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,