Friday, April 5, 2013

Just like other south side neighborhoods

Wow, what’s up with this: a shooting in the middle of the afternoon in the parking lot of Vincents Grocery Store on S. 12th Street? Shots fired? The police say it was a drug deal gone bad?

It all happened on Tuesday, April 2, 2013. Isn’t that exciting? Soulard is getting to be just like other south side neighborhoods. Like they say, if you don’t like the level of crime, then it’s time to move. Meanwhile, let’s talk about our next party and forget about any problems or issues. Neighborhood revitalization isn’t dead in Soulard (or St. Louis). It’s at a party.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Bring on the t ravs

Hey, so, it’s been over a month since the Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013 Soulard Mardi Gras Grand Parade Day and the shooting by the police and death of Otis Robinson, and nobody has served us any t ravs.

Remember, this was done after the previous shooting. That would be the killing of James M. Clavin, lured to the neighborhood by the beguiling charms of the Soulard Social House. Clavin was shot to death by person or persons unknown. He died in the street on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012 in the 1500 block of S. 8th.

As everybody remembers, the Soulard Social House held a neighborhood forum a couple of days later to explain that they were just a fun-loving business and that they had nothing to do with the Clavin - or the earlier Gary Patch - deaths.

Interestingly, it seems that everybody bought this, including Ryan, author of the “I love Soulard” blog, who was veddy, veddy impressed with the t ravs served by the Social House at the conclusion of the forum. Manufactured in New Jersey and shipped here in five gallon, plastic buckets, apparently the t ravs were adequate compensation to the neighborhood for the blood on the street.

So if Ryan was impressed, then we should all be impressed, as well as respectful of traditions. So, every time somebody is shot to death, then somebody owes us some t ravs, am I correct, Ryan? So where are they?

If the t ravs cause Ryan and the rest to forget what kind of businesses - and their related social climate - have settled into Soulard, then bring them on. They helped us forget James. What about Otis? No t ravs, no peace is the in-crowd motto. They can hardly wait until the next Soulard killing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Interpreting Mardi Gras Grand Parade Day

St. Louis leadership cultivates the dream that St. Louis is in the process of re-inventing itself. Newspaper articles and expensive studies have been thumping this drum for years. St. Louis can easily shed its backwater status and merge into the fast lane, they say. St. Louis is poised to do this, leadership implies.

The Soulard Mardi Gras Grand Parade Day shows this is a fable. Leadership’s endorsement of MG (Money Grab) is a symptom of the malaise and lack of imagination that grips this city.

The odd thing is that nobody has to explain how bad the whole event is.

Those with any amount of self-respect have sniffed the wind, noting the overpriced booze, the public urination, the projectile vomiting, the trashing of the neighborhood, the vandalism and the danger, and they have taken appropriate action: they avoid this pigfest like the plague.

They understand that Mardi Gras benefits a few, to the detriment of the many. Residential assets are sacrificed for the bars, the liquor interests, and, of course, the politicians.

They have observed that event boosters loudly and constantly brag that it is the second largest Mardi Gras event in the nation, a sure sign that it isn’t.  It is a poor imitation of anything respectable - a blot on Soulard and St. Louis..

MG Grand Parade Day is a filter: anybody with any respect for themselves is screened out, and those stupid enough to attend the event are either not paying attention or they are charter members of the Mystic Krewe of Assholes.

Just like the myth of the re-invention of St. Louis, the local television stations and newspapers buy the smoke screen created by MG officials and boosters who say it is nothing but a good time, that it benefits the neighborhood and that it is safe. A whole bunch of residents flee the neighborhood on MG day. They just refuse to take it. A couple of years ago one resident was talking to a policeman, and the policeman asked: “Why do you let them do this to your neighborhood?”

Why, indeed? Who can fight it? Mayor Slay has earnestly promoted the event since he has been in office, and more and more people have moved to Soulard because of its reputation as a party neighborhood. Guess what: the bad drive out the good. The party people have displaced those who used to contribute to the neighborhood in a positive way. These party people do not have the ability to perceive that they are contributing to the splintering of Soulard, to the shattering of a neighborhood. Our alderperson, Phyllis Young, is silent on the matter, as she is on every issue.

