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RIVERFRONT TIMES

JANUARY 20-26, 2021

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C R A F T E D C A R E F U L LY. D R I N K R E S P O N S I B LY. Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 45.2% Alc. by Vol., The Woodford Reserve Distillery, Versailles, KY ©2016

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THE LEDE

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PHOTO BY THEO WELLING

“I’m a Missourian, supposedly represented by Josh Hawley, and I was outraged. I was first embarrassed, but then as the day went on on January 6th, I was outraged. I just could not believe first in his objection, and then second, when he objected after the craziness. … He’s incredibly dangerous. So I had to do something.” CATHY HATRICH, PHOTOGRAPHED AT THE RESIGN HAWLEY PROTEST IN FRONT OF THE OLD COURTHOUSE ON SATURDAY, JANUARY 9 riverfronttimes.com

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Waiting for Biden

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ore than three years ago, we published a cover story about Alex Garcia, who had taken sanctuary in a Maplewood church. It was still early in the Trump presidency, and the married father was among the immigrants who the country’s new anti-immigrant leader was trying to throw out. Trump claimed he was going after “bad hombres,” but the reality was more often to sweep up people such as Garcia, who had previously been granted temporary permission to live here, and then brag about the stats. Now, Trump is leaving, but what will that mean for Garcia and others in St. Louis who suffered under the outgoing administration? As we explore in this week’s cover story, the answers are complicated and unclear. But Garcia is optimistic. He tells us, “My hope is still there.” — Doyle Murphy, editor in chief

TABLE OF CONTENTS Publisher Chris Keating Editor in Chief Doyle Murphy

E D I T O R I A L Digital Editor Jaime Lees Interim Managing Editor Daniel Hill Staff Writer Danny Wicentowski Contributors Cheryl Baehr, Eric Berger, Jeannette Cooperman, Thomas Crone, Mike Fitzgerald, Andy Paulissen, Justin Poole, Theo Welling, Ymani Wince Columnist Ray Hartmann A R T

& P R O D U C T I O N Art Director Evan Sult Editorial Layout Haimanti Germain, Evan Sult Production Manager Haimanti Germain M U L T I M E D I A A D V E R T I S I N G Advertising Director Colin Bell Account Managers Emily Fear, Jennifer Samuel Multimedia Account Executive Chuck Healy, Jackie Mundy Digital Sales Manager Chad Beck Director of Public Relations Brittany Forrest

COVER Daring to Dream

C I R C U L A T I O N Circulation Manager Kevin G. Powers

Trump’s exit signals a change in harsh immigration policies, but will Joe Biden come through? Cover photo by

E U C L I D M E D I A G R O U P Chief Executive Officer Andrew Zelman Chief Operating Officers Chris Keating, Michael Wagner VP of Digital Services Stacy Volhein www.euclidmediagroup.com N A T I O N A L A D V E R T I S I N G VMG Advertising 1-888-278-9866, vmgadvertising.com

STEVEN DUONG

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INSIDE The Lede Hartmann News Feature Short Orders Culture Film Savage Love 6

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HARTMANN A Tale of Two Congresswomen Cori Bush and Ann Wagner represent the divide in America and St. Louis BY RAY HARTMANN

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ongresswomen Ann Wagner and Cori Bush will never be mistaken for one another. Politically, the two women representing the St. Louis area in Congress — take that in for a moment — could not seem further apart: Wagner, the quiet conservative, middle-aged white Republican from the comfortable suburbs, and Bush, the vocal, pro-

gressive, young Black Democrat from the uncomfortable streets. But the two also provide a case study in American politics because of what they have in common. Both steadfastly represent polarized constituencies that also represent just a subset of their own political parties. Wagner and Bush may be in the news as much for intra-party struggles as for battling one another. The two congresswomen already are providing St. Louis a front-row seat to the political theater of 2021. The House’s vote last week to impeach President Donald Trump was the opening act, with Bush taking center stage and Wagner remaining off in the wings. Bush made the most of her 30 seconds on the Congressional podium with this striking statement, one that drew quite a bit of national news coverage: “Madam Speaker, St. Louis and I rise in support of the articles of impeachment against Donald

J. Trump. If we fail to remove a white-supremacist president who incited a white-supremacist insurrection, it is communities like Missouri’s 1st District that suffer the most. The 117th Congress must understand that we have a mandate to legislate in defense of lac lives. he first step in that process is to root out white supremacy starting with impeaching the white supremacist in chief.” Bush thus made four more mentions of white supremacy than Wagner, who used her zero seconds at the podium to say nothing. If one didn’t know better, one would have thought that Bush was the eight-year veteran of Congress and Wagner the two-week veteran. But that’s quite reversed. Wagner did issue the following statement, first ma ing the case for impeaching Trump and then explaining why she decided not to join ten Republican colleagues in voting to do so: “January 6 was a dark and tragic day for our na-

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tion. We have a democratic process for a reason, and the future of our republic depends on us respecting the results of the free and fair elections in which we all participate. A hallmark of our country is peaceful protest, but last Wednesday’s actions were not peaceful, they were violent actions intended to disrupt Congress’s constitutional duty in the Presidential transition. President Trump’s statements during and in the immediate aftermath of last week’s assault on democracy were antithetical to the leadership our nation desperately needed in a time of crisis. America needs strong leadership right now. With so little time left this term, specifically with regard to the Senate impeachment process, I fully agree with President-elect Joe Biden when he stated the ‘quickest way’ for the President to be out of office ill be to ait for anuar 20th when the President-elect is sworn in.

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HARTMANN

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“It has barely been a week since those horrible events, and the impeachment process has moved at lightning speed. A consequential vote of this nature, something that has happened rarely in our nation’s history, should only be taken after the appropriate investigations and a complete airing of the facts so our vote can be fully informed. This is a necessary step for impeachment that has been bypassed. “That does not mean, however, that President Trump should escape accountability for his role in the violence that took place January 6th. I support censuring the President for his rhetoric to ensure that his behavior is not deemed acceptable to future leaders, or to our adversaries around the globe. hile am confident that a bipartisan censure resolution would pass both the House and Senate, unfortunately Speaker Pelosi has chosen further divisive actions that stand no chance of being implemented and do nothing to hold the President accountable. Our nation needs to heal and come together, not retreat further into partisan corners.” There’s a bit to unpack here. Only one of St. Louis’ two congresswomen referenced the need for strong leadership, followed by an expression of support for President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat. That would be the Republican Wagner, who at times may indeed turn out to be closer to the new president’s positions than the Democrat Bush, who already has emerged as a fier voice from iden s progressive an . Wagner did imply falsely that Biden preferred Trump not be impeached. As for the process moving at “lightning speed,” it is fair to say the insurrectionists moved faster, and so might an unhinged president. As for the appropriate investigations and complete airing of the facts, most of us are reasonably comfortable to trust our own eyes and ears. It was sufficient to rel upon the video from Trump’s rally followed by the video from the white supremacists’ trip to the U.S. Capitol that he specificall incited. Wagner’s statement that impeachment is “divisive” — as if censure would have brought together the nation in some sort of group hug — doesn’t deserve much comment. And the idea that impeachment has “no chance of being implemented” is empirically wrong. As for dissecting Bush’s com-

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ments, well, either you believe Donald Trump is a white supremacist or you don’t. I do. The evidence is hardly all recent, having dated back nearly a half-century when, as a grown-adult real estate guy, Trump refused to rent to Black people egregiously enough to get slapped by the Nixon administration’s civil rights enforcement agency. How rich that irony is. From his bigotry with the Central Park Five, to Black dealers having been hustled away when oss rump strolled the oor of his casinos, to the racist birtherism claiming President Obama was born in Kenya, to Charlottesville, to, well, you know the rest. If Trump isn’t a white supremacist, he has certainly played one on TV. Looking ahead, the newcomer Bush is ironically the known quantity. She is an unapologetic progressive, favoring Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, criminal justice reform, housing for all — she calls it a “basic human right” — and a wide array of other causes. Bush’s positions are clear, and in many cases more nuanced than she’s given credit for. You can read them for yourself on her website: coribush.org. In contrast, the veteran Wagner is the unknown quantity. Long situated as a George Bush-style, country-club Republican, she is like so many other members of her party compromised beyond recognition by the brute force of Trumpism. Just three weeks before the 2016 election, Wagner was one of a precious few members of Congress to demand Trump’s removal from the presidential ticket in the wake of the infamous Access Hollywood tapes. Almost overnight after his election, Wagner decided Trump wasn’t such a hopelessly immoral man after all and became one of his more pandering sycophants. It’s anyone’s guess which Ann Wagner will emerge once Trump is gone while Trumpism looms in the background. However that plays out, Wagner and ush both figure to be as notable in 2021 in battles within their own parties as in opposing one another’s positions in Congress. In that respect, at least, they won’t seem so different after all. n Ray Hartmann founded the Riverfront Times in 1977. Contact him at rhar tmann1952@gmail.com or catch him on Donnybrook at 7 p.m. on Thursdays on the Nine Network and St. Louis In the Know with Ray Hartmann from 9 to 11 p.m. Monday thru Friday on KTRS (550 AM).


