clayton | The closest I might come to a religious denomination is ‘Presbyterian, lapsed.’ Still, I sense that “Thou shalt not steal” is a pretty clear commandment. Then, whenever we doth mess up, we shalt own up to it. As far as I can tell from my Catholic friends, including my lovely wife, Cate, confession involves more than making a simple apology. It involves making amends; you promise to change the behavior that necessitated the apology in the first place. And this concludes the Religion 101 portion of our program. Anyhow, it helps introduce this sordid tale about a greedy wine aficionado accosted for pilfering eight bottles of premium wine from the Wine Merchant in Clayton. We’re not talking ‘Two-Buck Chuck’ here, Trader Joe’s iconic, and famously cheap, Charles Shaw label. Fruit of the vine is a touch pricier at the Wine Merchant, where management says the eight bottles of top-shelf wine, which were returned in perfect condition, retail for more than $1,000. Yes, they came back—and the shoplifter even attached a wordy handwritten note explaining how remorseful he felt. Are your eyes getting a little moist here? Weep not … he apparently did not feel guilty enough to return the vino himself. A man of the cloth, a priest, did that instead! Yes, the knucklehead fessed up. But even an agnostic can see that this miscreant isn’t anywhere near in the clear with the Big Guy, especially considering this: As he fled, in a stolen car, the wine thief allegedly steered the vehicle threateningly toward a store employee. And it wasn’t this wine-store cowboy’s first rodeo, either. As identified by witnesses and seen in surveillance videos, the same oenophile hit the Wine & Cheese Place store in Clayton last August; several thousand dollars’ worth of wine snatched up in that caper were not returned. He also struck Straub’s in Town and Country and the Schnucks on Clayton Road. Once or twice, he loaded up his cart, then abandoned it. But he’s not the only somewhat embarrassed crook in this scenario—other shady wine-lovers purchased some of his ill-gotten gains.


The winter holiday season is coming up after Thanksgiving, so it’s nearly time for a few egg-noggy shenanigans. There are holiday pop-up watering holes planned all over town, but when considering what the heck to do besides shop on Black Friday (perish the thought) why not head up to the former Mills mall in Hazelwood for some pinball, darts, ice skating and a custom toddy or two? Tickets are on sale for Dasher’s Dive Bar at POWERplex, the second annual iteration of a unique interactive StL holiday pop-up. An immersive experience includes themed cocktails and snacks, seasonal classics playing on a state-of-the-art sound system (not the tinny speakers overhead in any department store or big box) and wall-to-wall sparkly red and green decor. Anyone who takes a dive gets a welcome cocktail and a picture with a jolly old elf, appetizers and live entertainment from a host who’ll emcee wintry game shows, karaoke and comedy. Dasher’s will be open from Nov. 25 through Dec. 23, only during two-hour time slots Fridays and Saturdays. For ticket prices and other details, visit Letting one tiny reindeer loose two nights early should give Dasher time to hook up with his seven colleagues for their mad overnight quest to circle the earth and squeeze down chimneys worldwide to reward good little girls and boys.

the metro
CVS and Walgreens, two of the nation’s three largest pharmacy chains, recently set aside about $5 billion each to satisfy government lawsuits. The third, Walmart, has agreed in principle to the payouts. None has admitted wrongdoing. A U.S. addiction crisis has linked opioids to more than 500,000 deaths in the country over the past two decades. Most of the deaths involved prescription drugs, at first. But as governments, doctors and companies took steps to make opioids more difficult to obtain, people with opioid use disorder increasingly switched to heroin, which proved even more deadly. In recent years, opioid deaths have soared to record levels—around 80,000 a year. Most of those deaths involve illicitly produced versions of the powerful lab-made drug fentanyl, which is cropping up throughout the U.S. supply of illegal drugs in much greater quantities. Manufacturers such as Oxycontin maker Purdue Pharma had taken the first hit, with a plan for the Sacker family-owned company to pay out as much as $6 billion in cash, with the company reconfiguring such that future profits go toward fighting the addiction crisis. A court has put that decision on hold. Meanwhile, it appears the feds may be getting a better handle on illicit fentanyl trafficking, what with the DEA seizing 671 pounds of the powerful opioid in Missouri, Illinois and Kansas alone this year. That’s more than 40% above the total weight of the synthetic opioid diverted in 2021; it’s also two times the two previous years, combined. That’s a lot, considering a) fentanyl is between 50 and 100 times stronger than morphine, and b) traffickers may mix it with other illicit drugs without the purchasers’ knowledge. The big picture: Lawsuits against opioid makers, prescribers and other involved entities total more than $50 billion.


notable neighbors
Dawn Smith was at her wits’ end. Her drug and alcohol abuse had landed her in prison, and it seemed her prospects were dim, if not stark, once she was released. But two things happened in quick succession: One, she was able to put the drugs and alcohol behind her by starting to work a 12-step recovery program. Two, she completed high school by passing an equivalency test similar to the G.E.D. Still in her teens, she had to wait awhile for the stars to align, if you will, for a bright future to become a real possibility. Somewhere along her path she encountered Darcy Glidewell of Frontenac, president of The Next Step, a local education nonprofit developed to award scholarships to recovering people who abandoned their education. Smith qualified: She had at least a year of sobriety under her belt. The Next Step awarded a scholarship to help her through St. Louis Community College at Forest Park. The financial aid continued as she completed her bachelor degree at UMSL, and the grants followed her all the way to earning a master of social work with a minor in psychology in 2018. Smith’s no slouch … she carried a 4.0 GPA! Besides being her elderly mother’s primary caregiver, her first ‘real job’ as an adult was house manager of Hilljack House, a sober-living home in the city for six women in recovery. Fast forward to today: Smith is executive director of the organization, which encompasses two homes for men and three for women, serving 38 recovering residents altogether. “I’d never be where I am today if I’d never completed my education,” says Smith. “The Next Step was a huge part of that.” Glidewell has seen hundreds of miracles unfold in people’s lives. Before recovery, “every single person was a drain on their families, and society at large,” she notes. Successful recovery requires completion of 12 steps that have been essential to a program in operation since the 1930s, working side by side with a mentor and being accountable to that person, and applying the principles of recovery from alcohol and drug abuse to all aspects of daily life: Becoming full-fledged, responsible adults, that is. “Let us help you work the Next Step,” Glidewell says with a smile, then gently shakes her head. “It’s amazing how many don’t finish what they started.” Their self-esteem is low, and they lack hope until they see how others around them are making it work, day to day. “You just don’t know what you don’t know,” she notes. For instance, few realize that being of service to others can be as simple as volunteering to help out at the annual dinner for students and donors. From small beginnings, big dreams can unfold, as they have for Dawn Smith—or Mark D., a young man with dreams of becoming a lawyer, but not the financial wherewithal. Plus, he became addicted to heroin, and spent 30 months in prison. Once well into his 12-step recovery program, however, he took the Next Step. “The Next Step has helped me to get closer to my dream of becoming a lawyer and helping those who struggle in the same way I did,” he says. Visit