Talk of the Towns: 5.14.14
For four days in the valley, it looked and sounded like an aerial military campaign, from World War II to the present. Practicing for two days in advance of the first air show at Spirit of St. Louis Airport in seven years, the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels roared low overhead in formation, startling drivers, pedestrians and unsuspecting outlet shoppers alike. Then came the weekend, and more vintage aircraft. A gull-winged WWII carrier plane, an F4U Corsair, came in low over the crowd of thousands. A B-17 Flying Fortress bomber rumbled in on its four propellers. Daredevil and stunt pilots caused hearts to stop … then start again. Butthere was nothing to compare with the F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets, whose seasoned Navy pilots perfected their trademark tight diamond formations. Observers say it was like getting treated to the climax of a fireworks display for four days straight! Those who could get close enough, that is. From the city, westbound traffic on Interstate 64 slowed to a crawl right at I-270. A 15-minute stretch took between one and two hours to cover. Many wished they were aboard the Vietnam-era choppers overhead. Not long after passing Chesterfield Mall, many frustrated drivers pulled to the shoulder and just watched from there. It was a snarl not likely seen by most St. Louisans. (Unless they have visited L.A.)
Some people are afraid of clowns. Others are spooked by a mug shot of the guy who threatened his mom because he didn’t want to enter drug treatment. During an argument, he allegedly had a gun in his waistband and shook his fist at her. After she called Des Peres police to report that he was delusional and she feared for her life, that’s when he really started acting like, well, he was on drugs. Cops arrived, spotting him in the driveway, but lost him after he took off on foot. Good son that he may well be sans intoxicants, the guy soon called Mom from Des Peres Cinema, whereupon authorities put the movie theater and two nearby schools on lockdown. Very good move, although searches came up empty. Apparently he was still on the lam, because citizens reported seeing a man running through their yards. Cops caught up with him about two hours later, about 2 miles away from his mom’s home. No one was hurt in an incident that involved dozens of officers from several departments. They found no weapon. Is that a good thing? Maybe not. This fellow reportedly has a concealed-carry permit. Who, in heaven’s name, thought that was a good move?
Just how well is Mike Johnson’s latest restaurant, Sugarfire Smokehouse, doing at 9200 Olive Blvd. in Olivette? Well enough that the peripatetic restaurateur just opened his second location in St. Charles. We’ll see how well this pulled-pork palace does in a former Chuck-A-Burger location … and how much further it goes. Gustatory history tells us that Johnson is not one to aim low. He’s opened and closed 10 or so fine dining establishments in town. Before that, he worked at Emeril’s in New Orleans and Chicago, and was a chef in Colorado ski country, in California’s wine country and abroad. Now, life is a little less high-brow for Johnson, but as a pitmaster it’s anything but the pits—Sugarfire’s third location, in O’Fallon, Mo., is in the works. Will he then take over the world? He just might. Meanwhile, one way to determine an honest-to-goodness barbecue joint is its business hours. During the week Sugarfire is open from 11 a.m. until “whenever they sell out.”
Brentwood’s loss is Richmond Heights’ gain: Boys Hope Girls Hope will build a group home for disadvantaged youth here. Brentwood residents near the first site proposed for the project were effective in stalling the development—the buildings were too large, they argued. Read: Not in our back yard. The five lots on Elinor Avenue in Richmond Heights are near a QuikTrip that is under construction on Hanley Road, so if anyone were to say, ‘There goes the neighborhood,’ well, it already went. But that’s just silly, in any case. The project is a positive development. BHGH provides a road map to college, if you will. The nonprofit’s mission: “BHGH helps academically capable and motivated children-in-need to meet their full potential and become men and women for others by providing value-centered, family-like homes, opportunities and education through college.” These are not ‘problem children,’ althought most come from families in dire financial need. BHGH homes stand in 14 other big cities from coast to coast.
[town & country]
The earth is moving in Town & Country, and in a big way, on the site where a state highway patrol district facility once stood just north of Interstate 64 at Mason Road. Grading is underway for BJC HealthCare’s longplanned pediatric outpatient surgery center. BJC has owned the 16-some acres since 2006, and once the proposal surfaced, and they couldn’t put the kibosh on it, residents and city officials worked hard to rein it in. The provider behaved in a quite neighborly fashion by pulling in its horns, opting for only a single medical building, and replacing a garage with surface lots. The city in January approved the scaled-down—then tweaked and re-tweaked—plans for the project, but BJC still had to run the gauntlet of T&C’s rigorous building permit process. The medical facility will have a footprint of 141,000 square feet and is projected to open in the summer of 2015.
Boo Boo the bear cub has been spared! The little feller was part of a petting zoo brought to Washington University to help students relax right before finals. The cub, scarcely two months old, looks like a teddy bear, indeed. But the oh-so-cute carnivore scratched or bit at least 18 students, which is enough in itself to put a chill on the chill-out factor … but then there was a rabies scare to make nail-biters gnaw clear down to the bone. At first it was reported that the cub would have to be put down, because the only way to test for rabies is to autopsy the brain of a potentially diseased animal. Otherwise, the already wigged-out students might have had to worry about, horrors, the onset of symptoms. But the story ends well for the cub, as well as for students who received boo-boos from Boo Boo. Health officials determined that he posed no rabies threat. Stephen Colbert, perhaps, is right-on with his frequent exhortations that bears, not Republicans, are the No. 1 threat to America. Sure, they come into the world all cute, then they mutate into mauling, meat-eating heavies.
Cornealious ‘Mike’ Anderson, the man who lived in Webster Groves for more than a decade when he should have been serving a prison sentence, is now free— officially. The clerical error of a decade ago meant the Department of Corrections simply forgot about him until last summer, allowing Anderson to build a life for himself as a law-abiding, productive member of society. He married and started a family and a carpentry business. He’s paid taxes, volunteered at church and coached his son’s youth football team. He didn’t try to disappear, attempting at least once to find out when he was supposed to report to prison! But last July the system caught up with him, a SWAT team snatched him from his home and he was sent away. Meanwhile, the man Anderson held up at gunpoint thought prison time now wouldn’t be helpful. (Anderson was convicted of a 1999 Burger King robbery.) The judge agreed, crediting his time outside the klink to time served and releasing him on May 5. A changed man, indeed.
Predictable as a fortune cookie, a mix of messages beckons from the marquee in front of a Kirkwood auto shop along a big bend in Big Bend. Sorta romantic, for Valentine’s Day: ‘Flowers tell her you love her. New tires tell her you can’t live without her.’ (Awww …) And the hits just keep on coming for the man named Rob Compton, aka Babaloo, jack-of-all-trades who writes, records and performs music for kids. He also pens, borrows, steals and/or adapts witticisms for the oft-changing signs in front of Combs Auto Service and Tire Center. Last week, the message was, like, all New Agey about relationships: ‘You’ll fall in love with our tires, but please don’t try to change them.’ (A divorced man scratches his beard.) Another so-called ‘Sign of the Times’ from the cosmic playbook: ‘Only when a tire achieves perfect balance, can it become one with its inner tube.’ A personal favorite from a few years back: ‘Honk if you hate senseless noise.’ And on the other side, the sign featured one of the bestall-time George Carlin riffs: ‘Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?’
By Bill Beggs Jr.