NEWS

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Missouri Woman Wanted in U.S. Capitol Riots Written by

DOYLE MURPHY

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ell, it was bound to happen: A Missourian has been charged in the U.S. Capitol riots. Emily Hernandez of Sullivan in Franklin County made a memorable cameo in January 6 footage of the extremists, snagging Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s broken nameplate and parading it around the Capitol like a trophy, according to the FBI’s account of her alleged actions, filed last week in federal court. Images submitted by tipsters show a woman identified as Hernandez holding the splintered wooden sign above her head. She is in the thick of the extremist mob. Over her right shoulder in the Capitol is a Virginia man wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt. If Hernandez was a popular figure among the insurrectionists, she apparently has a number of enemies. Acquaintances in real life and online were quick to give her up to the FBI. Three people contacted the feds, and “multiple anonymous tipsters” also provided info and images, according to court documents. Investigators matched up British ITV’s footage with Hernandez’s own Snapchat video from the Capitol, the

Emily Hernandez is facing federal charges. | JUSTICE DEPARTMENT EXHIBIT FBI says. A helpful frenemy also provided a photo of Hernandez wearing what appears to be the same distinctive winter hat in a Facebook pic. An ex-high school classmate also identified Hernandez and told the FBI that she was from Sullivan. From there, an investigator matched photos of the woman in the Capitol with Hernandez’s driver’s license picture. In a criminal complaint, she’s accused of breaking five laws, including disorderly conduct which impedes conduct of government business. She’s also charged with stealing, selling, conveying or disposing of U.S. property. As of press time she was not in custody. n

St. Louis schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams speaks during a January 12 meeting. | SCREENSHOT

St. Louis’ School District Waited for a Miracle. No One Came Written by

DANNY WICENTOWSKI

T That’s House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s stolen name plate. | JUSTICE DEPARTMENT EXHIBIT

he largest mass closing of St. Louis public schools in more than a decade has arrived — and although public outcry in December led the St. Louis Board of Education to reduce its initial target from eleven to eight schools, the board members who reconvened to vote on January 12 did so under a cloud of a familiar disappointment. The school board meeting closed on a vote to shut down four elementary schools: Clay, Dunbar, Farragut and Ford. The district will also close Fanning Middle School, Cleveland Naval Jr. ROTC

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and Northwest high schools. Carnahan will be converted into a middle school. The closures are controversial, though not as sweeping as the eleven-school proposal, revealed in December, that sparked immediate backlash: Parents showed up to protest at the district office, while hundreds left statements at a public hearing to plead for solutions that would keep the institutions open. The chorus was joined by the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, which passed a unanimous (though non-binding) resolution opposing the plan to upend more than 2,000 district students and 200 staff. But now, one month later, the sound and fury appear to have signified almost nothing. Indeed, after the school board announced a “pause” in response to the backlash, board members said they hoped the extra time would bring new resources and political energy to the city’s longstanding education crisis: While St. Louis’ school system was built for a 1960s-era enrollment of more than 100,000 students, it now musters an enrollment of fewer than 20,000 students spread over 68 buildings. Some schools are unable to fill even half their classrooms. Simply put, St. Louis has too

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idway down Main Street in the historic district of downtown St. Charles, one of the old riverfront buildings has been converted into the small art gallery, Missouri Artists On Main. This spring, the gallery will be presenting debut photographer, Nicholas Roach, along with other artists. Although Nick has excelled in capturing everything from models to city skylines, it is his photographs of landscapes, animals and other aspects of the natural world that will be on display. Through his beginnings in Cape Coral, Florida, it was nature that drew Nick in and inspired him to pursue photography. Five years ago Nick left Missouri for Florida as a way to leave his turbulent past behind him; however, in his new home, he was faced with more difficulty when he was injured in a dirt bike accident. What seemed like continuing misfortune at the time, ended up being the window from which he saw a new future. Nick had nine weeks, where he was unable to work, and a brand new camera. At first, Nick admits, he believed photography was simply “taking pictures,” but after participating in online courses and experimenting with all of the settings of the camera, he couldn’t believe the outcome. “After I uploaded my photos,” Nick describes the first time with his camera, “I was just so happy with how everything looked, it just spiked everything from there.” Since his time in Florida, Nick has moved back to St. Louis. With the encouragement from other artists, he continues to push himself to grow and expand his knowledge in the techniques of photography. “To this day,” Nick says, “I spend at least two hours almost every night researching.” Working with others gives meaning to the struggles of his past; Nick helps people find success in his free time, and he seeks to inspire others through this photography. Part of being an emerging artist is entering his photographs, which he places on metal prints, into galleries. His work will be displayed at Missouri Artists On Main this April through May; his pieces give viewers new perspectives of familiar landscapes and other nature scenes. Visitors will also have the opportunity to purchase his metal prints, which display snapshots of the natural world, the way Nick sees it.

ADVERTORIAL

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SCHOOL DISTRICTS Continued from pg 9

many schools, too few students, and the imbalance is draining resources from the district. A month’s delay hasn’t changed that. During the January 12 school board meeting, Superintendent Kelvin Adams revealed that he’d spent the extra time meeting with representatives of nonprofits, alumni organizations and elected officials ho argue t. ouis still needs its school buildings because the population is on the rebound. It is a perspective he does not share. “I am not believing that we’re going to get 10,000 kids coming here next week,” Adams told the board, adding that other ideas raised as alternatives to closures would “require a great deal of time.” ime is a resource t. ouis teachers and students don’t have, Adams said. Tangible help from city leaders is also in short supply: Despite the high-volume opposition to the closings, Adams and other board members lamented the lack of interest by elected leaders during the delay. Among the four candidates currently campaigning for t. ouis ma or, onl one, ara Spencer, sat down with the school board to discuss the closures. Still, Adams said the delay had given him time to reevaluate two elementary schools included in his original proposal, Hickey and Monroe, which he said show potential for growth among preschool students and should not be closed. Adams also said various groups, including Harris-Stowe State University, have pledged support to save the historic Sumner High School, which traces its roots to as the first frican American high school founded west of the Mississippi River. Similar support was not available for the other schools marked for closure. During last week’s school board meeting, Adams presented the board with four options, including his original proposal. One option, “Option 3,” would close just four schools on the condition that the city’s Board of Aldermen pass a moratorium on any new schools (including charter schools) until there is a “city-wide plan for schools” under the city’s next mayor. To make this option work, Adams continued, the city-wide plan would have to be in development by October, and it would have to include reforms to the city’s controversial use of tax incentives to fund private developments, as

