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MARCH 6-12, 2019 I VOLUME 43 I NUMBER 9

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COVER The Lite Stuff Space flight got its start in St. Louis. Its future could be a locally made plastic rocket Cover image courtesy of

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HARTMANN Study Says A report on MetroLink security makes one thing clear: The problem isn’t the infrastructure. It’s the incompetence BY RAY HARTMANN

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or as long as I can remember, the ruling class of St. Louis has had a simple default response to problems for which there is no apparent answer: Study the problem. We have wasted so much money studying so many topics for so many years that I don’t even feel the need to cite any particular examples to document the point. Commissioning studies is what we do. Overpaying for them is what we do. Failing to implement the results or otherwise achieve the

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desired end is what we do. Perhaps there are rare exceptions to the last point, but from government structure to transportation to finance to criminal justice to the environment to education to tourism and on and on, we’ve collected so many studies that we may need to commission a study on whether we should construct a new library to house our studies. And if the answer is yes, we’ll need another study on to where to put it. St. Louis is to studies what Athens is to history. If high-dollar consultants across the U.S. held Academy Awards, we’d be honored for lifetime achievement. Throw in that these studies often enrich those flickering around local politicians like moths on a light, and it’s hard to even consider considering the idea of another study. So, all that said, it pains me to write the following words: We…uh…we just…uh…we just kind of, sort of got…uh… Oh, the hell with it: St. Louis just received a Metro-

Link security study that actually makes sense. If heeded, it might restore public confidence in a troubled light-rail system. If ignored, that system might continue to derail itself. The study is the result of nine months of thorough review by outside experts with serious chops — experts insulated from our politics — and it lays out both general and specific recommendations (99 of them) for our 46 miles of lightrail track. The one thing it doesn’t do is tell the home folks what they want to hear. The findings of WSP, a New Yorkbased engineering/consulting firm, basically annihilate MetroLink for its existing approach to security. It concludes that disagreements between its in-house officers and the various police agencies tasked with providing extra coverage have created a dysfunctional system. “[T]he territorial issues,” it says, “are overshadowing system security.” The problems begin with those in-house officers. “Metro Public

Safety portrays itself in named rank, title, and presentation as law enforcement, though per statute there is no discernible authority to do so,” the authors write. They add, “The focus of the department seems to be policing the system, rather than securing the system.” WSP throws shade for “confusion of roles and responsibilities,” noting that its observers witnessed “disengaged” MetroLink guards “standing off to the side…on their phone…or seated away from passengers.” Comically, were it not so sad, its observers weren’t certain if those guards who did seem engaged were talking to “potential passengers or just people or friends just hanging out at the station.” The consultants are highly critical of the “stressed relationships” between MetroLink security and law enforcement officials (and by inference politicians) from the city, county and St. Clair County. For Metro security staff, the report notes, “the relationship with Continued on pg 8

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HARTMANN

Continued from pg 7

law enforcement is challenging, with issues and conflict around who should fill what role and how to police the system. The conflicts are spilling out into the public realm, which contributes to the perception of a dysfunctional security system.” That dysfunction is not breaking news, but it’s significant that dispassionate, outside experts find MetroLink’s approach to security such a train wreck. I spoke with Lurae Stuart, the transit expert who headed the study. She told me she has conducted dozens of these studies from here to Dubai, and after describing herself as “one of the least political people you’ll ever meet,” dropped this friendly bombshell: “This was a uniquely challenging environment to the extent that (MetroLink) has become such a political football,” Stuart says. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen the politics be quite this pervasive.” Now, there’s a distinction. To soften the blow, she adds, “It also means to me that lots of people are passionate and invested in trying to fix it, and we’ve seen that play out in the degree to which people have receptive to our recommendations.” She notes that St. Clair and St. Louis County police are now supplementing enforcement in the city, where understaffing has been a problem. And there’s new management at Metro. Stuart adds that St. Louis’ MetroLink-related level of crime was either average or slightly below for a system its size, an encouraging note that many will find surprising. And the overall number of police officers assigned to MetroLink, she says, is not an issue. The larger concern, Stuart says, is for there to be a greater security presence on trains and platforms. WSP surveyed more than 1,800 local residents, almost all MetroLink riders, and a stunning 71 percent called out the system on this point. It is validating to hear that we need more (ticket) validating on MetroLink rather than a massive structural overhaul. Lots of us in St. Louis have wondered whether our open-access system is hopelessly outdated and would need a prohibitively expensive reconstruction with turnstiles. The study rejects that flatly. That’s good news. The experts are telling us our light-rail system can be safe if we just start managing it properly, albeit with changes to station access,

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The findings of WSP, a New Yorkbased engineering/ consulting firm, basically annihilate MetroLink for its existing approach to security. lighting, communications systems and the like. WSP’s most entertaining suggestion is that MetroLink security people need to lose their guns and drug-sniffing dogs and concentrate on providing a better presence on the trains, rather than playing policemen. The top priority of MetroLink personnel should be to provide better service and comfort to riders. Bigger picture, it’s good to see a study that focuses strictly on security, and not issues such as expansion of the system. Far too often, local discussion on light rail devolves into bitter rehashing of where MetroLink doesn’t go and who it doesn’t serve and why and how that came to pass. I’ve got strong feelings about all that, too, but with ridership numbers in a free-fall — and anecdotal evidence of crime around the system more in the news all the time — St. Louis needs to keep its eye on one ball: Making MetroLink look and feel and truly be safer than it has been in the past. The study suggests MetroLink needs to improve its media image, among other things, and admonishes officials to stop bickering so much in public. Selfishly, that’s not such a high priority for those of us in the transparency business. But I do think we have a civic duty to come together behind our light-rail system and to give it a chance to succeed. We could start by making sure they implement the ideas in this study, not just file it away like so many others. If we can’t bring ourselves to take that simple step, I say we explore the reasons why. Maybe even commission a study. n Ray Hartmann founded the Riverfront Times in 1977 and recently made his triumphant return to these pages as a columnist. Contact him at rhartmann@ sbcglobal.net or follow him on Twitter at @rayhartmann.


NEWS

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Rep Seeks Crackdown on Church/ State Cases Written by

DANNY WICENTOWSKI

M

issouri Representative Hardy Billington (R-Poplar Bluff) is on a mission from God. Unfortunately, it’s not the type of mission that requires driving to Chicago at night while wearing sunglasses, but rather one to make the separation of church and state just a bit less separate. In a House committee hearing last week, Billington presented a bill that would force plaintiffs advocating for the separation of church and state — those suing to stop the public display of crosses on government property, or seeking to block prayer in public schools — to disclose their real names. No more Jane Doe or Jane Roe. In these cases, and only these cases, Billington would require the legal system to out the person suing. Currently, when it comes to identification, a judge can balance the interests of the public against the interests of the people filing suit. But Billington seems to believe that a new law is necessary to make sure anyone who doesn’t share his religious beliefs has no shot at anonymity. “Except if the party in interest is a minor, in any action involving the separation of church and state, such action shall be prosecuted in the name of the real party in interest,” his bill states. During Billington’s comments last week, the freshman representative explained that he’d been inspired to file the bill because of an incident seven years ago, when he erected a ten-foot-tall crucifix that said “Jesus Saves.” Someone apparently complained that the cross was on public land, and although a MoDOT survey eventually determined the cross was on Billington’s property (where it still resides, apparently),

Freedom From Religion Foundation threatened a lawsuit over this cross, which was errected in a public park in Neosho. | SCREENSHOT VIA YOUTUBE he believes it shows that “every day in this country, somebody is attacking the thing we believe in.” It’s worth noting, though, that Billington’s beliefs would be considered rank bigotry by more progressive Christians. He actively campaigned against the passage of marriage equality and once asserted that homosexuality is “killing people two to three times the rate of smoking.” In 2012, he took out a newspaper ad supporting the breathtakingly dumb (and obviously unsuccessful) “Don’t Say Gay” bill that sought to restrict conversations about sexual orientation in public schools. During the hearing last week, Billington repeatedly singled out the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, whose stated mission includes “challenging the entanglement of religion and government, government endorsement or promotion of religion.” The foundation has been busy in Missouri. In 2016, its complaint and threat of a lawsuit forced the Tipton school district to prohibit staff from leading prayers in school. In 2017, the nonprofit targeted a 60-foot-long cross in a

public park in Neosho — the city opted to sell a chunk of the park to a private entity rather than remove the religious symbol. While those cases never reached the point of a lawsuit being filed, Billington’s bill is tailored to target anonymous plaintiffs in similar cases that actually make it to court. The bill, Billington testified, “will guarantee that no individual or organization will be able to use our state court as a weapon to attack the right of the Missouri people to display any religious symbol, or hide behind unknown plaintiffs.” But to Tony Rothert, executive director of ACLU of Missouri, Billington’s bill requires an unconstitutional leap of faith. “I think his arguments are either disingenuous or he has no idea how the legal system works,” Rothert suggests. And that’s because, while it’s common for cases involving separation of church and state to include anonymous complainants, those plaintiffs are only hidden from public identification. A lawyer defending a city’s

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courthouse nativity scene, for instance, would know full well who made the complaint. The attorney could depose them, or challenge their standing to a judge. “Any lawyer filing a lawsuit would be risking a lawsuit if they were filing on behalf of a fake person,” Rothert says. Of Billington’s bill, he adds, “I think it’s likely that the fears he’s talking about are imaginary concerns.” What’s not imaginary, though, is the fact that plaintiffs in these church-state lawsuits have reason to want anonymity. During last week’s hearing, Freedom From Religion Foundation attorney Ryan Jayne said he had clients who were threatened with murder if they did not drop a case. Jayne argued that judges allow the use of pseudonyms only in “exceptional cases,” and that Billington’s bill would needlessly damage the independence of Missouri judges. “This bill would lead to Missouri residents getting harassed, assaulted, or even killed,” he said, “even when a judge knew about the danger and otherwise could have prevented it.” n

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Police Union Hates on Supposed ‘Cop Hater’ Written by

DANNY WICENTOWSKI

T

uesday’s election drove everyone in St. Louis a little crazy, but none more so than the union representing city police officers, which over the past weekend attacked Alderwoman Megan Green with a slew of red-baiting memes — including a crude photoshop that affixed her head to the body of Mao Zedong. Green, the alderwoman representing the 15th ward, was challenging Board President Lewis Reed in the city’s Democratic primary, along with state Senator Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis). (Ballots were still uncounted as of press time.) An outspoken progressive, Green has denounced the police response to protests, opposed a tax hike for police salary increases and is even suing the department for tear-gassing her at a protest. And while the St. Louis Police

The St. Louis Police Officers Association compared Alderwoman Megan Green to Chairman Mao and Mean Joe Greene. | SCREENSHOT VIA FACEBOOK Officers Association is no stranger to boldly questionable social media strategies, the recent wave of memes and invective about Communists apparently went too far even for someone within the organization. After several days of anti-Green posts, on Sunday, the page published, and then swiftly

deleted, a post that began with the words “BETTER DEAD THAN RED.” “Our posts are working,” the text of the deleted post continued. It gloated that the anti-Green memes had been shared through targeted Facebook posts to users in police-friendly ZIP codes, and

Could Missourah Be Better Together, Too? Written by

SARAH FENSKE

I

f St. Louis County and St. Louis city really are better together, isn’t that also true of, say, Mercer County and Putnam County? What about Worth County (population 2,053)? Why not merge all 31 Missouri counties of fewer than 10,000 residents with their nearest neighbor? And hey, while you’re at it, why not have state voters decide on who gets merged, not the small-county residents whose representation will be affected? Taking her cue from the Better Together effort aimed at forcing St. Louis city and county into a shotgun marriage, state Representative Gina Mitten (D-St. Louis County) filed a resolution at the statehouse last week aimed at forcing similar consolidations of our rural neighbors. Tongue firmly in cheek, twinkle presumably in her eye, Mitten

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Let’s consolidate the whole state while we’re at it. | FLICKR/UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI SYSTEM titled her press release on the resolution “Rep Mitten Says What’s Good for the Goose Is Good for the Gander.” The resolution calls for ballot language in 2020 that would treat the

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state’s smallest counties much like its biggest. “Smaller counties would be absorbed by the larger counties in their select grouping,” Mitten writes. “As has been proposed for St. Louis, the presid-

that the posts had made “the commies red with anger.” But the post’s opening phrase and illustration, which showed a splotchy red circle cancelling out a hammer and sickle, was interpreted by some as a not-so-veiled death threat. “This is not funny, this is not ing commissioner of the largest county in the group would continue to serve, without a new election, until the general election of 2024.” Reached by phone, Mitten says, “We have counties with lesser population than many municipalities in the St. Louis County area. If the idea is that there will be efficiencies by consolidating government, why would these efficiencies not be extended to other counties?” And hey, why not let state voters decide, not just the people who will be affected? If it’s good enough for St. Louis ... Mitten says she welcomes co-sponsors to her efforts. But asked whether she’s dead set against Better Together, she laughs. “I can’t say I’m opposed to Better Together; it seems to be a moving target at this point. I do have an issue with the idea of raising sales taxes to lower property taxes.” And, she adds, “The idea that the rest of Missouri can force an entirely new government on what’s effectively two counties strikes me as fundamentally at odds with democracy.” So there you have it ... watch out, Missourah, we could be coming for you! n


cute,” Ward 8 Alderwoman Annie Rice tweeted Sunday afternoon. “This is a death threat from the @SLPOA. Take it down, fire whoever put it up, apologize immediately and work to make amends. Denounce this, members. Now.” Instead, the post simply disappeared. But the SLPOA page kept live its other anti-Green posts, including a bewildering attempt to photoshop the alderwoman onto the body of an NFL player meant to be former star “Mean” Joe Greene (only white, and with the wrong jersey number). On Saturday, Green posted her own statement in response to the SLPOA campaign, writing that it “represented everything that is getting in the way of moving our City forward.” She suggested later in the statement that she had been targeted “because we are the only campaign who will begin the long road toward implementing the transformational reforms” to St. Louis’ approach to public safety. Indeed, Green’s campaign was arguably the most radical on public safety reform. She even called for the closing of the City Workhouse, the medium security jail where last year she led a delegation of undercover reporters (including this one) to investigate the facility’s crumbling conditions. The idea of Green taking the aldermanic presidency apparently pushed the SLPOA over the edge. The union’s controversial business manager, Jeff Roorda, is no stranger to deleting batshit-crazy Facebook posts. Roorda’s antics have made the police union a toxic player in the city’s political arena. Candidates who have received its endorsement — such as St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson — have been targeted by progressives and protesters who see the union as a blind apologist for police abuse. (Even Krewson, it should be noted, has called for Roorda to be fired.) Back in January, during a debate between the three candidates for the aldermanic presidency, Green said she would neither accept or seek the union’s endorsement. Nasheed also said she would not seek the union’s endorsement, though she added that the union had indeed reached out to set up an interview. (“I have not called them back yet,” Nasheed added at the time.) As for Reed, his answer seemed to leave the door open for possible future support. “If the police department endorses me,” he said, “I’m going to take their endorsement.” (The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department does not

