Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Randomness and How You Can Help...

I'd like to start a weekly Friday feature for two reasons, the first being that there is a set day that I blog every week. The second, because It'll be fun for me and I've always enjoyed the hell out of fun.
This is where you come in. (No, not you... the person to your right. No, not that dude - your other right. Forget it... fine... You.) What should it be about? I'm fighting with every ounce of my strength to not do a weekly "obscure indie band you should listen to" series. It's so very tempting, but so not on theme. I'm also thinking about a restaurant review setup although I already kind of do them. My only issue there is that I'm not sure I eat out enough to be able to knock something out weekly. Then again, maybe I'd go out more... Tempting.
So if you have any ideas, please throw them out there. Whatever I decide, it starts next Friday.

I've also been getting a lot of commentary on posts, which I love by the way, and it occurred to me that someone may want to contact me privately. If you or a loved one is one of those people please guide your eyes to the right and peep that ingeniously disguised email address. Eff to you spammers! (I'm so asking for it)

And for good random measure... The awesome trailer for Where The Wild Things Are soundtracked by none other than Arcade Fire:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Cherokee Antique District, Bears, Coat Racks, and Mustaches

True story. Of all the furniture I needed when I moved here I needed a coat rack the most. I'm generally a clean person and I try to keep my apartment close to spotless but I have a weakness when it comes to outerwear storage. The kitchen table becomes my 'glove shelf' and the chairs become 'coat hangers that I can sit on'. I immediately picked up on the fact this was going to be a problem and began to plan my counter-strike against my own laziness. The answer was fairly apparent considering I had a perfectly suitable long entrance hallway. A Coat Rack would do the trick, or should I say a Coat Tree? Whatever the proper term, I wanted a stand up coat rack that you would find in, say, a Lawyers office in 1964. Where does one find such an item? Sure, you could find them in a furniture store maybe, but who wants a modern metal one in an exposed-brick apartment? I wanted it made of wood and beat to shit.
Old Lemp Brewery in the background.
Just doing research before the move I had read about the Cherokee Antique District and I knew it was close to Soulard. I decided to head over there to see what I could find. As I made my way down the street (the district is about 4 blocks long) I stopped in every store to see the kind of antiques they offered. St Louis being so old, I figured they'd have some pretty unique stuff and I wasn't disappointed. I'm not really into antiques to be honest, but some stores has some really cool old books and strange furniture. One of the coolest things I saw was and old banner promoting a wrestling match in the 30's. It was hand painted, seriously gigantic, and featured a mustached man about to wrestle a bear. It took a lot of willpower to say no. Two of my favorite things are bears and mustaches. Numerous other oddities are also in store for the curious. Even if you aren't interested in buying anything, the antique stores are worth browsing to kill a few hours.
As for the Coat Tree, the one I liked the most was in the store I went into first. It's plain, wood, and beat up and if I were to guess, I'd say it's from the 50's. Total cost: $20. That's what I call success!
It's almost three months later now and that piece of furniture has been worth much more than initially invested. I think it's about time to go back too. I'm in the market for an old trunk. Where else am I going to store my coats? It's effing Spring!!! (yay)

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Trouble With Missouri

Look, I'm all down with safety and mechanically sound vehicles but, man alive, the process to get a Missouri license plate is almost annoying enough to move to the Illinois side of the river.
Missouri rightly requires you to get an emissions test along with every other state I've ever lived in. Cool. I'm with you there. I'm even down with the also required safety inspection. This is to make sure your vehicle is within safety standards determined by the state. Now here is where it gets tricky.
My actual place in line.
Missouri doesn't have state run emissions/safety inspection centers. Nope, you go to the mechanic/car dealership/dude on the street who passed some test to get your inspections. While this may be convenient to some I find it highly probable that this process leads to corruption. What keeps a mechanic from pushing "repairs" on your vehicle to get passed. Or worse yet, getting paid extra to pass non-road-worthy cars. It's improbable that someone isn't cheating the system. I would suggest getting a second opinion on any repairs that are claimed to be mandatory to receive a passing grade.
So there's that... Not horribly inconvenient right? Oh wait, now you have to go to city hall and get a Personal Property Tax waiver? Oh yeah... In Missouri (or at least in St Louis) you need to pay personal property tax on your car. Because I just moved here I still have to get a waiver and this is no easy task. These places are daytime hours only and many are not open Saturdays. Yeah, I have to leave work to get a freaking waiver.
After those two steps you then have to go back to a License Bureau establishment and wait in line to get your plates. And that's where it hits you. The signs are everywhere... Cash or Check only. Suddenly I'm whisked away to 1991 where the idea of digitally removing funds from your bank account was "the future" and usually had something to do with retina scanning.
Yep, Missouri, you make it hard to want to drive. Perhaps an all in one place to do all of your mandatory steps would make it easier on us working folks who tend to drive. It doesn't seem that daunting of a step. Hell, just make it two steps. I'll pay my personal property tax online! Swear. Just please don't make me take a vacation day to get something as intrinsically annoying as license plate procurement.
Wow this post sounds whiny. I think I just hate being sent through the government machine. It puts me in rare form. Meanwhile... Don't tell anybody... But while I'm waiting to get a chance to do all of this my Indiana plates are expired. I'm a loner Dottie, a rebel.

