A few snaps of St. Louis

012108 Ice Penguin I'm finally getting around to writing a bit about our trip to St. Louis a couple of weeks ago. In short, we had a grand time during our brief visit to our old stomping grounds a couple of weeks ago. While I love, love our new life in Ann Arbor, I've 17 years worth of friendships built up in St. Louis and there's just no substitute for that. I miss having so many good friends, the kind who know you really well, the ones who have been around you for years and know your back story. So while it was a tad exhausting going from one date to another and playing catch up, it was also really wonderful.

Amanda and I did Free Candy on the Sunday night and it was a blast. I wish I had some photos to share, but my memory card was full and the few Chris got were not, let's say, particularly flattering. (I reserve the right to censor such things so that we hosts can always remain in the most beautious light at all times.) The audience was great -- I can't believe that for nearly four years folks have loyally been coming out to catch this crazy live show that began as a goof in a coffee shop.

The evening was linked to the release of the new issue of 52nd City. I know I keep saying this but it bears repeating: but this St. Louis-based magazine is a thing to behold. If you still don't know it, if you still haven't picked up a copy or, better yet, subscribed, please, please do so. It's a collection of some of St. Louis' best writers musing on art, culture, life, following a specific theme for each of its quarterly issues. This issue's topic is Foreign Exchange and, as if the print edition didn't offer up enough solid reading, there's additional content on the website.

It is a labor of love -- and, yes, sometimes frustration -- for its dedicated editors, Thomas Crone, Stefene Russell and Andrea Avery and I really want to believe, despite history's suggestion otherwise, that St. Louis readers can and will support this kind of effort. Phew. I've said my piece. For now...and I'm not even IN the current issue. Wait until I get on my soap box for an issue I'm in!

Anyhoo, because we were linking Free Candy to 52nd City, we went with a theme that honored St. Louis writers. Thus, instead of a guest band to play "I Want Candy," our theme song, we had Thomas do a dramatic reading of the lyrics. And I must say it was one of those moments when I wished dearly we were not non-broadcast, non-recorded, because it was a funny as hell performance I'd love to toss up on You Tube and watch again and again.

In keeping with our writer's theme, our guests were Debbie Baldwin of The Ladue News and legendary St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bill MacClellan, who's been musing on behalf of the everyman for three decades now. Debbie was a guest on one of our very first installments of Free Candy and she was just a blast again. Having MacClellan on our show as a real "get." I don't think he knew quite what to make of us but he was a terrific sport and good fun. He's a real throwback to the day of the old write-hard, play-hard school of journos, a dying breed, and there's great comfort to know that a few of these metro columnists are surviving as newspapers "retool" for new readership.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog posting about St. Louis... In addition to visiting old haunts, I also checked out a few new spots. I had tea with Amanda at the London Tea Room on Washington Avenue. Lovely space with tons of tea options and, important for ex-pats like myself, a solid selection of British sweets and foods also for sale.

012108 Rooster

I also met the aforementioned TC for breakfast on Martin Luther King Day at Rooster, a new spot on Locust. It's a nice place, decorated with a mish-mosh of deco light fixtures and ancient mirrors on the walls. They're known for their crepes, but TC and I both opted for egg sandwiches, which were big as our heads (well, my head, maybe not Thomas') and absolutely delish. Mmmm. In fact, writing this, now I really want one.

012108 Rooster 2

We stayed at the Ballpark Hilton again (thank you, Priceline!) and I'll tell you, downtown St. Louis was crazy-deserted. I felt like I was starring in I Am Julia Legend. Granted, it was a holiday weekend, but there's that odd combo of stunning architecture, empty streets and signs everywhere for new loft developments that all kind of baffles me.

012108 Blocks of Ice

So we headed to the Loop where, apparently, we had missed some sort of ice sculpture event. Thus, there were a few sad almost-melted statues in front of shops, but also a gigantic pile of ice next to Blueberry Hill, just waiting for some skate punk to jump on, break his or her neck and sue the pants off the city of University City. It didn't happen while we were watching, but the ruffians were circling and danger seemed imminent.

012108 Blueberry Hill Sign 2

Speaking of Blueberry Hill, it has a new flashy sign up over its door. Or, at least, it's new to us. It features a nice, white retro couple dancing above a marquee that now flashes upcoming acts on the LED screen. It all seems a little Hollywood for the venue, but what do I know? Maybe Joe Edwards got a buy-one-get-one offer on flashy LED screens when he put up the one at The Pageant.

All in all, a very good trip. Never long enough to see all the people I love, for as much time as I'd like. I leave you with one last shot, the Vintage Vinyl tribute to MLK. I'm many days late and more than a few dollars short, but honor his dream, people. Word.

012108 Vintage Vinyl pays tribute to the man