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The police union posted, then deleted, this meme on Sunday. | SCREENSHOT VIA FACEBOOK formally endorse candidates, so it’s not clear what Reed was saying there.) The police union does not appear to have made a formal endorsement, perhaps because it would be political poison in many areas of the city. Instead, it apparently embraced the style of Facebook trolls and meme lords to get its message across, and if the goal was attention, it garnered some success. Green’s statement included screenshots of the SLPOA posts in question, and one screenshot showed that it had been shared by Ward 23 Alderman Joe Vaccaro. But no bully likes the taste of his own medicine. On Sunday night, only hours after deleting the “BETTER DEAD THAN RED” post that cast Green as a threat to St. Louis, the irony-resistant union returned to cast itself as the victim, complaining that its posts had resulted in death threats to law enforcement. “Since we announced our opposition to the candidacy of self-professed cop-hater Megan Green, her supporters have made 8 DEATH THREATS on this page against the police,” the post stated. “We will keep updating this post as her supporters continue their death threats and remind us of what kind of people support Megan Green.” It also suggested in its headline, oddly, “Megan Green = Hate Speech,” which kind of sounds like what a bunch of snowflakes would say. But hey: At least the police union gave St. Louis progressives weighing their options a very public primer on who they didn’t want to see win. n

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THE

LITE STUFF Space flight got its start in St. Louis. Its future could be a locally made plastic rocket BY DANNY WICENTOWSKI

In theory, getting to space is simple — just go up, then keep going. In reality, there are some additional steps: Collect a few billion dollars, build a rocket taller than a ten-story building, gain access to vast quantities of fuel and, preferably, buy a deserted plot of land that you wouldn’t mind obliterating on launch day. Or, you could do it like Brian Stofiel — just print a rocket in your basement and drag it to the edge of space on a weather balloon. Then, and only then, would you fire the rocket, which would have to be light enough to lift with a bit of helium but also sturdy enough to survive a prolonged

burn through the upper atmosphere. You probably wouldn’t build that rocket out of plastic. But Stofiel, a St. Louis-based Air Force veteran without a bachelor’s degree, is doing just that, utilizing a heat-resident, chemically treated plastic that he himself invented. Stofiel’s breakthrough has caught the attention of rocket scientists who know intimately what it takes to engineer an escape from Earth. His creation, extruded inch by inch by an overworked 3D printer nicknamed “the Beast,” is at the

heart of what he calls the “Boreas” launch system. Without burning a drop of fuel, Boreas’ launch would send an unguided balloon/rocket hybrid — a “rockoon” — bobbing and twisting into the sky. In Stofiel’s plan, the balloon’s single passenger would be a rocket named Hermes. Aside from its payload and fuel (and a bit of carbon fiber tube), Hermes would be made entirely of plastic. Within an hour, Stofiel says, the balloon could rise to 90,000 feet, far above the domain of commercial aircraft. Some 70 years ago, early rockets broke into orbit by using the technology behind ballistic missiles,

Brian Stofiel and an intern inspect the detritus of a backyard engine test. | DANNY WICENTOWSKI riverfronttimes.com

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A rendering shows one variation of the “Boreas” system: A balloon drags a rocket one-third of the way to space, and from there the rocket’s all-plastic thrust system carries it into orbit. The rocket then releases “Hyperion” space planes, which disgorge payloads of miniature satellites. | COURTESY OF STOFIEL AEROSPACE

THE LITE STUFF Continued from pg 13

their massive engines burning liquid oxygen and producing enough thrust to hit 17,000 miles per hour. But to a balloon, the sky simply opens its arms. Beneath the rocket, tethered by yet another umbilical rope, would be a space plane with folded, swept-back wings. The size of a Mini Cooper, it looks like the fusion of a fighter jet and an origami crane. Called Artemis, it will hold Boreas’ brain. At nineteen miles up, the guidance computer would snap to work, writing a firing solution and sending the cue to Hermes to punch its ticket to space. When Hermes’ engine ignites, its plastic motor would eject a pillar of flames at nearly 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. With so little atmosphere remaining, Hermes would need only around two minutes of burn before it enters low-earth orbit, where it could then disgorge

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an army of imaging satellites. Currently, Boreas is science fiction, a reflection of the still-unrealized ambitions of its creator and his company, Stofiel Aerospace. But the technology underpinning it is very real. Stofiel printed and fired dozens of small-scale Hermes prototypes from the backyard of his home in Boulevard Heights, and he’s twice tested the rockoon design that would allow the rocket to bypass the thickest parts of the atmosphere. He’s still waiting to prove his central thesis: that in under a week, Stofiel Aerospace can custom-print a rocket, blast it into space and deliver an orbiting payload at an industry-low $20,000 per kilogram. That payload could be imaging satellites or scientific experiments. Eventually, Stofiel envisions Boreas becoming the preferred delivery service of the orbital economy, dropping packages on the other side of the world using a variation of the Artemis as a reentry vehicle. It’s a long overdue service for

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the commercial space age, Stofiel says, making his pitch above the noisy conversation of a monthly networking event at Cortex. “You really need to be able to have that on-demand access to low-earth orbit,” he adds. “I don’t want to wait two years, or six months, I want to go to space next week. I just got tired of waiting on everybody else to do this.” With his biker-guy long hair, messy basement laboratory and intense antipathy for NASA, Stofiel often seems like a mad rocket scientist, both figuratively and literally. Stofiel Aerospace is also a family business, and Stofiel credits his daughter for inspiring Boreas in 2012, when she was five. (Now twelve years old and a veteran of NASA space camp, Stofiel’s daughter is an official member of his company’s board of directors.) By any stretch, Stofiel Aerospace doesn’t yet pose a challenge to SpaceX, the company founded by Elon Musk that now services more than half of all American commercial orbital space launches with a

fleet of rockets that fire at $62 million a pop. Rather, Stofiel has spent years taking the first small steps to turning his ideas into a viable space service. The modern space race remains dominated by governments, deep-pocketed entrepreneurs and massive aerospace corporations. But Stofiel’s first steps have intrigued both rocket scientists and industry insiders. Reaching into his briefcase, he produces a blackened rocket nozzle the diameter of a coffee mug. The surface is hard to the touch, the skin left bumpy and scarred by its encounter with rocket fuel. “We call it positive structural molding,” Stofiel says, describing the proprietary heat-shielded material in his hand. Turning the nozzle over, he points out the lack of structural distress, the strength of compartments designed to focus thousands of pounds of thrust. It weighs almost nothing. “And that’s plastic from Microcenter at Brentwood,” he adds, laughing. “That hit 2,000 degrees!”


I

n 1952, Earl Robb started his career designing airplanes at the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, a St. Louis defense company with a history of manufacturing military fighters and missiles. By 1955, Robb was working on the problem of spaceflight. His work helped put the first American astronauts into space in 1961. More than six decades later, on a morning in March 2018, Robb and three other retired McDonnell engineers descended into Brian Stofiel’s basement. Combined, they possessed about 300 years of expertise in rocket design and space engineering. They’d come to see for themselves if this 40-year-old entrepreneur was just boasting or, perhaps, truly brilliant. They arrived in a basement workspace cluttered with 3D printers and rocket parts in various stages of construction and chemical treatment. Robb, 88, was used to operating with specialized teams toiling in the best facilities money could buy, and yet the scene was still a familiar one. On a table, Stofiel had arranged dozens of rocket nozzles and components for the engineers’ inspection. He also dragged out the reams of data he’d collected in the past five years of launches and static fire tests. It made a believer of Robb. “All my life, I dealt with heavyduty structural things,” Robb says now, recalling what he observed that morning. “He had this very light rocket. That just impressed the heck out of me. It still does.” Robb and Stofiel first met through monthly luncheons arranged by members of “Mac’s Old Team,” the name adopted by the retired McDonnell engineers whose work set the stage for NASA’s Apollo missions to the moon. By putting astronauts in space for both the Mercury and Gemini projects, the McDonnell engineers left their mark on decades of space programs. Robb would later work on Skylab, the first manned U.S. space station, and his colleagues designed systems used in space-shuttle launches and the International Space Station. Although NASA gets most of the credit for America’s victories in the space race, early American programs were actually contracted to private industries, and McDonnell Aircraft was the major player of that era. The company’s founder, James S. McDonnell Jr., would himself get on the intercom to make announcements to the

From a St. Louis basement, Brian Stofiel’s plastic rockets are printed in a matter of days. | DANNY WICENTOWSKI Mercury and Gemini teams. “This is Old Mac, Old Mac, calling all the team,” Robb says, impersonating his old boss in a deadpan. The name stuck with the retirees, Robb explains, because it fits. “We’re all old now,” he says, chuckling. The group maintains a contact list with 200 or so names, and today’s luncheon brings some twenty retirees to a private room in a Hibachi Grill in St. Charles. Stofiel, a regular attendee, is seated at a table against a wall, telling a former Gemini engineer about the impact of the government shutdown on planned rocket launches. Robb steps into the middle of the room, welcomes the crowd and begins reading announcements. He informs the team of the passing one of its own, a former guidance and control-system designer for Mercury and Gemini spacecraft. “Right now, it seems like we’ve got down to the point where there’s not very many people passing away in our group,” Robb remarks wryly. “The reason for that is… most of them have already gone.” The room replies with a knowing groan of laughter. But Robb and the members of Mac’s Old Team are doing more than just ticking down the names of their still-living colleagues. For the last several years, the retired engineers have made the drive south to Bonne Terre, the rural Missouri town where their legacy is being preserved in a space museum.

And Robb and others see a commonality in Stofiel, a self-taught rocket scientist. At the start of the space program, every engineer had to be self taught. “Just think of all the rockets that blew up in the late ’50s and ’60s trying to develop reliable launch vehicles,” says Ron Jones, a Boeing engineer whose aerospace career began in the early 1970s – more than a decade after McDonnell Aircraft launched the first Mercury flight that proved rockets could indeed take men to space without exploding. “It’s just darn tough to build a rocket; it’s probably the most difficult thing we can do, period,” Jones adds. “Brian is going through the same process right now, and he’s using a radical, contemporary approach to achieve it.” Stofiel’s approach impressed Jones just as it did Robb, whose work on the Mercury program involved endless, painstaking efforts to shave ounces of metal from the heavy capsule. But instead of designing a metal rocket for peak efficiency and lowest weight, as early space engineers did, Stofiel went one step further. He got rid of metal entirely.

O

n a recent Saturday morning, Stofiel leans back on his living-room couch. On the wall above him are two bronze-plated flintlock pistols and a framed photo of a southwestern desert scene. Stofiel is

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getting over a cold. He’s wearing a worn company T-shirt and a pair of dusty jeans. Stofiel, admittedly, would not fit into the clean-cut world of 1950s aerospace engineering. Shortly after his birth in Joliet, Illinois, his family moved to St. Louis, where his father and grandfather introduced him to the joys of model rocketry in Carondelet Park. As an adult, Stofiel returned to his hometown after multiple career changes, including a stint in an Air Force electronic-warfare unit and a job repairing medical equipment. Like his father before him, he bonded with his daughter over launching things into the sky. Instead of hobby rockets, though, he set the five-year-old’s sights on a 50-pound satellite. “And then I ran into a problem,” Stofiel continues. “It was going to cost us $2 million to get that satellite into space, so I went to my daughter. She’s like, ‘I guess we gotta build a rocket.’” It’s a story that Stofiel has clearly practiced, an adorable (and true) anecdote honed over years pitching his company to investors and conference audiences. At times, Stofiel naturally lapses into the jargon of the startup world, enthusing about the potential for “disrupting” the space industry, or noting that he’s “bootstrapping” the company — when what he simply means is that he’s gotten other jobs while funneling every cent to the startup. Between his

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Members of “Mac’s Old Team” (from left, Dean Purdy, Lou Mavros and Earl Robb) keep St. Louis’ space legacy alive. | DANNY WICENTOWSKI

THE LITE STUFF Continued from pg 15

own resources and his family’s, he claims he’s invested $750,000 into putting the Boreas into space. On March 27, 2015, he launched his first test rocket, Bella R1, named for his daughter. “I started designing the rocket from everything I knew from the other industries I worked in,” Stofiel says. The Boreas’ design elements, for instance, were inspired by his work in medical imaging. He built the guidance computer with elements he’d learned in the Air Force. But the heart of Stofiel’s promised disruption is the process that turns a 3D printer’s plastic into a hard, heat-absorbing ceramic — a transubstantiation that raises the material’s melting point from 200 degrees to more than 2,000. Stofiel says the process — for which he has applied for a patent — was inspired by his observation of cooling systems in nuclear power plants. “The heat gets retained,” he explains of the chemically treated plastic in his rockets. “With my ceramic nozzle, you can walk up as it’s firing and hold it in your hand if you really wanted to. The outside is 70 degrees.” For observers like Jones, of Boeing, Stofiel’s invention seems nothing short of revolutionary. Initially, Jones says, “I thought he was a bit wacky.” The idea of building a rocket out of plastic seemed “total-

ly outlandish, ridiculous.” But seeing the plastic Stofiel developed, along with the system that worked with it, changed his mind. “Brian’s a visionary,” he concludes. Despite promising results, though, Stofiel has struggled to package his breakthrough in the data preferred by professionals. While he was living in Cleveland, Stofiel claims to have approached scientists at that city’s NASA Glenn Research Center. He was looking for a software simulation to describe the various forces inside his rocket. In response, Stofiel says the scientists told him to take a hike — no software, they said, could simulate what was happening inside a heretofore unknown rocket design in the moments after ignition. “We didn’t have a starting point; it was too complex,” Stofiel says of his research. “Unlike what’s been happening the last 20 or 30 years in aerospace, we couldn’t simulate the problem in the computer.” The solution, says Stofiel, was “firing rockets as cheaply as possible to collect the data.” There was so much basic information to ascertain: What was the rocket’s thrust? How did the gas behave while moving through the nozzle? What was the pressure of the combustion chamber? On that last point, says Stofiel, “It took us 37 test fires to finally figure out how to sensor that.” The test fires steadily filled in the data. In 2015, Stofiel launched two rockoons into the atmosphere, a risky venture that he

carefully describes as “legal under the spirit of law.” Although both the rockoons’ rockets fired, neither was designed with sufficient power to break through the atmosphere. But to Stofiel, the results were still hopeful. But by the time Stofiel moved

space known as the Karman Line. Stofiel believes Boreas is ready. The only thing stopping the launch is money. Before launching at the Karman Line, Hermes will need to be fitted with a specific transmitter that allows federal agencies to follow its flight — “The government wants to be able to track your rocket quickly,” Stofiel notes — and it comes with a cost of some $30,000. Each full-sized Hermes rocket adds another $10,000 to the bill, and Stofiel wants to prove his doubters wrong with an ambitious demonstration: firing three rockets in three days. He had hoped to arrange the shots at the Karman Line earlier this year, finally proving that his plastic rocket engine is more than a basement fantasy. But he has yet to do one. He says that the company is now aiming for a launch this summer. “Most people think funding just occurs,” Stofiel says, noting that around 100 other companies in the U.S. are developing rival technology to launch payloads cheaply into low-earth orbit. The competition forces companies to play the long game. “It’s common to not get investment for ten years in the space industry,” Stofiel says. Even so, his impatience is audible. After all, he believes that he’s already got a

