Monday, June 29, 2009

Save the free mulch

As I've mentioned several times before, the Holly Hills Improvement Association operates a community garden at the corner of Bates and Arendes. Gateway Greening is the community outreach arm of the Missouri Botanical Gardens. They were instrumental in getting us started and established. Here's a note from our neighborhood greening coordinator:

Dear Garden Leaders,

It has come to my attention that the City of St. Louis is considering a change in the Forestry Division. The Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry includes these three Divisions. The Forestry Division includes the Compost Section. The Compost Section takes the yard waste generated by St. Louisians and the Forestry Division and recycles it for use as compost and mulch, which is available free of charge to city residents. According to the website, they deliver 9,800 cubic yards of compost to community pick-up and garden sites each year. We work with community gardens to facilitate these deliveries. They fill the bins located at Bell Garden; Chippewa and Oregon; Lee and Euclid; 9th and Barton; and on Geyer. This change would contract the services currently provided by the Compost Section to a private company. We are told that it would most likely mean the end of provision of compost and mulch.
In order to preserve what we have been fortunate to receive, we need to make a strong statement about the importance of this complimentary service to City residents, it’s community gardens and the beautification of the City throughout its 79 neighborhoods. If you value this service, please contact your Alderperson and let them know how important it is in order to accomplish the elaborate gardens found on formerly vacant, trash-filled lots; the medians popping with blooms on City avenues, the schoolyards bursting with flavor. They can contact the appropriate City officials involved in the decision-making process. The matter is URGENT as they plan to make a decision by July 1st. That is less than 1 week from today!

Attached is a list of Alderpersons and their contact information. They can also be reached at City Hall:

City Hall, Room 2301200 Market StreetSt. Louis, MO 63103(314) 622-4114

I am in touch with the City in order keep updated on the situation. I aim to find out who the best party to approach is so that we can stage a letter-writing campaign. Please let me know if you have any questions and we appreciate any support you can provide.

***If you do not live or work gardens in the City, please disregard this message.

Now, the question I have is: will the Forestry Dept. no longer deliver compost and mulch to garden sites, or will they completely discontinue the free pickups at places like Carondelet Park? I've placed a call with GG to get clarification. I know many don't like the site and infrequent, yet pungent odor of the compost piles. Personally, I find it was less offensive than the sight and smell of the Burger King immediately to the south of the compost piles.

Seriously though, this has been a great service offered by the city. Please contact your alderperson if you'd like to see this service continued.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Underground or Mainstream

What attracts you to an area or place when it comes to spending your personal time in St. Louis? Are you more drawn to the mainstream activities/places in St. Louis such as professional sporting events, parades, charity runs, zoo, CWE, South Grand, East Loop? Or, do have more of a taste for the off the beaten path, only-the-locals-know type of spots?

I like both; yet in my opinion St. Louis is definitely an underground city. The places that make the tourist map or the regional radar are few and far between. The vast majority of suburbanites I talk to have no idea what's going on, or what is truly unique and defining to St. Louis. I'll use Cherokee street between Jefferson and Gravois as an example. I could also use Gravois between Holly Hills and Meramec as another example. But, I'll stick with Cherokee as my example for this post. These are both really cool places that are non pretentious, non tourist destinations; not a place where you'll even see lots of non-neighborhood people.

When I first moved to St. Louis in the early 90's, I wanted to go to the Record Exchange (and a few other unmentionable places) on Cherokee (that no longer exist). I remember parking near the antique row part of Cherokee by the Lemp Brewery. I recall walking toward Jefferson, then crossing Jefferson thinking I had walked into a whole other city. Jefferson was like a dividing line for the safe touristy confines vs. the true grit of the city. It was the first day/place I had witnessed open gunfire in my life. It made quite an impression on me. I don't remember being particularly scared, just on guard. I made a mental note of this part of the city.

However, things change. In this case for the better; but to what extent?

This particular stretch of Cherokee has indeed changed since the early 90s, and maybe too has my perspective on city life. It's a great street. Maybe one of my favorites in the city. It's a great mix of stores and people, it has a good feel. It's not as gentrified like South Grand/Tower Grove South. Yet, it's also not completely the opposite. It's somewhere in between. It's got a nice mix of bohemian, Latino, black and old school southside cultures. I like it a lot. It seems like a nice urban American melting pot right here in south STL. Cinco De Mayo was a blast this year!

I'm sure there is a balance, a tipping point where a neighborhood or street transitions from raw and gritty to a more established, gentrified, mainstream-friendly urban street. Cherokee seems to be nearing that median point between the underground and the mainstream. Several street improvements have been proposed. I hope they don't drop a Qdoba or Chipotle in the middle of that mofo! Moreover, I hope this street remains as cool as it is today, and that it can keep some urban grit to it.

I'm sure there are other parts of the city that are near the tipping point. Wash. Ave. in the late 80s/early 90s could have fit the bill; although I think most would agree it's almost completely gentrified today. What other parts of the city are undergoing this kind of transition?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Harmony and melody in an urban setting

Harmony in music is the simultaneous use of different pitches to make chords. Harmonics are wavelengths or frequencies related to one another by simple proportions.

A melody (from Greek μελῳδία - melōidía, "singing, chanting"[1]), also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones which is perceived as a single entity. In its most literal sense a melody is a sequence of pitches and durations, while more figuratively the term has occasionally been extended to include successions of other musical elements such as tone color.

In my opinion, an appreciation of these two simple definitions as it relates to music and life is the key to connecting with people, surroundings, sounds, purpose, place and peace. Personally, emotionally, spiritually, it all adds up to the balance and beauty of harmony and melody. May the grace of God give me the ability to understand and proliferate these vague things and ideas that bring harmony and melody and peace to this life. And the wisdom to pass this down to the next generation.

