Talk of the Towns: 8.26.20
Does the federal ‘gummint’ hate the mail? It appears there is a strong distaste for postal equipment, personnel and infrastructure. Awhile back—reportedly upon the order of Louis DeJoy, a generous Republican donor recently named U.S. Postmaster General—workers started unbolting and removing those familiar streetside, blue U.S. mailboxes from Montana municipalities and elsewhere—there was also a bunch stacked up in Wisconsin. ‘Decommissioning’ activity was suspended once the media put up a fuss; DeJoy then agreed to testify before Congress. Meanwhile, for weeks the Trump administration had been removing expensive sorting machines from U.S. post offices, ostensibly as a cost-saving measure. No word as of this writing on whether the mailboxes and sophisticated, multimillion-dollar sorting machines will be returned or replaced. (Maybe the president will explain his rationale sometime during his third term.) Oh, my … if we go all the way back to the Pony Express, what to do with post office buildings? They have enough square footage to be repurposed as art galleries. And you know, many already are: A long, rectangular, utilitarian slab of city architecture—the main city post office at 1720 Market St.—is like a gift, with murals lining both sides of the lobby. During the four-term administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, from the depths of the Great Depression to nearly the end of World War II, hundreds of artists nationwide painted more than a thousand murals to lift the American spirit. (There’s one in the U. City post office, too.) Typically, the projects were completed by unemployed artists. Criminy—a lightbulb just came on right above my head! My vision: Scores of unemployed artists jumping at the chance to paint and sculpt, even just to keep the mail going. However, I am loath to reveal more about my brilliant idea—it’s proprietary. As it’s intellectual property, the Chinese will try to steal it, even though it’s inside my head. And that would make an awful mess.
It stands to reason that even the Plein Air Festival is virtual this year, which is to say artists can begin painting outdoor U. City scenes anytime the weather suits, rather than having to stake a claim on a particular weekend to set up an easel and complete a masterpiece. This go-round, the event’s fifth year, will require artists to upload their works digitally well in advance of judging and awards at an Oct. 4 virtual celebration. Then the people, which includes you, also will have more than enough time to weigh in on the People’s Choice award. For more information, instructions to enter your painting in the competition, and to view works as they are submitted, visit ucityinbloom.org/pleinair; for an entry form, email email@example.com.
So, we finally have a name for our pro soccer team, even though the impressive new stadium being built to accommodate contests won’t be ready for quite some time. We don’t begin Major League Soccer play until 2023; the original join date was ‘socially distanced’ by a full year. Seems some folks really don’t think this COVID-19 thing will just go away. Who knows? It may be that thousands of cardboard cutouts of fans may need to be placed in three out of four stadium seats until avoiding others is no longer a thing. Then, what about concerts? Workouts and classes with others, in person? Sharing the peace at church? Hugs? Handshakes? Thumb wrestling? Oh, yeah—the name of our MLS team. Sorry: Drum roll, please … oh, heck; it’s been all over local print and broadcast news, so we won’t make you wait much longer for The. Big. Reveal. But they all sure did. Wasn’t that annoying? It was all sort of like, say, your faithful reporter making some irrelevant comment about the Great American Novel he has yet to start writing. Wouldn’t that be a … hold on a second; it’s right on the tip of my tongue … non sequitur? That’s Latin, you know, a dead language. Hardly anybody uses it anymore, except for a grade in high school. But don’t go away! We’ll be right back after these important messages. OK, OK. After all that, the long-awaited name of our MLS team is (wait for it) St. Louis City SC. Really. That sure doesn’t have the patriotic heft of a great U.K. football club, e.g., Manchester United. You can almost taste the mud, the blood and the beer. (But what do we know—we’re from the bloody colonies.) So, did the air slowly leak out of anyone else’s soccer ball? Geez. To periodically register my displeasure, I may order a whoopee cushion. Indeed, there are grounds for frustration. For one thing, MLS doesn’t even take the field until three years from now. For another, our team crest is two rivers graphically joined with the Gateway Arch, which is nice enough, but they could just lift more pizazz from the St. Louis City flag, which is way cooler than most any flag anywhere. If that triggers litigation, so what? There’s a boatload of time to settle lawsuits before the pros lace up their cleats and don uniforms. Meanwhile, there’s beaucoup MLS merch piled up for sports-starved St. Louisans, and months on end to ruin it. So, once that new T-shirt is all ‘pitted out,’ you can revert to Battlehawks sportswear. Maybe you could even dig through a box in the basement and find your vintage Steamers gear.
the delmar loop
COVID-19 is only one of the crises that LJ Punch, M.D., faces day in and day out. Four years before the novel coronavirus came into existence, the doctor, a trauma surgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, began to take on other deadly problems—opiate overdoses, bullet wounds and homelessness—as founder of the T. “Time is life” is the slogan that sums up the approach taken by Punch et al. since the concept for a unique community health and anti-violence center began to evolve in July 2016, born out of Punch’s years at WashU Medical Center and Barnes. In September 2017, the doctor enlisted paramedic Jane Hayes and Erin Andrade, M.D. and registered pharmacist. Armed with a tourniquet, paramedics are the first responders who try to save gunshot victims from bleeding out. That ancient yet still efficient method to stop profuse bleeding is represented in the logo for the center by the crossbar that angles from top left to bottom right in the ‘T.’ Pharmaceutical expertise is invaluable in many cases of opiate overdose; Narcan is another vital element in a T toolkit (in the bottom photo, the plunger of a syringe is visible in Punch’s black vest). “You have the power to control your own health outcomes, even when you’re up against life and death,” Punch says. The first training class at the T was held in March 2018, and today about 125 people volunteer: Physicians, nurses, students, physical therapists, mental-health professionals—many of whom have come out of retirement. Of course, more volunteers are needed; visit thetstl.com to find out about training at the center, 5874 Delmar Blvd. in the East Loop. “I’m on the frontier, which is always challenging, but I feel that this is what I was put on this planet to do,” says Punch, who’s busier than a one-armed paper hanger, as they say. And there’s more than enough trauma to go around, says the doctor, a committed activist in the struggle for racial and gender justice. Following an impassioned July 28 letter from Punch, who’s on the County Board of Police Commissioners, the doctor on Aug. 18 detailed critical issues directly to Mary Barton, the new county police chief. One need look no further than this morning’s newspaper headlines, or watch the first few minutes of tonight’s TV news, to realize that St. Louis is enduring simultaneous epidemics: Gun deaths, drug overdoses and homelessness are not unlike the deadly virus we all face. “They are vectors,” Punch says. “They don’t have a life in and of themselves. They need a host, whether structural, systemic or personal.” Last Saturday (Aug. 22), a storefront opened at the T: Face masks and tourniquets can be bought separately or as part of a fully loaded emergency first-aid toolkit. And if you—unlike a politician or two we know—are a conscientious Twitter user, here are just a few hashtags to follow: #T4Life, #DrPunch, #SpreadPositiviT. For more memorable hashtags, and plenty of actionable information, visit the website listed above.