(Note: Apparently I may not have to go back to a License Bureau. There may be one where I get my waiver. Here's hoping.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

State of the St louis Indie Scene

One of the things that people often use to define me is my insatiable love for Indie Rock/Pop. I listen to what counts as a lot of it and am always in search of the next great album. As of today if you started with the first song in my iTunes and just let it play straight through you would hear the last song 31 days, 16 hours and 13 minutes from now. And this is not bragging. I know many people with much larger iTunes libraries. They collect everything they can get their hands on. The only thing impressive about mine is that 90% of is Indie music. And I use that term loosely as it should be. There really isn't anything that makes a band or album "Indie" these days. Even traditionally independent labels aren't the little guys anymore. What I consider Indie is music (any type including hip/hop, punk, electronic, etc) that isn't produced for seemingly the sole purpose of making money. It isn't over-produced and rewritten to make it a surefire hit. It comes from the heart of the musician. It's art.
Matt and Kim
Without going into a long diatribe about mass consumption and what makes music "good" let me just say that I've been loving the live music selection here in St Louis! It really could be a hassle for me to head to into the city for a weeknight show when living in the Chicago area so I often missed some of my favorite bands. Getting home at 2 in the morning on a work night just wasn't going to cut it for me. I'm useless the next day. I did make it point to take the next day off for the bands I really wanted to see.
Although I'd be living in the city in St Louis, I was definitely concerned I'd be seeing even fewer shows for a different and much more problematic reason. I'd taken a hard look at many bands touring schedules and noticed that they often skipped the StL. This was especially true for the smaller one's. This being the case, I'd have no choice but to miss my favorite bands shows.
Then a crazy thing happened. Right about the time I moved here announcements started happening. Suddenly a huge influx of awesome bands were hitting the local establishments. Now I'm having trouble clearing my schedule to get the shows in! My first such show was last night and it was a perfect intro to the St Louis small venue scene.
I scored last second tickets to the Cut/Copy, Matt & Kim show at The Gargoyle via Craig and his list and it didn't disappoint. The Gargoyle itself is an interesting venue... It's seemingly in the basement of one of the student centers at Wash U. Unless you ask someone or already know, I would say it's damn near impossible to find. The good news is the sound was top notch for it being what I would guess is a former cafeteria.
Then again, it may have been the band. Matt and Kim were just awesome. Most of the audience there was for Cut Copy but I can assure you were blown away by the duo. I was there specifically for Matt and Kim and they did not disappoint. Not only that but they hung out with the crowd after their performance. They truly are the most approachable rock stars out there. Kim smiles through out the entire show. It's completely contagious. Here's some actual video of the show and I coincidentally was standing next to the guy. You're seeing pretty much what I saw.

The only disappointment of last night is that Ra Ra Riot were playing at The Billiken Club across town. The coolest part of the Billiken Club other than the effing awesome upcoming lineup? The shows are completely free! You won't find that in Chicago. Thanks St Louis University!
An invaluable source for all shows of Indie proportions is St Louis Live Music, a blog I link to on the right over there. Whoever this masked person is keeps the list wildly up to date and filters most of the superfluous. I only wish I could thank them properly for being so good at updating that they allowed me to get front-row Flight of The Conchords tickets in a presale. Maybe I should take them, whoever they are...
If you are interested in checking out some great Indie bands please click to the following sites or visit your local library.
Or any of the hundreds linked to on any of those sites.

Furthermore, check out a rarely updated blog I don't write for as often as I should, RockTransferProtocol. Here's a link to my top ten albums of 2008. Get em while they're hot.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Your Food Is Good, Blues City Deli

