Talk of the Towns

Talk of the Towns: 11.20.19

Ground is to be broken in January for the Jack C. Taylor Visitor Center at Missouri Botanical Garden, a new, $92 million ‘Gateway to the Garden.’ Today’s barrel-roofed Ridgway Visitor Center, opened in 1982, was built to accommodate 250,000 visitors per year. MoBOT welcomes nearly 1 million people annually. No taxpayer money is necessary; the privately funded project is projected to wrap up by spring 2022. (Meanwhile, the Garden will remain open.) Glorious panoramas, new gardens and fountains will dazzle visitors. Expect a landscape more diverse in plant species—and a permanent, year-round conservatory. The entrance will be more accessible: more benches, wider pathways and additional drop-off areas. Outdoor plants will be available in the shop. There will be a grab-and-go eatery, plus a sit-down café. Taylor Center will feature expanded meeting and event spaces, including a separate area for large private events and conferences. Ticketing will be streamlined; a single desk will provide information, ticket sales, membership sales and security. Architecture firm Ayers Saint Gross and landscape architect Michael Vergason have partnered with metro-based construction manager Alberici. MoBOT, founded in 1859, is the nation’s oldest in continuous operation. Indeed an urban oasis, the Garden at 4344 Shaw Blvd. also is a center for botanical research and science education. Our beloved attraction encompasses 79 acres of unique horticulture, including a 14-acre Japanese strolling garden, Henry Shaw’s original 1850 estate home, and one of the world’s largest collections of rare and endangered orchids.

the metro
Scam artists are relentless. Twice last Tuesday morning, calls came in from different ‘800’ numbers, both with the same recording, which had already started as I picked up: “… suspicious activity regarding your Social Security number …” I rolled my eyes and hung up on the first call. About 15 minutes later, when the second call popped up, I was settled in at my laptop, feeling ornery. A female voice warned of chaos if I didn’t have it rectified immediately. (Before we continue, it’s essential our readers know that the Social Security Administration will never, ever contact anyone by phone. Any official communication concerning your account—especially your unique Social Security number—will arrive via the U.S. Postal Service. If you indeed have questions, you may reach SSA at 800.772.1213. The first thing you’ll likely hear is a warning about bogus calls. A male voice recommends reporting suspicious calls to the administration’s Inspector General.) Anyhow, I didn’t hang up. The female voice instructed me to press 1 for more information. I did so. Within 10 seconds, light speed for a legit government call, a guy whose native tongue was clearly not English listened to my (feigned) alarm and horror, then identified himself as Agent So-and-So. He asked for my first and last name. I told him I didn’t think I should do that, and then I asked for his supervisor. Crickets … then, click. How rude! I returned the call, but a message informed me “the call could not be completed as dialed.” So, I called back the first number, surprised to reach a legitimate business. The operator gave me the home office number. Oy! Long story short, I called SSA’s Inspector General at 800.269.0271. What a waste of my time and our taxpayer dollars—I found no way to report the fraudulent call. I could report identity theft, that someone was receiving benefits under the table, yadiyadi-ya, or press ‘5’ for a different issue. I did, and upon uttering “fraudulent call,” I heard, “Goodbye.” Even dating was less frustrating than this. Most of the time.

u. city
If I were a member of the Flat Earth Society—of which there may still be a dozen bona fide believers around the globe—uh oh. If our planet is flat, that’s not logical. Well, when it comes to science vs. politics or religion, logic ain’t in it. Heavens to Betsy! I really didn’t mean for the leftist half of my brain to get into an argument with the right-leaning half. Let’s start over: Many folks pooh-pooh the scientific concept of global warming because, well, did you look outside on Veterans Day? On the 11th day of the 11th month at 11 a.m., we had several inches of snow. Then came an Arctic blast with record-breaking lows. How could sea levels be inching up ever so gradually when it gets that cold this early in these parts? St. Louisans are never ready for the weather, of course, because how could you be? Yearround, temperatures can fluctuate something like 40 to 60 degrees in a couple of hours. (This fellow who claims to be Bill Nye the Science Guy interrupts with a meteorological observation: Local conditions have no bearing on climate change, but climate change can contribute to extreme weather. OK?) It may be a while before TV weather pundits finish stroking their chins over the snowfall we got 10 days before Thanksgiving. (I took a picture similar to the one here in 2018 of snow blanketing our metal chair and postage stampsized U. City patio. It wasn’t this teeth-chattering then.) Who knows if it’s the earliest snow or the coldest Nov. 11 since whenever, because there are millions of years of prehistory to account for. Well, they weren’t written down. No one could write. Your average indigenous ‘Missourah’ dude must have been really lazy. C’mon, what else did he have to do besides seek suitable shelter, knock a potential mate off of her feet and drag her to his lair by her hair, forage for roots and berries, and hunt down very large, dangerous mammals for food and clothing?

