Sunday, November 30, 2008

Am-Shack No More

We have a 2 year old who is crazy about trains right now, so we decided to take him downtown to see the new Gateway Transportation Center. I used to take the train from Carbondale to Kansas City quite often and I did not have fond memories of the Amshack.

The new center is a fantastic upgrade! We were thoroughly impressed. Now the Greyhound and Amtrak services are consolidated in one very convenient location. There is a major Metro bus hub and Metrolink stop nearby; not to mention it's directly under I-64. I really like the central location. This is a really unique station that will really standout to many rail and bus transit users

I like the styling of the building, with the overlapping metal panels and multicolored windows.

Here's a photo the bus depot:

And here's one of what appears to be a decorative addition to the supports for I-64 directly above the station parking lot:

Nicely done! It's great to live in a city that values transit options of all kinds.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Urban Legend or Conventional Wisdom

There's some common lore prevalent in South City: avoid state streets. I've heard this enough times from various people throughout the region for it to stick.

I think the perception is that the state streets are ghetto. Is this true or not? How did this start? All I know is that this is either urban legend, conventional wisdom, or purely outdated logic.

I am leaning toward the latter. We are searching for a home in South City and are considering Benton Park West, Tower Grove South, Tower Grove East, Shaw and Fox Park. Some of these have "state streets" and most are not bad. However there are a few state streets near Gravois Park, particularly Texas, that does seem rather menacing at times. Example: I ride a scooter through the city, searching for streets that I like, businesses, cool buildings, etc. When I encounter large groups of people hanging out in the middle of the street, who don't move out of the way, for whatever reason, that bothers me. That's one of my definitions of "a bad street/neighborhood". I can't deal with that bullshit.

But those are the rare occurrences, the exception and not the rule when it comes to my experience with state streets. It's quite possible that the only way to determine whether there is any truth to the lore on the state streets is in the definition of what is commonly considered a good or bad street/neighborhood. I'll give that some thought for an upcoming post.
I have a feeling my opinions differ from the hoi polloi.

Recommended if you like...

***UPDATE 12/05/08*** Thanks for the recommendations. I think Stellina Pasta will be next on the list. House of India doesn't make the cut. It's not in St. Louis. I believe it is in U City or Olivette or Clayton or something like that. It is good though...

I like the function on Amazon that recommends books based on what you've purchased. Or on iTunes, where they indicate items other people bought based on the item you are viewing. You can learn a lot that way.

So I am a nut for local dining here in St. Louis. I've compiled a short list of some of my favorite places. I'm kinda stuck in a rut and I would like to hear from like minded people who regularly dine at the places I've mentioned and maybe you could make a recommendation or two for new places that I should try. Here goes:

Greek: Apollonia
African: Meskerem
Vietnamese: Bahn Mi So, Pho Grand
Chicken: Iron Barley
Hamburgers: O'Connells
Quick take out: The Pitted Olive
Bosnian: Berix
Fried Fish: Hodaks
Mexican: La Tropicana, El Burrito Loco
Steak: $=Tuckers in Soulard
Pub food: Dressels
Beers: Schlafly and Mattingly Brewing Company
Mideast: Cafe Natasha

Notice there's no French, Spanish, Italian, Indian, Chinese or seafood joints....I'm sure I'm missing some great places. If you like many/all of the above, please make a recommendation!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Shopping the City

I go to great lengths to shop the city. I own a home here, my kids go to school here, I purchased a car here, etc. I try to keep every dollar I spend on entertainment and retail within the city limits. My reasons are simple:
  • Keep viable businesses open within the city limits

  • Support local investment

  • Employees in the city pay 1% earnings back to the city (like it or not)

  • I loathe the suburbs and it's myriad of inane strip malls

Some things are easier to get in the city than others. Here are some things that I cannot purchase in the city and wonder why not:

A TV. We're looking to upgrade to a LCD or plasma tv. Where in the city can I do this? Target has some, but a rather small selection. We need a Best Buy in St. Louis. Why not? And we need one in an old building, not a mega warehouse structure. Although, I'd settle for one in Loughborough Commons or Southtown Center.

So what else do I routinely drive to the suburbs to purchase?

  • Furniture, I think the Value City Furniture near Watson is actually in the county. I know the Shop N Save next to it is partially in St. Louis and partially in the county.
  • Costc0
  • Honda/Nissan/Mazda/Kia/Hyundai dealerships

  • Trader Joes

  • Gap/Old Navy/other national clothing retailers

I think the above businesses would be well patronized in St. Louis. I think Downtown could use some national clothing retailers. I think South City could use a Costco. Damn it, don't we have the demographics to make it sound for the above businesses to make a nice profit? Target is always packed. Home Depot is too. Lowe's seems to do well. I think Best Buy would be well patronized too.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President Elect Obama

Wow! Jubilation! Love! Caring! History!

Tears of joy were shared while listening to this momentous occasion. For the first time in a long time, I am optimistic about our leadership at the Presidential level. The possibilities seem endless.

That was the best night we've had in a long time! Way to go St. Louis! ~84% agree in this city that Obama/Biden was a better choice than McCain/Palin. I like living in a city were we can all overwhelmingly agree on that. I live among friends.

