Talk of the Towns

Talk of the Towns: 2.26.20

university city
Dear readers, this may be our last installment in the saga of the Loop Trolley (pictured at top). It doesn’t look like Bi-State Development Agency will bail it out, despite entreaties from the likes of Lyda Krewson, mayor of St. Louis. Those who’ve followed this column for a few years may recall that I was once a giddy fan of the plan because: Vintage. Trolley. Cool! After that prolonged dizzy spell, I started to realize how impractical it is, or was. With apologies both to one of the greatest streets in America and the Jewel of the Metro, it goes from Delmar to the history museum in Forest Park for no dang reason. But during its short run—less than a year—it got off to a slow start, kept breaking down and didn’t come close to ridership goals. Now, there’s the issue of the Federal Transit Administration perhaps attempting to recoup the $25 million they kicked in to get the ill-fated trolley rolling. So currently, I think just three things of this failed ‘amusement’: One. Hot. Mess.

Parkway Central has at least one formerly notable alum from the class of 1989: Michael Avenatti, the disgraced former attorney for alleged Trump mistress Stormy Daniels. He was a glib, high-flying pundit on the likes of CNN and MSNBC when it seemed that the only news fit to print or air was about the porn star and likewise eventually disgraced (pre-Giuliani) Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. But this Valentine’s Day, Avenatti was convicted of trying to extort $25 million from Nike. From tawdry to tawdry: Wasting no time, Wikipedia now lists him as “an American attorney and convicted felon.” Avenatti, 49, faces up to 40 years in prison at sentencing. And he seemed to have everything going for him: Starting at SLU, he went on to attend the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned his bachelor’s degree. He graduated with a J.D. in 2000 from The George Washington University Law School. In early 2018, he was flying so high that many might have thought he was capable of becoming an astronaut, logging 108 appearances on CNN and MSNBC between March and May that year. Truth be told, he was a race car driver, having participated in 33 races in the United States and Europe since 2010. And, in 2018, he went so far as to announce his candidacy for the 2020 presidential race. The Washington Post even named him a top 15 contender at the time—among how many … 42? It appears that our former metro resident will not need to worry about wearing expensive suits and ties for some time, irrespective of the eventual sentence handed down for the Nike debacle. He’s also suspected of scamming Daniels (Stephanie Clifford) out of $300,000 from a book deal, as well as swindling millions from a raft of other clients. Wherever he winds up, bright orange may be his only fashion choice. And it doesn’t look like he’ll be able to make Parkway Central’s 50th reunion in 2039.

the metro
We have news about The Loop (see our University City item), but there’s other ‘loopy’ news to report: A 640 mph low-friction tube system—a hyperloop—could one day whisk travelers from K.C. to the StL in 30 minutes, proponents say … maybe a little longer with a stop in Columbia. Currently, the trip takes four hours by car via Interstate 70. A bill has cleared the Missouri house for what could one day be A.) a truly green, cost-efficient means to cross the state or B.) Missouri’s biggest boondoggle to date, a pipe dream that the Show-Me State would rather keep under wraps. One estimate of the eventual cost: $30 million per mile. (That’s $7.5 billion to go a piddly 250 miles or so! Somebody call Greyhound! Somebody else go on!) Proponents, again, say such a system could save $500 million per year in fuel costs and less highway mayhem along I-70—notwithstanding potential cost overruns and missed completion dates. But in a perfect world, that could never happen, right? Well, a perfect world is as unlikely as a perfect phone call, which is just our brilliant, well-considered opinion.

st. charles
Road construction, irrespective of necessary repairs or improvements, is just a terribly awful inconvenience and a real pain in the neck, especially for you drivers who tend to whine behind the wheel. Now, don’t roll down your windows and shout expletives at us because you shouldn’t be reading this fine magazine while driving, and we won’t hear you anyway! Despite potential road rage from knuckleheads inclined to such aberrant behavior, the Blanchette Memorial Bridge carrying Interstate 70 across the Missouri River to St. Charles now has fewer lanes open in order to rehab the eastbound deck and approaches, a project anticipated to cost $33 million, including painting. At times, the project will require closing lanes to westbound traffic. As of next month, the eastbound on-ramp from Veterans Memorial Parkway at the city’s Convention Center will be closed, not to reopen until November. Two eastbound lanes will move to the westbound deck for a spell. Sounds like a snarl, doesn’t it? Plan appropriately, since the Blanchette Bridge is the busiest of the several Missouri River crossings available. MoDOT recommends considering the Boone Bridge on Interstate 64 that crosses the river, or two other crossings on Route 370 and Route 364. If traveling by canoe, please disregard what you just read. Let’s just say, portage may be an alternative.

notable neighbors: clayton
Imagine your great-grandmother’s or grandmother’s patchwork quilts. Now, try to erase that quaint, rustic image from your mind. (It might be easier simply to look at the colorful photo that accompanies this story.) Suzanne Marshall, 80, wasn’t another in a long line of quilters who came up in a rural family. She didn’t learn the skill from her mother who learned it from hers, and so on back through the decades, centuries perhaps. It wasn’t simply a creative way to while away her spare time. Rather, it was quite practical. “Our four children needed covers on their beds,” Marshall says, matter-of-factly. So, she started quilting 40 years ago—with nary a lesson. She just started poking needle through fabric and into her finger, and still does.

Suffice it to say her technique is unique. “I had no one telling me how to do it,” says Marshall, in her lap an atypical (typical for her) work in progress. “I had to figure it out on my own.” Peeking out from her lap was a fantastic (as in the stuff of fantasy), somewhat elephantine creature. She adapted the being, a biped, from woodcuts in a 16th-century text, The Drolatic Dreams of Pantagruel. Some in the text are as grotesque as anything by Bosch, many actually bawdy enough to be NSFW, but Marshall’s adaptations are the stuff of whimsy. She’s also written books about her experience as a hand quilter, Quilts … from Concept to Contest, being one. She’s won a slew of competitions and has two pieces in the permanent collection of the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky. (Marshall has won monetary prizes that even a Jeopardy! winner might not sniff at: as much as $12,000.) One of her creations was named among the 20th century’s 100 best American quilts. (Plug ‘toujour nouveau quilt’ into the Google machine. Wow.)

Another book is Adventure & Appliqué. “Writing doesn’t put holes in my fingers,” she says with a grin. But teaching quilting, which she’s enjoyed all over the globe starting in 1994, probably does! An interesting feature of her quilting contest book? Critiques from the judges, both positive and negative. As well as from Garland Marshall, her husband of 60 years. (He perks up in
the chair from where he’s been intently watching the photo session, not so much listening to the interview, and lovingly declares, “Somebody has to speak the truth.”) The quilt she’d brought out to hang on the living room wall for our photo resembles a Persian rug—but even more vivid, if you can
imagine. On the wall in the foyer is a black-and-white appliquéd quilt with the outlines of several nudes inspired by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt (whose gold-leafed painting was prominent in the 2015 film Woman in Gold.) Some of her favorite quilts, of course, belong to family and friends. You’d be hard-pressed to pick your favorite, we surmise. But it’s at least worth a try. Visit

St. Charles
Suzanne Marshall