Talk of the Towns: 9.9.20
Today’s latest on COVID-19 isn’t the only bad news out there, and since rising coronavirus body counts have become so mind-numbingly routine, it may be a stretch to call it news, anyway. (At least we didn’t use the same knee-jerk phrase other media outlets can’t seem to avoid: ‘It’s our new normal.’) Near the end of the Longest Doggone August on record, our Show-Me State legislature showed us a few new laws: Motorcycle helmets are optional, for one. Really. (And, whoa! Our search for a suitable photo of a biker sans helmet yielded several riders without complete heads. Be careful what you ask that Google machine for…) Used to be, Missouri was one of 19 states that required helmets—but as of Aug. 28, this ordinary Midwestern state probably looks more lush and verdant on the open road with whatever hair you have left flowing in the breeze, which helmet-haters claim is freedom. Now, we’re among the 32 states where it’s up to the rider to wear a helmet. (Of course, a toupee will fly right off, land on the shoulder and look just like roadkill.) Part of the just-enacted law is that riders who don’t wear a ‘brain bucket’ must carry proof that their insurance will cover catastrophic injury, which is probable in a crash without skull protection. But since cops can’t just pull over bikers willy-nilly, who’s gonna know? Well, when someone disconnects the feeding tube of a brain-injured, uninsured biker who’s languished in a coma since that last moment of precious freedom, it’s us: the taxpayers. And that’s really disgusting. But hey—the last legislative session wasn’t all gloom and doom. Another new law narrowly defines what can and can’t be considered a service animal. Dogs and miniature horses? Can. Freddie the ferret, Goldie the koi or Princess the prizewinning Persian longhair? Can’t. So, don’t try to pass off Arnie the armadillo as an emotional support animal to get special consideration of some sort. And nobody will believe Arnie is a luxury handbag, either. He smells bad.
Good news about the striking, historic mansion at Shaw and South Grand boulevards, a 19th-century Victorian stunner that had been vacant for some time before it became office space in the 1980s. It’s not going anywhere. Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri has sold the building to a holding company and will lease back the space to capitalize on the value of the real estate to improve and increase access to services. The house was designed by Theodore Link, renowned architect of Union Station and many structures in the StL, including the guardhouse and gate complex separating the entrance to Westmoreland Place from Kingshighway on the easternmost end of the DeBaliviere Place neighborhood. An exec at the holding company said that, despite the pandemic-fueled downturn, the property was listed after stay-at-home orders had been issued and sold for the $631,000 list price, with the deal closing last month. Originally built to be a home suitable for a lumber magnate, the mansion is directly across Grand from Compton Hill Reservoir Park and its iconic 1898 water tower.
One of the first shots fired in a ‘guerrilla war’ that’s spread throughout the metro—well, some would call it a friendly, yet vigorous, competition—rang out when the Guerrilla Street Food food truck (redundant, maybe?) hit the street in 2011. For the last nine years, the food truck has been rated among the best in the Lou, usually right up there with the Seoul Taco and Balkan Treat Box trucks. Like some competitors that started preparing and selling their goodies to hungry customers on the sidewalks and elsewhere around town, Guerrilla Street Food also went stationary, capitalizing on its fortunes by opening brick-and-mortar restaurants featuring the Filipino-styled menu. Locations popped up in U. City, St. Charles, two spots in St. Louis, Maryland Heights and Webster Groves. Then, they started going away. St. Charles closed late last year. At the end of August, two of the remaining three locations closed: The Loop in U. City and the last remaining St. Louis location at 2nd Shift Brewing in south city. So, at least for the time being, the guerrillas appear to have holstered their semiautomatics on stores without wheels—save one: 43 S. Old Orchard Ave. in Webster Groves. After a week’s closure to ‘transition and refocus,’ that location was slated to reopen yesterday (Tuesday, Sept. 8). In this reporter’s humble, yet estimable, opinion, it’s some of the best fast-casual dining anywhere. As in: Yummers.
Part of this story is about a woman meeting Mr. Right. It’s not the main thrust of the narrative, by any means, but we figured it might be best to get it, and the accompanying rimshot, out of the way. Dina Yanker started her graphic-design career in the creative department at the former Louis London ad agency. In 1991, that’s where she met Mr. Right. They fell in love, got married and have had four children together. His name? Mike Right. (Rimshot.) Dina Right and her husband operate freelance creative operations out of their home in Oakville. You probably know his work: He’s the creative force of nature behind those whimsical Redbirds images as illustrator of the official St. Louis Cardinals scorecard since 2003. Now, his wife is One Odd Bird—that is, she’s owned the website oneoddbird.com for a year or so, creating whimsical designs for any number of items. Another native St. Louisan, Lori Samuels, started the concept in San Marino, Calif., as Colori, a purveyor of luxury leather goods. Right came aboard as a freelance designer, and was chief cook and bottle washer—i.e., creative director—when Samuels moved the business from the left coast back to the Lou. Then, she up and retired … donating the website to Right, who remembers Samuels exclaiming, “I mean, you’ve designed everything!” Meanwhile, Right had remained busy with ongoing projects, e.g. as a contractor for clients such as Prairie Farms, for whom she still does package design. (She was preparing for a Zoom call with Purina right after our interview.) Indeed, managing to make a living as a freelancer can be quite the dizzying ride. “Pivoting is what we do,” she says. “You must be able to turn on a dime.” No clock-punching, 9-to-5 days for either Right. Before the pandemic forced everyone to rethink or tinker with their business model, Right had already decided that selling luxury leather goods online would be a little above her pay grade. “You could end up with hundreds of items you wouldn’t know how to clear.” So, as a fledgling business owner—‘Creative Chick’ is her moniker in the logo—she’s been working with a number of trusted vendors to create Right-designed products on demand. New patterns and gift ideas spill out whenever there’s a new flight of fancy. She’ll grant that gratification is not immediate, but then isn’t anything worth anything worth waiting for? One of her most popular ideas evolved after COVID-19 struck. A dear friend of hers has an immunodeficiency disorder, so she is at a higher risk of serious consequences if infected. Right had a dream: Enter ‘Sanitizer Suzy’ à la World War II’s Rosie the Riveter with her motto, “We Can Do It!”—but flexing a bottle of sanitizer spray over her bicep: Sanitizer Suzy is on a tote featured among products pictured with Right. Proceeds from all products featuring her timely heroine will be donated to the St. Louis Area Diaper Bank. Face masks will be available soon. Look back at the photo and you’ll see dog fannies lined up around a food bowl, printed on a pillow and the scarf she’s wearing. Do you see your dog anywhere? “That’s our hope!” she says. She adds, a tad sheepishly, “Mike helped a little with the dog butts.” Since we’d hate to leave you hanging, here’s the answer to a question you were just about to ask: Right graduated from Mehlville High School.