Talk of the Towns: 6.25.14

Talk about secondhand smoke! A cat and a gerbil recently were rescued from Chesterfield Veterinary Clinic in the 14000 block of Olive Boulevard, right next to St. Louis Cigars, after a fire broke out at the cigar shop in the wee hours. The fire was contained in the cigar shop, but firefighters say the two animals were exposed to smoke from next door. Still, a vet staffer says they should be OK. Weeks after the fire, the pungent smell of smoke was still noticeable in the pet place. But even an aficionado of the world’s most stinky … read finest … cigar would find this odor quite nasty. It wasn’t the heady aroma of tobacco, but the acrid smell of fried wire, burnt plastic and melted insulation typical of an electrical fire. The store and gaming club remains closed for repairs, but through the window, poker chips are all lined up, ready for the next hand. Meanwhile, members will have to think up another excuse for their spouses, maybe skateboarding?

Tower Grove Park are all that—but you can’t keep a good food truck down. Clayton has teamed with area mobile muncheries to showcase Shaw Park in a few very important appearances there. If you missed the recent June 8 evening of eating, listening and frolicking, you still have July 13 and Aug. 10 to make an afternoon of it (4 to 8 p.m.). July’s music comes from a band named Vote For Pedro; kids’ entertainment is provided by Bubble Bus. The band’s name derives from the cult film Napoleon Dynamite (apropos). As a rule, food trucks sport edgy, ‘indy’ monikers. July’s mobile lineup includes: 2 Girls 4 Wheels, Cha-Chas’s, Curbside Cookery, Deli on a Roll, Destination Desserts, Guerrilla Street, Hot Aztec, Sarah’s Cake Stop, Smoke N Motion, Vincent Van Doughnut … (What? No Seoul Taco? They aren’t on the list for August, either.) Bring one, bring all, bring lawn chairs. No charge … except for the foodular items, of course.

Inside the Little Free Library, there’s no card catalog. No help desk. There’s no room in there for anything but books, not even a help-yourself desk. But that’s the whole idea. Take what you like, keep it for as long as you want, and when you return it, donate another one and maybe more. We’ve dropped by a couple of these homey and not-much-bigger-than-a-breadbox libraries, one of which was filled largely with textbooks. (Eww. It’s summer.) But there’s something extra-special about this painted one with shutters in an Olivette neighborhood. It leaned more toward kids books … and thrillers … which makes total sense, considering it’s the home of Stephen King’s niece Kathleen! The pay-it-forward concept is nothing new, although this spin is especially refreshing for kids. It’s about sharing and conservation, not to mention the message that sometimes less is more.

[st. charles]
Green camo cap? Check. Coordinating green knit shirt? Check. What to wear if you’re going to see your parole officer? Well, this hapless knucklehead didn’t have an appointment, but the corrections employee sure saw him—on surveillance video, trying to rob a bank. And how’d that work out for him? Our miscreant told a teller at a Bank of America in St. Charles there was a bomb in the building, demanded only $50 and $100 bills, then managed to leave empty-handed one Monday morning, and he’d even brought an envelope for the teller’s convenience.

By that evening he was in the clink, probably wishing he had a boatload of those Benjamins to make his $100,000 cash-only bail … although they probably wouldn’t let you do that, would they? Anyhow, along with the untold thousands of viewers and net surfers who got to see him all dressed up to go hunting was a parole officer he’d been assigned when he was released from the big house, courtesy of a 1999 armed robbery in St. Louis County. Sigh. In any career, experience counts. But dude, you’ve got to stay outside to get it.

[st. louis]
Seventy years ago June 6, if ‘the longest day’ hadn’t come off like it did, the modern world atlas might look radically different. But D-Day, the Allied invasion of Fortress Europe, turned the tide against Nazi Germany. St. Louis Public Library and the National Churchill Museum this month kicked off a yearlong series featuring monthly screenings of movies set during World War II, complete with discussions that put each film in historical context. Films include Battle of Britain, Battle of the Bulge, Das Boot, Downfall, Memphis Belle, The Cruel Sea, The Dam Busters … and, of course, The Longest Day. The next screening is The Great Escape at 1:15 p.m. July 13. On June, 1 a discussion led by Kit Freudenberg, acting director of the National Churchill Museum, followed a showing of the Academy Award-winning The Bridge on the River Kwai.

[university city]
Does a high-five from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) equal impending construction of the Loop Trolley? Well, for a project so long on the horizon, it appears the horizon is upon us. The Loop Trolley Transit Development District (TDD) plans to issue construction bid packages this month, with building expected to begin later this summer. Mokhtee Ahmad, FTA regional administrator, reportedly seemed pretty pumped at a recent quarterly meeting. Ahmad presented framed posters to Joe Edwards and Chris Poehler with the slogan: “When it comes to streetcars, I turn red into green.” (Edwards, chairman of the Loop Trolley TDD, is owner of Blueberry Hill and The Pageant, and a famously staunch promoter of revitalization in and around the Delmar Loop; Poehler is the Loop Trolley TDD administrator.) How big a deal is this? The Loop Trolley is one of only five projects, out of 65 proposed nationwide, to receive an FTA Urban Circulator Grant. The $25 million FTA grant is the major funding source for this $43 million fixed-route electric trolley system. Way to go!

[sunset hills]
Did they jump or were they pushed? The (former) lead ad agency for Sunset Hills-based Panera says they threw up their hands in frustration with frequent changes in direction and infighting, among other things, and walked. But toppers at the bagel-sandwich-salad shops say the company was reviewing its account with Chicago agency Cramer-Krasselt, and the agency declined to participate. This is one insiders may talk about for, well, another week. Anyone who’s been in the agency biz, and maybe a few folks who’ve seen Mad Men, knows that it’s all hands on deck when your agency is under scrutiny. (That’s right; if you don’t come in on Saturday, don’t even think about showing up Monday.) Those under the illusion that advertising is a cushy job or a pony ride are about to get busted by a bronc. Indeed, the stakes are high: Give or take a few grand, Panera reportedly spends $94 million annually on its national advertising program—there are 1,500-plus of the bakery cafés in the U.S. Already, Panera has no shortage of suitors. Just a few days after the ‘divorce,’ Manifest Digital, with Chicago and St. Louis offices, showed up on the doorstep with a 40-second video touting its ‘superior ingredient.’

Panera, like any business, wants a big bang for its buck, and ‘breakthrough creative’ is the coin of this realm. Brings to mind a billboard for salads: ‘Seize the Summer. Seize the Salad.’ I’d hope that during the creative brainstorm some intern, at least, suggested ‘Seize the Caesar.’

By Bill Beggs Jr.

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