Talk of the Towns

Talk of the Towns: 12.11.13

[creve coeur]
By now, it’s likely that Monsanto Co. executives have become accustomed to the frequent sight of picketers outside the firm’s international headquarters in Creve Coeur. Groups in recent months have protested the company’s genetically modified seed, which increases yield by virtue of its resistance to drought and pests. Protesters have alleged that these same products may be carcinogenic, basing their argument, in part, on a study that indicated they produce cancerous tumors in rats. They may have to rewrite their signs, at least for the time being: The research has been found to be flawed. Reed Elsevier, a company renowned in medical publishing, has retracted an article it ran in a scientific journal that asserted genetically modified corn caused the growth of tumors in rats. In this case, hundreds of scientists protested the findings, and the publisher responded after a yearlong investigation by disavowing the findings, acknowledging the paper did not meet scientific standards. Among other things, investigators say the study sample was too small. What’s more—and hold the phone—the breed of rat researchers used is known to be susceptible to tumor growth. But the final jury is still out.

Black Friday. Those two words struck dread in the hearts of retail employees who needed to arrive at work well before dawn to face impatient throngs in line for scarce ‘doorbuster’ deals. But to store owners, the same two words sounded like cash registers rapidly opening and closing and coinage clinking. To the masses, they meant several hours of mad shopping and the unbridled glee of buying stuff for friends and loved ones. Meanwhile, it’s the worst possible time for computer glitches or
overwhelming electronic traffic to slow things down or grind them to a halt, as was the case for some area retailers. Then, for some in Chesterfield, it was water… not another 500-year flood, but it must have felt like it to five store managers at Chesterfield Mall. A water-main break at the mall shuttered those stores for several hours until repairs could be completed and power restored. Employees took the time to relax and recharge. Two were seen chilling in coin-operated massage chairs outside their store. One merely looked resigned. The other was fast asleep.

[des peres]
There’s a unique nostalgia about trains and train stations around the holidays. For an example, one need look no further than the movie from a few years back, The Polar Express. Of a Christmas morning a generation ago, many kids discovered that Santa had installed their new model train to chug and woo-woo around the base of the twinkling tannenbaum.

In downtown St. Louis, an elaborate layout once delighted young and old from the display window of the Famous-Barr department store, which morphed into Macy’s. Alas, the holiday throngs withered, first bound for area malls to the west, and now for the new outlet malls even farther west. And, of course, Macy’s closed downtown.
But the trains still run, in Des Peres, at the St. Louis Museum of Transportation. A water tower atop one of the small buildings built to scale features the familiar Macy’s logo, red star in front of the iconic lower-case lettering. One imagines it read Famous-Barr at one time. This is the second year for the itty-bitty choo-choos to wend their way through handmade mountains, towns and countryside at the museum, 2967 Barrett Station Road. The trains started running Nov. 29, and the layout will be put away Dec. 29. The museum is closed Dec. 24 and 25, so any miniature travelers intent on arriving home before the Yuletide would need to get chugging along earlier. People of actual size should be aware that the museum is open Thursday through Saturday, and admission is $8.

Of course, any visitor interested in seeing real vintage trains should be completely satisfied with what they discover here. Along with planes and automobiles, all manner of rolling stock has come to rest here, including the world’s largest successful steam locomotive.



Imagine you lived on the lakefront, and one day all you saw was front… no lake. That’s what has happened, again, to residents of a Wildwood community who’ve enjoyed living on the shores of Lake Chesterfield. The lake level had been dropping slowly all summer, and experts were called in to find out what was causing the suspected leak. It doesn’t help that limestone, which is porous, underlies the 23-acre artificial body of water. But this isn’t the first time the lake has simply vanished—gone down the drain, so to speak. After the lake gurgled away about 10 years ago, geologists and engineers summoned for help blamed it on a sinkhole. This time, a valve that had been installed to drain high water jammed, and the lake disappeared overnight, claiming thousands of fish. In terms of geologic time, repairs have been very, very temporary.
And this second go-round may be expensive for homeowners, whose residential association reportedly stipulates each would be on the hook for a solution to keep the water at a manageable level.

The struggle for equality has always been difficult, at times excruciating. Its ups and downs are as much a part of our history as the Civil War, the boom years of the 1950s and the international space race. The long-fought battle for racial equality is represented through artifacts on display at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn., in the former Lorraine Motel, the site of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination. The fight for gay rights has been just as compelling, and at times tragic. On the national level were the Stonewall riots, a violent reaction to the 1969 police raid of a gay club in NYC’s Greenwich Village. Its June 28 anniversary is commemorated here and nationwide during Pride Week. The local scene has been just as colorful, at times heartrending, and a representative collection will soon be curated at the Missouri History Museum. Artifacts collected over 60 years by Kirkwood resident Steven Brawley, from drag-queen dresses to hand-lettered protest signs, will comprise a large part of the exhibit. Those who would deny gays the same rights as others don’t think this is an appropriate use of tax monies. But, as many in the LGBT community are wont to say: ‘We’re here, we’re queer’ (and we’re taxpayers, too)… so, best get used to it.

[saint louis]
Boeing has put out a Request For Proposal to entities interested in being site of the plant for its new 777X airliner, and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon so far has done everything but contort his body into the shape of a pretzel to see that it gets built here. The governor called a special session of the legislature last week in an attempt to push through a measure that would guarantee tax incentives and other perks to attract the plant to St. Louis, already headquarters for the corporation. What’s the rush? Boeing is moving at near-supersonic speed, and is really putting candidates through their paces: The company requested RFPs from more than a dozen other cities and states—with a 1644 Clarkson Road | Chesterfield 63017 | 636.519.4022 | deadline of two weeks; the company is to decide early next year. Some would say we have a leg up. Boeing already employs 15,000 white- and blue-collar workers throughout the region. The new plant would add nearly 9,000 jobs. But this is not the time for resting on laurels. We think it’s time for everyone, from visionaries to pencil pushers, to start burning the midnight oil.


Webster Groves

[webster groves]
Another visible commitment by Webster Groves to the arts and its arts community is evolving rapidly on two small plots of ground at Kirkham and Gore avenues: The Webster Groves Sculpture Garden. Walkways and retaining walls are finished or well under way. A stand of mature catalpa trees has been preserved. This will be quite the spot to relax and reflect come spring, when two Ernest Trova pieces will have been installed, complementing a commission by Catharine Magel of a bird within a flower. The park should serve as a magnet for pedestrians to walk down the hill from Lockwood Avenue in Old Webster to enjoy not only the new park, but a nature area the city has created along the creek. This is a tribute to the foresight of city planners, who a few years ago nixed a condominium project in favor of an area for all residents and visitors to experience. Bravo!

[university city]
We can say it ain’t so: Pasta House won’t go, after all. The restaurant that may have put the Italian cuisine of St. Louis on the national map via popularizing its spin on toasting those stuffed little square noodles has reached a new agreement with its landlord, and will stay in its flagship location at 8213 Delmar Blvd. That’s where the company, which now has 23 locations (including at the airport), started 39 years ago. A few weeks ago, it looked like the original restaurant wouldn’t make it to its 40th birthday. The owners had announced that the kitchen would cool off and the restaurant close by Dec. 31. Let the salivary glands resume: Allow us to say ‘nom, nom, nom.’

By Bill Beggs Jr.