An undated photo on display at the Grissom Center shows local McDonnell engineers and Freedom 7, the first Mercury capsule. | DANNY WICENTOWSKI back to St. Louis in 2016, his primary obstacles weren’t technological. The next benchmark would require his company to launch rockets to 62 miles above sea level, the division between Earth and

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launch vehicle ready to go to space. “I can build out a rocket in 83 hours,” he adds. “You give me the money, and I’ll build it.” Rising from the sofa, the CEO of

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THE LITE STUFF Continued from pg 17

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Stofiel Aerospace pulls on a pair of boots and clomps down the stairs to his basement. To the right is the family room with a table and the sewing machine where he stitches his company’s logos on jacket patches. To the left lies the workshop, where a rocket-assembly line occupies two shelving units and three 3D printers. Stofiel grabs two ends of a rocket, fitting the cylinders together to form a small-scale version of the Hermes. Its two meters of length barely clear the low basement ceiling. With rocket-launch plans in stasis, Stofiel is turning to plan B — marketing and selling his heat-absorbing invention in the form of motorcycle exhaust systems. He’s building a large kiln in his backyard to accommodate the new orders. He hopes the sales will supply funding for his space project. Maybe it’s not how SpaceX or Boeing would fund their research, but there is no guidebook to starting a space business, just as there was no guidebook for McDonnell Aircraft when it set to work building the Mercury. If Stofiel had that company’s resources, he could throw a lab full of engineers at every question mark and buy rocket test after rocket test to document the wobble of every data point. But it’s been 58 years since Mercury’s first mission, and Stofiel expects the space industry 2019 to be more open, a marketplace of possibility instead of a closed laboratory for the rich. He’s got a rocket and a plan, and that’s enough for him. It’s also enough for some of his fans on Mac’s Old Team. “That’s what the Mac guys really did tell me,” Stofiel says. “They said, ‘Stop trying to understand it. You’ve got something that works. Go use it.’”

A

t the entrance to the Grissom Center in Bonne Terre, visitors are greeted by a wallsized quotation attributed to the engineers of the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation: “We solved 100 unsolvable problems every day.” On a recent Saturday morning, three members of Mac’s Old Team hold court around a circular table in the museum gift shop. They’ve already enjoyed a breakfast of cookies and coffee, and as a group of Girl Scouts noisily files into the museum, the three former engineers discuss Stofiel and his plastic rocket. Earl Robb is just as enthusias-

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“Think of all the rockets that blew up in the late ’50s and ’60s trying to develop reliable launch vehicles. It’s just darn tough to build a rocket. It’s probably the most difficult thing we can do, period.” tic as ever, but Dean Purdy, who worked as an electrical engineer on Mercury, had previously visited Stofiel’s basement workshop and watched closely as Stofiel’s plastic rockets caught light. He came away from the demonstration with interest, but also a familiar wariness. “Compared to what we had, he’s way ahead of the game,” Purdy concedes. But he points out that some of the rocket tests in Stofiel’s backyard had misfired, raising questions about what would happen to those same engines miles above the ground. “It’s the same thing we went through on Mercury,” he says. “You go back to the drawing board, find out what happened, and do it over again.” Purdy is dressed in the museum’s uniform, a blue polo shirt with his name stenciled on the left breast. The museum is a rather unusual one: Its home of Bonne Terre is a rural town of 6,000 known for its mining history and state prison. The town had no role in the twentieth century’s race to space. But the museum’s founder, Earl Mullins, grew up in the 1960s. He’d watched the first Mercury launches on TV as a child. A lifetime later, in 2005, Mullins opened the museum as a passion project. McDonnell Aircraft did no business in Bonne Terre. But four years ago, the company’s former engineers began volunteering their presence, welcoming visitors and lending expertise to guided tours. When the museum expanded, Mac’s Old Team assembled to assist with construction of


the new exhibits. Purdy ambles over to watch Mullins welcome the Girl Scouts to the museum. Mullins conducts the tour like a rural Bill Nye, and his voice booms unaided as he directs the group’s attention to an original McDonnell drafting table, used by Purdy and other engineers tackling their daily allotment of unsolvable problems. Though the quote is a fanciful piece of boasting, a photo on a nearby wall proves it wasn’t entirely empty. The black-and-white image shows a group of 92 engineers clad in white lab coats and white caps. They’re seated around the squat metal bullet of the 2,300-pound Freedom 7 capsule, a product of the Mercury program. After years of testing and failures, it became the first American craft to deliver a human to space. Back at the gift shop, Purdy rejoins Robb and a third retired engineer, Lou Mavros. Mavros’ résumé could easily double as a comprehensive history of American space flight. If it had to do with space, Mavros probably worked on it, starting from the earliest rockets designed to lift Project Mercury to the massive machinery required to transport, fire and fuel the fleet of shuttles. The process wasn’t always straightforward, and no system was foolproof. In the beginning of his career, Mavros notes, the biggest challenge was the Atlas booster rocket, whose design amounted to a bomb with skin as thin as a dime. It contained enough pressurized liquid oxygen to produce 300,000 pounds of thrust, or just enough to break into low-earth orbit. “That early Atlas was nothing more than a stainless-steel balloon,” Mavros says. “If the pressure got too high, the whole thing would explode.” And indeed, during Atlas’ development, the rockets exploded with a distressing regularity, often within sight of the astronauts in training. Even the Atlas’ critical safety devices were prone to exploding. “I was testing a valve,” Mavros recalls. “The first time, the thing blew. We blew all the air-conditioning ducts off the ceiling.” Those are the sorts of accidents that become disasters, and while the Mercury and Gemini programs concluded with no fatalities, it wasn’t always so. In The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe told the story of the fighter-jet pilots who preceded the first astronauts, racing past the speed of sound in rocket-powered aircraft. The peril they faced was real; an appalling number died in fiery accidents.

That danger persisted into the age of the space program. In 1966, two Project Gemini astronauts died in a catastrophic wreck when their training jet crashed at Lambert Field. A tragedy like the Challenger flight, in which the shuttle broke apart and killed seven people, may seem today like an anomaly, but the space race was built on blood, and every success stood on the shoulders of past failure. The museum is a good reminder of that: Its namesake, Gus Grissom, died on the ground in a cabin fire on Apollo 1. No lives are at stake in Stofiel’s experiments. But the odds are against him. Despite its apparent simplicity, the odds rarely favor attempts to launch more than 60 miles above sea level, past the Karman Line and into space. Stofiel’s backers may burst with enthusiasm for a non-metal rocket, but Purdy has seen this road before. He advises prudence. “The process he’s going through now is to prove his launch system can actually launch,” he says. “And that has yet to be proven.” And the launch is just the beginning. Purdy runs through a rapid list of possible problems: The plastic nozzle is impressive on small rockets, but will the full-size version melt before it hits orbit? Can the rocket nozzle withstand more than a minute of rocket burn? How accurate is the guidance system? How many satellites can it successfully deploy? Can its reentry vehicle protect fragile cargo from the force of slamming back into the atmosphere? Two weeks later, Stofiel is working in his backyard. He’s lying on his stomach, his face inches from the rear of a test rocket engine wedged in a hole in the lawn that’s been braced by a layer of bricks. The ground is wet from recent rain and snow storms, and the air somehow feels both humid and freezing. These conditions are poor for rocketry. Stofiel brushes hair out his eyes, straightens up and steps back, evaluating the launch site. Stofiel signals to an intern — a local high school sophomore — that it’s safe to hit the ignition switch. There is no flame. Instead, there is a pop, and then nothing. Not even a whiff of smoke. Stofiel sighs. “I think we burned all the fuses,” he says, and he crouches down to pick through the wiring with a fingernail. The entrepreneur starts walking back to the house. He has more fuses and rockets in the basement. “It happens, man!” Stofiel shouts back to the intern. “This is all normal. This is just how it goes.” n

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BY PAUL PAUL FRISWOLD FRISWOLD BY knows a thing or two about children’s books. Lennon and Hendrix will be signing copies at 7 p.m. Friday, March 8, at Mad Art (2727 South 12th Street; www.leftbank.com). Tickets are $20 for one person and one copy of the book, with $5 companion tickets available for the twelve-and-under crowd.

SATURDAY 03/09 Off the Wall

The Bouffon Glass Menajoree is an unusual spin on the classic play. | MAIKE SCHULTZ

THURSDAY 03/07 Busted Glass

FRIDAY 03/08 Dig It

Live, Tonight: Lennon & Hendrix

Bouffon is a particularly French strain of theater that mines comedy purely from mockery. It’s influenced by low-culture burlesque and high-culture commedia dell’arte, and in the hands of New York company Ten Directions, bouffon has been honed to a very sharp point. Local theatrical ensemble YoungLiars brings Ten Directions to St. Louis for a weekend run of Bouffon Glass Menajoree, an interactive parody of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie. Tom, Amanda and Lauren Wingfield are a perverse family of white-trash anti-clowns. Each night they welcome a new gentleman caller, to be played by a member of the audience. The show is not recommended for young audiences. The Bouffon Glass Menajoree is performed at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday (March 7 to 9) at the Centene Center for Arts and Education. Tickets are $20.

The Luminary (2701 Cherokee Street; www.theluminaryarts. com) reopens after its winter break with a new group show that explores both the reconfigured gallery space and the idea of an exhibition itself. Freedom in a Platform is inspired by the Diggers, a seventeenth-century movement that advocated for economic equality by farming on common land rather than privately owned acreage. The artists showing work in Freedom in a Platform will repurpose the gallery and how it’s used, with performances, a rotating end date that sees pieces move throughout the gallery, and pieces that will disappear from the exhibition and perhaps later return. Sage Dawson, Ohad Meromi, Marina Peng and OOIEE all have work in the show, which opens with a free reception from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, March 8.

For many people, Thomas Lennon will always be Lt. Jim Dangle, the kindhearted and very lonely sheriff’s deputy from the TV show Reno 911! (For a much smaller percentage, he’s forever Monsieur Laupin, suave host of the much-missed Viva Variety.) The comic actor has written multiple successful films (Night at the Museum, Balls of Fury), and is on the cusp or releasing his first novel for young readers. Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles is about a young boy recruited into the Garda, the Irish police force that deals exclusively with the magical beings of the Emerald Isle. Ronan is undersized, with bad eyes and social anxiety, but he won’t let that stop him from proving that his jailed parents are innocent of all charges, and were most likely framed by the wee people. Lennon’s creative partner is local illustrator John Hendrix, who

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Now one of St. Louis’ longest-running art parties, Wall Ball returns for another year of fresh art for a good cause. More than 30 artists donate their time and talent for the benefit of Artscope, a nonprofit organization that teaches creativity and art to St. Louis youth. The volunteer artists will create live art before your very eyes from 7 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, March 9, at Third Degree Glass Factory (5200 Delmar Boulevard; www.artscopestl.org). Patrons will place a bid on the piece (or pieces) they like, with the winning bidder going home with the finished piece. Music is provided by 18andcounting, there’s a cash bar and light refreshments, and proceeds help foster and train the next generation of homegrown artists. Admission to Wall Ball is $40 to $70.

Only Connect English novelist E.M. Forster wrote six novels in his long life, each driven by his belief in the primacy of genuine human connection in a world divided by matters of class and social strictures. In Scott C. Sickles’ new drama Nonsense and Beauty, Forster’s own relationships take center stage. The play is inspired by Forster’s long-term relationship with much-younger, married police officer Bob Buckingham. Forster introduced both Buckingham and his wife to his social circle, in the process embarking on a love triangle that endured four decades, from 1930 to Forster’s death in 1970. The Repertory Theatre St. Louis presents the world premiere of Nonsense and Beauty Tuesday through Sunday (March


WEEK OF OF MARCH MARCH 7-13 7-13 WEEK 8 to 24) at the Loretto-Hilton Center (130 Edgar Road; www.repstl. org). Tickets are $46 to $71.

SUNDAY 03/10 A Woman Galled

SATURDAY & SUNDAY

10AM – 1PM

The high priestess of the Gauls is playing a dangerous game these days. Although Norma is no longer having an affair with Pollione, leader of the enemy Romans, she wants him back; they have two children together, after all. But the Gauls are on the verge of open war with their Roman oppressors, and Norma is supposed to remain chaste to interpret the will of the gods. As for Pollione, he has transferred his affections to the young priestess Adalgisa. When Norma learns the truth of Pollione’s faithlessness, she’s

Buy some art at Wall Ball; it’s for the kids. | EGAN O’KEEFE 7:30 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Sunday (March 8 and 10) at the Skip Viragh Center (425 South Lindbergh Boulevard; www.winteroperastl.org). Tickets are $35 to $55.

TUESDAY 03/12 Queen King

Carole King’s life was like a musical. | JOAN MARCUS not certain whom to strike out at first. Vincenzo Bellini’s bel canto opera Norma is the tragic tale of a woman scorned, another woman deceived and the race to do the right thing before the innocent pay for the crimes of the guilty. Winter Opera Saint Louis perform the mournful classic at

AWARD WINNING BRUNCH

Although her musical talents were obvious from an early age, Carole King harbored no dreams about stardom. Playing the piano and writing songs were dream enough for her. King’s creative partnership with fellow budding songwriter Gerry Goffin led to early success, and then a romantic partnership that was less successful. King turned young love, failed love and new love into the soundtrack of the late ’60s and early ’70s, first for artists as diverse as the Shirelles, Aretha Franklin and the Monkees, and later for herself with her best-selling solo album Tapestry. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical tells King’s story with the songs she and her creative partners wrote. The show returns to St. Louis for a brief run of shows at the Fox Theatre (527 North Grand Boulevard; www. fabulousfox.com). Performances are Tuesday through Sunday (March 12 to 17), and tickets are

$29 to $125.

WEDNESDAY 03/13 Bottoms Up Nick and Nigel Bottom are having a tough time keeping their theater company afloat. The theater-mad English public is enamored with their main competitor, Shakespeare, and less thrilled by the works of the brothers Bottom. They’re on the outs with their patron, Nick’s wife Bea is tired of him blowing through their meager savings, and no matter what kind of show they come up with, “the Bard” beats them to the punch with a similar production. Desperate for a hit, Nigel pays a soothsayer for a peek at the future to see what the next big thing will be, and discovers it’s going to be something called “a musical.” Yes, this could work in the Bottoms’ favor. Written by real-life brothers Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick, Something Rotten! is a musical about low-rent dreamers, the works of Shakespeare and the invention of a new art form. The Broadway hit is performed at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 13, at the Stifel Theatre (1400 Market Street; www.stifeltheatre.com). Tickets are $35 to $85. n

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Wednesday March 6 9:45 pm Urban Chestnut Presents

The Voodoo Players Tribute To Jimi Hendrix

Thursday March 7 9 pm

Mia Borders

Hot Soul from New Orleans

Friday March 8 10 pm

Alabaster

Jam/Rock from Chicago Free Show!

