St. Louis Magazine Shorts

A collection of short pieces published in St. Louis Magazine during my editorship there (2007 - 2010).

Knife Sharpener: Bertarelli Cutlery
It’s where the city’s top chefs sharpen. That not good enough? Then head to this family-owned Hill staple, and come with your own knives drawn. Or your chain saw or pruning shears—the company sharpens anything with a blade. Country music plays above the grinding machines that hug walls of exposed brick. On our last visit, we asked a staffer, “How many knives do you guys do a day?” The man paused, looked around. “A lot.” 

Mobile Car Wash: Mr. B’s Mobile Wash n’ Wax
A unique alternative for those seeking a cleaner ride: The car wash comes to you. In this case, the professional, genial Mr. B shows up to your home or office with a van full of supplies. He leaves a short time later, and you’re ready for a night out on the town. (Mr. B usually uses clients’ hookups and electric, though he can often make do without them.) The bill for our test car—a four-door Honda Civic—was just $12 for a wash (inside and out), bringing us to $45 for the wash and wax. We gleamed. 

TV Personality: Tim Ezell, FOX 2
Whether he’s on-the-spot rapping with a local hip-hop star or playing wheelchair rugby with a St. Louis team, KTVI-TV’s Tim Ezell seems wonderfully comfortable in his own skin. Through segments like “Tim’s Travels” and his newer Tim Ezell Show, the gangly guy knows how to do goofy—but it’s a goofiness that doesn’t foster irrelevance, not always an easy balance for local talent on the oddball beat.

Winery: Chandler Hill Vineyards
In nearby Defiance, on a site once owned by a freed slave named Joseph Chandler, this relatively new Missouri vineyard and winery boasts a high-ceilinged, 5,000-square-foot tasting room, and a wine deck almost as big. It’s atop the latter where guests consume most of the vino—Chandler Hill’s own Missouri Nortons, Chardonels, and Vignoles, as well as wines the company makes in California and Washington State. There’s a full menu of dining options, as well as a new Sunday farmer’s market. We’re fans of many regional wineries, but there’s something about Chandler Hill that feels a little more sophisticated, a little extra tucked-away.

Sports League: West County Tennis Ladder
The first season we played in this, we thought it was too good to be true: $30 to join a group of 350 tennis players for a half year’s worth of schedule-your-own matches? Plus a handful of free parties throughout the year, with indoor tennis and food provided? $30!?! It must just be a low rate to get a new endeavor off the ground. Nope: The ladder’s been live since 1973 (likely the same year they came up with this price). With this award, we congratulate the organizers—and request that they not change a thing (except maybe the name—players come from and play all over St. Louis).

Guilty Pleasure: Berger’s Beat
Yes, one-time Post-Dispatch gossip columnist Jerry Berger is back, and yes, we know you’ve got his website bookmarked. So-and-so’s building a massive gun safe on his vast Huntleigh property? What’s-her-name was plotting her next political move while dining out over a bone-in veal chop? Are any of these posts confirmed as fact? Who knows. Fun to read? You bet.

“A St. Louis Kind of Love”
Entries I wrote for this February 2010 cover feature, subtitled “50 reasons we’re happy to call this city home”: 

12. The Curtain at The Tivoli’s Main Theater
What’s better than catching a new flick on a Friday night? The anticipation that builds as the rich, burgundy velvet rises, rises, rises… Shhh, the movie’s starting.

13. We’re Getting Greener
It’s a group effort, this green thing—and that’s how it should be. We’re seeing anecdotal upticks in recycling and composting, more sustainability-focused businesses and initiatives cropping up, and just plain cool planet-minded stuff happening, from the brand new (downtown’s Roberts Tower, going for LEED Gold) to the old-as-new (Cannon Design’s highly cool quarters in the Power House Building, which already achieved LEED Gold).

14. A Word From David Robertson
We’re not talking about the Symphony’s “PreConcert Perspectives”—although those half-hour lecturettes are cool. We mean something briefer: The moment when maestro David Robertson turns to face the audience just before the program begins, offering unscripted remarks—perceptive, charmingly delivered—to prepare us for the sounds to come. You can feel the hall’s mood change in those 30 seconds.

22. Scenic Routes and Worthwhile Cut-Throughs
There’s not room to print them all, so just picture yours (and then email it to us at feedback@stlmag.com). What are ours? Sappington, between Lockwood and Big Bend, those modern houses tucked off the main drag; the “crooked” white house facing Westborough Country Club, one side leaning into the other like a sleepy younger sibling. And Forsyth’s pretty enough, but if you need to hit Skinker, why not take Wydown? That too flat for your taste? Go west on Old Warson, then turn right on Warson, and enjoy the drive toward Litzsinger. Always in view: stunning homes—plus a horse or two.

27. Donut Drive-In
Smell that? Fresh. Donuts. The wind is glazed, by God—let’s follow that heaven-sent scent. Inside now… There’s room enough for three, four of us. Ordering’s easy—“Donuts”—dropped into a plain white bag, folded over and now in your hand… Back out into the world, Route 66 underfoot, look up at that blessed neon sign—with oranges and pinks to make a sunset jealous—and know that life is good. And it’s about to get better.