I managed to score a coveted Popeyes chicken sandwich a couple of Sundays ago. (I have a serious fried chicken jones, for which I hold Mrs. Fleming of Smithfield, North Carolina, entirely responsible.) I came up empty on my first attempt Nov. 3. That afternoon, Gary, the new district manager at the Brentwood store, cordially alerted me to a sorry state of affairs: No chicken sandwiches remained— nor did the color TV sets given away with each one. He laughed. (A recent hire away from Burger King, he’s a genuinely funny guy.) Gary was shocked by the profane outbursts he’d heard from drive-through customers—with kids in the car—when they were told the sandwiches were sold out. Later that week, an orange traffic cone at the Manchester Road entrance had a paper sign duct-taped to it: ‘No sandwiches.’ A similar handwritten note was taped inside the lobby door. Thankfully, there was no deadly violence, as has been reported elsewhere. Anyhow, I finally did enjoy my sandwich. Full disclosure: I bought two. I may put the second one up on eBay. 

notable neighbors

sunset hills

This is the story of a granddaughter who lives in Sunset Hills. But we must begin our tale much earlier: Her greatgrandmother Angelina sailed—alone—from Buscate, Italy, to New York. Angelina was a seamstress. Her daughter, Perina, followed suit. She and her husband settled on The Hill, and Perina worked in the thenbustling StL garment district on Washington Avenue. Her granddaughter scooped up odd scraps of fabric to create fashions for her Barbie dolls. Because the little girl couldn’t sew, she used a stapler. Emma, her paternal grandma in Belleville, taught her how to use needle and thread. “Actually, a sewing machine wouldn’t have been the best place for me to start with cashmere. It’s too stretchy,” says Jen Sertl, who established Angelina Accoutrements in 2004 ( Sertl works with one of the world’s most luxurious fabrics—the soft, downy wool famously gathered from the undercoat of a very special breed of goat that originates from Kashmir. Sertl’s concept started to come together when a cousin in the recycled textile industry asked whether she could do anything with a pile of cashmere odds and ends. She did, and she has, for 15 years. “This started before ‘green’ became a thing,” says Sertl, who fashions post-consumer … well, preowned … sweaters, scarves and the like into whatever she feels the material is telling her. Her clients have suggestions, of course, and she counts many among her dearest friends. “Building a connection has brought me into their homes, into their closets,” she points out. “It’s not transactional. It’s transformational.” We met her as an exhibitor at the annual Unique Boutique set up throughout John Burroughs School the week before Thanksgiving. (Angelina Accoutrements will join 65-plus select vendors there this weekend, Nov. 23 and 24, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will be Sertl’s 11th year at the show.) “I’ve had people come up to my display and say, ‘You belong in Paris,’” she says. “It gives me goose bumps.” Apropos of nothing—that first word’s French, of course, a language of which Sertl has only a passing acquaintance—she has visited the City of Light three times, twice with her daughter Giulina, a communications/business double major at Webster U. with a photography minor. (Note: Giulina didn’t shoot our photo of Sertl in her reimagined cashmere sweater and fingerless cashmere gloves, holding a cashmere scarf. Most of Giulina’s images are of the ancient city itself.) “Everything about this feels like kismet,” Sertl exclaims. “I feel like I have no choice in the matter. Everything I’m doing is taking me where I’m meant to be!”