There was public outcry over plans to close St. Louis schools, but few solutions ultimately materialized. | DANNY WICENTOWSKI those incentives drain revenue that would otherwise go to the school district. It was this set of requirements which raised the most debate during the meeting. On one hand, Option 3 would be a relief to alumni and parents of students at six elementary schools. But it also meant trusting t. ouis political leaders to accomplish city-wide policy goals. For some of the school board members, this was apparently too much to ask. Several critiqued the empty promises of the city’s powerbrokers and the overwhelming silence that followed last month’s splashy statements, tweets and non-binding resolutions. “I will not support Option 3 with the idea that our elected officials are going to, all of a sudden, come up with a plan,” board member Regina Fowler said. She said city aldermen would have no “meat” in a non-binding moratorium that could prevent new schools from opening in t. ouis, and that ta incentive reform “is a long-term solution, which I agree with, but it doesn’t affect the decision we make today.” Similarly, board member Susan Jones said she was dismayed at the lack of attention to the school crisis on the part of elected officials, particularly in an election season. “My fear,” she explained, “is that we’ll choose an option

“My fear is that we’ll choose an option with the idea that they [city officials] are going to do something.” ith the idea that the cit officials] are going to do something.” On the other side of that fear is t. ouis d indling population and hat happens hen and charter schools court the remaining children. Board members agreed that the city should pursue a moratorium on charter schools, which are publicly funded but are run independently from school districts. But while he supports a moratorium, Adams acknowledged that such a restriction would require action by the state’s conservativedominated legislature, which has spent years trying to pass laws to expand charter schools in Missouri. Indeed, a bill currently pending in the Missouri Senate, sponsored by Republican t. harles la ma er ill igel, ould ma e it illegal for t. ou-

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is to refuse to lease or sell city propert including closed buildings — to charter schools. In his remarks to the board last week, Adams urged the members to consider the stakes of their vote. He reminded them that 62 schools had closed in t. ouis since , including fifteen charter schools, and the city was still “saturated” with educational options. If the board didn’t act, he warned, they wouldn’t have to wait another decade before taking up school closures again: They’d be “back at this table” every two years. In the meantime, Adams concluded, “this community and the resources are being squandered away, and I don’t think they need to be squandered to support the students we have.” After more than two hours of debate, the board voted 4-3 to close eight schools and to dela the final decision to close Sumner until arch. he narro vote re ected the anguish around closing a school, which Adams previously said can feel “like a death” for students and the surrounding neighborhood as they are forced to watch the formerly beloved building degrade into vacancy. But the vote signaled something else, too t. ouis education system won’t keep waiting for someone to save it, and its elected school board has run out of confidence in city leaders. n

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Church Arsonist Wanted in Vandalism Spree Written by

DOYLE MURPHY

A

St. Louis man convicted of setting fires to churches in 2015 is wanted for smashing up a string of buildings, including multiple houses of worship. David Lopez Jackson, 40, was named by St. Louis County police as the suspect in the recent vandalism spree. He has hit more than a dozen locations in Jennings since mid-December, throwing bricks through the windows, police say. In some cases, they believe he also used a hammer to smash the glass. The targets included Noah’s Ark Church, Calvary West Missionary Baptist Church, Community Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church and West Florissant Masjid — all within a short walk of each other. “There is no effort to burglarize the business and the destruction of property appears to be the only goal,” police say in a news release. Last week, police distributed still images from surveillance footage of a man in a dark jacket and knit hat, caught in the act of throwing. Thanks to the help of tipsters, police say they now believe

David Lopez Jackson. | ST LOUIS POLOICE

Surveillance video caught the window smasher in action. | COURTESY ST. LOUIS COUNTY POLICE the vandal is Jackson. They have issued a warrant for his arrest on a charge of property damage. He was not in custody at press time. Jackson pleaded guilty in March 2017 to two counts of arson. Over the years, he has cycled in and out of prison as he struggled with mental illness.

Court records show judges have repeatedly ordered mental health evaluations and treatment, and his mother indicated after one incident that he has schizophrenia. The church fires in 2015 included multiple targets near Ferguson, which drew national attention as police and

church leaders sought answers. The arsons and Jackson were the subject of a Riverfront Times cover story in November 2015. He ultimately pleaded guilty for two of the church fires after police connected him through forensic evidence and surveillance video. He was suspected in five others but never charged. Jackson was sentenced to five years in prison. It wasn’t immediately clear when he was released, but it appears he served at least the majority of his sentence. He is on probation. n

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DARING TO

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TO DREAM Trump’s exit signals a change in harsh immigration policies, but will Joe Biden come through?

BY DOYLE MURPHY

At some point during the Trump presidency, it became clear that there would be no mercy for Alex Garcia. States. deall , arcia thought, he would return to Poplar Bluff before the year was out. But that’s not the way it played out. rom rump s first da s in office, the ne president and hardline advisers or ed to ma e the nited tates a hostile place for those who weren’t born here. They all but sawed off the pipeline for asylum seekers, fought to gut the popular DREAM Act, refined a uslim ban over and over in hopes of dragging it ust over the legal threshold, and yanked children even babies a a from their parents at the border, locking them in cages to discourage further immigration. “The deep cruelty of the Trump administration and their entrenched pride in being hardline was apparent early on,” says Ni-

cole Cortés, an immigration attorney and co-director of the Migrant and mmigrant ommunit Action Project. n t. ouis, the effects ere idespread, hitting universities international students and faculty, setting Dreamers adrift and shaping the face of the city through the omission of thousands of refugees and immigrants who were blocked from legal entry. Garcia and his family were among the first ave of people to have their lives upended b Trump’s policies, and they could be among the first to benefit from changes that President-elect Joe Biden is expected to make after he ta es office ednesda . ut after four years of local immigrants, refugees and their advocates fighting to survive under the previous administration, it’s unclear when and to what extent Biden and a new Democrat-majority Congress

Alex Garcia spent more than three years of Trump’s presidency living in sanctuary. | STEVEN DUONG

Continued on pg 16

he construction or er ed his Poplar Bluff home in September 2017 at age 36 and took refuge in a Maplewood church. A married father and stepfather of five children, Garcia had been told the summer of rump s first ear in office to surrender to . . mmigration and Customs Enforcement so the agency could deport him to onduras. nstead, he sought sanctuary in the basement of Christ Church. t as a desperate move, not to mention one that could fail if federal agents decided to scrap their longstanding practice of not pulling people out of churches. But Garcia hoped to buy a little time to work out a new agreement ith the government. nder the bama administration, had twice granted him temporary permission to sta in the nited

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DARING TO DREAM Continued from pg 15

will reshape the country’s immigration system. “Biden is not going to come in and wave his magic wand and everything is going to be perfect,” Garcia’s wife Carly says. “It’s going to ta e the merican people to fi this.” Advocates know immigration concerns will be competing for a spot among an overload of issues facing the new administration, including triaging the United States’ botched pandemic response and shoring up a ailing econom . “While immigration is important to the new administration, it hasn’t really been announced as one of the four or five top priorities,” says Anna Crosslin, president and CEO of the International Institute of St. Louis, adding that she doesn’t expect any changes that require congressional approval to occur anytime soon as a result. Sara John, executive director of the St. Louis Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America, says Biden needs to go beyond just undoing Trump’s damage. She and other advocates fought a lot of the Obama-era immigration policies, and she orries that the firehose blast of terrible rules during the Trump years has so changed the landscape that allies will grow complacent simply with a return to what had been considered normal. “That’s a really dangerous space for allies to be in,” says John, who along with Cortés has worked relentlessly on Garcia’s case only to see one door after another slammed — literally, at times — in their faces. “I’m cautiously optimistic 2021 will be different,” she says. Cortés agrees. Both women are thrilled to see Trump leave but know there is a lot of work ahead. “At least now,” Cortés says, “it’s not just deaf ears.”

D

onald Trump left the presidency like an angry ex-husband forced to sell the house in a divorce. He and his minions ransacked government programs, punching holes in the walls of critical agencies, selling our democracy for parts and busting the pipes of the infrastructure needed to continue basic bureaucratic functions. The point was not only to change the way the country operates, but also to jam up the works so that the Biden administration would have to spend all its time trying to mend the damage.