“Lighting the Way”
A mini-profile I wrote for this feature, which was subtitled “SLM picks its first St. Louis Luminaries" 

FROM ALGAE TO THE COSMOS
Ursula Goodenough: Biologist, Religious Naturalist

“Ursula a scientist! How splendid!” 

So exclaimed, in the early 1960s, the father of Ursula Goodenough. Young Ursula was halfway through college when her mind was set afire by Zoology 1–2. “In the ’50s, most girls just didn’t take science classes,” she recalls. But she took this one, and the world opened up.

An extraordinary career began: earning a Ph.D. in biology from Harvard in 1969; authoring the 1972 textbook Genetics, which was taught internationally for the next decade; snagging a tenure-track position at Washington University in 1978, where she’s been ever since; teaching science, by request, to the Dalai Lama (“His Holiness seems like a really, really cool guy”); and writing The Sacred Depths of Nature, a wise, humane, and much-praised book that introduces modern scientific concepts followed by the author’s related spiritual reflections. It’s a slender volume, but large in ideas.

This science-and-spirituality marriage is critical to Goodenough, a nontheist who invites us all, as she puts it in Sacred Depths, to “experience a solemn gratitude that we exist at all, share a reverence for how life works, and acknowledge a deep and complex imperative that life continue.” A former president of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science, Goodenough gives talks on this subject throughout St. Louis, and she’s appeared on The History Channel and public radio’s Speaking of Faith.

With all this, it’s easy to forget how significant Goodenough’s scientific contributions have been. Earlier this year, she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, in large part for the pioneering research she’s done on the green alga Chlamydomonas; over the course of decades, she and her lab colleagues have made the organism one of the best-understood sexual systems in the world. While that research continues, she’s begun team-teaching an interdepartmental Wash. U. course called “Epic of Evolution,” and she’s finding ways to use her long-studied alga as biofuel. “At my age, one is not supposed to start out in a brand-new search direction,” she offers wryly.

One more convention Goodenough has overturned: the notion that a prestigious, globe-traveling scientist has little time for family. She considers that part of her life—raising “five great kids,” who’ve brought her five great grandkids—one of her greatest accomplishments.

That she’s steered this stellar career as a St. Louis scientist—that’s one of our city’s accomplishments. A splendid thing, indeed.

[Sidebar] Conversation Starter: For Goodenough, lab time’s followed by dance time: “My boyfriend’s a really good ballroom dancer, so we waltz and tango,” she says. “I also just like to go to bars and shake my booty.”

"A-List 2009” Entries
A few pieces I penned for 2009 version of SLM’s 'Best of’ feature:

Sports: Vetta Sports’ Kickaroos
Cones? Check. Soccer balls? Check. Coconuts and stuffed monkeys? Double-check. Welcome to the Kickaroos program at Vetta Sports. One class a week for eight weeks costs just $89—and the 2- to 5-year-olds seem to love, if nothing else, just running around on bright green AstroTurf. (There are occasional tears, sure, but have you never seen the World Cup?) “The Vetta coaches are patient,” one parent told us, “and they really encourage participation.” 

Cooking: Kitchen Conservatory
Parents trying to raise their own little Chef Ramsay can take care of the swearing lessons on their home turf. But for a serious introduction to the culinary part, a fine local answer is The Apprentice Chef: Culinary Bootcamp at the Kitchen Conservatory (for 7- to 12-year-olds). After three days and $100, your child will be better skilled with a knife, informed about basic techniques, and possibly able to whip up some chicken fajitas and apple crisps for those tuition-paying parents. Wonder how Ramsay would declare his appreciation.

Carwash: Waterway (Kirkwood)
Pull on in to the Kirkwood Waterway. Gas up if you’d like before a young’un from the fleet takes your seat and sends you into the immaculate shop, with its 40-foot ceilings and rows of goods. There’s fresh coffee. And Frisbees. And greeting cards. Another few steps and you’re in the seating area—with comfy, padded lounge chairs. By the time you notice the “Free Wi-Fi” sign, you’re out the door, where your car’s purring, scrubbed clean, and the teens, towels over their shoulders, are moving on to the next one. 

Flickr Photographers: Mark and Jen Halski
Mark and Jen Halski’s respective Flickr streams are by turns gorgeous and tender. The couple runs Halski Studio, an ad and design firm, so it’s no surprise they can do slick. But the photos of their daily lives—particularly those of their two young kids—are artful and full of joy, and the best thing they end up selling us is themselves.

Company Blog: Life at HOK
So corporate communications can be cool. Launching Life at HOK last fall, the St. Louis–based, international architecture firm empowered employees at many levels and all over the world to publish posts, photos, and videos about their work lives. By allowing the direct and personal broadcast of individual voices, the company has strengthened its own. It’s an exceptional example of a company using social media well.