I am by no means a stranger to Samiches which should be obvious by the way I just spelled that. No person in their right mind would ever spell sandwiches that way in a public forum without being a true fan. Although I don't recall him ever saying it that way, it was Joey Tribbiani's favorite food and there multiple good reasons why. First, they are fully customizable and delicious! Other foods may claim to be as varied (I'm looking your way pizza) but you can literally put anything in between anything else and call it a sandwich. This goes for anything including crackers, car accidents, and even sexual fantasies (read: threesomes and the like. Not actual sex with sandwiches. Or car accidents with sandwiches for that matter). And so it goes that I move away from Chicago, and very much like pizza, move away from my favorite sandwich.
How I thought I'd miss you dear Potbelly's. Truth be told, I do. Just not nearly as bad as I thought I would thanks to you, Blues City Deli.
The Counter at Blues City Deli
First of all, back story... Potbelly's started off in an antique shop somewhere in Chicago in the late 70's. The owner thought that it would be nice to have sandwiches for their customers when they were shopping during lunch. The key to these sandwiches was they would toast them. It wasn't long before people were spilling out on to the Chicago streets waiting in line for one of these sandwiches. And that's all it was for years. Just awesome sandwiches in and Antique shop. The antiques themselves became almost a decoration. By the 90's they started to open them up in other places in Chicago and now it's one of the fastest growing most promising chains in America. Sadly, they are not in St Louis yet. They are still mostly based in Chicago but are slowly branching out because they do not franchise.
Until then, if you ever have a layover in Midway Airport in Chicago, they have one near the food court. The line is usually pretty long. There are a couple of things that make this sandwich awesome. One is the bread. It toasts up perfectly and taste's much better than Quizno's in my opinion. The meats and cheeses are all obviously fresh but what makes this sandwich is the Potbelly's homemade giardiniera (a mixture of hot peppers and veggies found mainly in Chicago... SPICY). You must get the peppers, even if it's on the side. It truly makes the sandwich.
It wasn't very long into my stay here in St Louis, that someone mentioned to me Blues City Deli in Benton Park (just West of Soulard). Being a firm lover of Potbelly's I was initially doubtful. Especially because of so many people's unconscionable love of Jimmy Johns. I mean it's ok. But really guys? Best sandwich? Anyway, I read some reviews online and decided to check it out one Saturday. First thing I noticed when I walked in was Zapp's (awesomely bad website!) which was immediately a good sign. Growing up in New Orleans the only chips we ever had in the house were Zapp's. After we moved to Chicago we'd occasionally get the fam to ship some up. They were that good. Try the Craw-taters flavor.
I checked the menu for my go to sandwich at any new place. Roast Beef. The person at the counter is who I believe is the owner. Super nice guy. I mean really. Even just ordering a sandwich from him you could tell. (In subsequent visits I've also been served by who I believe is the owner's son. Equally awesome and nice. You feel very welcome here.) The Roast Beef Sandwich was out in a few minutes and I could feel the warmth through the bag. The place was very inviting to sit in but it was unfortunately full probably due to the live Jazz being played. Oh yeah... They do that here.
I hurried home and opened the bag to find a sandwich wrapped with thick white deli paper. Nice touch. When I opened it I found a half sliced italian bread loaded with tender, falling apart roast beef. This stuff had been cooked with care. It was by far the closest competitor to the awesomeness of Potbelly's possibly even besting my go to Chicago sandwich. It wasn't a one time thing either. After multiple visits it is becoming one my favorite St Louis haunts not only for it's food but it's atmosphere. Now if they did real N.O. Sno-balls in the summer this place would be packed.
Roast Beef on a Muffaletta Bun

Go there. Now.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Fitter, Happier, More Productive

Before I moved I was on a strict workout schedule.  I was running three days a week and boxing on two.  I was getting in the best shape of my life and even had muscles!  Little ones but they were there. The move, unfortunately, took my "guns" away.
Not Me
It's hard to keep that type of workout schedule up through as big of a life-changing situation as a move and it all fell apart just about immediately. Not only was I going out every night exploring Soulard, but I wasn't working out at all. The most exercise I did was a quick run when the weather was nice and we're talking about January so that was rare at best. What I needed was a gym.
I would have loved to have continued the high-intensity cardio classes at an LA Boxing. It's literally an hour of beating the shit out of a heavy bag. It's one of the hardest workouts you'll ever have and it's fun as hell. St Louis is LA Boxingless of course even though it is a franchise (any takers?). I looked around for something similar but all I could find was the more Tae-bo type classes.  I'm sure those are fun but I needed something a little more intense. 
It was about this time that a couple of Chicago friends decided they'd come down to run the St Louis Marathon relay-style.  It's essentially a 6 1/2 mile race for me and I had been slacking.  I needed a gym and fast.
So you're in a fairly major city and you think a popular neighborhood like Soulard would have a gym. Yes, I believe you would. But you'd be wrong.  And don't feel bad because I was wrong too. So now I have to go a little out of the way. It's not that big a deal in the end.  It's like a 5 minute drive. I found Fitness Factory in the Washington Ave Loft District using trusty Google Maps as my guide. Not only is it reasonably priced compared to Chicago gyms but everything is new and shiny. They provide locked lockers and even gated parking.  I declare this gym... Awesome.
Well, not really. It's just a gym but it is nice. FYI guys, that chick on the website does not workout there. At least not in the regular person gym. Either way, short story short, I quickly fell back into my running schedule but do miss the boxing. Someone open an LA Boxing. In Soulard? Please? I need my mini-muscles back.  I swear I had em!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