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FC Clockwise from top left: Carly Garcia, Xander, Caleb and Ariannalee have become a regular presence at Christ Church in Maplewood.| STEVEN DUONG The apparatus of the U.S. refugee resettlement program is just one victim of Trump’s vengeance approach to governing. “They didn’t just close things, they didn’t just change them, but wherever possible, they actually tried to dismantle or ensure that they could not be restarted easily,” Crosslin, of the International Institute of St. Louis, explains. In 2016, IISTL and other refugee resettlement agencies across the United States had begun accepting rians ho ere eeing civil war. “That came to a grinding halt in 2017 with the president’s Muslim ban,” Crosslin says. The ban, which targeted seven largely Muslim countries, suspended the entr of rians indefinitel , ostensibly to guard against terrorism. St. Louis has a long history of absorbing people escaping con-

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icts across the orld. t famousl adopted tens of thousands of Bosnians in the 1990s and 2000s and large numbers of Vietnamese in the 1980s. And while the arrival of newcomers has always sparked a certain amount of suspicion and bigotry in the early going, that history of offering a safe harbor has become a local point of pride as refugees and their families have fused to the metropolitan region’s core. The number of refugees allowed into the United States each year can vary wildly, depending on what is happening in the world and the need. The president sets the annual cap, and the U.S. had for years led the world in welcoming people eeing starvation, ar and persecution. That changed under Trump. Spurred by ruthless anti-immigrant, anti-refugee advisers Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller,

Trump’s administration immediately began slashing the slots available and turning away desperate people, including those who had risked their lives to support U.S. troops in con icts overseas. “I would be happy if not a single refugee foot ever again touched America’s soil,” Miller told former Trump aide Cliff Sims at one point, according to Sims’ tell-all book Team of Vipers. n the fiscal ear ctober 1, 2015, to September 30, 2016), the U.S. admitted nearly 85,000 refugees. The outgoing Obama administration set the maximum at 110,000 for the following year, but Trump’s Muslim ban included a revised cap of just 50,000. n his first full ear in office, the ne president officiall lo ered it to 45,000. But policy changes were already making it much harder for people who would have typi-


Nicole Cortés, an immigration attorney, has spent years trying to help Alex. | DOYLE MURPHY cally been approved to enter, and only about 22,500 were ultimately allowed in. Each year, Trump shrunk the cap, decreasing it to its current maximum of 15,000, a new alltime low. Biden has pledged to increase the numbers to 125,000, but it could take years to rebuild the operations needed to reach those levels. In a call with reporters, a transition official said it as “too early” to say whether they would reach the goal in 2021 because “it depends on the state of the infrastructure, which is something we’re determining,” CNN reported last month. As the United States slammed the gates on refugees, it lost staff and resources in foreign countries where the initial application process begins. Rebuilding that will take time, and the full extent of the backlog of applicants is not clear. The application process would normally take two or three years. Even if the Biden administration starts working through applications on its first da in office, the timeline for bringing people here will be lagged. Gutting of the federal programs also had the trickle-down effect of cutting into resettlement agencies located around the United States. Without the supply of refugees, organizations cut back on staff. Some closed. The International Institute of St. Louis, which offers a variety of immigrant services beyond refugee resettlement, fared better than many thanks to a young core of committed staff and community support for its work, Crosslin says. It still had to reduce staff by about 20 percent.

Anna Crosslin of the International Institute of St. Louis. | DOYLE MURPHY

Carly stands next to Christ Church pastor Rebecca Turner, bottom right, during one of many events to raise awareness about Alex’s situation and spur ICE to reconsider his case. | DOYLE MURPHY In 2016, IISTL resettled 1,158 refugees. In 2020, that number was 232. Crosslin estimates that the institute would have resettled another 4,000 refugees in St. Louis during the Trump presidency had it not been for the administration’s harsh policies. Multiply those numbers by all the agencies scattered across the country, and the larger picture starts to come into view. Now include the family members and friends that tend to follow the new residents to town. The experiences and destinies of those ho, often eeing for their lives, never made it here weigh on Crosslin. “It wasn’t just St. Louis,” she says. “There were 20 to 25 cities that had launched Syrian resettlement programs. It is a tragedy for the individuals, especially. It isn’t just about St. Louis losing out on an opportunity, but the individuals,

those 4,000 people who didn’t make it to St. Louis in the last four years. What happened to them? If they’re alive, how destitute are they right now? Are they the ones we see the pictures of — winter in the refugee camps in Syria and kids in sandals? They probably are. “That’s the tragedy to all this: that we could have helped 4,000 people and probably saved a fair number of lives while we were at it.”

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hose who were counting the days until Joe Biden and Kamala arris too office no divide their post-Trump dreams into goals that could be accomplished quickly and those that will take more time. On the short-term list is undoing the policies Trump created simply by issuing an executive order or reinterpreting existing laws in the harshest light possible.

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Fortunately for advocates and allies of immigrants and refugees, those orders account for the majority of Trump’s most objectionable policies. The Muslim ban was introduced through an executive order. The move to cage children who crossed the U.S. border with their families was an enforcement decision, as were the directions to amp up deportations even hundreds of miles north. Alex Garcia’s situation is an illustration of both the immediate consequences of Trump and gridlock on immigration reform that goes back decades. thin e re fighting on multiple fronts,” says Cortés, with the Migrant and Immigrant Community Action Project. It was Trump, through an executive order, who led to Garcia receiving a letter three and a half years ago with orders to surrender for deportation. If not for Trump, it’s likely Garcia would have been granted permission to stay another year and continue his life until the next renewal. But it was the unforgiving immigration laws that left him vulnerable to the whims of an anti-immigrant president, and those have been decades in the making. Half his lifetime ago, when Garcia was a teen, he was deported after a failed attempt to cross the border. He was later able to slip across and boarded a train to Poplar Bluff. But that old deportation order remains active today, nearly two decades later. It doesn’t matter that his wife Carly is a U.S.-born citizen or that his children are also citizens. It doesn’t matter that he and his family paid their taxes,

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Carly and Alex Garcia with three of the five kids in the fall of 2017, shortly after Alex took sanctuary in Christ Church. | DOYLE MURPHY

DARING TO DREAM Continued from pg 17

worked, made friends and became respected members of their community. It doesn’t even matter that Garcia tried, through an attorney, to obtain citizenship. The existing laws provide no path for him to clear up that aging misdemeanor without leaving the country. His only option would be to return to Honduras and wait ten years to begin the citizenship process again. With kids who’ve never lived anywhere besides Missouri, much less in a violencestricken country like Honduras, Garcia and Carly see that as no option at all. Immigration attorney Jim Hacking says the U.S. has been stuck in a long-running congressional impasse on immigration reform. The last major changes to the Immigration and Nationality Act occurred nearly a quarter-century ago, in 1996. As a result, the St. Louis-based attorney explains, “we’ve had this pendulum swinging from president to president.” Each new administration interprets the laws as it wishes. Now, with Biden taking office, the pendulum is e pected to swing again. How far is an open question. Trump’s executive orders are one thing, and Hacking is anticipating that the new administration ill file countermeasures

Alex Garcia’s situation is an illustration of both the immediate consequences of Trump and gridlock on immigration reform that goes back decades. almost immediately. “You’ll see this urr of e ecutive orders, he predicts. The bigger unknowns are how long it will take to change practices and whether Biden and a new Congress will move beyond just cleaning up Trump’s mess — not that there isn’t plenty of work to do on that front alone. Trump, Hacking notes, installed people who had been on the farright fringe to run federal agencies. Even when they’re gone, it ill be difficult to scrub a a their fingerprints. s e amples, ac ing points to the difficulties international students had in obtaining permission to study here as well as changes to the criteria for people to sponsor family members to join them in the U.S. Under Obama, the spouses of longtime visa holders were allowed to get jobs in the United States. “Trump came in and said, ‘Nope, we’re not doing that anymore,’ and that just cuts the families’ income in half,” Hacking says. “It’s been little things, like ‘What else can we do? Where else can we stick that knife in a little further?’”