“Power: The How-To Guide”
I wrote the following two sidebars for SLM’s “Power 2008” cover package:

Power Points
No Microsoft Office needed—we’re talking about how you present yourself, not your quarterly numbers (which aren’t that great, anyway). First, ditch the BlackBerry and pick up an iPhone (starting at $199; area Apple Stores). Don’t worry—it’s just as addictive as your regular smartphone, and you can coolly level the playing field with that just-out-of-Wharton young’un down the hall. Just please resist the urge to make “Slow Ride” your ringtone. (Use, instead, an actual ringtone.) The more devious among you can hop on eBay or Craigslist to find a first-generation iPhone—not the new 3G—which sends the message that you’re an early adopter and can spot necessary greatness a mile away (note: that’s also how long the line was when you supposedly bought it new).

Go from new school to old school—really old school. Pimping out your desk with the Hourglass from Design Within Reach ($55; 44 Maryland Plaza) reminds everyone of this fact: Your time is valuable. Start your next meeting by flipping over this sleek number—black sand slipping slowly through hand-blown glass—and letting gravity work its magic. When the 45 minutes are up, so is your colleague’s presentation. It’s really, in the end, about the details.

For the men, a sure way to supersize your sophistication is with a pair of Dunhill Cufflinks. The London outfit has been making “jewelry for the discerning gentleman” since the 1930s, and its designs range from staid to slightly showy. If you’re feeling the latter, we suggest the Blue Enamel Bulldog Cufflinks ($415; dunhill.com), a rhodium-plated sterling-silver pair that presents the head of a pooch, slightly wrinkled but not to be messed with. Sound familiar?

For the women: There may be a Jiffy Lube pen at the bottom of your purse—the yanked-off chain is a classy touch—but there’s a better way to make your signing statement. Go for a serious upgrade, and invest in Montblanc’s Bohème Jewels Black Shark writing instrument ($970 ballpoint, $1,840 fountain; Montblanc, Plaza Frontenac). Your fingers rest on premium sharkskin (of an unendangered variety) with decorative, platinum-coated stitching. The cap is also platinum-plated—showing that subtle Montblanc logo—and the clip is set with dark mother-of-pearl. Try writing even a Post-it that doesn’t scream Authority. 

Power Places
Want to rub elbows with the powerful? Since the steam room at the MAC requires a pricey membership, here are three public spots that will get you closer to the action. Let’s start with Beffa’s (2700 Olive), which clocked in at number 88 on our May issue’s “101 Things Every St. Louisan Must Do.” A kind of insiders’ cafeteria, Beffa’s has no sign out front but plenty of character inside. McBride High School class pictures are framed above a large fish tank that rests beside an old jukebox. At Beffa’s, regular servers serve regular specials—corned beef, Polish sausage, chicken à la king. But the eaters? Far from regular: A range of area deciders, from politicians to DAs to developers (pushed together, Beffa’s tables are big enough for blueprints).

If you’re the eat-at-home type, spend an after-work evening or Saturday morning prowling the aisles of Straub’s in the Central West End (302 N. Kingshighway). The hand reaching for that container of chicken salad has likely signed a wing-creating check, or thrown a curveball to a Cub, or may soon pen a law against … stalking people in grocery stores. So close to so many fine residences—the Chase, 4545 Lindell—the CWE Straub’s is where the doers do their shopping—at least until The Market at Busch’s Grove opens.

We know it’s off-season, but here’s something to start planning for next year: taking in a Redbirds game in The Cardinals Club. Just behind home plate, the “green seats,” as they’re known, go for about $175 apiece, which includes parking, a special entrance and free food and drinks before and during the game (delivered to your seat by wait staff). The bad news on this—the tickets are usually presold to corporations and high rollers—is also the good news, as a small number of them resell their tickets to regular Joes, allowing arrivistes to sample the good life amid a sea of more recognizable faces. This past season, we looked up from our jumbo dog to spot the two Teds in a single view. (That’s Koplar and Drewes, if you have to ask.)

“A-List 2008” Entries
Two entries I wrote for the July 2008 version of this annual SLM cover feature:

Place to Be Seen: Araka
On one hand, grabbing an early evening cocktail on the patio of Clayton’s Araka will have you pleasantly nodding to those walking by, perhaps en route from the Ritz to one of the boutique shops for jeans, olive oil or golf. Yes, your nod will say: Life is good. But on the other hand, Araka’s interior is a stunner — and when it looks that good, you do, too. One of the intimate booths facing the bar — and the door — offers a choice vantage point to both view and be viewed. 

Beer List: Baileys’ Chocolate Bar
Baileys’ Chocolate Bar is known for desserts and martinis, but its beer list is almost comically extensive. We’re talking 13 craft beers on tap; four seasonal drafts (including St. Bernardus Abt 12, whose water, the lovingly written menu tells us, originated from 15th-century rainfall); six seasonal bottles; 60 year-round bottles (the Polish Okicim O.K. Lager purportedly tastes like Wheaties); and 15 beers from “the cellar.” The priciest? The special-edition New Belgium La Folie Edition '04, $38 for 750 milliliters. Steep, sure, but was your last beer made in oak barrels that had been previously used to make cabernet sauvignon?