St Louis Style Pizza Mocks Me

At the risk of offending my new St Louis neighbors... St Louis style pizza sucks. And yes, I realize this is a matter of preference but damn... Provel?
Imo's Pizza
For readers outside of St Louis (which according to Google analytics are about half!) what you must know about St Louis style pizza is that it's as if your local pizzeria ran out your usual delicious/traditional ingredients so they threw together whatever they had. Forget Mozzarella or Provolone... Hell, forget yeast in your crust! This pizza is cracker thin and is topped with Provel cheese of all things. What's Provel cheese you might be wondering? I know I did. Apparently it's a special mix of 3 cheeses that is made in Wisconsin specifically for the St Louis market. 3 cheeses = provolone(good), swiss(on pizza?) and white cheddar(wtf?). The resulting taste is fairly unpleasant. It's not horrible, but certainly doesn't go well with pizza IMO (people in st louis will get this joke, no?).
What you get in the end is an extraordinarily thin crusted pizza shaped object that is topped with a sweet sauce (presumably to counter the sourness of the cheese), your regular toppings, and a cheese that belongs nowhere near a pizza. I mean, you can't get this cheese anywhere else in the nation! 100's of millions of people can't be wrong!
I am, of course, half joking here. Like I said earlier everyone's tastes are different and, although I don't really like St Louis style pizza, it's not horrible and I do eat it. I mean it's pizza.
But it's hard, damn hard, not to harken back to the delicious buttery crust of a Chicago style deep dish pizza. Now that's a pizza. I've been told by many a people that there are makers of this style in St Louis. One such place was Pi in The Loop. The place was very cool and the pizza had obviously fresh ingredients but it wasn't authentic. I found the crust too crunchy and not nearly buttery enough. I'm looking for the Giordano's style doughy on the inside crust and pounds of cheese. Thrown on top of that a heart attack waiting to happen and I can barely type proper sentences. I know it's here somewhere... Damn you internets! Point me in the right direction!

P.S. I love the fact that the Wiki page shows the Hoosier entry as a "See Also".


Monday, March 2, 2009

Hoosiers and the history of

To give you a little background, the last place I lived in the Chicago area was on the Indiana side of the border. Crown Point to be exact. There is, or at least was, a sentiment that Indiana was beneath the Illinois side while I was growing up. I'm sure Indiana residents didn't feel the same. It wasn't really that horrible of a rivalry. It was playful ribbing on our part. Hoosier, though, was definitely a negative term. 
Not so in the rest of the world it seemed. Indiana University's basketball team is famously named the Hoosiers. In Indiana that is a term of pride though I'm not sure many of them could tell you what it meant. I contend that in most of the U.S. if you asked a person what a Hoosier was they would cite IU's nicknamed teams. And it wouldn't likely be a negative. Even today in Chicago you don't hear it as much. So many people are moving to Indiana for the considerably lower taxes and new housing that just about everyone is related to or friends with a "Hoosier".
In St Louis it's means something completely different though. Here, if you are referred to as a hoosier, it's a definite cutdown. It's similar to someone calling you white-trash or a redneck and that's all it means. It doesn't matter what state you are from at all. And just about everyone uses it.
I had first heard it years ago when visiting St Louis but thought they were referring to people the same way we did in Chicago. But when I moved here I began to hear it all the time and definitely picked up on the more negative tone. I also, at first, thought they were referring to me with my Indiana license plates. It drove me crazy. There was no way that bartender knew I'm from Indiana... Ha! 
One day I was having a discussion with a friend who often joked with me about living in Indiana and I mentioned the different hoosier meanings. She decided to Google it and lo and behold, there was a full article describing the usage of the word hoosier. They even specifically mention the small pocket of the country where it is used mostly in a negative way. Yep, I'm looking at you St louis:
While "hoosier" may still be heard in areas of the south in its original, disparaging meaning of "uncouth rustic," the term seems to be slowly loosing currency. One important pocket of linguistic resistance, however, remains. Thomas E. Murray carefully analysed the use of "hoosier" in St. Louis, Missouri, where it is the favorite epithet of abuse. "When asked what a Hoosier is," Murray writes, "St. Louisans readily list a number of defining characteristics, among which are 'lazy,' 'slow-moving,' 'derelict,' and 'irresponsible.'" He continues, "Few epithets in St. Louis carry the pejorative connotations or the potential for eliciting negative responses that hoosier does." He conducted tests and interviews across lines of age and race and tabulated the results. He found the term ecuminically applied.
How's that for some research?  The full article can be found here for those interested. 
Just one of the many strange and wonderful things about St Louis. It really is one cool, unique city. I'm not sure the residents here know what they have. To be discussed in the future.