I

n September 2017, Carly Garcia and her children marched with supporters in downtown St. Louis. She pushed her youngest, just three years old at the time, in a stroller. Cortés, with the MICA Project, and Sara John of the St. Louis Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America, or IFCLA, walked at her side. e deserves to be ith his five children,” Carly said of her husband. “What they are doing to families like ours is not right. We are good people, and he wants to be with us.” t as her first da of hat has become a long and frustrating journey, stepping out in front of reporters and demanding justice from unmoved immigration officials, all hile her husband is forced to hide out in a church to avoid being snatched away by federal agents. In the years since, the family had to give up their home in Poplar Bluff. After living with her parents for a time, Carly and three of the kids moved to Maplewood to be closer to Christ Church, where Alex Garcia has been living in a

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basement hall converted to an apartment. Much has changed. She now works for IFCLA and has become a fierce advocate on immigration issues, not only for her husband but for wider reform. The kids are growing up. The daughter she pushed in the stroller during that first march in 2017 is now six. Her oldest has his driver’s permit. But Alex Garcia is still there in that basement. “Although mine and the kids’ life has continued,” Carly says, “his life has literally been on hold for the past three years.” She says it breaks her heart to see her husband, a man who was always proud to support his family, forced to rely on the help of others. In an interview on Zoom, she and Garcia are polite but somber. They are grateful for all the support they have received in St. Louis, so much so that if Garcia is granted another stay of deportation, they plan to remain in the metro and continue to fight for others. he long term goal is persuade Congress to change laws and create a path to citizenship for Garcia and others stuck in the web of U.S. immigration laws. But even if that happens, it will have come at a price. Garcia will have been in sanctuary 1,214 days b the time rump e its office this week. Asked if he would now make the same decision he did in 2017 had he known he would still be living in a basement more than three years later, Garcia pauses for a long while. “I say I think it will be worth it,” he sa s finall . hope is still there.” To keep himself busy, he has painted much of the church’s interior by now and scoured the building for bro en things to fi , small improvements to make. Asked hat he ould do the first da , if he is allowed to walk free in the world again, it seems like too big of a question. The past three-plus ears have been filled ith hopes raised and dashed. If he is allowing himself to imagine some other existence, he keeps it to himself. But John and Cortés, his longtime advocates, suspect he’ll do something quiet. Take a walk in the woods maybe, or just drive around to see where his kids go to school, where his family buys groceries. He’s lived in St. Louis all this time without seeing St. Louis. “I think we romanticize it and think maybe he’ll go to Disney World,” John says. “But he would probably love to go to Home Depot.” Cortés nods. “The man would love to go to Home Depot.” n

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SHORT ORDERS

Matt Ratz is fighting through the pandemic, rolling forward with his food truck and opening a new location of his restaurant UKRAFT in downtown St. Louis. | ANDY PAULISSEN

[SIDE DISH]

Onward and Upward Matt Ratz of UKRAFT pushes ahead with new downtown location despite COVID-19 challenges Written by

CHERYL BAEHR

S

ince opening the first bric and mortar location of UKRAFT (multiple locations including 8182 Maryland Avenue, Suite 100, Clayton; 314571-9196) in la ton s egions entre office building a ear and a half ago, att at has gotten to no the people in the building.

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ore than regulars, the became ac uaintances, even friends, so it asn t hard for him to pic up on the angst the felt last ebruar and earl arch. t as an omi nous signal that things ere going to get bad. his building is corporate merica central, ith errill nch, tifel icolaus, the e gions an training facilit , so e had a front ro seat to ever thing that as happening, at sa s. hat first ee of arch hen the stoc mar ets fell, ou should ve seen people s faces. e sa the before shoc , and then e atched thousands of people pac their offices and leave. t hit us li e a bolt of lightning. at could have never e pected an thing that ould rise to the level of upheaval he, his business partner and brother i e, and the hospitalit industr at large has e perienced since the pandemic began nearl a ear ago. ac then, he and his brother

JANUARY 20-26, 2021

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had nothing but e citement for the future as the atched the food truc the started in gro into a successful venture something at had dreamed of since leaving behind the bar business for the fast casual restaurant sector in . heir brand as built on the idea that people should be able to get the meals the ant, in accordance ith hatever dietar needs the have, and the at es found success in appealing to ever one from eto follo ers to vegetarians to the gluten free cro d so much success that the ere able to put do n roots in the egions entre office building onl a little more than a ear after launching their brand. hat all changed in arch, hen their captive audience of office or ers left the building. i e most people, at assumed the loc do ns ould last a month or t o, and that business at the restaurant ould return to nor

mal, even if the food truc ould continue to suffer longer term ef fects. i e ever one in the indus tr , the uic l found out that there as nothing about this the could predict. e didn t no hat e ere going to do about the food truc , because mass gatherings ere out, so e thre in the to el for that, at sa s. hen, more in formation and data started com ing out about outdoor dining being safer , and all of these sub divisions starting hosting food truc s. ur friend has us out to his, and the ne t thing e ne e ere boo ed da s straight. he communit reall rallied around food truc and small business o ners. he support he s seen from the communit has given at the hope to push for ard not ust ith the food truc and la ton location, but ith a brand ne location do nto n that opened on anuar . s at e plains,


he and his brother had been loo ing for a location do nto n, and hen one became available last summer, the umped on the op portunit . hough he admits it might be cra to open a ne business during a pandemic, he believes that he and his team have to loo to the future and hat ill hopefull be brighter da s not ust for the restaurant industr , but for ever one. do thin that our countr reall rallies around each other in times li e this, at sa s. thin that hat s going to hap pen is as soon as the pandemic lets up e ill have this massive turnaround in restaurants and sports and ever thing, because people reall miss going out. thin ou ill see a huge renais sance hen all of this settles

do n. at too a brea from getting the do nto n up and running to share his thoughts on hat it s li e being in the restau rant industr during such chal lenging times, hat he misses most about business as usual, and hat gives him hope that things ill eventuall get better. What is one thing people don’t know about you that you wish they did? donated a idne to m sister ears ago. What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you? or ing out. Who is your St. Louis food crush? have so man . ur food scene is incredible. ig s double dec er pi a, a sand ich from om s

eli and ed re es. Which ingredient is most representative of your personality? ot sauce. ou never no hat the outcome ill be. tend to be a ris ta er a calculated one, must add. here are so man good chefs in to n the hot sauce is a calculated ris . If you weren’t working in the restaurant business, what would you be doing? oaching baseball. As a hospitality professional, what do people need to know about what you are going through? am glad the don t no . t is probabl orse than the reali e. t has been a ear all of us ill never forget. al a s tr to spin a positive, though, and hope e ill all became much stronger hen normalc returns.

What do you miss most about the way you did your job before COVID-19? ver thing. ust no ing hat to e pect and be able to forecast. e literall have had to ta e this deal hour b hour. m sure m staff has had some frustration, but al a s tr to e plain the h on ever thing. What do you miss least? honestl ould ta e ever thing bac before . miss ever thing. t made me appreciative of hat our industr as. What is one thing that gives you hope during this crisis? he communit s support. t has been ama ing. his cit has sho n an incredible amount of sel essness and support ith the local and ta eout curbside movement. n

Tempus Makes USA Today Top 10 List Written by

CHERYL BAEHR

T

he St. Louis food scene is in the national spotlight again, thanks to Ben Grupe and his talented team. The acclaimed chef’s restaurant, Tempus (4370 Manchester Avenue, 314349-2878), has been named one of the ten best new restaurants in the United States by USA Today readers. The nod, which places Tempus in the No. 6 spot, is part of the newspaper’s Reader’s Choice Travel Award, an annual celebration of everything from restaurants to hotels to travel gear. Nominees were choses by a panel of experts, who narrowed the field before readers had their chance to weigh in. Tempus opened in the Grove this past October for carryout only, a shift from Grupe’s original vision for an upscale, yet approachable, sit-down restaurant. Though Grupe plans to open the dining room when the timing is right, he’s found success in offering guests thoughtful carryout fare that, while rooted in classic techniques, evokes a sense of comfort and warmth. Grupe is no stranger to accolades. An alumnus of the prestigious Greenbriar apprenticeship program in West Virginia, he has spent his career in the spotlight. A two-time culinary Olympian and second-place finisher to represent

