Talk of the Towns

Talk of the Towns: 10.16.19

wash u
I was motivated in high school by nothing but listening to the radio, or records bought with money from mowing lawns. This motto should have been stitched on the back of my varsity track jacket: ‘Goals? Schmoals!’ While my family was comfortably middle class, my SATs were resoundingly mid-range. Those are two of at least three reasons I wouldn’t have qualified for the WashU Pledge, the whopper of a program outlined by Andrew Martin (pictured at top), recently inaugurated university chancellor. It’s arguably the most civic-minded decision made since 1853 by the renowned research institution. Next fall, students accepted from all of Missouri and most of Southern Illinois will be granted free tuition, fees, room and board if their families earn less than $75,000 annually. (Kids must be Pell grant eligible—a personal problem for this proud, income-variable father of a young woman who’s a Mizzou junior. But that’s enough about her; me, I mean.) Just what does WashU mean by Southern Illinois? Sangamon County and south to Cairo, according to the map included with the news release. An applicant must be admitted as a full-time, first-year undergraduate student or be presently enrolled as a WashU Bear. Part-time students and those earning a degree from University College are not eligible. All of that said, would-be scamsters—plus the likes of Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin and their celebrity ilk—beware: Antennae are wiggling wildly at WashU, SLU, Stanford, USC, MIT, ‘The WashU of the Northeast’ (Harvard, that is), etc. Pesky financial aid folks and the Feds are wise to parents who try to claim separate incomes in different states, have their banks and accountants perform elaborate financial machinations as a certain chief executive in an office with no corners allegedly has, and other wily schemes I haven’t thought up in the last 5 minutes or so. Some people have no shame. Anyhow, we’ve a ‘brain drain’ here in The Great Flyover. Despite herculean efforts by the Regional Chamber, entrepreneurs, various incubators and the academic community at large, the metro isn’t living up to experts’ expectations. Upon graduation, alas, too many talented grads split for the east and left coasts, Chicago’s Gold Coast—or places like Austin and Portland in hopes of keeping them weird, I guess. But back to me: I moved here from Atlanta in 1982, just in time to shed my Orioles, Mets and Braves hats for one with a Redbird on it. Oh, my high school(s)? Don’t get me started.

Police and the DEA will give metro residents their next opportunity to prevent widespread pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs. DEA officials say medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse. Police and partners at about three dozen sites (mostly police departments) will accept pills for disposal from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 26. The service is free and anonymous; no questions asked. Sites cannot accept liquids, needles or sharps, only pills and patches. Last fall, Americans turned in more than 937,000 pounds of prescription drugs at nearly 6,300 sites operated by the DEA and almost 5,000 state and local partners. Overall, in 17 previous ‘Take Back’ events, more than 11.8 million pounds of pills have been turned in. Ballwin residents may bring pills for disposal to the Ballwin PD at 300 Park Drive. Contact your local police to find out whether they’ve signed on.

the metro
Who ever thought that sucking anything but air or asthma meds into your lungs would be a good idea? But since it’s unreasonably hard for a smoker to quit, the next cigarette doesn’t just seem like a good idea, it’s essential. Trust me. Anyhow, come Jan. 1, 2020, Schnucks shoppers will no longer be able to buy cigarettes with their groceries. We probably won’t have to wait long for the other shoes to drop, say, at Dierbergs and Walmart. Otherwise, inveterate smokers must visit a gas station, convenience store or Walgreens, which used to be ‘At the Corner of Happy and Healthy,’ for their next fix. I think Schnucks is doing a good thing. In other nicotine-related news, Francis Howell School District in St. Charles is suing Juul, an e-cigarette maker, asserting its products are deceptively marketed to young people. (Shades of Joe Camel! Remember that too-cool-for-school character once used to market the cigarette brand? If he wasn’t killed off by a lawsuit, maybe he resigned in disgrace.) As you read here in our last edition, one of the 25 U.S. vaping-related deaths reported so far has occurred in St. Louis, another in Illinois.