And the neighborhood organization, the Soulard Restoration Group, is worthless. Their prime objective is throwing trivia pursuit parties, complete with booze. The membership is tone deaf when it comes to understanding the neighborhood, its problems and any solutions. They have a ready response: “If you don’t like Mardi Gras, then it is time to move,” they bleat. Guess what? Many good people have taken them up on that challenge.

One commentator noted: “People like the laid back party atmosphere in Soulard. That’s why they live there.” A telling observation. It seems to imply that “laid back” is a positive character trait. It isn’t. Laid back is the default position for galloping narcissism, an affliction impacting those unable to contribute positively to the neighborhood or to anything, for that matter. All they can do is drink, jack their jaws and admire themselves.

This makes them the perfect target for the lie that the rebirth of St. Louis is just around the corner, and that they are contributing to it. “Just do what I tell you to do one more time,” the con man says, and together we can walk under the rainbow.

Catering to the laid back is not going to rebirth anything. Never has, never will. Soulard Mardi Gras is for people who do not think. Its continued existence underlines the fact that St. Louis does not have the mental or leadership assets to successfully re-invent itself. The Mardi Gras Grand Parade Day is as good as it is going to get.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Another story of life on Happy Island

Paul Kjorlie passed on a story about the kindness of strangers. It seems that one of our long-time neighbors, an older lady who lives on South 11th Street, returned to her home late in the evening after grocery shopping. The time was about 10:30 p.m., Friday night, November 16. (“The handicapped parking spots are easier to find at that time of night,” she explains.)

She continues: “When I came around my car, loaded with groceries, and headed for my gate, I saw there was a man lying in front of my gate.

“Not knowing if he was ill, injured, drunk or playing a ruse, I was very frightened. I tried asking if he was injured. Without saying anything, he sat up, but immediately fell back down again. I returned to my car, put the groceries back and called 911.

“Two cars came. They prodded and pushed and eventually got the man up. Staggering and whirling around, he made his way south on 11th street.”

She concludes: “Not only did the police rescue me, but they even carried my groceries in for me! Now that’s real public service!”

We agree. Thanks, Paul. Thanks, police.

Monday, November 19, 2012

God, cocktails, sex parties and Mayor Slay

Lately, Soulard has benefited from some fabulous newspaper exposure. If it is true that any publicity is good publicity, then Soulard is gold.

For example, an article in the Oktoberfest issue 2012 of The Soulard Renaissance, the official neighborhood newspaper which carries the motto: “Living with History,” contained a swell story headlined “Group Hosts ‘God & Cocktails’.”

The article opens with the statement: “Locals know that any event in Soulard is going to involve alcohol, even church. A new member of the Soulard Pub and Ponder group summarized it perfectly, ‘God and Cocktails?’ And I knew I had to be part of that church group!”

Written by Amy Grove, the story explained that “It is a mixture of ‘God and Cocktails,’ wine, beer, snacks and intriguing and interesting conversation about God, religion and faith. A different topic is discussed each month.” The meetings are held in the Soulard clubhouse on S. 12th Street.

This religious innovation is from the First Christian Church of Edwardsville, Il., Disciples of Christ, sponsors of the Soulard-based group, according to the newspaper. To further justify the blending of God and booze, the article states: “In addition to monthly discussions, the members of Pub and Ponder will participate in community-based volunteer opportunities. It is their goal to provide helping hands to soup kitchens, Soulard Restoration Group events, Gene Slay’s Boys Club, Race for A Child 5K and more.” Hopefully, all these volunteer efforts will “involve alcohol.”

Will this religious innovation sweep the country? Well, the seed from Edwardsville finds fertile soil in Soulard. (“Hey, so, just toss your empties in the trash can over there by the cross.”) The article offers insight into the direction of our ever-maturing neighborhood.

