Thursday, August 21, 2008

Holly Hills Community Garden Update

The garden, she grows. This year, I've got red cabbage, green beans, cantaloupe, cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli and brussel sprouts. Some fellow gardeners also shared some starter potatoes with me. We'll see how they turn out.

Here's the latest addition to the garden at Bates and Arendes:
A special thanks goes out to Andy Cross, local artist/craftsman who hand carved our sign.

If you are interested in starting a community garden in your neighborhood, contact me here or by email.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

I don't set aside enough time to read for entertainment. My limited reading time is reserved for STL blogs, music reviews and Newsweek.

In fact, I read novels so rarely these days that I feel I am not qualified to speak objectively about them. I am so happy to be reading a novel and so happy to have finished one that I feel I will unfairly gloat about it simply because I read it and experienced it.

The same can be said for live music. I go out to see bands so rarely now, that when I finally do go, I am overwhelmed by the power and beauty of live musicianship, that I am prone to being awash in praise for bands or shows that just aren't that great to someone who sees tons of shows/bands.

I am trying to make changes in my life to see more live music and read more non-fiction. I saw Built to Spill in March at the Pageant, the Breeders in May at Pops, and Tom Waits at the Fox in June. I also read the Road by Cormac McCarthy.

I feel compelled to summarize my thoughts on this book, because it's themes and styles have stuck in my head for months after actually finishing the book. Briefly, the book follows a father and young son in a post-apocalypse setting. Here is the beauty of this one:

McCarthey writes of the love between a father and son within the context of the story. He does not use a heavy hand. The relationship is subtle and true.

The writer perfectly captured the realistic love a father and son can share. Having both sons and daughter, I know the relationships are different when it comes to gender. It's different between sons and daughters, and McCarthey must be a father.

Here are the topics that I've been going over in my mind since reading the book:
  1. how far would you go to survive
  2. what is your definition of hope
  3. good vs. evil
  4. what are your survival instincts
  5. how far would you go to protect your child's innocence and naivety?
If these are topics you enjoy, or ponder, you will love this book.

Other books I've recently enjoyed:

Winter's Bone (set in the Ozarks)
The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting: An Oral History
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalacian Trail

Mine is not a high horse

I gave up the Parliament Lights on November 13, 2007. Cold turkey. If I didn't have kids I'd still be a blazin'.

So, Illinois went smoke free in restaurants and bars. Will Missouri ever go this route? I doubt it. Missourians love their tobacco. We have the 2nd cheapest state taxes on cigarettes in the U.S. Here's my source.

New York $2.75/pack
New Jersey $2.58/pack
Massachusetts $2.51/pack
Mississippi $0.18/pack
Missouri $0.17/pack
South Carolina $0.07/pack

Damn, North Carolina and Kentucky even have higher taxes than the old Show Me state.

Anyhow, as time goes by I am tempted less and less by the smokes. Recently, I was actually turned off a couple times; yet, I am not one to judge how someone else should or should not spend their evening. I think smoking is a personal right that everyone has, just like drinking.

If you want to smoke or drink or whatever, knock yourself out. Smoking has become a club. So why not keep the club alive, and make it an exclusive one at that. Why not market smoking-friendly environments to smokers and smoke-free environments to nonsmokers?

Let's face it, a smoky bar has it's allure. Smoking is fun. Smoking is dirty, bad and rebellious. Smoking and drinking go hand in hand for many. So why not have Missouri bypass the whole ban on smoking in restaurants and bars, and opt for a smokers only or non-smoking only law?

If a bar choses to be hip and/or badass it could be a smoking establishment with a sticker/sign on the front door announcing this fact. If you are the hard core or casual smoker, enter and have fun. Let freedom burn. I likes me the smell of stale cigarettes at Courtesy. It makes the stale pie and coffee taste better. It makes the jukebox better.

If you are the healthy or high horse type, you can make your moral judgement call and eat/drink only in smoke free environments.

No place shall have a non-smoking section. The rules will be clear. Let's maintain our state's long history and love for tobacco. Let's embrace smokers.

I don't think St. Louis is in a position to be turning potential patrons/residents away. If the suburbs ban smoking, let's be the ones to (selectively) keep it alive.

I'm sure this is not a novel concept, but merely one that been on my mind.

Jury Duty

I spent 1.5 days downtown recently for jury duty. I didn't get selected but I got to the courtroom and was part of the voir dire.

I've never been called for jury duty before so this was a novel, if not interesting experience for me. Anyhow, here are some observations from my 2 days away from work:

1. I really enjoy riding the Metrolink. Scooter from home to Shrewsbury stop, train to Civic Center stop. It takes a lot of time to get there, but the ride is enjoyable. Working in the exurbs for ~14 years has made me a robot. Commuting in the city is way more interesting, flexible, fun and relaxing. My stress level is nill when the iPod is going and I'm reading a book or watching the city pass by. Driving from So. City to Chesterfield is hell. I am getting to the point where I'm considering serious salary cuts just to work closer to my home.

2. Downtown at lunch was hopping. Never, never thought I'd say this. I mean, as much street level activity as any other big city in the U.S. There was a particular area, 9th street I believe, between Olive and Pine that was really alive. What a pleasant surprise. I guess, in many ways, Downtown really has arrived. I hope the momentum continues.

3. It's amazing how many of us, as STL citizens have been touched by crime in our lives. On the official jurors form, you have to check a box if you have been a victim of a crime. I didn't check mine.

However, during the voir dire, nearly all the prospective jurors had to explain why they checked the box. It got kind of personal in many cases. This is a violent country we live in and the city is an honest representation of this fact. Anyhow, after hearing what other people described as crimes, I had to change my mind and bring up the fact that I guess I've had crimes committed against me, even though I didn't check the box.

I would guess that ~20% have had their cars stolen. ~15% had been mugged and assaulted. ~40% had experienced abuse of some kind. Many, many have a distrust for the police. I've always known STL was a violent place, but this kind of hammered it home.

I don't really consider car break ins or garage break ins as crime. In many cases, it's partially the owners fault for being stupid. My car had gotten broken into so many times at one of my prior residences, that I quit locking the doors, so the assholes could rummage through without breaking my locks or windows. I got smart and secured my home entry doors. I got smart and never (ever) keep valuables in my car. I figured that was an urban lesson to be learned.

On a side note, gangstas don't bother with pennies (nickels, dimes and quarters yes). Cassette tapes, forget about it. I did have a friend who's car was stolen and they even took his newly purchased diapers out of the trunk. That's cold. I was reminded of Raising Arizona. This might be one of the funniest things I've ever seen.