Saturday March 9 10 pm

Jonathan Braddy Band Garth Brooks After Party

Wednesday March 13 9:45 pm Urban Chestnut Presents

The Voodoo Players Tribute To Paul Simon

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FILM

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[REVIEW]

The Knights’ Tale Stephen Merchant mixes grappling and charm in his screwball WWE comedy Fighting with My Family Written by

ROBERT HUNT Fighting with My Family Written and directed by Stephen Merchant. Starring Florence Pugh, Nick Frost, Lena Headey and Dwayne Johnson. Now showing at multiple theaters.

T

he final weeks of winter are a slow and understated time for new movies, as the final survivors of the end-of-year awards races make a silent retreat from theaters and the studios cautiously let go of films that aren’t quite big enough to go up against the seasonal superhero entries, but can (with luck) hold their own against a small trickle of animated sequels, second-tier action films and overwrought YA love stories. It’s the time for Liam Neeson chasing after whoever he’s mad at this year, or for inoffensive romantic comedies like Isn’t It Romantic, a film which spends ten minutes self-consciously spelling out everything it’s going to do and then seventy-nine more sticking to that plan. In the midst of this, Stephen Merchant’s charmingly odd Fighting With My Family has slipped into theaters with a relatively low profile. It’s a biographical film, but one that deals with relatively recent events and whose subject is still only 26 years old. It’s a sports film, with all the requisite emotional highs and lows, but it deals with a sport known for its passionate yet extremely marginalized audience. It’s also a comedy (writer-director Merchant is, after all, best known as one of the co-creators of The Office), but one that relies less on gags than on a skewed, screwballcomedy ambiance. Fighting with My Family is the story of Saraya Knight, better

Siblings Saraya and Zak Knight (Florence Pugh and Jack Lowden) share the dream of wrestling glory. | ROBERT VIGLASKY/© 2018 METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER PICTURES known by her stage name Paige, which she lifted from a character on the WB series Charmed. She’s a young pro wrestler from Norfolk, England, who entered the family tradition at thirteen and fulfilled the family dream by working her way into the WWE’s training program in the U.S. The film follows Rocky convention in depicting her grueling training, but gives equal significance to how her success changed the dynamics of her wrestling-obsessed family. It features a strong central performance by Florence Pugh (which will come as no surprise to anyone who saw Lady Macbeth a few years ago), along with congenial performances from trainer Vince Vaughan and brief appearances by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the film’s beefy fairy godfather. Merchant dutifully allows all of the familiar dramatic beats of a sports movie, but doesn’t let them overshadow the broader and mildly off-kilter family drama. Watching the film, I was reminded of the eccentric households in You Can’t Take It With You or Arsenic and Old Lace, families so immersed in their own er-

Like the young romantics in a Capra film, Paige uses her notquite-normal background to find her way through the puzzling world of professional sports entertainment. ratic perceptions and passions that they rarely notice — or care — that they’re not like everybody else. Only when Saraya lands in the lonely world of WWE boot camp (also known as Orlando, Florida) does she realize what a strange nest she’s left behind. Like the young romantics of those Capra films, she uses her not-quite-

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normal background to find her way through the puzzling world of professional sports entertainment, which is no less odd than Norfolk, but in different ways. Whether you’ve heard of Paige or not, you know where the story is going, but Merchant keeps a cool distance. This isn’t a story about triumphant heroism or athletic superiority; it’s about wrestling as a kind of performance. Perhaps defying what you might expect from a film with the WWE imprimatur, Merchant presents professional wrestling not as a series of smackdowns, rivalries and athletic accomplishments, but as a carefully constructed exercise, each successful chokehold or piledriver the result of established moves and careful rehearsal. Like a hidden treasure or just-discovered-deed that might change the fortunes of a 1930s screwball family, the Knight family’s devotion to their craft is their real secret. It’s what holds them together and gives Saraya/Paige strength. In a profession where everything is a kind of performance (even Paige’s “real” name Saraya Knight is a stage name), their professionalism is the true eccentricity. n

MARCH 6-12, 2019

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CAFE

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[REVIEW]

Promised Landing A wave of new restaurants hopes to bring back Laclede’s Landing — and make it a dining destination Written by

CHERYL BAEHR Mas Tequila Cantina 708 North Second Street, 314-877-1700. Monday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

The Lou Eats & Drinks 710 North Second Street, 314-621-9570. Monday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.

J

avier Geminiano sinks into a black wooden chair in the front dining room, catching a three-minute breather from the organized chaos in the back of his restaurant. Though it’s a Sunday night, and the streets of Laclede’s Landing are desolate, the back room at Geminiano’s sixmonth-old Mas Tequila Cantina is packed with 50-plus conventiongoers. The requests for margaritas and micheladas have been endless, but now that the party has been served its entrees, Geminiano has a moment to reflect. “The Landing is such a great area — it’s historic and has wonderful buildings and is such a part of the city,” Geminiano says. “It’s coming back. We opened here because we want to be a part of bringing it back.” Walk the cobblestone streets of the Landing any given night, however, and you might wonder why Geminiano is so bullish on the area. In its heyday in the 1980s and early 1990s, the city’s historic riverfront district was the place to be, a vibrant maze of bars, clubs and restaurants perpetually buzzing with locals and out-of-towners looking for a good time. But time has not been kind to the Landing. The area has a reputation as a ghost town, a tourist trap in need of tourists, and while mainstays like Morgan Street Brewery, Big Daddy’s and the Old Spaghetti Factory have hung on, the vacant real

At Mas Tequila Cantina, now open in Laclede’s Landing, you can sample strawberry margaritas, sopes or good old-fashioned tacos. | MABEL SUEN estate around them only confirms that image. However, if you stand in front of Mas Tequila’s entrance on Second Street, you feel something — a faint glimmer in an area that has been void of light for over a decade. It’s not just the colorful flags, beckoning you inside with the promise of tequila-spiked drinks and approachable Tex-Mex food. It’s not even the fact that there is a newer restaurant there in the first place. It’s the fact that Mas Tequila has neighbors. New neighbors. In the last eighteen months, three restaurants — Mas Tequila Cantina, the Lou Eats & Drinks and, most recently, Kimchi Guys — have all opened up on Second Street, just north of the Landing’s MetroLink stop and the reopened Gateway Arch grounds. All three are determined not only to bring back, but to improve upon, what the Landing used to be, turning the area into a bona fide dining, drinking and entertainment destination. For Geminiano, a native of Mexico, the district was nothing but pure, untapped potential when he first saw it. With nearly two

decades of hospitality experience in his home country, Geminiano knew he wanted to open a restaurant and bar when he moved to town six years ago, searching everywhere from the Central West End to Washington Avenue for the right spot. Nothing struck him until he walked into the former home of Jake’s Steaks on Second Street. With its historic architecture, large size and inexpensive rent, he felt like he was getting a steal and signed on the dotted line immediately. Walking into Mas Tequila Cantina, you’ll understand why Geminiano was smitten. The soaring bar area, surrounded by a loft with additional seating, evokes the feeling of a Spanish-style interior courtyard. The room’s historic brickwork, wooden beams and wrought-iron details are nothing short of stunning. Interspersed throughout its nooks and crannies are Dia de las Muertos-inspired artwork and vintage photographs of Mexican street scenes. The large wooden bar, backed by a wall containing an impressive tequila selection, takes up one side of the front room. High-top communal

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tables, and two small nooks with more traditional tables, provide additional seating. When Geminiano first opened last May, he had ambitious plans for a menu that would showcase authentic Latin cuisine in addition to the fare typical of American-style Mexican restaurants. He’s scaled that back and instead relies on a standard playbook that is generally successful for what it is. A chimichanga is the sort of deep-fried, cheese-andsour-cream-covered indulgence you want when you’ve chosen the sort of restaurant that serves you margaritas out of a glass the size of a small punch bowl. A platter of enchiladas features four different varieties — cheese, bean, chicken and ground beef — each smothered in smoky red sauce and crema. Both the enchiladas and the chimichanga are simple, but satisfyingly rich and well executed. Geminiano shows more range in his “taqueria” selections. Shrimp tacos are stunning, filled with plump, perfectly cooked shellfish nestled into corn tortillas with red onions, salsa and

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PROMISED LANDING Continued from pg 27

cilantro. His al pastor version is equally delicious, a juicy mélange of pork and pineapple that hits the right notes of sweet, spice and savory. The pork and fruit flavors are wrapped in warmth from smoky chiles, giving an unexpected dimension of complexity. There are some misses, however. On the sopes and tacos, the steak was flavorless and chewy, while an order of tequila hot wings features paltry chicken pieces and a basic hot sauce, together reminiscent of something you’d find on a complimentary appetizer buffet. The biggest offender, though, was the ceviche, not so much in taste (though it could have used significantly more citrus) as in temperature. Instead of bright, lime-kissed refreshment evoking the seaside, Mas Tequila’s ceviche was served somewhere between room temperature and warm. It was off-putting. However, after eating Mas Tequila’s housemade pork tamale — which is curiously buried in the menu’s a la carte section alongside rice and beans and french fries — you understand the restaurant’s promise. The tender masa is filled with hunks of succulent pork, then covered in a deeply earthy, molestyle sauce that is so rich, it’s like gravy. Wash down a platter of these beauties with a “Javi’s Premium” margarita, and you’ll be so excited about the Landing you might just start browsing for real estate. If Geminiano is able to see the Landing with the unfettered optimism of someone who didn’t witness the bad times, his neighbors at the Lou Eats & Drinks are more battle-tested. Though the St. Louisthemed restaurant has only been open in its current form since October 2017, it operated as a location of the popular local Italian chain Joey B’s for years before that. Kendra Willoughby, the Lou’s general manager, has worked at the restaurant for four years. That’s long before the restaurant rebranded and, critically, includes the time when it felt like the crippling construction project to reunite the Arch grounds with downtown would never end. “It was supposed to take two years, and it took almost five,” Willoughby says of the massive CityArchRiver project, which made the Landing almost impossible to access from the Arch grounds. “But it was difficult before construction, too. A lot of bars started closing before that.”

After years of construction, the CityArchRiver renovations could change the equation for the Landing — in a good way this time. | RYAN GINES The Lou’s owner, Paula Zingrich, had been part of the Joey B’s team before buying the restaurant. She understood that the Landing was in the midst of a transition, and felt that the restaurant needed to change as well. What better place to showcase the unique culinary heritage of St. Louis, she thought, than a part of town filled with tourists eager to experience the local color? Once the renovations were completed, surely there would be throngs of hungry people curious about the city. Out of that idea, the Lou was born in all of its Provel, gooey-butter glory. To that end, the Lou is not haute cuisine, but rather a game of “where did you go to high school” in food form. And the restaurant does that capably, serving St. Louis classics like pork steaks and hot salami (with the inexplicable absence of toasted ravioli) the way you’d want them showcased to out-of-towners experiencing them for the first time. An appetizer of Bosco sticks is the sort of carbs-on-fat pleasure you’d use to soak up a Bud Light: The cheese-filled breadsticks offer little more than salt, bread and goo, yet you want for nothing else. Pretzel bites are a toastier, deconstructed version of the Bosco stick with silken, Monterey Jack cheese sauce served on the side in a plastic ramekin. However, the reason to go to the Lou is the pizza, a wonderful rendition of St. Louis’ own thin-crust, Provel-covered, square-cut contribution to the world of pie. The restaurant offers solid takes on a

loaded veggie, meat lover’s and a variety of single-topping pizzas, but if you’re at a St. Louis-themed restaurant, the only way to do it is to go peak STL and order “The Lou.” This ham-and-cheese pizza, inspired by the wonderful Gerber sandwich, uses a garlic-butter base in place of red sauce, then covers it with hunks of ham, gobs of Provel and a sprinkle of paprika. It’s heavenly. If the Lou Eats & Drinks and Mas Tequila Cantina are glimmers of life, the newest addition to Second Street, the fast-casual Kimchi Guys, may well prove a beacon. Like Willoughby and Zingrich, Kimchi Guys owner Munsok So has a history in the neighborhood, having opened the Landing outpost of his restaurant chain Drunken Fish in 2006. Even then, friends raised their eyebrows when he decided to locate to the area, but he didn’t let that deter him. Instead, he purchased the building at 612 North Second Street with a plan to invest in the Landing for the long haul. “Everyone thinks you are crazy to do anything on the Landing,” So laughs. “However, things started to turn around in 2016. They continue to. Now my restaurant friends are coming down here and saying, ‘Oh my god, this is so cool — and you guys are busy.’” So’s restaurant hasn’t been open long enough to review yet, but it’s a promising sign for any visitor. Seeing three restaurants all now open along the same strip of real estate confirms both So’s vision and his friends’ impressions. The

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fact that all three offer something different from the bar hopping and shots guzzling of yesteryear suggests the Landing is on its way to becoming something new, not just a pale imitation of its heyday. “There has been a need for quality food places here,” So explains. “I think the Landing has had the same sort of nightlife energy for such a long time, and now it needs to transform itself into something different than what it was recognized for in the past.” Both So and Willoughby note the influx of businesses that have taken up residence in the Landing’s office spaces, bringing with them hundreds of mouths to feed. They also cite the soon-to-open Pepper Lofts, a luxury apartment complex on First Street, as reason to be hopeful for the Landing’s future. And they, along with Geminiano, say they see each other not as competition, but as complements. “The Lou and Big Daddy’s bounce off each other,” Willoughby says. “Everyone has different specials every night; it’s almost like this big neighborhood. We all want this to be a place where people come, and we are so happy places like Kimchi Guys and Mas Tequila opened. Having more places pop up gives the push to make this area great again.” They’re not there yet, the restaurateurs acknowledge. But in a year or two, Geminiano asks, who knows? “There is a real community down here, and we are all helping each other,” he says. “We’re all in it for the long haul.” n

MARCH 6-12, 2019

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Bobby’s Place is named after Bobby Plager, a former St. Louis Blues defenseman and cultural icon of the 70’s. Bobby’s Place is located in Valley Park and on Hampton Ave., and both locations offer their respective neighborhoods are a place where our patrons can feel at home. Bobby’s Place is known for their wide variety of flavors of Chicken Wings, their fresh meat Hamburgers and Chicken Sandwiches, and their not too thin Pizzas that come out on a rectangular metal tray. A wide assortment of freshly made appetizers, sandwiches, salads and pastas can be enjoyed while watching any of your favorite sports on the many flat screen TVs throughout the Bar & Grill. Beer you say? Well we have 16 local and regional tap handles of your favorites and countless bottles and cans to wet your whistle. Bobby’s Place is known for a $6.99 daily lunch special and a wide variety of drink specials. There is always something going on at Bobby’s Place, whether that something is Trivia Night, Beer Pong, DJ Music, or live bands. A full bar with signature drinks and shots will compliment a good night out with friends at Bobby’s Place.

