Monday, December 28, 2009

A Year In St Louis... (Plus My Top Five Moments)

So, I guess I can't call myself "the new guy" anymore, can I? This Saturday it'll have been a year since I packed up the rental truck and made the long trek down to St Louis from Chicago on January 2nd. In anticipation of the move, I started on December 18th 2008 with this post, so I suppose the One year anniversary of the blog has already past. It's so funny looking back at that post because it reminds me of just how much of a crazy thing it was to move here on such short notice. This resonates - "I'm doing this alone and I have no idea what I'm doing." That sentence is dead on. But then again, I'm not sure I ever really know what I'm doing. Hell, the same could be said about this blog (the story of which can be found in this post about the newspaper article from back in July). The good news is that, even after a year I find something I love about St Louis everyday.
Keep in mind I could never say that about anywhere I've ever lived. From the way Soulard looks in the morning (I think it's at it's most historic around 7:36 A.M.), to the my recent fascination with the old streetcar system, there are so many forgotten layers to this city that I don't think I'll ever get bored seeking them all out. Of course, St Louis wouldn't be worth anything without the people. Congratulations on being super nice, STL! That said, my top five St Louis moments/places/things this year...
5 _ Going to ridiculous amounts of Cardinals games
I could probably pick a top five moments that just involve being at a baseball game, but I'm particularly fond of the game that, I think, went 15 innings. By the time it got to the 11th inning I was able to get right up behind the Cards dugout and watch the game from there. Pujols won it at 1 A.M. on a double to center. Good times.
4 _ Training for the Marathon in Forest Park
You have no idea how many hours I spent running that 5.6 mile circle. I know it like the back of my hand - which incidentally I'm not sure I could pick out of a lineup of hand backs. For blogging purposes let's just go with it as a figure of speech. Anyway, there is nothing that equals this park in terms of sheer and audacious usefulness. To give you an idea how much other cities should wish they had a park like this, let's do a little comparison skit I'll just type off the top of my head. Okay, so pretend you're crazy thirsty. Because this is just fiction let's really go for it and say you've been looting sporting goods stores all day and you're parched. Now, you have this tree in your backyard, but all it does is grow stupid leaves. Well, it just so happens your neighbor has a tree too, but all it does is grow delicious water. You'd want that water right? Of course you would. And, somehow, I've lost my point here... Anyway, it's awesome. Yeah, that's what Forest Park is like.
3 _ Mardi Gras St Louis
As fully reported in this early Arch Observer post, this was likely the most fun I've had all year and that's saying something. I doubt this year will be able to live up to last, but I'm certainly willing to give it a try.
2 _ The Mississippi River
Sure, she's a nasty beast. Floods, murder, general grossness and a dark shade of mud aside, she's still what made St. Louis what it is today. I've been lucky enough to drive along side of her and the Arch on the way to work for the past month, and although there's that big shiny symbol of St Louis on my left, I'm mostly drawn to looking out over the water on my right. The strange thing is that I don't know why I'm so drawn to it in the first place. I suppose it's the raw and natural power of it. The fact that it's such a symbol of America and an important natural resource might have something do with it, but I have a feeling it has a lot to do with it being a natural boundary. Almost like it's protecting us... And I don't mean from East St Louis.
1 _ Supporting Downtown
I think what I love most about St Louis is the opportunity. We have this downtown full of historic and interesting buildings (many of which stand empty) that have so much potential. I've loved being a part of and supporting the new life that's popping up all over town. There's such opportunity for this city to reinvent itself and I want in. I was just speaking with someone who is also not originally from St Louis about living here and they mentioned that this is a city where you can make what you want of yourself. There aren't very many obstacles. That's true on many levels and the same could be said of downtown. This infrastructure is a clay that can be molded into a true 21st century city. We have all the pieces - all we need is some people who want get dirty. (You'll see some of them in the blogroll - check them out.)

Yeah, I know, this post got a little deep. It's hard to not be reflective at the New Year, though. I feel compelled to thank all of St Louis for such a great year. I've never felt more welcomed into a community. I'd also like to thank you, the readers, for sending me recommendations and the nice emails. And also, perhaps most of all, for sticking with me through the slow blogging times. I know that's annoying, but the good news is the beard thing is working! It's been 9 days since I blogged and my face looks like it's being attacked by ants.
Have a safe New Year, everyone. Mardi Gras is right around the corner!

Monday, December 21, 2009

This Water Is Delicious. Seriously, Try Some Of This Water... Right?!?!

Seeing that this is the shortest day of the year I couldn't find a reason for not making this the longest article title of the year. Actually, I just making that up. I've been looking for a fake reason to make a long title like that and this is as good a fake reason as any. Oh, and look at that - less than a week since I wrote a post. My non-shaving plan is working out splendidly. I probably wouldn't have chosen today as a great day to write, but my beard is itchy.