If anybody doubts which way Soulard is drifting, then refer to a story by Jennifer Mann from the June 12, 2012 issue of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Headlined “Couple guilty of exposing a woman to HIV at party,” the story begins: “There was nothing inherently illegal about Kerry Lynn Hanson, 48, having sex with an 18-year-old woman while his and her respective partners looked on. But his activities during Soulard’s 2010 Mardi Gras were in fact criminal, jurors decided Monday, because he knew he was HIV-positive and didn’t tell her.”

The story continues: “A weeklong trial in St. Louis Circuit Court also resulted in conviction of Hanson’s girlfriend, Angela Marie Niemczyk, who was 41 at the time of the party, because she knew of Hanson’s status and suggested the foursome.” It is explained that “the charge for both was knowingly exposing another person to HIV, a felony that carries a possible term of up to 15 years in prison.”

Wait! Wait! It gets better. “The let-loose atmosphere of Mardi Gras here was on full display during the trial, as lawyers argued over who did what and with whom at the party Feb.13, 2010.” The “let-loose atmosphere” - wow, how cool is that?

Things at the party - attended by 20 to 30 “revelers” at a house in the 900 block of Allen Ave.- started to get intimate when discussion began about what could be traded for some Mardi Gras beads. Just think: swap those exquisitely crafted Mardi Gras beads for exposure to HIV. Trump that, Holly Hills. Eat your heart out, Lafayette Square. Wish you were here, St. Louis Hills?

And let’s not ignore the famous attorneys involved: Art Margulis representing Hanson and William Goldstein representing Niemczyk. Goldstein argued that the victim, who did not contract any disease, admitted drinking nine beers and used hallucinogenic mushrooms, so how could she remember anything. Goldstein also pointed out that “her boyfriend gave inconsistent versions of what happened.”

The newspaper story notes: “Assistant Circuit Attorney Natalie Warner scolded Goldstein for that approach, saying it’s why victims are afraid to come forward. She said Hanson and Niemczyk acted with a ‘sense of entitlement’ without regard for the risk, then tried to cover it up because they were afraid of people knowing Hanson was HIV-positive.”

This is just too grand. Sophisticated folks attend Soulard Mardi Gras, you betcha, and Soulard is the go-to place for sex parties. Who would have believed that our little historic district could come this far? After all the hard work to revive what used to be a slum, now Soulard hosts sex parties. It proves Soulard ain’t no seedy neighborhood. And Soulard Mardi Gras brings a cornucopia of blessings.

Finally, there was a Post-Dispatch story enumerating what Mayor Slay has done for St. Louis. It spotlighted his participation in Soulard’s revival. By David Hunn, it was printed in the Oct. 7, 2012 issue of the paper and is headlined “St. Louis mayor’s policies put him in good position for electoral challenge.”

(Mayor Slay and his staff) “have encouraged urban farming, aided bike commuters and even bent the rules so as to allow a bar owner to mount solar panels in the Soulard historic district,” the story reports.

Isn’t that precious? Our Dear Leader helps Soulard by bending the historic code. But Mayor Slay has always offered a helping hand to the neighborhood. He blogged at one point that the Soulard Mardi Gras was the second largest such celebration in the country, which it isn’t, of course, but we all like to believe, and he supports MG by hosting an annual Mardi Gras Ball at City Hall, showing official support and lighting the fuse for the massive municipal drunk called Grand Parade Day.

Not everybody is pleased. One long time resident, Paul Kjorlie, e-mailed the mayor as follows: “I am a bit confused. Does this mean that you and your staff lobbied, cajoled, or twisted the arms (whatever term might apply) of the members of the City of St. Louis Cultural Resources board that is appointed by you? We thought it was the board that made the decision, not your office.”

He continued: “I don’t know what the polls show in Soulard, but the neighborhood organization of Soulard, the Soulard Restoration Group, opposed this violation of our historic code.”

