's Keg is now operating as "The Mack", drawing in a younger, hipper crowd.

The old Major Drycleaners is becoming the "Macklind Perk" coffee house.

Home Eco is an environnmentally conscious store in a remade second hand and video rental outlet.

Business owners have come together to form a Macklind Avenue Business Association.

Southampton has a downtown. Can neighborhood lofts be far behind?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Kudos to CIN

The City of Louis Community Information Network, or "CIN" for short, has created an interactive feature that gives visitors and locals a wonderful directory of the many interesting things to see and do around all parts of the City.

Check out the CIN's list of "Must See" Attractions in St. Louis.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

While Mets Pound Mulder...

...New Yorkers Still Have Heart For St. Louis.

If you're reading this from a New York deli, what do you think would be the perfect mix for Ballpark Village?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Isringhausen Must Go

Jason Isringhausen has been a weak link for the Cardinals all season, but last nite's blown save and loss to the Mets takes things to a new low.

Izzy's "batting practice" pitch to Carlos Beltran in the bottom of the ninth, leading to a 2-run, walk off home run, cost the Cardinals the game, and blew an all-star performance by Sir Albert.

Pujols was carrying the team on his back with seven RBIs, including two home runs, one a grand slam. Izzy gave it all away when he grooved that pitch to Beltran.

Cardinal fans deserve better. The new stadium was part of a package supported by St. Louisans to keep the Cardinals competitive and downtown. Cardinal ownership needs to hold up their end of the deal and field a solid closer.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Lizz Wakes Up StL With a Cuban

Ricardo Alarcon, President of the Cuban Parliament, was this morning's featured guest on Lizz Brown's WGNU Wakeup Call program in St. Louis. Alarcon was speaking by telephone from his home in Havana.

Who said STL is a dull place? Cubans on local radio? It's like Russians invading Northern California.

Back in the 1800s, there were St. Louisans travelling to Cuba by boat.

Monday, August 21, 2006

A Better St. Louis

Almost renamed the blog this morning after reading the latest editorial in the STL Business Journal.

The Business Journal editorial was about civil discourse in St. Louis and being a friendlier, more civil place: a Better St. Louis.

I hesitated, thinking that perhaps the idea might continue to feed our negative regional self-esteem.

Last nite, we ate out at themed restaurant, one last hurrah before the back-to-school grind kicks in. The theme of the restaurant involves having an entertaining chef cook at your table. It's a proven restaurant formula repeated throughout the country.

Matt just returned from a 2-week stay in California. While there, he dined at a similar place. Unfortunately, at the California spot, the chef didn't entertain much; in fact, he hardly uttered a word. When the shrimp was done, he put some on your plate, and said, "Shrimp".

His show continued in similar fashion: "Chicken." "Vegetable." Etc.

Last nite in St. Louis, our chef put on a real show. He was relaxed, funny, and in to it. His jokes had good timing; his cooking tricks worked. Plus, the dinner was tasty, the price was moderate, and the service was excellent.

We can be a better St. Louis, but we need to remind ourselves that St. Louis is already pretty darned good, getting better, and a place where you can find 10,000 years of happiness if you try a little.

Sure, we might not all agree that opening a themed, chain restaurant in the City of St. Louis, say at the new Loughborough Commons shopping center, makes us a better St. Louis, but at least we'd have some interesting discussions about it!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sound Downtown

Someone is turning up the volume on downtown streets.

New restaurants have installed quality outdoor sound systems and are playing recorded music outside their establishments.

Appealing to more senses, the sounds are helping to liven the experience of our downtown.

STL Hot Spot

Immigration increases in Missouri making national news; Hispanics take notice.

Friday, August 11, 2006

South Side of STL

Most of us St. Louisans don't think of ourselves as southerners, but a lot of outsiders do. They must be right.

Explore Old St. Louis, and there's no denying our southern ancestry.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Weber and I-55 Revisited

A few months ago, STL Rising featured the frozen-in-time section of South County near Weber Road and I-55, around Monte Bello Pizza and the old Stupp Brothers Steel Mill.

Somehow (through cyber connections I will never understand), a neighborhood resident found that buried thread and commented from the perspective of one of the locals:

"I have lived right next to Stupp Brothers for 14 years now and I have to tell you that I am going to miss out quiet little neighborhood when we get the buy out letters. The entire time I have lived here the only single thing that has changed is that we no longer hear the horns when Stupp is changing shifts. It is very quiet and peaceful and has been for forever.I think the luckiest day of my life was when I bought this little peace of land.There are not to many people that can say their neighborhood is just as good or better than it was 14 years ago. Well at least not in Lemay. Oh and Monte Bellos is still open but they are on the buy out list also."

The full thread is in this link.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Wine Country Encore

With our belongings loaded into a U-Haul, we pulled out of St. Louis, headed for California, Kerri driving our Toyota, and me following behind in the moving van.