As one of the premier vegetarian restaurants in the St. Louis area, Frida’s has earned accolades for serving hearty meals that are as tasty as they are nourishing. Owners Natasha Kwan-Roloff (also the executive chef) and Rick Roloff elevate vegetarian cuisine by marrying high-quality, local ingredients with innovative flavors. All items are made from scratch, have no butter or sugar and use little to no oil – but with the flavors and creativity at Frida’s, you won’t miss anything. The University City restaurant’s newest hit is the Impossible Burger – a massive plant-based patty that has the texture and juiciness of meat and often fools carnivores. Frida’s award-winning signature namesake burger is no slouch, either, with its tahini-chipotle slaw topping and local bun. The menu also boasts decadent favorites like tacos, wraps, pizzas and desserts, and a new Sunday brunch that just launched in April. Beer and wine are available, and many of Frida’s menu items can be modified for vegan or gluten-free diners.

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Housed in a retro service station, J. Smugs GastroPit serves up barbecue that can fuel anyone’s fire. Married teams of Joe and Kerri Smugala and John and Linda Smugala have brought charred goodness to the Hill neighborhood, nestled among the traditional Italian restaurants, sandwich shops and bakeries. Part of St. Louis’ ongoing barbecue boom, the J. Smugs’ pit menu is compact but done right. Ribs are the main attraction, made with a spicy dry rub and smoked to perfection. Pulled pork, brisket, turkey and chicken are also in the pit holding up well on their own, but squeeze bottles of six tasty sauces of varying style are nearby for extra punch. Delicious standard sides and salads are available, but plan on ordering an appetizer or two J. Smugs gives this course a twist with street corn and pulled-pork poutine. Several desserts are available, including cannoli – a tasty nod to the neighborhood. Happy hour from 4 to 7pm on weekdays showcases half-dollar BBQ tastes, discount drinks, and $6 craft beer flights to soothe any beer aficionado.

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Carnivore fills a nearly 4,000-square-foot space on The Hill with a dining area, bar lounge, and adjoining outdoor patio gracefully guarded by a bronze steer at the main entrance. Always embracing change, Joe and Kerri Smugala, with business partners Chef Mike and Casie Lutker, launched Carnivore STL this summer. As the Hill’s only steakhouse, Carnivore offers a homestyle menu at budget-friendly prices appealing to the neighborhood’s many families. Steak, of course, takes center stage with juicy filet mignon, top sirloin, strip steak and ribeye leading the menu. Customize any of the succulent meats with sautéed mushrooms, grilled shrimp, or melted housemade butters, such as garlic-and-herb and red wine reduction, on top of the flame-seared steak. Other main dishes include a thick-cut pork steak (smoked at J. Smugs) and the grilled chicken with capers and a white wine-lemon-butter sauce. St. Louis Italian traditions get their due in the Baked Ravioli, smothered in provel cheese and house ragu, and in the Arancini, risotto balls stuffed with provel and swimming in a pool of meat sauce. With an exciting new brunch menu debuting for Saturday and Sunday, Carnivore should be everyone’s new taste of the Hill.

There aren’t many businesses named after Adam Sandler movies, but at the Blue Duck, the food is as whimsical as its “Billy Madison” reference. Originally founded in Washington, Mo., owners Chris and Karmen Rayburn opened the Blue Duck’s Maplewood outpost in 2017, bringing with them a seasonal menu full of American comfort-food dishes that are elevated with a dash of panache. Start the meal with the savory fried pork belly, which is rubbed with coffee and served with a sweet bbq sauce and root vegetable slaw. For the main event, the Duck’s signature DLT sandwich substitutes succulent smoked duck breast instead of the traditional bacon, adding fried egg and honey chipotle mayo along with lettuce and tomato on toasted sourdough. Save room for dessert; the Blue Duck’s St. Louberry pie – strawberries and blueberries topped with a gooey buttercake-like surface – is a worthy tribute to the Gateway City.


SHORT ORDERS

31

[SIDE DISH]

The Doctor Is In Behind Bulrush’s Bar Written by

CHERYL BAEHR

C

hris Voll had a successful career as a chiropractor and had just come up on his two-year anniversary working for another practitioner. Granted, he knew he wasn’t altogether fulfilled, but he had decided to trudge along, feeling that he was on a path that had been set for him. But during a critical conversation with his boss, he got an abrupt wake-up call — one that would end up reshaping his life. “I went in to ask for a raise, and he said, ‘Let’s talk for a second. Do you even like being here?’” Voll recalls. “He asked me if I was happy, and when I told him that I wasn’t, he said that he doesn’t believe in doing what you don’t want to do, told me to go out and find something that made me happy, and gave me a month’s severance to go out and find out what I wanted to do.” Voll credits his former boss for giving him the push he needed to find his passion — one that has led to his recent appointment as beverage director for Bulrush (3307 Washington Boulevard), the foraging-based restaurant that acclaimed chef Rob Connoley is set to open this spring in Grand Center. However, looking back, his path to the hospitality industry stretches much further back, well into his childhood. Voll’s father was also a chiropractor, one who practiced in the Chicago suburbs. On the side, however, he had a second career as a waiter at a popular downtown Chicago steakhouse and would often bring his son along to sit at the bar and soak in the scene. “I grew up listening to him narrate and comment on restaurants, so I always had that hospitality mindset in my brain,” Voll says. “I always loved it. I’d sit up at the

Chris Voll used to work as a chiropractor. Now he’s been tapped to run the bar program at Bulrush. | JEN WEST bar drinking Sprites with grenadine and cherries and getting autographs from the Chicago Bulls players when they came in. It was all so cool.” Voll’s experience instilled in him a fascination with bars, one that stuck with him after he graduated high school and went on to the University of Kansas for undergraduate studies and into chiropractic school. During that time, he taught himself about drinks and cocktails and began mixing things for himself and his friends at home, getting more confident in his skills. However, he would not get his first bartending job until after his chiropractic career ended. At first, that initial gig was nothing more than the Sunday daytime shift at Gringo’s original Central West End location. When that restaurant closed, his severance money was gone and he needed a full-time restaurant job to pay his bills. He found that job at Olio after being blown away by a meal at its

sister restaurant, Nixta. Though he initially applied at the Mexican hotspot, it was Olio that was hiring. And that turned out to be exactly where he needed to be. “It’s where craft cocktails started to become a focus, but I also learned about hospitality,” Voll explains. “I got to work with Nika [Marble] who just has this cool academic brain, and I learned so much from her, just hearing her talk about stuff.” Voll excelled behind the bar at Olio and credits his time there with teaching him artistry. But when the chance to work for Connoley at Bulrush came up, he knew it was a one-of-a-kind opportunity. “The more I think about it and the more I dive into Rob’s concept and ideas, I get to see the way he approaches things,” Voll says. “There is so much he has considered that I haven’t even thought about.” As Bulrush’s beverage director, Voll will be responsible for bring-

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ing to life Connoley’s vision for a hyper-local, forage-focused restaurant inspired by Ozark cuisine. It’s an ambitious undertaking, one that has Voll asking questions not just about drink recipes but about how to make classic cocktails with non-traditional ingredients and how to incorporate a zero-waste philosophy into his bar program. He’s learning as he goes, relishing it as yet another push to take him further in his craft. “There will be a lot of challenges,” Voll says. “But I’ve found out that in life, both professionally and personally, those times are when the best things come.” Voll took a break from Bulrushrelated research to share his thoughts on the food scene, the importance of coffee, and the one ingredient you will never see on his drink menus. What is one thing people don’t know about you that you wish they did?

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Midwestern Meat & Drink co-owner Stephen Savage served as general contractor on a complete revamp of the former Flying Saucer space. | SARAH FENSKE

[FIRST LOOK]

New Downtown Spot Aims to Be BBQ Destination Written by

SARAH FENSKE

T

he Midwestern Meat & Drink (900 Spruce Street), which opened last Friday in the shadow of Busch Stadium, comes from the same team that brought you the Wheelhouse and Start Bar — which, yes, are also in the shadow of Busch Stadium. But if you think this is the same sort of party place aimed at gorgeous 21-year-olds, you might want to take a look around. Evidence that the Midwestern is something different doesn’t come only from the premium whiskeys on the very top shelf of the (very tall) bar. Nor is it limited to the quartet of thoughtful mocktails on the drink list, nor even the high chairs stacked neatly by the restrooms. No, perhaps your best clue is the aroma wafting from the kitchen, the inimitable mark of a top-notch chef smok-

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ing some top-notch barbecue. And that’s exactly what’s happening at the Midwestern: Not only is the Wheelhouse team all grown up, but they’ve gone into business with a star chef. That chef, Ben Welch, first gained national attention at his own counterservice barbecue joint, Big Baby Q and Smokehouse. Despite being located in the culinary wasteland of Maryland Heights, Welch’s Big Baby Q dazzled to the point that Food & Wine named it the best barbecue in Missouri. Now Welch is supervising a kitchen staff of twenty, with Tello Carreon (who himself earned national plaudits for his work at Nixta) serving as butcher and Mary Bogacki of Yolklore doing the baking. “You want to find people who do things better than you and let them do it,” Welch says, modestly. Which, in some ways, explains how he came to the Wheelhouse team, and they to him. Partners Nick del Gaiso, Jared Ater and Stephen Savage have enjoyed huge success in the downtown scene since opening the Wheelhouse downtown in 2014. (Start Bar followed, opening in the same building in 2016.) And when they learned that the Flying Saucer space at Ninth and Spruce just one block east of their nightlife juggernaut was coming open, Savage says, they jumped at the chance to take it over.

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Savage admits his initial attraction was less the kitchen and more the huge outdoor patio, which literally overlooks the baseball stadium. When the landlord said they could have access to it, Savage was all in, imagining a stage for live music. “It stood out as a unique space, something that could be an amenity of its own,” he says. The general contractor for all the Wheelhouse team’s projects, Savage worked with his team to transform the space’s sealed-off feel to something airy and modern. They had to hustle to get the space ready for opening weekend, and the outdoor area came down to the wire. (They had to be open for Mardi Gras, he says — and they’re the rare restaurateurs who hit the deadline they set for themselves.) After the rush of opening, they’ll be adding garage-style doors to the back patio for a perfect four-seasons space. The interior, however, was done with time to spare. It’s a striking spot with large windows that connect it both the streetscape and the stadium next door. Tall tables are made of sustainably raised ash; so is the newly reconfigured bar, which clocks in at a massive 85 feet. The kitchen is in the back, and it was Del Gaiso who recommended Welch to run it. The rising star chef had been his instructor at culinary school, and the two had stayed in touch since, with Del Gaiso

singing the praises of Big Baby Q to anyone who would listen. He messaged Welch, asking if he’d be up for working together. “He did not take me seriously in any way, shape or form,” Del Gaiso says, laughing. Confirms Welch, “Everybody says, ‘Let’s do something together.’” It wasn’t until he walked into what he’d assumed would be a low-key meeting and saw all three partners at the table that he realized Del Gaiso was totally serious. “I got here and was like, ‘Oh.’” Del Gaiso says the trio was ready — ready for chef-driven food, ready to open the kind of spot they themselves would want to hang at. “It’s been a lot of volume and a lot of people who want to party,” he acknowledges. “But I always felt like we were capable of something more.” Part of it was a matter of the three being in a different stage of their lives; six years have passed since Wheelhouse first opened in Clayton (they later shuttered it to focus their efforts downtown). Del Gaiso and Savage each have two kids now; Ater is working on catching up. It made sense to think about opening a place that wouldn’t be only 21-and-over, that would offer high chairs and where — most importantly — you could get a terrific cocktail and some of the best food in town.


And so not only is Welch in the kitchen, but acclaimed bartender Tony Saputo is running the drinks program, which includes not just high-end whiskeys for sipping but also Saputo’s signature complex cocktails and a smartly curated wine list. For food, Welch is offering a roster of items with a price point appropriate to a pre-game bite to eat but quality high enough to bring in people just for dinner. And unlike Big Baby Q, which was pretty much barbecue or nothing, he’s made sure to offer something for everyone. In addition to barbecue, you can get sandwiches (including ones with the option of gluten-free bread), roasted beets or a salad. Sandwiches are all $10 to $13, and that includes your choice on side. For a riff on salad-and-a-sandwich, Welch is serving toasts — topped with avocado, or fried burrata, or smoked trout or a fried oyster — along with a petite gem salad, each for $13. Or, as an appetizer, try smoked bone marrow with an anchovy gremolata or smoked deviled eggs topped with turkey cracklin’. Or you could just go straight to the barbecue. It is how Welch made his name, after all, and the offerings won’t disappoint. As an appetizer, you can get BBQ Nachos or BBQ Fries, each topped with brisket, turkey or pulled pork in addition to a host of gooey toppings. For entrees, platters include everything from turkey breast to pastrami,

each with the two sides of your choice plus cornbread. Platters run from $14 for the smoked turkey-leg confit to $26 for a full rack of ribs. For $30, try the sampler: three bones of ribs, two wings and a quarter-pound each of turkey, pork, brisket and pastrami. Sides include mac ’n cheese, candied bacon-jalapeño potato salad, fries, and ham hocks and collard greens. You can get an extra side for $4. And if you really want to go all out, the restaurant is offering a crispy pig’s head. You have to order it in advance, and put down a deposit. But for $45, you and your closest friends can dig into this beast with either corn tortillas or your hands. It’s served with jerk chimichurri, pickled red onions and candied jalapeños, and it’s a showstopper. It is not, of course, the kind of thing the gorgeous young party people at the Wheelhouse would order. But that’s kind of the point. “I knew that Ben deserved a bigger audience,” says Del Gasio. “He deserves the exposure of being right there next to Busch Stadium in the heart of the city. And now we get to show the people visiting from Houston that our barbecue is good.” And our cocktails, too. The Midwestern opened at 3 p.m. on Friday, March 1, and is now open every day but Tuesday beginning at 11 a.m. Eventually, the partners plan to acquire a 3 a.m. liquor license and also begin serving brunch on the weekends. n

CHRIS VOLL

Continued from pg 31

I’m Jewish. It’s kind of strange, being a Jew named Chris, but it’s true. I converted in my early twenties. What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you? Coffee. Pour-over, iced, gas station, injected into my bloodstream, whatever. If you could have any superpower, what would it be? The ability to understand and speak in any language. Then I could tend bar anywhere on earth, whenever I like. What is the most positive trend in food, beer, wine or cocktails that you’ve noticed in St. Louis over the past year? More local distilleries and spirits. We’ve had great beer for a long time. I’m really hopeful and optimistic about Missouri wine in the future. What is one thing missing or that you’d like to see in the local food scene? Michelin stars. Who is your St. Louis food or drink crush? Ben Grupe, forever. Who’s the one person to watch