Chef Ben Grupe is back in the national spotlight — this time for his new restaurant Tempus, where he serves thoughtful carryout meals. | RJ HARTBECK the U.S. at the Bocuse d’Or, the chef has earned a reputation as one of the best in the field. Though Tempus benefits from his impressive background, Grupe has set up the restaurant to be a welcoming, come-as-you-are eatery with familiar

favorites. The national accolade is proof this approach resonates with his diners. “I am honored and thrilled that Tempus has been named a top new restaurant in the United States by USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice,” says Grupe in

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a statement. “I am amazed at how the St. Louis community has supported us in just a short period of time and couldn’t be more proud of my team. After a very challenging year, this is exciting news as we head into the New Year.” n

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The Surprise Closure of Vegan Deli & Butcher Written by

CHERYL BAEHR

T

his past weekend, lines estimated at nearly a quartermile long snaked around the grounds outside the Vegan Deli & Butcher (524 South Main Street, St. Charles; 636-7573349), as eager patrons waited for plant-based versions of their Taco Bell favorites. Then-chef Chris Bertke had spent the week prior preparing for the “Taco Hell” popup, cooking up dishes like “Cheesy Gordita Crunches” and “Nachos Hell Grande” in anticipation of the crowds. And they came in full force — fuller than he could have imagined. That’s why it caught everyone off guard when, after Sunday’s service, he was informed that the Vegan Deli & Butcher would be closing effective immediately, and that he and his kitchen crew were out of jobs. “The owners wanted to go in a different direction,” Bertke says. “No one really knows why this happened.” The owners in question are Heather and Jason Granger, also proprietors of the adjacent Peace, Love & Coffee. Since last summer, Bertke has been working alongside the husband and wife duo, helping them with the food component of their St. Charles coffee shop. In the process, Bertke has become a culinary phenom in the vegan community, drawing a loyal following for his talent in preparing plant-based cuisine. However, as Bertke explains, personality differences arose between he and the Grangers over the course of their time working together, making the news that they were shutting down the Vegan Deli & Butcher shocking, but in some ways, inevitable. “They are hippies, and I’m an old punk rocker,” Bertke says, making light of the situation. “Hippies and punks never get along. I think it was our personalities clashing. My intense personality clashed with theirs.” According to Jason Granger, he and Heather were thrilled to have

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Chris Bertke’s recent work with Vegan Deli & Butcher on a recent “Taco Hell” project brought a lot of attention — but the shop announced its closure soon after. | COMPLIMENTS OF CHRIS BERTKE a chef of Bertke’s caliber working with them. However, they felt that it was time for the three to part ways so they could both carry out different visions for their businesses. “Chris has been fantastic; he has almost this celebrity status,” Granger says. “People came in from Michigan, Kansas and all over to see us, so it’s very humbling, but the fact of the matter is it’s such a small place and a tiny kitchen. It just comes down to the fact that Chris needs his own place to grow and get bigger.” Bertke hopes that is the case. For now, he says that the Vegan Deli & Butcher concept is 100 percent shut down, unless he decides to resurrect it. He hasn’t ruled that out, noting that he has always loved the idea of a plant-based butcher shop. However, he has no immediate plans to open a place of his own and is excited to do pop ups as he figures out his ne t steps his first one, a pi a pop up, is happening this Saturday at Frida’s in University City. He’s also in talks with a wholesaler to produce his vegan meats, though he admits the idea of owning his own restaurant is more attractive. “Wholesale would be fun, but

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“They are hippies, and I’m an old punk rocker. Hippies and punks never get along. I think it was our personalities clashing. My intense personality clashed with theirs.” I get bored easily,” Bertke says. “I wouldn’t have to answer to anyone, and I could do whatever I want. I like to keep food fun, dangerous, different and new. In the long run, I think my goal is to have a place of my own.” For their part, the Grangers plan to reinvent the food component of Peace, Love & Coffee. Drawing upon Heather’s Italian heritage,

they want to do plant-based versions of Italian favorites and are taking the next few weeks to develop recipes and get their feet underneath them after the change. “We’re going to pare things down and make it more of a cafe with soups, salads and sandwiches — all vegan of course,” Granger says. “The plan is for us to get back to our original vision for what we wanted the coffee shop to be. Chris really showed us we can do so much with vegan food. We learned so much from him.” For his part, Bertke is not dwelling on the situation and is instead looking forward to the future. He’s excited about the calls of support he’s received, including words of encouragement, offers to invest and even a message from a woman in Chattanooga, Tennessee, who suggested he take over her restaurant, free of charge, as she traveled out of town to open another business. For him, it’s proof that what he does has an impact, and he’s eager to keep that going. “It’s going to work out,” Bertke says. “I’m not going to say shit happens for a reason, because I don’t believe in that, but I’m going to land on my feet, keep doing pop-ups and take it day by day.” n


CULTURE [HOMESPUN]

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Dead Fister re-emerges from lockdown with bonkers “Video Death” livestream event Written by

DANIEL HILL

J

anuary 6, 2021 will go down in infamy. It’s the date that the president of the United States willfully whipped his most rabid supporters into a frothing frenzy of violent insurrection, the date that members of Congress were forced to shelter in place as those same supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, the date an unhinged mob beat down the doors of the country’s seat of government and accosted anyone unfortunate enough to cross their seditious path. It also happened to be Kenny Snarzyk’s 42nd birthday — and to hear him tell it, it was a great one. “It was amazing. I loved every bit of it,” Snarzyk laughs when reached by phone the following afternoon. “I mean I realize a bunch of assholes stormed Congress and scared the shit out of a bunch of senators — great! Awesome. So nobody of consequence was hurt. I mean I’m not stoked that anybody died or anything, but, you know.” As jarring a take as that might be coming from most United States citizens, it makes some sense coming from Snarzyk. After all, as vocalist/bassist of the St. Louis doom-metal band Fister, he’s penned such bleak anthems as “We All Die Tonight” and “Life Is Short Life Is Shit and Soon It Will Be Over” — it’s not a surprise, then, that he d find some gallows-humor amusement from the events of the day. Of course, there were some less complicated moments of joy as well.

Video Death, Fister’s upcoming show, is coming for us all. | ART BY LAUREN GORNICK “And then fuckin’ Trump got kicked off Twitter, and then he got evicted — got his eviction papers,” Snarzyk adds. “And then I had pizza and fuckin’ cheesecake! It was a great day. Took my Christmas lights down. I really did feel like I was living the American dream.” Like many Americans entering month eleven of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, Snarzyk and his Fister bandmates have been laying low. But after an uncharacteristically protracted period of dormancy, the band is gearing up for one of its biggest shows yet — a live-streamed event on January 24 dubbed “Video Death” that will see the group performing on a soundstage with tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of video, sound and lighting equipment, lending an unheard-of level of production value to the trio’s punishing set. “It’s gonna be pretty nuts,” Snarsa s. his ill definitel be

the biggest production we’ve ever had, and probably ever will. It’s probably like a $50,000 setup. It’s just insane.” The top-notch equipment comes via St. Louis’ Arch City Audio Visual production company. Largely sidelined since COVID-19 upended the live entertainment industry, the group has recently ta en to filming professional quality livestream shows, including a three-date run with Story of the Year back in October. The company asked Snarzyk if Fister would be interested in using their services in November. “Chris Keith from Maximum Effort, he works for them and he approached me with — I don’t know hen the filmed it, so guess it was something to do with Story of the Year’s live feed or whatever — but he threw the Fister logo on the video wall and they had these crazy lights and shit going,