We had an unscheduled longer stay in Abilene, Kansas. Kerri rolled the Toyota in the center median of Highway 70. She was okay, but the car was totaled.

As a young boy, I attended "August Moon Concerts" at the Mondavi Winery in the Napa Valley. One summer during college, I lived in St. Helena, and helped build a winery. In the 60s and 70s, the Napa Valley was the mainstay of the California wine industry, and Sonoma was just getting started. Access was easy, and the area was uncrowded.

By the 80s, much larger crowds started to tour the area, especially the Napa Valley. Wineries started charging for wine tasting. The Napa Valley Wine Train started rolling. Lines of tourists were a common sight, especially on weekends.

In 1989, I started working for a homebuilder based in Sonoma County. Approvals for housing developments were slow to come by, so the company started looking further out for buildable sites - and affordable projects. By this time, in search of affordable housing, Bay Area workers were buying houses in the Central Valley, and making bleary-eyed, 2-3 hour commutes back and forth to work. Fast forward to 2006, and you have to wonder how these commuters are faring with today's gas prices.

Meanwhile, we maintained contact back in St. Louis. We made trips back to visit about every six months. We knew we belonged back there. Then in 1992 Kerri became pregnant. We both wanted our child to grow up in St. Louis, so we started making arrangements to move back.

In Feburary 1993, we arrived on our return move to St. Louis. A day later, we became first time homeowners, closing on a story-and-a-half bungalo in the City of St. Louis. In March, Matt was born, and the same couple who had invited us into their Dutchtown two-family seven years prior would be his godparents.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Riding the Reverse Wave

From the gold miners of 1849 through the farm workers of the recent past, California has been a destination for migrants seeking opportunity for generations. In the middle part of the twentieth century, population growth in California was largely fueled by the abundance of affordable housing, jobs, and mild weather.

However, sometime around 1980, things started to change. Incomes were not keeping up with housing prices. Traffic was becoming a daily grind. Efforts to produce affordable housing were opposed by no growth interests and environmentalists. Younger Californians were caught in the middle. A new trend started. Young, educated Californians started leaving the state.

Most of them didn't move too far. They headed for Oregon, Washington or Nevada, then Idaho and Montana. But mostly, they stayed west. Often, when they arrived in their communities, they were not welcomed and met with resentment. Locals were concerned that the incoming Californians would drive up local housing prices and "Californicate" their states and towns.

It was the summer of 1986 when we made our out-migration from California. We moved beyond the western US all the way to St. Louis. When we arrived, many locals here could not understand why anyone would leave California for St. Louis. It seemed no one moved to St. Louis by choice.

Kerri accepted the job transfer with Citicorp, and I figured I'd find work in a real estate field. In a few weeks, I was hired by a small title company in Clayton abstracting real estate titles.

We rented an apartment in unincorporated St. Louis County near Olive and 270. Life in St. Louis was a constant adventure for us. We spent our free time exploring. After a while, we would know our way around St. Louis better than most locals.

We made frequent trips into the city. We attended Cardinal and Blues games whenever we could. We heard about free admissions to many St. Louis attractions, and took advantage of the offers as much as possible. We loved the compact nature of St. Louis and the wide availability of cultural opportunities.

We were constantly amazed at the kindness and humility of St. Louisans. We studied old neighborhoods and back roads. We made many friends and developed ties in the community.

With our bearings set in St. Louis, we started to explore further away areas. We visited nearby historic small towns in all directions. Then we travelled to all the major regional destinations within half day's drive of St. Louis. A few times, we drove all the way to the East Coast. We were loving the proximity our new St. Louis address had to the rest of the country.

We had lived in St. Louis from 1986 through 1989 when a real estate developer back in California made me an offer to good to refuse. We decided to choose finances and proximity to family as the reasons to leave St. Louis and return to California. The return to California would become a brief three-year intermission in the lives we had begun in St. Louis.

The return trip west did not begin uneventfully. Kerri was not happy to leave St. Louis. We both had mixed feelings about leaving. Like the father figure from the film, "Meet Me in St. Louis", who plans to move his family from St. Louis to New York in pursuit of a better career opporunity, for a few years, I too would be known as "The Criminal".

Monday, August 07, 2006

Meeting Jack Buck On the Radio

California is the most populated US state that doesn't pick up the night time signal of KMOX's 50,000 watt broadcasts. A big part of the reason is that the Rocky Mountains act like a giant wall dividing California from the rest of the country. So, back in the days before satellite or internet radio, Californians were among the only people living in the United States who never got to listen to Cardinal baseball.