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right now in the St. Louis food-andbeverage scene? Elliot McDaniel. Which ingredient is most representative of your personality? Campari: bitter yet fun, and really needs others to help it shine. If someone asked you to describe the current state of St. Louis’ foodand-beverage climate, what would you say? Ready to blow up. Almost there. If you were not tending bar, what would you be doing? I’d probably still be a chiropractor or in architecture school. Name an ingredient never allowed behind your bar. Butterfly pea flower tea. Please stay in 2018. What is your after-work hangout? The Gramophone if I’m hungry, otherwise CBGB. The Royale on my day off. What’s your edible or quaffable guilty pleasure? I need a bag of Sour Patch Kids every road trip. Also, bad margaritas, especially if they’re in a pitcher. What would be your last meal on earth? Oysters, daiquiris, shots of Cynar. Probably Taco Bell at the end of the night. n

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[FIRST LOOK]

Rising Star Chef Opens Diner on Cherokee Written by

CHELSEA NEULING

A

ri Jo Ellis has earned acclaim for her cooking at Quincy Street Bistro and her sausage-making at the Cut. But, she says, opening a diner has been her goal since day one. “It happened way sooner than I thought,” says Ellis, chef and owner of the new Morning Glory Diner (2609 Cherokee Street, 314-250-6007), which opened on Valentine’s Day in the former home of Vista Ramen. Ellis has been considered a rising star in the St. Louis food scene for a while now, and her work at the Cut only cemented her status. RFT critic Cheryl Baehr gave the tiny kitchen inside Fortune Teller Bar a rave in 2018, noting Ellis’ skill at whole-animal butchery. “Though her menu is tiny and the main dishes are entirely pork-based, her talent makes up for lack of breadth,” she wrote. After building relationships and connections at the Cut, Ellis got an opportunity when Vista Ramen (later Vista Diner)

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Morning Glory’s classic diner fare includes a double cheeseburger with fries. | CHELSEA NEULING closed. But while Ellis decided to open Morning Glory Diner just down the street from Fortune Teller, closing her kitchen on site, she hasn’t left her butcher skills behind. She makes Morning Glory’s breakfast sausage in house — something few diners can boast. The diner seats approximately 30 people. Half the restaurant consists of windows, letting in a mass amount of natural light. Seafoam-green walls and hanging

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macrame-potted plants let off a breath of fresh air. You can find a jukebox tucked into the back corner of the restaurant. Ellis plans on filling it with music suggested by the community. What better community to ask for music than Cherokee Street? The menu features classic diner food, along with a few specialty items, such as chicken and johnny cakes. They’re a spin on fried chicken and waffles, subbing in cornmeal pancakes and cornmeal-

breaded chicken served with an egg. Rotating monthly specials are offered. February’s was French-toast bread pudding served with minced strawberry and maple syrup. In the short amount of time the diner has been open, customers are already raving about the slinger, the biscuits and gravy (made with Ellis’ specialty sausage, naturally) and the cheeseburger with fries. With about a dozen food items on the menu, everything is less than $10. “I want to focus on affordability. I want people to be able to come here two or three times a week with no problem. I also want to focus on not being a greasy diner,” explains Ellis. She says most of her customers live or work nearby. Employees from the Fortune Teller Bar and regulars from the Cut come in to enjoy Ellis’ cooking again. “There is a lot of satisfaction in serving people my food,” she says. Ellis credits her mother and grandmother as her biggest supporters (though she mentions she got her passion for cooking in part from the lack of homecooked meals she enjoyed as a kid). On site, she also praises her employees Chris Hill and David Stavron. “They have not been given enough credit. They have helped so much and I am so grateful,” she says. The Morning Glory Diner is open Wednesday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Breakfast is available all day, with lunch starting at 11 a.m. n


Authentic MexicAn Food, Beer, And MArgAritAs!

2817 cherokee st. st. Louis, Mo 63118 314.762.0691 onco.coM r B L e iA r e u q A .t w w w riverfronttimes.com

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music read more at

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rP ice at

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Fish Monger on Duty Wine • Beer • Spirits • House • Roasted Coffee Fresh Bread • Gourmet Foods • Smoked Meats

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Locally Owned Since 1979


MUSIC & CULTURE

She’s been playing pro since she was fifteen, busking, touring, recording, working as both a session player and bandleader.

[HOMESPUN]

All That Jazz Former Pokey LaFarge bandmate Chloe Feoranzo brings her NOLAbased jazz quartet to St. Louis Written by

THOMAS CRONE

I

t was only three years ago that Chloe Feoranzo was in the market for a new city to call home. As is the case for many young musicians, the appeals of a certain southern town were too much to resist, so in March 2016 she decamped St. Louis for New Orleans without a set gig waiting for her. Mind you, it wasn’t as if Feoranzo, who lived in St. Louis from 2010 until her 2016 departure, was without a nice musical résumé. Here, the clarinetist, saxophonist and vocalist had become a regular performer with the jazzy Miss Jubilee, with whom she was playing when Pokey LaFarge was adding a horn section to his band. Feoranzo joined LaFarge’s expanding group and featured with them for about three years, during a run that would see the band perform on the Late Show with David Letterman, Prairie Home Companion and even at the Grand Ole Opry. But with that band in a membership flux, Feoranzo decided that a move was her best course. Given her desire to sing more and showcase her serious trad jazz chops on clarinet, NOLA was a perfect fit. “I was looking for cities,” she recalls, “and New Orleans was number one on the list. I went to visit it and moving there was partially because it reminded me of St. Louis. It’s got a very big music community and everyone was really nice. I was just kind of welcomed into the community pretty quickly.” That acceptance wasn’t exactly effortless, though — Feoranzo immediately sought out connections. “A lot of musicians here start out busking, while also going around for hours and hours, trying to sit in with whoever would let me,” she explains. “Pretty soon, I knew who was who in the scene and

37

Feoranzo left St. Louis without a plan but soon found more than enough work. | ALEX MATTHEWS where to play.” After a period of wandering Frenchmen Street in search of gigs, Feoranzo found a recurring role in the perpetually touring act Postmodern Jukebox, a band dedicated to reimagining modern pop music into early twentieth-century forms such as swing and jazz. More opportunities would follow. One was especially fortuitous. Tuba Skinny bandleader Erika Lewis was looking for bands to perform at a girls’ music camp. Featuring different styles of performance each day, Feoranzo’s resulting Shake ’Em Up Jazz Band was intended to be a one-off gig. Instead, its members had so much fun playing together that they decided to keep the group going — Shake ’Em Up recently even played a couple of dates in St. Louis, with shows at the Focal Point and the Stage at KDHX. “There’s not really an all-female jazz band here, and when she called us, we weren’t trying to be a band,” Feoranzo recalls. “We weren’t sure we wanted the whole stigma and weirdness that can surround an all-female group, because a lot of times you’re forced into those and you just don’t click as a group. But we really did love playing with each other, and then someone took a picture and the in-

ternet was like, ‘Yeah, that’s a great idea.’ And so it was a band. We’ve had a lot of fun.” These days, Shake ’Em Up is Feoranzo’s main musical outlet, but she’s also heading up a quartet. She features on clarinet and vocals, with Shake ’Em Up’s Molly Reeves on guitar and vocals, Nahum Zdybel on guitar and Ted Long on bass. In a bit of a quirk, the band is made up of two couples (Team Feoranzo-Long and Team Reeves-Zdybel), a situation that she jokes “had us going through a couple of band names. Like Cuddle Party.” Instead, Feoranzo has her name up top. She admits that it’s a bit scary. “I’m definitely not trying to be the leader-leader,” she says. “I’m trying to be as equal as I can be with it, all of it. I wanted to sing a little bit more, and there are songs I wanted to sing for a long time — obscure ones by Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington and Doris Day — and I never thought I’d have that opportunity. They’re nice enough to let me try to sing them.” These days, with multiple bands in her life, Feoranzo is looking to find the perfect balance, allowing for home life in her adopted NOLA while continuing to spread the good word out on the road.

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“I’m fairly evenly in and out of town, with random events like dances and Dixieland festivals,” she says. “I’d like it a little more equal. Especially when I started with Postmodern Jukebox, I was gone for four weeks at a time, six weeks. That’s become a little more chill, with a rotating cast of musicians. So if I can’t make a tour they’re fine with it, and that makes things easier.” Thinking back on her time in St. Louis, Feoranzo notes that the LaFarge experience was an exceptionally instructional one. “It’s where I got all my touring chops,” she explains. “I learned the ropes of what tour life is all about, what to do and what to expect. You can’t really forget that.” An occasional member of the New Orleans Jazz Vipers in addition to her other bands, Feoranzo knows the appeals of being in one group and in many. She’s been playing pro since she was fifteen, experiencing a bit of everything in her career: busking, touring, recording, working as both a session player and bandleader. Right now, sinking her teeth into a variety of groups is the plan, as she takes in all the opportunities possible. “There’s something really special about being in one band for years on end: You become closer to the people. And musically, you get so used to hearing one another,” she explains. “At the same time, when you have multiple bands, you can grow more as a musician, playing with people on all levels and styles. It can keep your playing fresh. Everyone should do both approaches, if they can.”

The Chloe Feoranzo Quartet 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 13. The Focal Point, 2720 Sutton Boulevard. $15 to $20. 314-560-2778.

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Too drunk to remember which Pop bar you popped into tonight? RFT has you covered. | RYAN KELLY, PAIGE BRUBECK, TOM HELLAUER

[QUIZ]

Once You Pop Are you at Pop’s Blue Moon, Pop’s Nightclub or Pop? A St. Louis quiz Written by

RFT STAFF

L

ast month, St. Louis’ first-ever sparkling bar, Pop (1915 Park Avenue), opened its doors in Lafayette Square. But while we’ve enjoyed sipping its fine wines, we couldn’t help but think the name seemed a tad bit ... familiar. It’s not just the famous Pop Champagne Bar in Pasadena, California. The metro region itself is already home to two bars with the word “pop” in their name — the wild and raunchy 24-hour Sauget shitshow Pop’s Nightclub (401 Monsanto Avenue, Sauget) and the south-city hippie favorite Pop’s Blue Moon (5249 Pattison Avenue). And that’s without even getting into the charms of Pop’s Steak, Fish and Chicken (3651 South Grand Boulevard) ... because what could possibly compete with the joy of ordering steak at a drive-thru window? Realizing we couldn’t possibly be the only lush confused by these three Pops, we set out to cre-

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ate a quiz that will help even the drunkest reader answer that pivotal St. Louis question: Where the hell am I? Answer key below. Q: How did you end up here tonight? A. I read about the hot new place in the RFT. Champagne and caviar, here I come! B. I’ve been learning the Dobro. It’s in my van outside, and I am seriously giving some thought to joining this jam session. C. If I’m being honest I have absolutely no recollection. Just a haze of booze and poor decisions I guess. Q: What are you looking at right now? A. Vintage mirrors, brightly colored art .... and what appears to be the Real Housewives of Lafayette Square. B. I have never seen such a collection of lava lamps outside of a basement apartment. C. Three women I’m pretty sure are strippers appear to have run afoul of that bouncer over there. But I’m more worried about the bouncer, as I think the ladies could probably take him. Q: What’s the last thing you ate? A. Focaccia topped with capicola, iberico and an arugula pesto, of course. That Dave Bailey knows his appetizers. B. A jerk-chicken pasta — my own

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recipe, adapted from my pilgrimage to Jamaica in 1982. C. A gigantic pile of meat and cheese sold to me out of a wagon of some kind by a guy who claimed he was once on the Food Network but then, when pressed, immediately admitted he was lying to make a sale. Tasted fine but now my arteries hurt. Q: Who are you here with? A. My true love. Date night! B. My softball-league teammates. Sunday Funday! C. A collection of what are, by far, my most irresponsible friends. A cavalcade of degenerates barely able to function in society, much less thrive. In other words, the fun ones. Q: What do you hear? A. The intoxicating hum of lively conversation. B. A little Phish, a little bluegrass. Someone covered Sublime on a mandolin earlier, and that was cool. C. A nu-metal version of a Richard Marx song performed by a band that collectively has no fewer than six eyebrow piercings. Q: Where to next? A. Maybe upstairs for a nightcap at Bailey’s Chocolate Bar ... or next door for one last glass of wine at 33. B. I’m about to put a cork in this one. Used to party all night, but I learned my lesson.

C. Gonna sleep in this parking lot until the sun comes up. Any other decision I could possibly make tonight would assuredly be an extremely poor one leading to arrest and/or destitution. Q: Would you ever come here sober? A. Sure, for that focaccia. B. I went to one of their boozefree Saturdays, and that was cool, so yeah. C. Are you fucking kidding me? Not on your life. ANSWER KEY Did you get mostly As? Congratulations, you’re at Pop, the new Dave Bailey spot in Lafayette Square! Celebrate your good judgment with a glass of Prosecco. Did you get mostly Bs? You, good sir, are at Pop’s Blue Moon. Hoist a pint. Did you get mostly Cs? You’ve found yourself at Pop’s Nightclub yet again, you drunken fool. You really need to get your shit together. After one more round, of course.... Did you get a smattering of all the above? Is it possible that you’ve left one of St. Louis’ many fine Pop-themed drinking establishments and are in fact passed out in the drive-thru lane at Pop’s? It’s happened to the best of us. May we suggest a trip to Sauget to sober up a bit? n


OUT EVERY NIGHT

39

[CRITIC’S PICK]

18andCounting. | VIA ARTIST BANDCAMP

18andCounting, Grace Basement, Emily Wallace, Banana Clips 8 p.m. Thursday, March 7. The Firebird, 2706 Olive Street. $8 to $10. 314-535-0353. For our money, the surest and easiest way to bask in the diversity of sounds that form St. Louis’ immense body of musical talent is to attend RFT’s annual music showcase, ShowcaseSTL. Not to pat ourselves on the back too hard or anything, but with more than 100 local bands of all genres, it’s simply a no-brainer. But for those unwilling to wait until

THURSDAY 7

ANDREW MCMAHON IN THE WILDERNESS: w/ Flor, Grizfolk 7 p.m., $35-$37.50. The Pageant, 6161 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 314-726-6161. ARKELLS: w/ The Greeting Committee 8 p.m., $21-$23.50. Delmar Hall, 6133 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 314-726-6161. BROTHER LEE & THE LEATHER JACKALS UNPLUGGED: 7 p.m., $15. Joe’s Cafe, 6014 Kingsbury Ave, St. Louis. IRONSTEF FEST: w/ Grace Basement 8 p.m., $8-$10. The Firebird, 2706 Olive St., St. Louis, 314-535-0353. THE LIL SMOKIES: 8 p.m., $12-$14. Old Rock House, 1200 S. 7th St., St. Louis, 314-588-0505. MIKE AND THE MOONPIES: 8 p.m., $10. Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Ave., St. Louis, 314-498-6989. SHADY BUG & YUPPY RELEASE SHOW: w/ Red Sea, Tonina 8 p.m., $7. Foam, 3359 Jefferson Ave., St. Louis, 314-772-2100. STORY COLLIDER: 8 p.m., $12. The Ready Room, 4195 Manchester Ave, St. Louis, 314-833-3929. TRACER: 7:30 p.m., free. The Dark Room, 3610 Grandel Square inside Grandel Theatre, St. Louis, 314-776-9550.