Man oh man, is St Louis proud of it's water. And to be completely honest, they should be. As someone who was germophobically opposed to drinking from the tap, as soon as I drank St. Louis water, I was hooked. I'm seemingly not the only one who agrees. I saw a recent tweet from Mayor Slay (who does do his own tweets!) that claimed that St Louis water ranks as one of the tops in the country for cleanliness and taste.
You know what's hard about being Mayor? Everyone wants to prove you wrong, me included. Can we get an answer from the Google machine? *pointing to the top right of my screen* Google machine: "bleep bloop blop beep" Well, look at what we have here. Saint Louis ranks as having the 9th best water in the entire US of A for 2009.
Yes, I realize this doesn't make sense. We get our water from the Mississippi River - the garbage disposal of Chicago. Look, I don't make the rules here. It's states plainly on the Environmental Working Group's website that they are indeed "scientists," and if I know one thing about scientists it's that they specialize in science. Don't fight it. It makes you seem like the crazy one.
Now for the tricky one. Who cares how clean your water is if it tastes like a sewer? Plus, scientists can't prove that something tastes better than something else (actually they can - they're scientists and can do anything). Well, here's an idea. Get hundreds of the country's Mayors together, have them all rate tap waters, tabulate the results, get yourself a winner, and pray that nothing important happens the weekend of the year where no town has a mayor. Oh, it's happened? And St Louis wins! Wow, we really are in water heaven.
I've saved thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars on bottled water since I've moved here and it's all thanks to you, City of St Louis Water Division. I have no idea how you can take Chicago's sewage and somehow turn it into better water than the stuff they drink up there, but hats off to you. And from the looks of your website, I'd say you guys are still busy. The latest news is a rate hike in 2008 that was right on the heels of your win for best tasting water. I'm going to pretend you're working with scientists to make it even better. Think about it! New and improved water! I'd gladly pay more gents. For dramatic emphasis I think I'd like to write that again. I'd gladly pay more.
Immediately going to shave.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Weirdest Beard In All Of St Louis

Hey, have you ever had one of those 2 months where you consistently find yourself not blogging? For someone who enjoys it as much as me, I can say, with relative certainty, that it's not something I want to go through again. To prevent this from ever happening again I figured, from now on, I better implement some repercussions.
Thinking of self-inflicted punishment is no easy task. I don't want to do anything that can do physical or psychological harm. Unfortunately, that takes up most forms of punitive measure. There's always embarrassment, but I've never been one to worry too much about that. Nope, I think it's going to have to be something that not only I would hate, but would play on my sense of vanity. The answer is so easy! I. will. grow. a. beard.
What? That doesn't impress you? Even with my dramatic writing style there using all the period nonsense? Well, think again. Not only were those periods awesomely dramatic, but facial hair is a bit different for me than most dudes. First of all, let's just put it out there... The nickname: I once was the assistant coach for my boss's daughter's softball team back in Chicago. These were only 12 year old girls and they had a nickname for me - Weird Beard (note to self: awesome roller derby name). The reason for this ridicule? I have ridiculously patchy facial hair growth. It literally grows in patches.
It's a bit hard to tell (or maybe not?) in the very scruffy picture at the top of the homepage, but I have whole oceans of face void of any hair where any normal man would grow face fur. It really does look, well, weird. This wouldn't bother me so much if it weren't for work and generally looking presentable. I like to think it makes me look older.
One other strange fact about my facial hair is it's slow, easy-goin' growth. Seriously, I shaved Sunday morning - It's now Tuesday night and I barely look like I have a 5:00 shadow.That's a live shot as I write. Now combine that with the fact that my beard is, in fact, weird and maybe you can see where I'm going with this.
I'm making the commitment that I will not shave until I write a proper Arch Observer post. Don't you see? It works out perfectly. I'd likely have to write at least once a week unless I want to start showing up to client meetings looking like I tried shaving a map of Pangea into my face. A few weeks ago I took this picture:It was the point at which I couldn't let my facial hair grow out any further. My weird beard was itchy and becoming slobby. It was my breaking point - A breaking point that I can guarantee I'll be sneering to myself in the mirror about very soon.
I hope this works out because I need to do something... I've got all sorts of posts that need to be finished including a big one about my ride on the St Louis Metro with Courtney Sloger. There's video! Plus, the discovery of the graffiti wall!
Let's make this official, shall we? I, Jim Barnthouse, solemnly swear to not shave until I finish a new post on Arch Observer or until the coming internet wars destroy this site. Done and done.