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and he was like, ‘Hey, any interest in doing a livestream? Here’s where I’m working,’ and just sent me this little ten-second video,” Snarzyk recalls. “And he was playing our songs and had our logo up on the thing. And I was like, ‘holy shit.’ I showed the band dudes, I was like, ‘This looks awesome, but I don’t know.’ We kinda had to be talked into it a little bit.” The band’s hesitance stems from the fact its members have been taking COVID-19 seriously. Drummer Kirk Gatterer works as a nurse with something of a frontrow seat to the pandemic’s toll; guitarist Marcus Newstead regularly wears an N95 mask when doing laundry in his shared building; and Snarzyk has left his Maplewood restaurant, the Crow’s Nest, shuttered since March so as to not contribute to the spread of the illness. The trio even put their weekly band practice on hold for months. It wasn’t until the largest practice space at Encapsulated Studios — one the band had been eyeing for years — became available in June that the group’s members even occupied the same room together, and that was just to move their equipment. It was September or so before the finall got together to play their instruments, Snarzyk says. “It’s not perfect — me and Marcus are probably about four feet away from each other, and we’re about six feet from Kirk,” Snarzyk explains of the larger room. “I mean, it’s still — we’re indoors, we’re in a room. But we’re leaving the masks on, and so far so good.” Snarzyk says that the members of the band have not seen each other’s actual faces outside of a Zoom call since the pandemic began. That’ll change on Sunday for the livestream, when the band will perform without masks. “Which is a little weird to me,” Snarzyk says. “But we’re gonna get tested right before, and that soundstage is a lot bigger — it’s a bigass warehouse. So everybody in the crew is gonna have masks on, we’re getting tested, and we’ll be spread out to where it’ll be practically outside, as far as the ventilation and the size of the room goes. There’s still obviously a little bit of risk involved, but I’m fairly comfortable with it.

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FISTER

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And I’ve been kinda closer to the — I wouldn’t say ‘paranoid’ side of things, but I’ve been very safe. I’ve got some immunocompromised people that I’m close to, so I try not to kill them.” The main reason the band’s members are entertaining the idea of a livestream at all is due to the unprecedented opportunity presented to them by Arch City Audio Visual. The arrangement between ACAV and Fister is a wholly collaborative one; the production company is not charging Fister for its services, instead proposing a 50/50 split from ticket sales. The members of Fister, knowing that many of those who work for the company are largely unemployed, have since had special merch designed for the event by local illustrator Lauren Gornik, for which they’ll split half the profits ith as ell. “There’s a horror movie from the ’80s called The Video Dead, and we just aped the artwork on it really hard, because it’s got such a really cool fucking sleeve,” Snarzyk says. “I have the VHS copy of it and it’s just got really awesome artwork. The movie itself isn’t very good. It’s pretty funny, but it’s no Dawn of the Dead or anything.” Outside of the livestreamed show, Fister has no overarching plans for the coming months. Its

Fister’s show this weekend will feature the highest production value of any the band has ever played. | THEO WELLING members have been slowly writing new material — Snarzyk and Newstead each have small recording setups at their homes that they use to record and trade riffs — and the band has some split releases on the horizon. But aside from that all is uncharacteristically quiet. That’s partially by design, but naturally, COVID-19 plays a

factor as well. “At the end of our last tour in 2019 — that was November — we were like, ‘Hey let’s take it easy next year and we’ll come back in 2021 and we’ll do some big stuff,’” Snarzyk says. “‘We’ll play a couple local shows, but let’s not worry about touring.’ My restaurant was getting busy and we all had some

personal stuff so we were like, ‘Let’s just kinda, not take the year off, but let’s take it easy.’ “And then COVID happened,” he says with that gallows-humor laugh. “So maybe that’s our fault.”

Video Death 1 p.m. Sunday, January 24. Livestreamed event. $10 to $50. Liveentnow.com.

[MOGULDOM]

Private Screening You can rent an entire St. Louis area movie theater for $99 Written by

JAIME LEES

T

This could be you. | @GUIDEOMENATO/FLICKR

hings are starting to become dire for parents here in the Midwest. Temperatures have plummeted, and since it’s actually illegal to leave your children outdoors for any length of time, parents and kids are all feeling that itchy, suffocating cabin fever while being stuck at home. But if you’re looking for a way to safely entertain your kids outside of your house (and who isn’t at this point?), Marcus Theatres is now offering an option that might be a great way to make some nice family memories during these difficult times. Theaters have fallen on hard times

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during the pandemic. Unable to open their doors and let the masses crowd in, they’ve started to offer boutique movie experiences for small groups. Marcus Theatres have been offering private cinema experiences for months now, but the price has recently dropped dramatically. Now for $99 you can rent out an entire auditorium for a private screening for your family or your pod at the Arnold, Ronnie’s, Chesterfield, Mid Rivers, and St. Charles Marcus locations. It works like this: You decide on a viewing day, choose a movie from Marcus’ catalog, pick out your snacks and invite your people. (As many as twenty people are allowed at one screening.) You could also take this opportunity to rent out the theater just for yourself because, let’s face it, dealing with other people is the worst part of any public experience. But the $99 promotion expires at the end of January, so if you want the place to yourself, now is the time to book it. Visit marcustheatres.com/group-theatre-events for more information on the private cinema experience. n

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FILM

Zappa’s life was spent composing not just music, but the circumstances of freedom.

[FILM]

Keeper of the Mystic Scrolls Alex Winter’s Zappa, part of SLIFF’s Best of Fest series, is a fascinating look at a generational talent — whether you’re a fan or not Written by

EVAN SULT AND PAIGE BRUBECK

T

here are few artists as musically polarizing as Frank Zappa — a person is either turned on by the pure boundary-breaking wildness of his output, or repulsed by exactly that. At the center of a creative storm of collaborators across many media, he combined freedom from limitation with a feverish determination to create a body of music and art that adheres only to the ver specific logic of one very unorthodox brain. And that can be pretty off-putting for anyone accustomed to, say, verse-chorus-verse structures, or songs that were made to be beautiful. Which is why Zappa, Alex Winter’s 2020 appreciation of the artist’s life and work, is such a surprising pleasure to watch. It’s a must for fans, of course, in part because it offers tantalizing glimpses of work from Zappa’s vast private library of personal recordings, but the film or s at least as well as an introduction to those who have heard about the legend but never delved in. That’s because ultimately, the film is less about the music than about the singular composer who made it — and less about his rock albums than his overall impact, which included innovative orchestral pieces, anti-PMRC crusading and a stint as Czechoslovakia’s Special Ambassador to the West on Trade, Culture, and Tourism. Despite his subject’s profoundly unconventional style, Winter makes a wise decision to keep the narrative roughly chronological. The Zappa family story starts in

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There is a rarely a frame of Frank Zappa without a cigarette burning. | COVER ART a Maryland town so well-stocked with military-grade poison that every resident is issued a gas mask. Frank’s early efforts aren’t musical, but they are consistent with his later work: He splits his hobby time bet een editing together filmstrips and playing with explosives. An album by experimental French composer Edgard Varesè with an “evil, vile” reputation, combined with his friend Don Van Vliet’s obsession with R&B music played by Black musicians, introduce young Frank to the thrills of taboo music and the hypocrisy of cultural norms. He starts on drums, moves quickly to guitar, and by the time he graduates high school is composing for orchestras. Zappa’s music career gets off to a rough start: Opening a cheap studio in Cucamonga, California, he suddenl finds himself framed and thrown in jail by people who don’t know what to make of him. He quickly concludes that small towns “are wonderful, if you like that kind of stuff,” but that his future lies in the city.

he film does impressionistic takes on early Mothers shows in L.A. and the Garrick Theatre in New York, where Zappa hones his unrelenting work churn of writing, rehearsal and performance, using both chopped-up footage and testimonials. Some of the most penetrating insights on Zappa as both musician and genre — “You couldn’t say ‘Oh yeah, that’s rock and roll,’ cos it wasn’t; ‘It’s jazz,’ no; ‘It’s pop music,’ no; ‘Well what the hell is it?’ It’s Zappa,” — come from Ruth Underwood, a young conservatory-trained percussionist who was so thunderstruck by Zappa’s Garrick Theatre residence that she felt her entire understanding of music history shift to accommodate this new force. A host of collaborators chime in, including musicians like Steve Vai and Alice Cooper but also Bruce Bickford, the artist responsible for the mind-bending clay animation of 200 Motels and other Zappa art, but what keeps it interesting is that they’re actually discussing the collaboration, not the details