Well, there are always some spoilsports. But the rest of us certainly appreciate what Mayor Slay did, and we thank him for having the integrity to boast about this to the reporter from the Post-Dispatch, giving the neighborhood some great publicity, to boot. He certainly has our vote.

That’s it for now, folks. As said, we sure like to see the name of our neighborhood in print. Keep those stories coming,

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Crime Statistics Make Us so Proud

According to Police Officer Anthony Miller, during the time period Sept. 1 through Dec. 7, 2011, 42 cars parked on the streets of Happy Island were hit by other vehicles. The statistics do not indicate how many of the offending drivers were drunk, but we assume that some of the accidents resulted from folks over-medicating in Soulard bars. Who says that our bars don’t have an impact? Thanks to Paul Kjorlie for keeping after the police to provide this information.

This blog used to provide crime statistics, taken from police reports on-line. However, the site was discontinued. When we asked the police department why the statistics stopped, we were told that the department no longer subscribed to the service. We guess that the best way to fight crime in Soulard is to deny that crime exists. Case closed.

As an aside, there were shots fired in Soulard on Labor Day (Sept. 3, 2012), late in the evening. We happened to talk to a police officer, who said that brass (shell casings) was found at the alley between 10th and Menard where it connects with Lami, between 1007 and 1015 Lami (owned by Soulard In-Fill Assoc. L.P.), and some more was found where the alley met Barton. All in a days work.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Brian's Legacy on Happy Island

The August, 2012 primary votes are in by precinct and show that Brian Wahby didn’t even carry the sixth precinct in the Seventh Ward. The sixth precinct basically covers Soulard, the home of our very own sleazy Mardi Gras, also known as Money Grab.

Wessels received 132 votes, Brian garnered 110 votes, Jones obtained 67 votes and Boyd trailed with 60 votes in the August primary for Democratic candidate for Treasurer for the City of St. Louis.

In his election literature, Brian boasted of the fine management of MG, implying that his contribution was greatest of all. His website carries a posting dated June 12, 2012, explaining:: “Brian Wahby has served in a volunteer capacity as Chairman of St. Louis Mardi Gras Foundation for the past 10 years. Over the course of his leadership, the Mardi Gras team has increased the number of visitors significantly, attracting thousands to St. Louis, spending their money at area hotels and restaurants. The economic impact of Mardi Gras is a boost of $23 million to St. Louis’ economy every year.” This makes it sound as though the MG team has been spending the money of the attracted visitors. Probably not far from the truth.

Anyway, Brian’s site continues with a quote from Joanie Thomas, owner, Joanie’s Pizza: “Mardi Gras, under Brian’s leadership, has provided a financial boost to Soulard merchants. He’s worked closely with the small businesses. The event is always well-organized and the leadership treats the neighborhood with respect. Brian understands how to be a good steward.”

Excuse me! Mardi Gras turns Soulard into a public urinal, filled with trash and trashy people. It would be closer to the truth to say that with Brian’s help Mardi Gras has turned Soulard into a sleazy neighborhood. Everybody has their hands out to take money from those seeking another excuse to self-medicate. Stomp on that historic district and it’s residential potential.

So, despite his “heroic” contribution to the prosperity of Soulard, he still didn’t carry the precinct. One can only ask: Is something rotten in the state of Happy Island? The Political Eye column in St. Louis American newspaper (Aug. 30 - Sept. 5, 2012) stated: “To name a few highlights on Wahby’s resume, his unilateral laundering of money for Slay during the last mayoral election, while many on the committee did not support the incumbent, angered many members.” Was Brian doing the same in Soulard, laundering MG proceeds to benefit non-contributing politicos and friends?

Meanwhile, as though nothing happened at the polls, Brian continues to tweet every little thought that pops into his hollow head, as he pretends that he has something to contribute. We hope everybody tells him to keep on dreaming.

P.S. And, according to the Post-Dispatch, Brian spent the most on the primary campaign, a cool $200,000, all to acquire bragging rights for last place. Keep up the good work, Sleazebag.