FRIDAY 8

ADRIAN BELEW: w/ Saul Zonana 8 p.m., $28-$25. Old Rock House, 1200 S. 7th St., St. Louis, 314-588-0505.

June, you could do far worse than this Thursday night show to soak in the city’s wide range of styles. Some of St. Louis’ finest join forces for an eclectic lineup that includes the airtight folk-rock of Grace Basement, the experimental hiphop of 18andCounting, the unparalleled voice of singer-songwriter Emily Wallace and the impossibly catchy lo-fi garage rock of weirdo newcomers Banana Clips. More of This, Please: Too often all-local shows tend to consist of like-minded, similar-sounding bands, which can make for a less interesting or rewarding experience. It’s far better to shake things up. —Daniel Hill

ANITA JACKSON: 9 p.m., free. The Dark Room, 3610 Grandel Square inside Grandel Theatre, St. Louis, 314-776-9550. ANTHONY LUCIUS: 8 p.m., $20. The Sheldon, 3648 Washington Blvd., St. Louis, 314-533-9900. ARIANNA STRING QUARTET: 8 p.m., $29. Blanche M Touhill Performing Arts Center, 1 University Dr at Natural Bridge Road, Normandy, 314-516-4949. BOOGIE CHYLD: 9 p.m., free. 1860 Saloon, Game Room & Hardshell Cafe, 1860 S. Ninth St., St. Louis, 314-231-1860. BREWTOPIA: 8:30 p.m., free. Rich’s Place, 4149 S. Highway 94, St. Charles, 636-922-0500. BROTHERS OSBORNE: w/ Ruston Kelly 8 p.m., $34-$37. The Pageant, 6161 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 314-726-6161. THE DOCK ELLIS BAND: w/ Allie Vogler 8 p.m., free. Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Ave., St. Louis, 314-498-6989. FORMING THE VOID: 8 p.m., $10-$12. Fubar, 3108 Locust St, St. Louis, 314-289-9050. THE HARLEQUINS: w/ Shitstorm, Tone Rodent 8 p.m., $7. The Sinkhole, 7423 South Broadway, St. Louis, 314-328-2309. JAKE’S LEG: 10 p.m., $10-$13. The Bootleg, 4140 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, 314-775-0775. JOHN BONHAM & FRIENDS: 9:30 p.m., free. The Frisco Barroom, 8110 Big Bend Blvd., Webster

Continued on pg 40

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OUT EVERY NIGHT Continued from pg 39 Groves, 314-455-1090. PARKER GISPERT: 6 p.m., $8-$10. The Bootleg, 4140 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, 314-775-0775. THE RED AFRO QUEEN SILKY SOL: 7 p.m., $10. National Blues Museum, 615 Washington Ave., St. Louis. ROGER CLYNE AND THE PEACEMAKERS: 8 p.m., $20-$35. Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Ave., St. Louis, 314-498-6989. ROSES!HANDS! ALBUM RELEASE SHOW: 7:30 p.m., $10. Fubar, 3108 Locust St, St. Louis, 314-289-9050. ST. LOUIS PIANO SUMMIT: ETHAN LEINWAND, CHRISTOPHER PARRISH, AND CHASE GARRETT: 8:15 p.m., $15-$20. The Focal Point, 2720 Sutton Blvd, St. Louis, 314-560-2778. TURKUAZ: w/ Paris Monster 8 p.m., $16-$18. Delmar Hall, 6133 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 314-726-6161. TYPESETTER: w/ The Disappeared, Scuzz, Tiger Rider 8:30 p.m., $10. The Firebird, 2706 Olive St., St. Louis, 314-535-0353. WHISKEY & THUNDER: w/ Apex Shrine, Haze Bond 8 p.m., $7. The Heavy Anchor, 5226 Gravois Ave., St. Louis, 314-352-5226.

SATURDAY 9

ANDREW CALHOUN: 8 p.m., $15-$20. The Focal Point, 2720 Sutton Blvd, St. Louis, 314-560-2778. THE CATAPULTS: 9 p.m., free. 1860 Saloon, Game Room & Hardshell Cafe, 1860 S. Ninth St., St. Louis, 314-231-1860. CRUCIFIX: w/ Hard Target, Wess Nyle, Fort Knocks, Shotgun Shane 8 p.m., $20-$25. The Ready Room, 4195 Manchester Ave, St. Louis, 314-833-3929. GARTH BROOKS: 7 p.m., $94.95. The Dome at America’s Center, 701 Convention Plaza St., St. Louis, 314-342-5201. HAYLEY JANE AND THE PRIMATES: 8 p.m., $10$13. The Bootleg, 4140 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, 314-775-0775. THE HOLDUP: 8 p.m., $15. The Firebird, 2706 Olive St., St. Louis, 314-535-0353. LIL MOSEY: 8 p.m., $25-$100. Pop’s Nightclub, 401 Monsanto Ave., East St. Louis, 618-274-6720. THE LISTON BROTHERS: 8 p.m., $25-$35. Delmar Hall, 6133 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 314-726-6161. MESSTHETICS: 9 p.m., $12-$14. Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Ave., St. Louis, 314-498-6989. MOTHER STUTTER AND THE TWISTED TONGUE: 11 p.m., free. Mangia Italiano, 3145 S. Grand Blvd., St. Louis, 314-664-8585. MOUND BUILDERS: w/ Lightning Wolf, Bassamp & Dano, Fight Back Mountain 9 p.m., $7. Foam, 3359 Jefferson Ave., St. Louis, 314-772-2100. A MUSICAL BENEFIT FOR BRANDON TURNER: w/ Overnighter, Flow Clinic, St. John & Farmer Jesse, MotherFather, Sweat Shoppe, Seashine, Kilverez, DayBringer, Astral Moth , Animated Dead, Ashes and Iron, The Bob Band 5 p.m., $10. Fubar, 3108 Locust St, St. Louis, 314-289-9050. NAK’AY: w/ Terminal Island, Lysergik Acid 9 p.m., $7. The Sinkhole, 7423 South Broadway, St. Louis, 314-328-2309. SHIVER: 9 p.m., free. Nightshift Bar & Grill, 3979 Mexico Road, St. Peters, 636-441-8300. ST. LOUIS STEADY GRINDERS: 9:30 p.m., free. The Frisco Barroom, 8110 Big Bend Blvd., Webster Groves, 314-455-1090. STANK THUNDER: 9 p.m., free. CBGB, 3163 S. Grand Blvd., St. Louis. TIMESUP: 7:30 p.m., free. Missouri History Museum, Lindell Blvd. & DeBaliviere Ave., St. Louis, 314-746-4599.

SUNDAY 10

THE CURLS: w/ J Fernandez, Blastar, Human Monster 9 p.m., $7. Foam, 3359 Jefferson Ave., St. Louis, 314-772-2100. CYCLES: w/ Surco, Echo Base Quartet 8 p.m., $10-$13. The Bootleg, 4140 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, 314-775-0775. THE EARLS OF LEICESTER: 7:30 p.m., $40-$50. The Sheldon, 3648 Washington Blvd., St. Louis, 314-533-9900. FLOGGING MOLLY: w/ Lucero 7:30 p.m., $35-$45.

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The Pageant, 6161 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 314-726-6161. GENE DOBBS BRADFORD BLUES EXPERIENCE: 4 p.m., $10. National Blues Museum, 615 Washington Ave., St. Louis. GRANDSON: 8 p.m., $15-$18. The Firebird, 2706 Olive St., St. Louis, 314-535-0353. GREENVILLE UNIVERSITY CHOIR: 4 p.m., free. Second Presbyterian Church, 4501 Westminster Place, St. Louis, 314-367-0366. JIM MANLEY QUARTET: 11:30 a.m., free. The Dark Room, 3610 Grandel Square inside Grandel Theatre, St. Louis, 314-776-9550. LUNASA: 3 p.m., $20. Blanche M Touhill Performing Arts Center, 1 University Dr at Natural Bridge Road, Normandy, 314-516-4949. NOBIGDYL.: w/ 1K Phew, Byron Juane 7 p.m., $15-$18. Old Rock House, 1200 S. 7th St., St. Louis, 314-588-0505. PRUDE BOYS: w/ Boreal Hills, O’Ivy, the JagWires 8 p.m., $5. The Sinkhole, 7423 South Broadway, St. Louis, 314-328-2309. THE VANDOLIERS: w/ Austin Lucas 7:30 p.m., $12. Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Ave., St. Louis, 314-498-6989. TYLER HILTON: 8 p.m., $18. The Ready Room, 4195 Manchester Ave, St. Louis, 314-833-3929.

MONDAY 11

GUYS ON A BUS: w/ An Unfortunate Trend, Kaiju Killers 7 p.m., $8-$10. The Firebird, 2706 Olive St., St. Louis, 314-535-0353. KEITH BOWMAN QUARTET: 7 p.m., free. The Dark Room, 3610 Grandel Square inside Grandel Theatre, St. Louis, 314-776-9550. SPACECHASE: w/ Syna So Pro, Bounce House, Mammoth Piano, Bandaversary, STL Legend, Captured Planet, Saylor, Spin Cycle, Lusid, 18andcounting, John Cobb, Mark Lewis, Jesse Gannon, The Disco Techs, Molicule, Awake, Kid Kosher, Atomix, The Vōkalist 7 p.m., $20-$30. City Museum, 750 N. 16th St., St. Louis, 314-231-2489. WICCA PHASE SPRINGS ETERNAL: w/ Angel Du$t, Guardin 8 p.m., TBA. Fubar, 3108 Locust St, St. Louis, 314-289-9050.

TUESDAY 12

THE ACES: 8 p.m., $15-$18. Blueberry Hill - The Duck Room, 6504 Delmar Blvd., University City, 314-727-4444. BIG MIKE & BLUES CITY ALL STARS: 7 p.m., free. The Dark Room, 3610 Grandel Square inside Grandel Theatre, St. Louis, 314-776-9550. CAN’T SWIM: w/ Homesafe, Save Face, Youth Fountain 6:30 p.m., $15. Fubar, 3108 Locust St, St. Louis, 314-289-9050. CITIZEN COPE: w/ David Ramirez 8 p.m., $36$39.50. The Pageant, 6161 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 314-726-6161. DERVISH: 7:30 p.m., $30-$35. The Focal Point, 2720 Sutton Blvd, St. Louis, 314-560-2778. HAYWYRE: 8 p.m., $15-$18. The Ready Room, 4195 Manchester Ave, St. Louis, 314-833-3929. JOHN MELLENCAMP: 8 p.m., $39.50-$126.50. Stifel Theatre, 1400 Market St, St. Louis, 314-499-7600. MATT NATHANSON: 8 p.m., $39.50. Old Rock House, 1200 S. 7th St., St. Louis, 314-588-0505. MAX FROST: 7 p.m., $18-$20. Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Ave., St. Louis, 314-498-6989. RHYTHM OF FEAR: w/ Drain, Extinctionism 8 p.m., $5. The Sinkhole, 7423 South Broadway, St. Louis, 314-328-2309.

WEDNESDAY 13

BANJO ON MY KNEE: THE IMPACT OF THE BANJO ON EARLY AMERICAN MUSIC: 6 p.m., free. National Blues Museum, 615 Washington Ave., St. Louis. CATFISH & THE BOTTLEMEN: 8 p.m., $30-$35. The Pageant, 6161 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 314-726-6161. THE CHLOE FEORANZO QUARTET: 7:30 p.m., $15$20. The Focal Point, 2720 Sutton Blvd, St. Louis, 314-560-2778. DEAD RIDER: w/ Blvck Spvde 7 p.m., $8. Foam, 3359 Jefferson Ave., St. Louis, 314-772-2100. IAN MOORE: 8 p.m., $12-$15. The Ready Room, 4195 Manchester Ave, St. Louis, 314-833-3929. J.R. RICHARDS: 8 p.m., $20-$22. Fubar, 3108 Locust St, St. Louis, 314-289-9050.

Continued on pg 41


[CRITIC’S PICK]

The Messthetics. | VIA ARTIST BANDCAMP

The Messthetics 8 p.m. Saturday, March 9. Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Avenue. $12. 314-773-3363. For all the rightly earned praise that Fugazi co-leaders Ian MacKaye and Guy Picciotto earned for leading that band with uncompromising punk ethos and empathy, the band’s rhythm section was just as inspirational in shaping the sound of innumerable bands that followed. Drummer Brendan Canty and bassist Joe Lally are playing together once more in the instrumental trio Messthetics, offering a sometimes-mathy, sometimes-ethe-

OUT EVERY NIGHT Continued from pg 40 KASIMU-TET: 9 p.m., free. The Dark Room, 3610 Grandel Square inside Grandel Theatre, St. Louis, 314-776-9550.