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of a rockstar soap opera. Even Gail Zappa, his wife through the thickest and thinnest of times, says she saw him as “a composer, not a rock & roll musician,” and talks more about their work than their children or the details of their interior life, hile the film isel avoids playing to heavy-handed emotional resonances. Winter shows the artist without telling the audience how to feel, and doesn’t shy away from some of the less desirable aspects — his participation in the ambient sexism of the era and culture, the implied selfishness that allo ed appa to be as prolific and focused on his work as he was. In including this though, it really helps one appreciate how much his collaborators — perhaps most notably his spouse — believed in him and his art. Zappa is thus as much a celebration of Zappa’s music as the teamwork and collaboration that helped him realize his projects. But the voice we hear the most is Frank Zappa’s, articulating the logic and process that guided his creative process. His life was spent composing not just music, but the circumstances of freedom. He was a refuter of common sense and the tyranny of respectability, and he spent his life invalidating distinctions of genre, medium and decorum, tr ing to find some common shared values that exist beyond cultural norms. “A lot of what we do,” he says, “is designed to annoy people to the point where they might, just for a second, question enough of their environment to do something about it. And something has to be done before America scarfs up the world and shits on it.” n Zappa is available for streaming January 22-30 as part of the St. Louis Film Festival’s Best of Fest series. Go to cinemastlouis.org/ best-of-fest for tickets and more information.

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SAVAGE LOVE CASE DISCLOSED BY DAN SAVAGE Hey, Dan: I could really use your advice. I recently found my boyfriend’s HIV meds while I was housesitting for him and went into his cupboard for a multivitamin. We’ve been dating for a year and I had assumed he was negative. I’m negative myself and on PrEP, and he is undetectable, so I know there is essentially zero risk of me getting infected, but we agreed to some degree of “openness” at the start of the relationship — having threesomes together — and I recently found a guy we’d like to invite over. I’m trying to get over the feeling of betrayal from the fact that my boyfriend hid his status from me for so long, but I’m fine with continuing the relationship knowing his status now. The thing is, he told me that only five people on earth know, and his mother, who he talks to almost every day, isn’t one of them. He says being poz has really fucked with his self-esteem and that he has had suicidal thoughts because of his status. Is it unreasonable for me to expect him to disclose his status to guys who join us in bed? What about asking him to share with a therapist or “come out” as poz to his mother? I really love him and just want him to be happy and healthy. Wannabe Ethical And Supportive Slut If you’re worrying about HIV at the moment, WEASS, you’re worrying about the wrong virus. Unless you’re lucky enough to live in New Zealand, you and the boyfriend shouldn’t be inviting men over for threesomes right now. Assuming you do live in New Zealand … I don’t think your boyfriend is morally obligated to disclose that he’s HIV positive to a casual sex partner, WEASS, but in some states he is legally obligated to disclose that fact. While rarely enforced, these HIV disclosure laws almost always have the opposite of their intended effect. Instead of creating a culture of testing and disclosure, these laws disincentivize getting tested — because some-

one who doesn’t know they’re HIV positive can’t get in trouble for failing to disclose. These laws were passed decades ago, back when contracting HIV was perceived — mostly accurately — as a death sentence. But the don t re ect hat it means to have HIV today or to sleep with someone who has HIV today. Having even unprotected sex now with someone who is HIV positive and has an undetectable viral load is less risky than having protected sex with someone who hasn’t been tested. Condom or no condom, the HIV-positive guy with an undetectable viral load — undetectable thanks to meds like the ones your boyfriend is taking — can’t infect someone with HIV. Undetectable = untransmissible. But a guy who assumes he’s HIV negative because he was negative the last time he got tested or because he’s never been tested? That guy could be HIV positive and could infect someone with HIV — even if he does use a condom, which could leak or break. In answer to your question, WEASS, I think it would unreasonable for you to force your boyfriend to disclose his HIV status to the person you want to invite over for a threesome — but, again, HIV disclosure laws might require your boyfriend to disclose. Now if the presumably sexually active, sexually adventurous gay man you’re thinking about having over to your place in Christchurch isn’t an idiot, WEASS, he’ll know your boyfriend — the guy with the undetectable viral load — presents no threat to him, at least where HIV is concerned. And while you absolutely shouldn’t out your boyfriend, WEASS, you could raise the general subject of sexual safety and see how this guy reacts. If he seems reasonable — particularly if he mentions being on PrEP too — he’s probably not gonna freak out about your boyfriend being HIV positive for the exact same reason you didn’t: There’s zero chance your boyfriend could infect him with HIV. (We’re both assuming this guy isn’t HIV positive himself, WEASS, which he might be.) If he seems reasonable you should encourage your boyfriend to disclose to him. Being told it’s no big deal from someone your boyfriend wants to fuck before

If you want cuckolding to be a part of your future, then going with someone she’s comfortable with the first time/ few times she cucks you is a really good idea. he fucks him could help your boyfriend feel less insecure about his HIV status. Finally, you can’t order your boyfriend to come out to his mom about being HIV positive, WEASS, but you might inspire him to. He obviously worries people will judge him or shame for being HIV positive; that’s one of the reasons he hid it from you — and, yes, he should have disclosed his HIV status to you sooner. He obviously underestimated you: You didn’t reject him when you stumbled over his meds after tearing apart the cupboards in his absence while you were searching for — what was it again? Oh, right: a multivitamin. (Sure.) Anyway, WEASS, tell your boyfriend he’s most likely underestimating his mother in the same way he underestimated you — then let him make his own decisions about who to tell and when. Hey, Dan: I’m a submissive straight guy who finally — FINALLY — met a woman who is open to my main kinks: bondage and cuckolding. I’m into handcuffs and leg irons, so the bondage part was easy (she didn’t have to learn to do shibari), but the cuckolding part is a lot trickier to realize during a pandemic. She ended a longstanding FWB arrangement with a coworker when we began to get serious a year ago. Her former FWB is a safe choice, emotionally speaking, since there was no romantic interest on either side, and he’s safe where COVID-19 is con-

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cerned, since they are in a “pod” at work. (And they’ll both be vaccinated soon!) She keeps saying he’s the perfect bull, but he’s not right for me — which is a weird thing for me to say, since I’m not the one who’ll be sleeping with him. I don’t want to sound conceited, but I’m much better looking than he is and I’m also better hung. My cuckold fantasies revolve around my girlfriend fucking a guy who’s hotter than me and better hung than I am. I worked with a therapist for a long time — not to “cure” me of my kinks, but to better understand them. And what I came to is this: It’s both deeply threatening (in an erotic way) for my girlfriend to fuck someone who’s “better” than me and deeply reassuring (in an emotional way) when she chooses to be with me when she could be with a “better” man. Better Example Than This Erotic Rival Something about this guy works for your girlfriend — there’s a reason she keeps bringing him up — and if you want to have a future with this woman and you want cuckolding to be a part of that future, BETTER, then going with someone she’s comfortable ith the first time fe times she cucks you is a really good idea. And while he may not be betterlooking than you or have a bigger dick, BETTER, he’s gotta be “better” than you are in some other objective sense — better educated, makes better money, better at eating pussy, etc. Surely there’s something about him your girlfriend can throw in your face that tweaks your insecurities (when she heads off to fuck him) and meets your need for reassurance (when she comes back to you). And how do you know your dick is bigger than his? Because your girlfriend told you it was. You might want to ask her if she lied about his dick being smaller than yours, BETTER, because that s definitel the ind of lie women tell new boyfriends about their exes and old FWBs. Given a chance to walk that back, BETTER, your girlfriend very well might — and it might even be true. mail@savagelove.net @FakeDanSavage on Twitter www.savagelovecast.com

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SWADE

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Riverfront Times, January 20, 2021