I was overwhelmed with the brevity of having an African American as president elect. I didn't think that really mattered to me until last night as I listened to the many black responses to the results. It was moving. I am so happy and proud of the Obama family.

I hope we can use this momentum and optimism to continue to pull people together for common goals.

Like Barack said, this is going to be tough. There will be sacrifice. I for one am ready.

p.s. I cannot wait to watch Michelle and Barack raising those two beautiful little ones in the White House. So go get that puppy and usher in a new era of caring, compassion and humility to the highest office in this great land.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Community Radio: Why It Works and the Gentleman Auction House

Pre-internet, I learned of bands and new sounds almost exclusively from friends and KDHX. Occasionally WMRY would send something new my way, but not very often.

Another local community radio station, KWMU, recently had their pledge drive; and while I know they are necessary, I hate these things. I listen to the station faithful talking about "driveway moments". They are referring to times where you are listening to NPR in your car during your commute and are so engrossed in the program, that you sit in your driveway to finish listening. No driveway moments come to mind for me when it comes to NPR. But, it got me thinking about how many bands I've heard of on KDHX and ran home to see if I could find the band's name.

Now, I like popular music, don't get me wrong. The Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Motown, Miles Davis, Neil Young, etc. All that stuff is great and will be in my life forever. However, nothing beats the feeling of discovering something new and exciting. KDHX has done that again and again for me over the years. In the old days, I'd hear something and have to listen to the DJ and write down the band name if they even mentioned it. Or, I'd call the station and ask what the song was. Then email came and I could email the DJ and ask about songs (thanks Doug Morgan for being so kind over the years). Well, now it's much easier thanks to the great KDHX website. You can simply click on the show, and the song/band info appears. Excellent.

Friday, I happened to take a half day off; I turned on KDHX around noon and heard a song that immediately struck me. First, let me say that I am a sucker for hand claps and cow bells. The song being played immediately hit the spot with some choice hand claps not 2 seconds into the song. The inventive, complex layers of percussion and bass/synth lines kept my attention and the singer's voice and delivery reminded me a little of Conner Oberst. The jingle-jangle guitar part at 38 seconds continued to draw me in. It kinda reminded me of mid 70's soul, like Jackson Five. Some na-na-na's at 2:20 min, and I was sold.

I had to get home to log on to KDHX to see what that was. The show was "Silver Tray" and the DJ was Thomas Crone. He played a song called "ABCDEFGraveyard" by Gentleman Auction House. I googled it and found to my surprise that the band is from St. Louis! I was very happy. So I logged on to iTunes and bought a couple songs.

Thanks to KDHX, I now have a new current local favorite.

I hope to see these guys play soon, and I wish them luck. Here is a link to their website . And here's a nice interview of the band from SXSW. And a video of another good song "Book of Matches".

Now for the real question: are they really from St. Louis or the suburbs? I always gave Uncle Tupelo props for saying they were from Belleville. Being a Belleville product, that was very important to me.

Anyhow, thanks again KDHX for playing songs you can't hear anywhere else on the dial!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Great Rivers Greenway Extension

Took a ride on the River Des Peres Greenway extension this morning. As usual, Great Rivers Greenway has done a careful, excellent job. There is the familiar stone work, decorative pavers with the fleur de lis imprint and well graded paths. In addition, there are a few really interesting touches unique to this extension. First, they installed decorative metalwork on the Morgan Ford overpass, they also painted the buttresses with the flowing water pattern:
Secondly, they added some nice touches at the corner of Morgan Ford and Germania at the entrance to the extension toward I-55:
Thirdly, I like the way they have worked in trees to provide shade and interest at the stopping/resting points:
As usual, the selection and placement of trees is fantastic. There are more ginkos along this stretch and some larger grasses planted toward Germania. All in all, another excellent and beautiful addition to St. Louis. The next extension is planned for 2010; this will take the trail from I-55 to Alabama avenue. It will add an additional 0.5 mile to the River Des Peres greenway.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Missouri Forest ReLeaf

I was in need of some low-canopy Missouri native tree species to plant at the Holly Hills Community Garden at Bates and Arendes. I started asking around on where we could get some trees at a low cost. My sister turned me on to Missouri Forest ReLeaf.

I submitted an application for Eastern Red Bud and River Birch. These are 2 of my favorite trees as they are native to our region and are very hearty and low maintenance.

The application was submitted and I got an email back the next day indicating that I got 10 red buds and 10 river birch, all free of charge! I was ecstatic. You know, St. Louis is such a great place. There are so many connections to meet caring and well intentioned volunteer organizations.

The trees were ready for pickup at their nursery near Creve Coeur Lake is far west county. They are now in the ground skirting the edges of our garden. In several years, we will have a beautiful stand of trees that will provide a natural border to our garden and also convert more CO2 to O2 while providing additional pollination sources for the Hemitera and Coleoptera that help pollinate our flowers and crops.

Thanks to Gateway Greening and Missouri Forest ReLeaf for all the support over the years. It's organizations like these that make me want to stay in St. Louis for years to come.


Kingshighway and Neosho

Notice the newly constructed front overhang on the building facing Kingshighway between Itaska and Neosho. I wonder what's going in there; and more importantly, what's up with that cart?