Talk of the Towns: 12.4.19
north st. louis
Last week, ground was broken on the near north side for a $1.7 billion federal government project (pictured at top) that U.S. and local officials say will revitalize a nearly 97-acre section of the city that had badly deteriorated. Mayor Lyda Krewson was among city and state dignitaries joined by federal heavy hitters such as U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Schiff and military brass were shoulder to shoulder Nov. 26 with Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt and Rep. William Lacy Clay as ceremonial shovels of dirt were turned to signify the start of development on the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s new headquarters complex, Next NGA West. With a goal of completing much of the campus by 2023, officials tout this as the largest investment for decades in north city. The high-tech intelligence agency had quietly occupied a complex on the south riverfront for decades. Urban planners say the development indicates the metro’s potential future as a hub for the geospatial industry. At the ceremony, Vice Admiral Robert Sharp, NGA director, said the facility is expected to feature additional areas for the agency to work side by side with university researchers and businesspeople. Clay said improvements will range from an enhanced police presence and low-cost housing to improvements in infrastructure. By NGA moving its more than 3,000 jobs here, officials say it should spur private investment as well. Just five years ago, the agency had announced its intent to relocate the facility, its largest presence outside Washington. But at the time, many observers viewed our town’s hopes for such an ambitious project as a long shot. When all is said and done, NGA projects that all employees will have moved onto the new campus by 2025.
Squirrels are cute little critters, unless you’re one of those malcontents who refer to them as bushy-tailed tree rats; in that case, you’re a nihilistic driver who speeds up to squash them as they hesitate before scampering across the street. I, for one, hope those nihilistic malcontents are condemned to reincarnate as acorns for eternity. For starters. The cutest squirrel in the metro is a chainsaw-carved wooden sculpture installed in the grassy median of Oakbrook between Stanford and Cornell avenues in western U. City. A huge (carved-to-scale) acorn is in its clutches, and it’s perched on a pile of them. Protected with wood stain within an inch of its life, if that’s a thing, the 2017 sculpture replaced another that the elements, probably with the help of malcontented, nihilistic termites, reduced practically to sawdust. Both squirrels have had Redbirds fever: A neighborhood wag puts a red cap atop their heads. (If the rodent celebrated our Stanley Cup triumph, we don’t know; Blues merch was scarce in the StL within, like, 15 minutes. Maybe somebody swiped its Blues hat.) Monday of Thanksgiving week, the squirrel was observing Turkey Day. Despite no cornucopia, there was a display of abundance—a bold, ‘chicken in every pot’ statement. In the squirrel’s lap, if squirrels have laps, rested a cooking pot. Inside it lay a dreadfully skinny fowl that wouldn’t feed anyone. It was a rubber chicken.
Another one bites the dust. And another one gone, and another one gone, another one bites the dust … I guess I should say sorry for the earworm—the Queen song that now, annoyingly, won’t stop playing in your head—but you should be thankful it’s not holiday music, which I’m sure started playing in some big-box stores before Halloween. So, in fact, you’re welcome. But shouldn’t we be talking about restaurant closings? Why, of course! You see, Houlihan’s in Brentwood and St. Louis Bread Co. downtown both have closed or will soon. If you’re not aware, or really can’t tell one from the other, Houlihan’s is sort of like TGI Fridays, and Applebee’s is kind of like them both except with not as much cool stuff attached to the walls. St. Louis Bread Co. is a lot like, well, Panera. But then, there’s Cracker Barrel. One of those should replace either or both departing eateries, as far as this carb-addled reporter is concerned. And that fine establishment never needs to worry about pouring loud, obnoxious, recalcitrant customers into a cab at half-past closing time because they’ve had way too much chicken ‘n’ dumplings. (In the 1970s and ’80s, as far as said reporter can recall, that may have been the case after an evening at Houlihan’s or TGI Fridays.) But, by cracky, Cracker Barrel is crackin’ good, and they really should pay T&S for my saying that.
Ready to get gaslighted? (“We are!” said no one, ever.) A play coming up at Gaslight Theater from Dec. 6 through 22 sounds worth checking out, though. David Mamet, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of Glengarry Glen Ross, also penned A Life in the Theater, which explores the lives of two actors: John, young and experiencing the first flush of success, and Robert, older, anxious and beginning to wane. Their short, spare and increasingly raw exchanges reveal the estrangement of youth from age and the inevitable and endless cycle of life, onstage and off.
town & country
Just try and find a St. Louis Blues hat anywhere nowadays. OK, then; how about a few dozen? Well, much of this year—after a certain amazing hockey game you may have heard about that was played in Boston June 12—they were as scarce as hairs on the top of Joe Biden’s head. Robin Snitzer, the ‘solopreneur’ behind SparkleSports, which decorates apparel with genuine Swarovski crystals (the brand originated in Austria), sells Blues hats that sparkle like the ice crystals kicked up by Ryan O’Reilly’s skates. Say you don’t bleed blue? No worries. You can be assured that, especially at this time of year, Snitzer stays plenty busy embellishing licensed hats, headbands, and visors for professional and college football, baseball and hockey teams, women’s basketball teams, little girls and babies. She has grown SparkleSports to the point where she sells her products in six boutiques on both sides of the Mississippi. We met with the Town & Country resident where it all started, at Ju Ju B’s in Chesterfield. In 2005, an owner of the then-new boutique and spa was enthralled by Snitzer’s glittery creations and encouraged her to do more. So Snitzer went all in. At that point, she had been operating out of her basement (where she is still ‘headquartered’ today) since Dec. 23, 2004. Snitzer has built up a great social media presence, does a good chunk of her sales online, and is very generous when it comes to community involvement. (We’ll get to that in just a few lines, but please don’t peek. It’s a surprise!) Private school moms bring in their kids’ hats. Well, what about women’s lacrosse hats? Patience, people; she’s attaching crystals—she works with eight colors—as fast as she can. Speaking of speed, you can watch Snitzer decorate a hat on her Instagram feed, which, we opine, is almost as much fun as watching a cat video. OK, it’s been sped up. Although you’d think she works at light speed and/or employs an army to get it done, she does it all herself. Snitzer must have calluses on her fingers from all of that labor with needle and thread. Nope. She applies each crystal, individually, with E6000 clear adhesive: “I have to wear a respirator,” she notes. She isn’t doing this to get rich. Most of her profits that don’t get folded back into the business, she pays forward. Once the year winds down to Boxing Day, she has an idea about how much SparkleSports will be able to do for first responders throughout the metro. Last year, she surprised Glendale and Kirkwood police and firefighters. Many are women, and many of those who aren’t have significant others (or, with the gift of a unique, sparkly hat, maybe they will soon?). Last holiday season, she showed up with about 65 hats. To each of them, Snitzer applies a thin red or blue line, or gold for the oft-overlooked dispatchers. Where will Snitzer strike next, and with how many hats? Only the twinkly hat lady knows. Speaking of high school, she graduated from Steubenville High. (Steubenville, Ohio: “My dad went to school with Dean Martin.” Only Buckeye state insiders like Snitzer would know that the name in her dad’s yearbook under the future entertainer’s photo is Dino Paul Crocetti.) Visit sparklesports.com.