Instead, we had "West Coast Baseball", and for most of us, that meant the Giants and Dodgers. For me, growing up in the northern half of the state, it meant the Giants. Sure, we had the Oakland A's, a team that gave us multiple world championships, including the dynasty years of the early 70s. But the A's could never win the hearts of Northern Californians. Their loyalty was with the Giants.

Unfortunately for California, the storied Giants left most of their magic back in New York. In the forty-plus years since their move west, they've never won a World Series. And besides all the losing seasons, being a Giants fan was just plain tough duty for a baseball fan.

Many games drew less than three thousand spectators. Conditions at Candlestick Park, or the "Stick" as we called it, were horrid for baseball: nasty cold and windy. Hardcore fans wrapped themselves in blankets and down parkas for night games, when Giants management came out with a new gimmick: awarding medals to those fans who would stick it out until the end of an extra-inning night game. They called the medals the "Croix Du Candlestick", and I earned a few of those.

Looking back, I wonder how many home runs Willie Mays might have hit had he not played hundreds of games in front of meager audiences in the frigid conditions at the 'Stick.

Even with little success to celebrate, Giants fans were loyal baseball fans. And since we didn't much care for the A's, and couldn't stand the Dodgers, for baseball excellence, we looked east. And for National League fans, that would often mean the St. Louis Cardinals.

Now back to that spring visit in 1986 to St. Louis. We Californians only seldom heard the voice of Jack Buck, and then usually only on national CBS broadcasts of football games. We're riding in the car with our new St. Louis friends showing us around. The husband, a guy about my age, reaches for the radio. He makes a comment about this radio station, KMOX, and how it is the radio station in St. Louis. He made the point about it being the home station for the Cardinals. He went on and on about how great KMOX was, and I'm thinking, "All this fuss over a local radio station? This seems a little strange".

He clicked on the radio. A Cardinal game was in progress. Then we heard the gravelly voice of Jack Buck announcing the game. With him was a screwy sidekick who seemed more interested in his frosty Budweiser than the proceedings on the field. I asked our host about Jack Buck being the announcer for the Cardinals. Noting just the slightest touch of smugness (something I would learn later to be a trait seldom exhibited by St. Louisans for anything having to do with this town), he smiled, and confirmed that, indeed, Mr. Buck was the regular daily announcer for Cardinal baseball.

Baseball was made for radio. And Jack Buck had the perfect baseball voice. I sat in the car and listened. I thought about how nice it must be to listen to that voice year after year announcing baseball.

That weekend we started some traditions. Our new friends showed us around St. Louis. They took us to Grant's Farm and Rigazzi's. We drove downtown and visited the Arch and got a glimpse of Busch Stadium. We ate toasted ravioli and drank from Frozen Fish Bowls. At the end of the visit, our new St. Louis friend gave me one his prized possessions: a red golf-cap, with a Rigazzi's logo.

A couple of days later we were back on a plane headed home to Northern California, seriously thinking about the idea of leaving everything we knew and moving to the Midwest. Our family and friends would think we must be nuts.

Friday, August 04, 2006

1986: From Contra Costa to STL

Kerri and I were married in 1985 and lived twenty miles northeast of San Francisco in the bayside community of Martinez. By then, I had lived in the Bay Area for about twenty-five years.

I graduated from Cal State Hayward about a year earlier, and was working as a waiter at a private golf and country club. I had been working at the club for about three years, when one day, completely out of the blue, one of the club's principal owners asked me about my career plans. I told him how I was interviewing for various finance and management positions. About a week later, he called to offer me an interview to work as his assistant in his family's real estate development business. I got the job.

The position taught me about real estate. It's where I had my first opportunity to represent citizen groups in their development efforts. These citizens were long time landowners, and the work was geared toward developing their historic farm lands from pristine greenspace and "view shed" areas into high-end suburban housing developments.

We were having successes with our development plans. Over the objections of environmentalists, we succeeded in securing government approvals to expand the urban boundary and the ultimate service area for domestic water supplies. Next, we were successful in securing general plan amendments, increasing the housing development potential of the area from agricultural, 1oo-acre minimum lot sizes, to densities allowing up to one housing unit acre. This change increased the number of homes that could be built within our development area from 20 to 2000 units. Today, the area is built out with multi-million dollar executive homes.

As things turned out, I wouldn't be around for any of the land sales or home construction. About a year after being hired, my boss was killed in a car accident in Mendocino County. As his assistant, my job was no longer necessary, and after another couple of months, I was let go. By then, Kerri and I had been married for about six months, and Kerri was working in the commercial leasing department of Citicorp, in nearby Concord, California.

As my job was ending, Citicorp was in the process of centralizing its leasing operations to St. Louis. At the Concord office, Kerri was on the phone every day closing commercial leasing transactions with her counterparts in Missouri. When word came down of Citicorp's plans to shut down its Northern California operations, Kerri started hearing about job opportunities in St. Louis.

