the metro
‘Better Together’ is an ambitious plan to merge our more than 85 county municipalities and scores of police and fire departments with the city into a megalopolis under one charming name: Metropolitan City of St. Louis. What could possibly go wrong? The name is the first thing, in my itty-bitty, wee, little humble opinion. ‘Hometown, U.S.A.’ wouldn’t steal fire from any of our great li’l towns or city neighborhoods. But what if the name were to be chosen by voters across the ShowMe State? That’s another thing. A statewide ballot? In that case, St. Louisans should be able to make choices about places hundreds of miles from here. Important decisions. For instance, Kansas City should be in Kansas. Now, while we’re on that side of the map—Springfield is a great name for a city; most states seem to have one. But the name of ours is just in the wrong place. Voters should have the option to write in their suggestion for a new name. Like, maybe, Bruce. Why? Because voters statewide will have decided to change the name of St. Louis to Springfield. They’d need to, anyhow, because a city named after a saint is really kind of religious, and there’s that annoying separation of church and state concept. Yeah, there’ll be others that will have to drop the ‘Saint,’ so they’d need to go by Chuck, Pete and Joe from the 2020 election on, in perpetuity. Or, maybe the new constitutional amendment would allow voters to consider changing their own names every four years. (For instance, Chillicothe. Why not Gertrude?) Whew. This is all so unwieldy. Some really smart planners should start working on it now. Someone with a unique vision and intellect should head up ‘Better Together.’ Maybe even Mark Wrighton, outgoing chancellor of Washington U. (He is? Oh, that’s nice.) Finally, where would the seat of this immense new metro entity be situated? The county government center is just, well, unattractive. Modeled after the city hall in Paris, the one on Market Street would be perfect. It’s fit for a king. But let’s short-circuit the city-county squabbling. Chesterfield Mall is available—unless St. Charles County gobbles up Chesterfield.

st. louis
Could county residents, but mostly city dwellers, really be that lazy? Relax, inertia lovers—soon there’ll be no more Lime Bikes for anybody. A few months ago, we pointed out a jumble of the California company’s busted-up rental bikes fenced off in a grassy area between two buildings in an industrial part of town. Apparently, they’re not going back on the street here because Lime scooters have been all the rage since arriving a few months after hundreds of the bright green bicycles started rolling last April. The Chinese company ofo delivered scores of yellow machines, then pulled them all off the streets in what seemed like 15 minutes. What now? Well, Lime has scooter competition from Bird, a second renter that’s doing just fine, thank you. Meanwhile, Lime has expressed its desire to deliver another option for the indolent: electric-assist bikes. With the power boost, riders could go as fast as 15 mph. Zippy, they ain’t. No drop date has been mentioned, which gives one cause to wonder whether they’ll just bolt electric motors to the ones idled behind the fence. But last time we looked, lots of work was needed to make those roadworthy again. Some were missing seats, handlebar grips, GPS units. Would-be thieves tried painting some of them black. So quasi-electric two-wheelers are going to fare better with the pay-as-you-go cycling public … how? What’s been the hooligan destruction ratio in other cities? Maybe we just can’t have nice things here.

washington u.
Many in the StL speak fractured French when it comes to pronouncing thoroughfares like DeBaliviere and Gravois. That’s to be understood. Our roots are more bourgeois than truly Gallic. You can correct that, at least temporarily, over three weekends next month during the Robert Classic French Film Festival. (Champs-Élysées? OK, not now.) Works, many lovingly restored, will unspool March 8-10, 15-17 and 22-24 at Washington U.’s Brown Hall Auditorium at Forsyth and Skinker boulevards. The films are in French with English subtitles. Each program features introductions and discussions by scholars and critics. The discussions will place the works in the contexts both of film and French history. Visit

The Gathering, a Methodist church, is as welcoming a community of faith as you can find. LGBTQ people are married here, and there is a ministry called Emerge that focuses on this marginalized population. Besides the Clayton church at 101 N. Bemiston, two other congregations of The Gathering gather: The new main church on McCausland Avenue in the city, and another at Hixson Middle School on South Elm Avenue in Webster Groves. But the church is about to face not so much a threat to its existence as a challenge to continue as the denomination it is today. Homosexuality will be the only topic of discussion Feb. 23 to 26 at a special session of the General Conference (the top policymaking body of the United Methodist Church), to be held downtown at America’s Center. Three options will be debated and voted on by 864 delegates from around the world, including Rev. Matt Miofsky, lead pastor of The Gathering. Miofsky will have an opportunity to weigh in on the following:

1. One Church Plan. This plan would allow but not require United Methodist clergy to perform same-gender weddings where legal, and allow but not require ordination of LGBTQ pastors.

2. Traditional Plan. This plan would maintain the UMC’s current teaching on human sexuality.

3. Connectional Conference Plan. This plan would break the UMC into three branches across the United States. Regardless of the outcome at the General Conference, nothing will change at The Gathering. Miofsky will maintain the body’s commitment to the full inclusion of LGBTQ people, including leadership and staff positions. However, the outcome—including a ‘no resolution’ result—has the potential to splinter the Methodist Church.

notable neighbors: u. city
Used to be you could buy records at a chain store in every mall. Or at Sears. But the groove-addicted consumer knows that the only place to go for a record, a recommendation or an earful is an independent record store, the music aficionado’s mecca. And we have one of the nation’s 10 best (according to national mainstream daily USA Today) right here in The Delmar Loop: Vintage Vinyl. The alternative press has been singing its praises for years. The lion’s share of credit goes to owner Tom ‘Papa’ Ray (pictured), who’s been there 39 years at its present location across the street from the bronze of Chuck Berry duck-walkin’. Ray, who’s been spinning R&B on KDHX for three decades as the Soul Selector, is now on the hunt for a TV audience with Papa Ray’s Vintage Vinyl Roadshow, a 26-episode series that takes viewers from NYC to the Big Easy, Japan to the U.K. And even Kingston, Jamaica! Papa Ray is presently shopping the series to cable networks. (Your faithful scribe, who’s haunted record stores since buying Abbey Road in 1969, can’t wait.) Ray has been referred to, tongue partly in cheek, as the ‘Anthony Bourdain of Indie Record Stores.’ As he strokes his Wolfman Jack goatee for a moment, he points out that if people watch shows about cupcakes, why not vinyl? Indie record stores are ground zero for the resurgence of the 12-inch LP or 7-inch single. But they don’t pop or click like those well-worn Otis Redding, Elvis and Beatles records some baby boomers abused as teenagers; today’s vinyl has a warm, honest sound and feel that are not possible digitally, whether via CD, iTunes or Spotify. Although Vintage Vinyl is the outgrowth of a ‘music-obsessive’ man’s desire to be in the business on his own terms, Ray has played for peanuts in a variety of bands over the years and joyfully recalls his time on the road in the U.K. with a band called Vintage Trouble. Ray was the itinerant DJ, spinning discs of American R&B, the likes of hometown hero Alvin Cash, between band sets. Audiences and dancers loved it. “The British have a greater appreciation for American music than the average American does,” he says. What? Of course. The Beatles and Stones had great success with covers of Chuck Berry hits.

Photo: Bill Barrett