With so many big-money developments planned throughout the metro, those who don’t subscribe to our esteemed metro daily or the Business Journal, or who aren’t otherwise business savvy, may not be aware of the $80 million WildHorse multiuse project in Chesterfield. I found out when I thought I detected the unmistakable aroma of prime steaks on the grill. Honestly, my olfactories acted up when I read that a third Ruth’s Chris in the metro is slated to open there in late 2020 or early 2021. The addition of an AC Hotel, a top-drawer nameplate for the Marriott International chain, also is cause for one’s mouth to water. AC properties feature European-inspired beverage and food offerings, including hand-shaved prosciutto and croissants in the morning flown fresh from France; in the evening, signature cocktails and a tapas-inspired menu! Guest rooms will feature highly curated art and no in-room marketing. The 128-room hotel is slated for a summer 2021 opening. Other components include 188 apartments and 25,000 square feet of retail space. Buildings will share a public plaza with outdoor seating and garden areas, as well as a public art exhibit in the vehicular roundabout.

notable neighbors
Unfortunately, some bridge players are card sharks, laments Jay Shah of J’s Bridge Pad. “It’s not a blood sport,” he insists, noting that for tournaments, he occasionally dons a T-shirt that reads, ‘Dammit, It’s Just a Game!’ Shouldn’t bridge be fun? But of course. It’s become an avocation—actually, a sort of addiction—for this 1966 transplant from the subcontinent of India and eventual SLU grad in electrical engineering. Since he started playing duplicate bridge about 15 years ago, it’s been full speed ahead as a dedicated player and mentor. “My wife thinks bridge is a mistress,” Shah says with a wry smile. To be sure, he’s had about 10 partners, the oldest of whom is nearly 90. Nowadays, he most frequently plays in tournaments with Phyllis, a long-time cohort with an assortment of shirts similar to Shah’s. About 50 of them. As a team, they show up in shirts with the same message. Early one morning, Shah answered a call from Phyllis, who asked, “What are you wearing?” Shah grins. “I thought it was an obscene phone call!” (And that concludes the PG-13 portion of this story.) When we interviewed Shah at one of his pad’s dozen or more bridge tables, he was wearing a button-up collared shirt with his logo custom-stitched in black and red: The apostrophe, a spade; the top of the ‘i,’ a heart; inside the ‘d,’ a club; and the word ‘PAD’inside the diamond. And the top of the J is a joker’s cap, wholly appropriate for a quick-witted man. What’s his philosophy for teaching neophytes this complicated, strategic pastime? He becomes a bit more serious. “No one should get discouraged,” he says. “I want this to be a safe haven so they don’t get creamed.” Bridge was derived from Russian whist, called Biritch, meaning an announcer (players ‘announce or herald’ their auction). The first rule book, Short Treatise (circa 1742), was written by none other than Edmond Hoyle. Apparently, Hoyle rarely was creamed, as he lived to nearly 97. Shah’s oldest player at the pad has been 92. But anyone can learn the game. From personal experience, he acknowledges it can take a while, though. “My dad tried to teach bridge to my brother and me when I was 8 or 9. We told him it was way over our heads.” Then, a slip of the tongue. “It’s still way over my bridge; um, over my head.” That is, one never stops learning and adapting. Well, what about the tricky ‘secret code’—that is, bridge conventions? “I consider it a foreign language,” Shah says. “Once you learn it, you can play anywhere in the world—Israel, Norway, New Zealand.” And while he never has seen a conflict escalate to fisticuffs, disagreements can become quite lively, especially between partners, who often become lifelong friends. Some are like old married couples. “We’ve had ‘Mr. and Mrs. Bickerson’ or ‘The Bickerleys,’” he jokes. No matter whether you’re a veteran or need “bridge with training wheels,” Shah says there’s a place for you at one of his tables at 15817 Manchester Road. Visit