A friendly STL person encouraged us to visit. She invited us to stay at her place with her husband and their year-old daughter. We could stay in the unfurnished, upstairs apartment of the two-family they rented in South St. Louis.

Before we were married, Kerri was living in the Central Valley river town of Sacramento. The late San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen once called Sacramento the "Midwest of California". Kerri figured St. Louis and Sacramento would be a lot alike: two old river and transportation towns. I thought about St. Louis in terms of Delta Blues music and the St. Louis Cardinals.

We were both open to checking out the place, so we booked a flight and headed to St. Louis. It was a beautiful spring day when we arrived at Lambert Field, and drove in a rental car to the address of a small brick building on Winnebago, just east of the Sears store on South Grand. We didn't know it then, but this weekend trip over twenty years ago would be the start of our lives in St. Louis.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Best Of: More Views

Getting from the Arch grounds to this vantage point is a lousy trip (you pass the same spot we found some shattered car hardware that turned into an interesting piece of wall decoration), but hazarding the walk get's you to one of the best money shots of downtown STL.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Piasa Meditation

The human body has amazing power to cope with stress. If you're tired of the hot weather, look at the picture above, and think of cooler times to come.

It's a brisk 20 degrees outside; the trees have dropped their leaves; the holiday season has ended; things are quiet; kids are hunkered down in the middle of their school year; and eagle watching rides are shared on our scenic back roads.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Grows in Full Sun

Summer view from Market Street with median plantings full grown.

Monday, July 31, 2006

"Right Here in St. Louis"

This saying, made memorable in the film Meet Me In St. Louis, is appropos of so many things.

It comes to mind whenever we experience another "St. Louis moment". StL moments are those unexpected, random acts of neighborly kindness between neighbors or total strangers.

They are also moments in time in special places, like a train ride at the Zoo, a neighborhood parade or block party, or when open fall windows echo cheers up and down the block after a late September Cardinal home run.

It's neighbors checking on neighbbors when the power is out. And it's the ensuing neighborhood gatherings out on the sidewalk, sharing an iced-down cold one.

It's right here, in STL.

Counting Home Runs and the Heat Index

July 31 in STL. It's hot. There's no question. Talk about January 1 in STL, and chances are, it's cold. Life goes on, and depending on your point of view, it's pretty good.

On January 1, it might be snow, ice, and with the wind chill, it could feel like 20 below. And if there's a snow bank of 1 inch, kids and adults are having fun, sliding down hills and drinking hot chocolate.

Presently, the national news is reporting about the heat in STL. They'd have you believing we're all melting into greasy smears on the pavement. Not so much.

Today, I survived in our non-air-conditioned, ten year old mini-van. And from over at the asphalted, neighborhood schoolyard, I received reports about a lively, multi-inning'd, multiple home run game of fuzz ball. With wooden bats.

The heat index was around 115, and the players tallied 20-something homers into the neighbor's back yard.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Old St. Louis Rising

At the northeast corner of 11th and Locust, there's a sad-looking, apparently vacant, stuccoed-over, 3 or 4 story corner commercial building.

At even intervals on the ground level, you can see the building's original cast iron columns showing through the stucco walls.

Unrecognizable as it is, this must be one of the oldest downtown STL buildings still standing.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Best Of: City Views

St. Louis is filled with many interesting sights and vantage points. Here's one:

With the prep football season only weeks away, the best place to watch a Bishop Dubourg football game is from the wine garden at the rear of the Pitted Olive restaurant on Hampton. It's also where they grow some of the fresh herbs for their delicious offerings.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Team Photo Day

The 2006 youth baseball season is winding down. After Sunday's game, the players and coaches on Matt's CYC team stood for their annual team picture. The regular season schedules for both of Matt's teams is complete. Talk now is about end of season tournaments, fall ball, and "next year".

For some of the kids, "next year" will probably mean no organized baseball. Every year it's the same. The kids decide whether they want to keep going. The typical drop off rate is about a third. Each year, the level of competition dramatically increases, and lots of players have a hard time keeping up. The pitching gets much better; the fastball is heavier and it moves more.

In the last game, our guys played a team that was made up mostly of first time players. The opposition only managed two hits in the entire game. The church sponsor of the other team had to recruit players all the way down to fifth grade to field a team.

Baseball is at about the bottom of kids sports interests these days. Combine the overall lack of interest with the difficulty of mastering the sport, and it's no wonder the big losses of players from year to year.

A few of the kids from the church team showed real promise. Solid basic skills, dedicated coaches, and a tough competitive spirit. Hopefully we'll see them again.

For our guys, it's hard to tell. There's a core of serious, hard working players. We figure some won't return. The off season brings the opportunity to evaluate the good and bad of this past season, work on weaknesses, and wonder how many "next years" in baseball some of these young ballplayers might have.