This city was designed with harmony and structure and care in mind. The street grid, the eventual street car network, the walkable/connected neighborhoods, etc. Man, it was beautiful, harmonious, melodious and in tune with a quality human experience. But somewhere it all started to go down hill.

The "greatest generation" set forth policies and practices that abandoned and choked off St. Louis from the emerging suburban municipalities and lifestyles. The baby boomers continued to run for the hills and pastures (read "yards and cul de sacs") throughout the 1960's through 1980's, taking with them their large incomes, high educations, and high health/living standards.

Left in St. Louis are the new comers, old property heirs, criminals, complacents, urbanists, gentrifiers, toughs and dreamers. Chances are, you are one or more of the above. We are in the on deck circle. We are going to be the next group that defines and changes the face of St. Louis.

How will we fare? As the boomers die off, how will the Generation Jones and Gen X and Gen Y'ers set course and influence the long, varied history of this fine city? I hope we don't cut and run when the going gets tough(er). I hope we stay and fight. I'm hopeful. Yes we can.

If nothing else, I hope we hold the city to a higher standard than our parents and grandparents did.

Some of the mistakes of our parents generation (and prior) should NEVER be repeated. The butchering and shitting upon the once fine/intact street grid is a sin. The dismantling of the street car system was a sin. Suburbanizing the city was shortsighted (St. Louis Centre, Marketplace, etc). Allowing sexually transmitted diseases to spread so rapidly, as a result of ignorance, was a sin. Allowing the public schools to decline so far was a sin. Allowing the high school drop out rate to climb to astronomical levels was a major failure. Allowing thugs and thieves to operate unencumbered by the police and govt. in large swaths of this town was a failure. Letting petty crimes go unreported was a failure.

We've got to do better. We need harmony in our police force, schools, government, businesses, non-profits and most of all: the citizenry. We need melodious connections between our streets and neighborhoods and people. We have to step it up and best the previous generations that made the city lose out to other places and stagnate over the past 50 or so years. We need to change the history from a downward spiral to a place that has unlimited hope and potential. What are you going to do? My humble personal plan will be articulated in a future post.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Bicycle Repair Shop in the City

I have a 1993 Giant Yukon that is in desperate need of some repairs. The gears are not shifting properly, and one of the sprockets is damaged. I would also like to get some new tires, seat and handle bars/grips. Does anyone out there know of a reliable repair shop?

I am within walking distance of South Side Cyclery, so I am inclined to go with them, if I don't hear any horror stories that is.


**Updated 06/23/09**South Side Cyclery charged me $60.00 for a tuneup and $60.00 parts for a new crank set, including front sprockets. I bought a new seat. The bike shifts like new. I'm very please with their work. They called me with the diagnosis and $ estimate prior to completing the work, and they completed the work on time. I would recommend them.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thinking About The NorthSide Project

Has there been a proposal with more potential to transform the image of this city since, say 1950? I am extremely excited to learn of these plans. I've always been kind of resentful that the north side doesn't seem as devoted to urban renewal as the south and central corridor. The roadblocks toward grand scale redevelopment are enormous and intimidating. The disinvestment mentality is entrenched and pervasive. However, now that could all change.

I am reluctant to form too many opinions and weigh in on this one just yet. First of all, I don't know the north side as well as the rest of the city. There aren't many restaurants, businesses, people or places that draw me to this part of town. Yet, I've been taking evening scooter rides throughout the north side, trying to get a feel for this place.

Secondly, I don't have enough information or understanding of whether or not this McKee NorthSide plan can really come to fruition in my lifetime. My greatest fears are that the naysayers/racists/social crusaders will turn this guy away without offering or contributing to a better plan. My next fear is that the history of the city (street grid, street names, small commercial spaces mixed with residential) is lost and we end up with a Hanley Industrial Court feel to the near northside, with very little residential added. One way streets, cul de sacs, large surface parking lots and light industry and warehouses in the form of generic/soulless shacks scares me. However, I am way, way more optimistic than pessimistic. Just the fact that someone has taken the initiative to draw up a plan to redevelop a large part of our city that has been ignored by residents of those neighborhoods and the general citizenry is a good start.


I am bummed that McKee was called a racist at the church meeting in May (3min 3 sec in, by a white dude nonetheless). I am bummed that when this guy went off (complete with F-bombs), some clapped. I am bummed that these meetings took place in a church. I think that's bush league. Ideally, the city would be making this a professional pitch at city hall to the entire city, not pandering to the same old racial/parochial issues that have plagued this city for far too long. I wish Slay was standing side by side with McKee, with Geisman and the entire board of aldermen sitting proudly behind them as these plans are rolled out. A show of solidarity, strength, confidence and hope to bring the entire city into this discussion. Not the same old aldermanic courtesy, regional politics and pandering to the few remaining residents' narrow vision of what's good for the city.

I wish Michael Allen and Steve Patterson were selected by the city to lead a citizen's committee with the directive to preserve the remaining history and enhance the connectivity/live-ability of the northside as it relates to the McKee plan. The aforementioned are the only guys I trust when it comes to logical approaches to what will/won't work on the north side. I would feel WAY more optimistic about this plan had McKee/city govt. not gone to the residents first, but rather consulted with who I consider to be the strongest, most intelligent voices/minds on the topics mentioned above.

Whatever ends up happening, it will be historic. Will the status quo players make the decisions and provide the "community input", where churches, pastors and a single alderperson have the strongest voice in shaping our city's near northside; or, will this be a city wide effort that enlists the brightest minds on sustainable development to make this opportunity a huge benefit to our city for years to come?

Will this project be the impetus to saving the city? Making the North an equal contributor in tax revenue, people, density, businesses as the south and central city? Or, will this be another failure?