Thursday, August 20, 2009

St Louis Summer Of Aught-Nine... Best Ever?

OK, just bear with me here. Calling anything "the best" is, of course, subjective. Tie that to the fact that summer isn't over yet and I'm seriously jumping to conclusions and I'm just fine with that for a couple of reasons. First, if you weren't aware, this blog is mostly based on opinion. (Fun fact: It is also loosely based on the classic children's movie The Neverending Story. Oscar is my Luck Dragon.) Second, has this not been an awesome summer so far? Even if the rest turns out horrible I can't help but place it number one on my list of all-time best St Louis summers. I will admit that only being here for one makes it a very short list.
Falcor the Luck Dragon
Probably the number 1 feature this summer has offered is the weather. It has been downright pleasant if you haven't noticed. Many days of just highs in the 80's, only the passing rain shower and cool breezes has made this a fine year to be outdoors. Compare that to what most people will tell you St Louis summers are like and you'll know how much of a nice surprise it's been. According to Microsoft and their crackerjack team of weather scientists, the average high for St Louis in June is 85F and in July 89F. August drops back down to 88, but we are still talking pretty hot there. This year? The 2009 June average high was 87F. The July average high was... wait for it... 84 degrees! Using mathematics I've calculated that this summer has been indeed cooler. So far through August we are right on schedule with an average of 88F, but I'm cool with that too. I think having such a mild summer makes the hot days seem less hot.
Even if we had one of those notoriously hot summer's here, do you know what makes up for it? St Louis has long, easy springs and falls. In Chicago autumn lasts maybe three weeks and being that it's my favorite season I always felt like I missed it. Hopefully that's not the case this year. I wouldn't want to miss out on October especially. Reason being...
Go Cardinals! It's been maybe the most fun year ever to be a Cardinals fan. We started the year as over-achievers still winning while playing with a weak line-up. Now, through brilliant and shrewd front office moves, we've got a serious team to go with some serious numbers (6). These games have been so fun to watch this year and I feel incredibly lucky that I'm able to experience so many of them first-hand. And this Albert Pujols guy... I'll be telling my grand kids about watching him play if I ever get around to having actual un-grand kids. It reminds me so much of the Jordan years for the Bulls. He just wills the team to win. And that's not easy considering there are so many plays that he has no opportunity to contribute to.
The people of St Louis are getting excited. Walk into a bar during a Cards game and that's all anyone is talking about. Actually, walk into a bar during anything other than a Cards game and that's still what everyone is talking about. It's just fun to be a part of.
In the meantime, St Louis continues it's re-emergence as a destination city again. Every year the city continues to take baby steps towards building a thriving downtown. Sure, there are always bumps on the road such as the death of the Metrolink expansion, but in only 8 months I've seen some huge improvements many of which I need to write about in greater length. The new Citygarden which takes a page out of Chicago's Millennium Park, the Old Post Office Plaza, the new downtown grocery store Culinaria, the emergence of Midtown - the area between SLU and Downtown, and perhaps most important, the early talks of how to tie downtown back to the Arch grounds/the river. Having the Allstar game here during the recession that brought many improvements and projects to a halt certainly gave us a boost that many cities did not have the luxury of receiving. Hopefully, we retain some of that excitement to get things done.
And if not, then the Nothing has won and all of Fantasia will be lost. By the way, I think the next project should be building the Oracles over the Mississippi River. They shoot lasers out of their eyes! That'll teach all of the Cubs fans coming down for the next Cards/Cubs series.

The NeverEnding Story- Limahl

Monday, August 10, 2009

Soulard Farmers Market Nestled In Summer

As promised months ago, I have returned to the Soulard Farmers Market to soak in all the culture during the warm and presumably more active months. To be honest I've been back dozens of times since the original post. I go almost every Saturday, actually. Funny thing is - I rarely buy anything. I know that doesn't make much sense but I liken it to the grocery store. I peruse all of the fruits and veggies yet very rarely bring any home due to... "The Pressure." I use quotation marks here to make it read much more intimidating than it really is. Using reality, all "The Pressure" really boils down to is the urge to eat all of your purchased produce before it goes bad. I've never been one to be wasteful and that's my hard earned cash slowly degrading on my kitchen counter/hidden refrigerator fruit drawer (once your food goes in that drawer it is over for that particular food. It will never be eaten. It's science and you can't argue with science). The truth is I just can't take "The Pressure." It gets to me in a bad way if you count getting to you in a bad way as eating it all the first day I bring it home. At this point I tend to just skip getting produce all together. Still, this never keeps me from planning on buying some every time I step foot in the Farmers Market. This time was no exception.
As I had always suspected, contrary to the claims of Presidents Of The United States, peaches are, in fact, not free. I was forced to pay very near 25 cents for mine. Actually it was exactly 25 cents. Who really wants the change? And yes, I only purchased one so as not to lose another one to my fridge drawer of doom. I even waited a day to eat the one I did get. Dare I say it was the best darned peach I've had in a dog's age (peaches always make me talk old-timey).
Now, in the winter I claimed disappointment in the fact that many of the vendors sell the same produce you can purchase in the local supermarket. Unfortunately the same still holds true in the summer. As I don't purchase perishables too often, I don't know the difference in savings between buying from the two, but I've seen others marvel at the low prices in the Farmers Market. I'm not sure it's enough to counter the extra gas you'll burn driving down, but there are plenty of other things to purchase here.
There are fresh meat, eggs and flowers; a great selection of interesting pastas and freshly baked bread; a whole store of fresh spices as well as a whole section with flea market-like selections. Yes, you too can support Michael Jackson's death by buying an over-priced shirt with his likeness and years not dead printed on the front.
One new addition this summer is a large indoor store with freshly butchered meats and a large selection of jarred goods. What makes this store different is that it is run by the Amish. Well, I haven't noticed any claims that the store is Amish, but either the people working there are wearing the least revealing pieces of flair ever, or they're indeed Amish. They even sell fresh sandwiches which, as you know, I'm a fan of. I almost had one too, but instead opted for Julia's Cafe and their awesome Red Beans and Rice. Next time I'll get one because I can't imagine they aren't good. I'm not sure if I believe that because the meat is likely fresh or from my strange unsubstantiated trust of the Amish. You have it too, admit it. I feel a bit brainwashed all of the sudden.
How do I sum up the Soulard Farmers Market? First of all I'll say it's very much worth it to go down there just for the people watching. The atmosphere is a bit electric with the vendors shouting out the deals and the distant sound of jazz and bluegrass floating in from the outer edges of the market where the musicians are allowed to set up. As far as food goes, it's a great place to buy fresh bread (don't forget to barter) and pastas. My favorite thing about the market are the true farmer's stands where locally grown and hand-picked fruit and vegetables are available for purchase. You never know what they'll have any time you go. One week they'll have bushels of blueberries and the next raspberries. I'm not sure there's a great way to tell which stand has the local stuff, but other than asking, I think the easiest way is to look for what they are unloading the fruit from. Wooden bushels is a good sign. Waxed boxes with logos are not. The local farmer is where I got my peach from. It was worth every cent.
I think I might take the old Oscar drawn buggy down there again this weekend. Now that I've eschewed electricity and running water for a simpler lifestyle I no longer have to worry about "The Pressure." Wait a second... Damn you Amish and your entrancing yet trustworthy lifestyle!!!