Talk of the Towns

Talk of the Towns: 6.5.19

the metro
They call motorcycle helmets ‘brain buckets’ for good reason, but we think bikers who want the freedom to go without them have lost their minds already. This summer, Gov. Mike Parson is expected to sign into law a bill making helmets optional for riders 18 or older. A lobbyist working in Jefferson City on behalf of bikers has asserted, natch, that the government should stop messing with their personal business. (We surmise the lobbyist is paid quite handsomely to spout such stupidity.) In a tragic irony, during a 2011 ride by bikers protesting a helmet law in New York, one rider flew over his handlebars and died of a head injury. A doctor said a helmet would have saved his life. So it stands to reason that, without the helmet law, more fatalities are likely to occur; research shows that deaths have spiked in Illinois and other states with relaxed helmet requirements. The Missouri law would put the onus on riders further by requiring that bikers and passengers have health insurance that will provide benefits for motorcycle (or motor-tricycle) injuries suffered as a result of not wearing a helmet. (I don’t recall ever seeing a ‘triker’ without a helmet. Perhaps they’re not Easy Rider-style rebels. Nor have I seen bikes with both side compartments and helmet-free riders in the saddle. Few appear to be renegades, just retirees with enough sense to get wherever they’re going in one piece.) Bikers suffer from much more than ‘road rash’ in helmet-free accidents. They don’t have thick skulls … literally. In searching for a helmet-free biker photo to accompany this item, we weren’t prepared for gory results. Several must have been taken by first responders. Imagine a melon hitting pavement at 70 mph. It’s horrific; you can’t unsee it.

grand center
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free …” Since 1886, Lady Liberty has been a beacon of hope to immigrants seeking a better life—unless you’re Irish, in which case you need not apply for work. Oh, my; but that was then. A landmark play, God of Vengeance, was a love story about unconventional passion that debuted on Broadway in 1923. Production was stopped after six weeks when the cast, producer and a theater owner were arrested on the grounds of obscenity. (It featured—OMG—a same-sex kiss!) And this was after the play was rapturously received in Europe, even with right-wing nationalism on the rise. From June 20 to 30 at The Grandel in Grand Center, you can experience this story within a story: a play about the play, the outrageous responses to it and the courageous artists who risked their careers and lives to perform it. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel created Indecent—which had a Tony-winning run in 2017 on Broadway—to tell the true story of the groundbreaking, ‘scandalous’ play, its fate, and that of the actors who cherished it even as they confronted the horrors of Nazism. Seven actors and three musicians play myriad roles across continents and decades. This collage of theater, music, dance and poetry affirms the transformative power of love and art in an era of chaos. Timely, perhaps?

maryland heights
An oxbow lake—an orphaned bend of the Missouri River and one of our state’s largest natural lakes—is the biggest deal in the biggest county park. But these days, the lake is an even bigger deal, given that the Missouri has overflowed into Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park. The water, water, everywhere has postponed a free outdoor festival, Life Outside, until sometime after Labor Day. The annual summer celebration was set for this Saturday (June 8). So what will we miss, for now? There is no cost to attend, park or participate, to start. Adults and kids will be able to try gaga ball, human foosball, stand-up paddleboarding, mountain biking, geocaching, fishing, yoga, etc. Well, what about kayaking? Yes. Canoeing? Indeed. OK, then; how about yoga on a stand-up paddleboard? You bet. Popular food trucks will be on hand. And while there’s no free lunch, as they say, drinking water in reusable bottles and sunscreen will be complimentary, as will enjoying any of 18 musical acts performing on several stages throughout the day. Worth waiting for. Save your waders for fly fishing … somewhere.

Ever feel like running away and joining the circus? Well, how about not having to start at the entry level, walking behind elephants with a shovel? Instead, you can float through the air with the greatest of ease … on the flying trapeze! Circus Harmony is taking its goal of defying gravity to new heights with TrapezeSTL, where you can hold on … until you just let go. It’s a place where you can learn to soar through the air. Elsewhere throughout the area, there’s skydiving, floating in water in absolute silence for serenity and even race car driving. Chesterfield Mall used to have a trampoline-style attraction where kids would get strapped in and be raised to great heights on safety harnesses; maybe it’s still there, since area malls are becoming more like entertainment attractions and less like shopping centers. (But who goes there anymore? Well, that’s another story.) Most folks who paid to play at the mall were kids, anyhow. The trapeze is a fun activity for families, birthday parties and team building events. Here, anyone older than 6 and lighter than 200 pounds can get strapped into the harness for Wallenda-style flight. But, unlike that legendary circus family, you’ll be working with a net. Whew. While the center does accept walk-ups, classes must consist of three or more students. Formerly at St. Louis Union Station, TrapezeSTL is behind the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Chesterfield.


notable neighbors
In the corporate world, as harried employees race around the office like cockroaches scattering when you turn on the light, movers and shakers might say: “If you want to get something done, make sure to give it to a busy person.” On the day of our interview, it was supposed to be a vacation day for Susan Trautman, who has been running the show at Great Rivers Greenway since 2010. But she was pretty doggone busy working. She had to move up our scheduled interview time because she also had meetings scheduled for 2 and 4:15 p.m. And it didn’t look as though she’d be able to get away for the long bicycle ride she’d hoped for along a greenway somewhere. If you can visualize The Lou’s web of greenways—an ever-expanding network of pathways for walking, running and cycling—as the circulatory system between major highway arteries, Trautman and her staff are the heart. Great Rivers is the public agency connecting the city and county, as well as St. Charles County, with the ‘capillaries’ that keep people safely off the metro’s streets and highways. The continuing work is a veritable miracle of collaboration among 250 partners throughout the metro. And the listening continues after a section is complete, Trautman says. “We always ask, did we get it right? Greenways are not meant only for personal well-being, but for civic well-being,” she notes. Work has been somewhat slowed so far this year by rainfall, but it continues from the Cortex district to the crossing over Highways 364 and 94 in West County to the Katy Trail and back to the complicated intersection of McKnight Road and Delmar Boulevard, with the I-170 entrance and exit ramps just adjacent. (There, work is soon to be completed on the Centennial Greenway, reducing the pathway from three to two road crossings, adding signage and signals, and painting crosswalks the absolute brightest green imaginable.) MoDOT has been a great partner throughout the process. Others? Trautman chuckles: “Challenges also can be opportunities.” In some communities, residents welcome the greenway as a neighborhood enhancement. For one thing, the route often takes advantage of existing railroad right-of-way. Motorists today may have to wait for cyclists, runners and walkers to cross an intersection, when before it may have been a slow-moving freight. Many future pathways still are obscured by overgrowth, but the ‘heart surgeons’ (read: landscape architects) will clear the blockage in due time. To see how a greenway is progressing near you, visit