THIS JUST IN 3WEEKOLDROSES: W/ Gumm, Murtaugh, Placeholder, Sat., March 16, 7 p.m., $5. The Sinkhole, 7423 South Broadway, St. Louis, 314-328-2309. AARON GRIFFIN BAND: Tue., March 26, 7 p.m., free. The Dark Room, 3610 Grandel Square inside Grandel Theatre, St. Louis, 314-776-9550. ALICE COOPER & HALESTORM: W/ Motionless in White, Thu., July 25, 7 p.m., $19-$125. Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, I-70 & Earth City Expwy., Maryland Heights, 314-298-9944. THE ALLMAN BETTS BAND: Sat., May 4, 6 p.m., $30-$35. Atomic Cowboy Pavilion, 4140 Manchester Avenue, St. Louis, 314-775-0775. ALY AND AJ: Fri., May 3, 8 p.m., $26-$28. Delmar Hall, 6133 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 314-726-6161. BEN PIRANI: W/ DJ Hal Greens, Tue., March 19, 8 p.m., $10-$13. The Bootleg, 4140 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, 314-775-0775. BONERAMA PERFORMING A TRIBUTE SET TO LED ZEPPELIN: Fri., March 22, 7 p.m., $15-$18. The Bootleg, 4140 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, 314-775-0775. BUCKETHEAD: Sat., May 11, 6 p.m., $25-$30. Atomic Cowboy Pavilion, 4140 Manchester Avenue, St. Louis, 314-775-0775. CALLOWAY CIRCUS ALBUM RELEASE: W/ CIVL, Tristate, Relyness, and Biff K’narly and the Reptillians, Fri., April 12, 7 p.m., $10-$15. The

real backbone for guitarist Anthony Pirog. The band’s self-titled debut (issued by Dischord Records, naturally) shows the trio walking the line between the thrill of improvisation — Pirog’s avant-jazz chops are on display — and the sturdy discipline of intersecting patterns. Resonant Frequencies: Helen Money, the project of Los Angeles-based cellist Alison Chesley, modulates her instrument’s natural resonance with piles of feedback and effects to make a can’tmiss double bill of instrumental experimentation. —Christian Schaeffer

Ready Room, 4195 Manchester Ave, St. Louis, 314-833-3929. THE CHARLIE HUSTLE LIFE CELEBRATION: Sun., March 17, 5 p.m., $10. Fubar, 3108 Locust St, St. Louis, 314-289-9050. COMBO CHIMBITA: Tue., May 28, 8 p.m., $10. Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Ave., St. Louis, 314-498-6989. DEADTONGUES: Fri., April 5, 8 p.m., $12. Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Ave., St. Louis, 314-498-6989. THE DHORUBA COLLECTIVE: Thu., March 21, 7:30 p.m., free. The Dark Room, 3610 Grandel Square inside Grandel Theatre, St. Louis, 314-776-9550. DIANE COFFEE: Fri., June 21, 9 p.m., $12. Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Ave., St. Louis, 314-498-6989. THE DRIFTAWAYS: W/ Joint Operation, Justus and the Experience, Thu., March 14, 9 p.m., $7. The Heavy Anchor, 5226 Gravois Ave., St. Louis, 314-352-5226. ELLA MAI: W/ Mahalia, Sun., May 5, 8 p.m., $30$35. The Pageant, 6161 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 314-726-6161. AN EVENING WITH JACKOPIERCE: Sat., July 13, 8 p.m., $40-$75. Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Ave., St. Louis, 314-498-6989. HAMMER’S HOUSE PARTY: W/ MC Hammer, Sir Mix-a-Lot, Biz Markie, 2 Live Crew, Tone Loc, Tag Team, Fri., Aug. 9, 7:30 p.m., $14-$125. Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, I-70 & Earth City Expwy., Maryland Heights, 314-298-9944. HEAD FOR THE HILLS: Sat., April 13, 8 p.m., $12$15. The Bootleg, 4140 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, 314-775-0775. I PREVAIL: W/ Issues, Justin Stone, Mon., May 20, 7 p.m., $33-$35.50. The Pageant, 6161 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 314-726-6161. IN RUFF GANG WE TRUST: Sat., March 16, 8 p.m., $12-$15. Fubar, 3108 Locust St, St. Louis,

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[CRITIC’S PICK]

Vandoliers. | MIKE BROOKS

There was a time when one knew what to expect from the Bloodshot label, the standard bearer for all that’s twisted, bent and frequently beautiful about alternative country. That time is gone. Since its founding in 1994, the Chicago joint has gone on to release any and all manner of sounds shy of synth pop, though if Jon Langford made an EDM album he’d probably get a pass. Enter Vandoliers, Bloodshot’s latest twang-and-stomp heroes, and its excellent full-length Forever, a classic synthesis

of insurgent string-band jams and surging honky tonk, with flashes of mariachi horns just for the hell of it. Anchored by Joshua Fleming’s wheezy shout-singing and a collective vow to fuck your Americana midtempo bullshit, the band serves to remind that the alternative-country genre isn’t played out. It can still play for keeps. World Weary and Wise: Austin Lucas has plied his honky-tonk songwriter trade everywhere from his native Indiana to his adopted home of Prague and back again. His opening set, along with St. Louis’ own Old Capital Square Dance Club, is highly recommended. —Roy Kasten

314-289-9050. JEN KIRKMAN: Tue., May 14, 8 p.m., $25. The Ready Room, 4195 Manchester Ave, St. Louis, 314-833-3929. JIM HEGARTY QUINTET: Thu., March 14, 7:30 p.m., free. The Dark Room, 3610 Grandel Square inside Grandel Theatre, St. Louis, 314-776-9550. KEY GRIP: W/ Incogweirdo, Tape History, Fri., March 15, 9 p.m., $7. The Heavy Anchor, 5226 Gravois Ave., St. Louis, 314-352-5226. LEE DEWYZE: W/ Elizabeth and the Catapult, Sun., April 28, 8 p.m., $20-$25. Blueberry Hill The Duck Room, 6504 Delmar Blvd., University City, 314-727-4444. LUTHER VINCENT: W/ Andrew Ryan, Adam Gaffney, Bobby Stevens, Fri., March 22, 9 p.m., $7. The Heavy Anchor, 5226 Gravois Ave., St. Louis, 314-352-5226. MISSOURI BREAKS: Sat., April 20, 9 p.m., free. The Frisco Barroom, 8110 Big Bend Blvd., Webster Groves, 314-455-1090. MO E ALL-STARS: Sat., March 30, 10 p.m., free. The Dark Room, 3610 Grandel Square inside Grandel Theatre, St. Louis, 314-776-9550. NICK DI PAOLO: Sat., March 30, 8 p.m., $25-$30. Delmar Hall, 6133 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 314-726-6161. ONUS: W/ Beyonder, Kilverez, Fri., March 29, 9 p.m., $7. The Heavy Anchor, 5226 Gravois Ave., St. Louis, 314-352-5226. OWEN RAGLAND TRIO: Fri., March 15, 9 p.m., free. The Dark Room, 3610 Grandel Square inside Grandel Theatre, St. Louis, 314-776-9550. PRETTY VICIOUS: Thu., April 25, 8 p.m., $12. Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Ave., St. Louis, 314498-6989. Wed., June 26, 8 p.m., $17. Old Rock House, 1200 S. 7th St., St. Louis, 314-588-0505. REVEREND HORTON HEAT: W/ Delta Bombers, Fri., Aug. 23, 8 p.m., $22-$25. Old Rock House, 1200 S. 7th St., St. Louis, 314-588-0505. THE RIVER KITTENS: Fri., April 19, 9 p.m., free. The Frisco Barroom, 8110 Big Bend Blvd., Webster Groves, 314-455-1090.

ROLAND JOHNSON: Tue., March 19, 7 p.m., free. The Dark Room, 3610 Grandel Square inside Grandel Theatre, St. Louis, 314-776-9550. ROOTS OF A REBELLION: W/ Rota, The Driftaways, Sat., April 20, 8 p.m., $12-$15. The Bootleg, 4140 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, 314-775-0775. SAINT ZOSIMA: W/ St. Villagers, Sat., March 16, 9 p.m., $7. The Heavy Anchor, 5226 Gravois Ave., St. Louis, 314-352-5226. SCHOOL OF ROCK: Sun., April 14, 1 p.m., $10. Delmar Hall, 6133 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 314-726-6161. SCOTT MULVAHILL: Sat., Aug. 24, 8 p.m., $12-$15. Blueberry Hill - The Duck Room, 6504 Delmar Blvd., University City, 314-727-4444. SEBADOH: W/ Eleanor Friedberger, Wed., July 17, 7 p.m., $22. The Ready Room, 4195 Manchester Ave, St. Louis, 314-833-3929. SEGO: Wed., May 15, 8 p.m., $12. Fubar, 3108 Locust St, St. Louis, 314-289-9050. SLIPKNOT: W/ Volbeat, Gojira, Behemoth, Sun., Aug. 18, 5:30 p.m., $24-$129. Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, I-70 & Earth City Expwy., Maryland Heights, 314-298-9944. SUPERFUN YEAH YEAH ROCKETSHIP: W/ Matt F. Basler, Jesus and the Astronauts, Sat., March 23, 8 p.m., $7. The Heavy Anchor, 5226 Gravois Ave., St. Louis, 314-352-5226. TANGLED UP IN LOU: BOB DYLAN BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION: W/ Sean Canan’s Voodoo Players, Sat., June 1, 8 p.m., $15-$20. Delmar Hall, 6133 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 314-726-6161. TOMMY HALLORAN BAND: Sun., March 17, 11:30 a.m., free. The Dark Room, 3610 Grandel Square inside Grandel Theatre, St. Louis, 314776-9550. TRACING WIRES: W/ The Stars Go Out, Lizzy Quinn & The Ontario Survival Plan, Fri., April 12, 9 p.m., $7. The Heavy Anchor, 5226 Gravois Ave., St. Louis, 314-352-5226. THE UNITY QUARTET: Thu., March 28, 7:30 p.m., free. The Dark Room, 3610 Grandel Square inside Grandel Theatre, St. Louis, 314-776-9550. n

Vandoliers 7:30 p.m. Sunday, March 10. Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Avenue. $12. 314-773-3363.

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SAVAGE LOVE LOADED QUESTION BY DAN SAVAGE Hey, Dan: Let’s say my kink is edging and I edge myself for a few days leading up to a date. Is it my responsibility to tell my potential partner? There are a few variables here that are important to note. This is a first/Tinder date, and it’s just a coffee date, BUT she and I have talked about our expectations and there will likely be a physical aspect in whatever potential relationship may ensue. I understand that it’s never cool to involve someone in your kink without their consent, but what are the rules here? On one hand, if I don’t divulge this information, I could see how my production of an unexpectedly large amount of ejaculate could be upsetting, depending on the circumstances/ activity. But on the other hand, at least some amount of come is expected, right? If I randomly had massive loads every single time through no effort of my own, would I be responsible for letting a partner know? Perhaps it would be the polite thing to do. I guess I’d feel comfortable saying, “Hey, by the way, I produce very large loads,” if sex was imminent. But when you add the kink factor into the mix, I think something like that should be talked about before sex is “imminent.” So what responsibility do I have to divulge this information? And if I do have a responsibility to divulge this, when would be the appropriate time to bring it up? I feel like it could be sexy to be so open about a taboo, given that we’ve already discussed the desire for a physical aspect to the relationship. But at what point between sex being “not off-limits” and “my parts are going to be interacting with your parts as soon as our clothes are off” is the right moment to disclose my kink? What Ought One Do? Let’s say … you blow that load. I can’t imagine your new friend will be shocked. Blowing loads, after all, is what men do* with their penises**, WOOD, and most people who are attracted to men are aware of this fact. And any-

one who’s slept with two or more men is aware that some men blow bigger loads than others. Volume varies. Volumes vary between men, and the volume of an individual man’s loads can vary naturally or as the direct result of an intentional intervention, like edging. Backing up for a second: Edging entails bringing yourself or being brought to the edge of coming over and over again. It’s about getting yourself or someone else as close as you can to the “point of orgasmic inevitability” without going over. Draw out the buildup to a single orgasm for hours or days — by edging yourself or being edged by someone else — and the resulting load will be larger than normal for the edged individual. But even so, an edged dude’s load can still be smaller than the load of a guy who just naturally produces more ejaculate. And in answer to your question, WOOD, no, I don’t think there’s a pressing need to disclose your kink to your date. If it gets sexual, she’s going to expect you to produce ejaculate at some point. And even if the load you wind up blowing is enormous, you’re not going to drown her or wash out her IUD. Frankly, WOOD, your letter reads like you got baked out of your mind and sat up half the night trying to come up with an excuse to tell this woman about your not-that-kinky kink and “I should tell her as a courtesy” was the best you could do. If you want to tell her, go ahead and tell her. But since there’s no need to tell her that you sometimes like to stroke for a bit without climaxing, there’s a strong chance she’ll react negatively to your “courtesy” disclosure. Even if she’s made it clear there could be “a physical aspect in whatever potential relationship may ensue” — even if that’s not just dickful thinking on your part — she’s going to be scrutinizing you for signs that you aren’t someone she wants to get naked with. She’ll be looking for red flags at your first face-to-face meeting, and if you come across like a creep with piss-poor judgment — and a needless conversation about how much ejaculate you produce and why you produce so much ejaculate will definitely come across as creepy — then she may decide not

She’s going to expect you to produce ejaculate at some point. Even if the load you wind up blowing is enormous, you’re not going to drown her or wash out her IUD. to ensue with you. Hey, Dan: I’m a queer man who usually tops with men. A bad first try at receiving anal at age sixteen led me to not bottom for years. After seeing the looks of delight on my partners’ faces, I decided to give bottoming another go. I followed your advice — lots of lube and relaxation, a little weed — and tried lots of different positions and dick sizes. But no matter what, I never seem to get past the pain and into the pleasure zone. I enjoy being fingered and using a prostate massager, so I know my prostate is in there. How many times should I try bottoming before I decide it’s not for me? Twentysomething Into Glutes Had To Have Orgasms Lustily Elsewhere There’s no set number of times a queer person has to try bottoming before deciding it’s not for them, TIGHTHOLE. A person — queer or straight — can make that call without ever having tried bottoming. An exclusive top who isn’t afraid of his own hole, i.e., a queer guy who enjoys being fingered and using a prostate massager, doesn’t have a hangup; he’s just a guy who knows what works for his hole and what doesn’t. And that’s more than most people know. Hey, Dan: A few days ago, someone broke into my house. Every-

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thing of value was taken — including my two dogs — but they left my clothes and stuff of that nature. Last night, my boyfriend and I were getting ready to fuck, and I went to the drawer I keep all our sex toys in, and they were all gone. I’m not only upset because hundreds of dollars of toys were taken, I also feel violated. This person has not only violated me by coming into my home and taking things, but by taking something so personal and intimate. I survived rape and molestation by a family member who is in jail for his actions, so sadly I know what it feels like to be violated. And this has brought that violation back and makes me feel like that same vulnerable, helpless child I was so many years ago. My boyfriend is being supportive, but I just feel so horrible and I do not know how to cope with this. Thief Has Exhumed Family Trauma I’m so sorry this was done to you, THEFT, and it’s perfectly understandable that this final violation — the theft of your sex toys on top of the theft of your other belongings and your dogs (!!!) — would dredge up painful memories of past sexual violations. I can’t offer you much beyond my acknowledgment of how awful this is and my sympathy. But if you’re having trouble coping, if you’re reeling from this, schedule a few sessions with a good therapist, someone who can help you process those feelings. I also think you should consider moving to a place that won’t be haunted by this violation, if possible, and your boyfriend should — when you’re ready — take you out and treat you to a few brandnew sex toys. * Not all men have penises, not all penises have men, not all men blow loads, not all loads are blown by men, etc. ** Not the only thing men do with their penises, some men don’t do that thing with their penises, some penis-havers don’t do that thing as men, etc. Listen to Dan’s podcast at savagelovecast.com. mail@savagelove.net @fakedansavage on Twitter ITMFA.org

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Happy Hour Every Day 3-7pm $13 Domestic Buckets • $2.25 Rails

Ladies Night Every Wed 9pm to Close $1.50 Domestic Beer or Rail Drinks

KARAOKE MADNESS

Every Thursday 9pm to close Check us out on FaceBook for upcoming live music and events

5000 Alaska Ave 314.481.5003

HAPPY HOUR Tuesday - Friday 4PM - 6PM

TASTES         Steak Medallions Grilled Chicken Bites Caprese Flatbread Arancini Luganiga Sliders Modiga Flatbread

  $3 DOMESTIC BEER   $4.5 HOUSE WINES $5 PREMIUM RAIL $6 MARTINIS For group reservations contact 314-449-MEAT 5257 Shaw Avenue, The Hill, STL, MO              

HAPPY HOUR

MONDAY–THURSDAY 3–6 PM (ALL LOCATIONS) SUNDAY–THURSDAY 10 PM–CLOSE (DELMAR) THE LOOP

314-721-3388 6307 DELMAR BLVD. UNIVERSITY CITY, MO 63130

DES PERES SOUTH COUNTY

314-858-1067 11925 MANCHESTER RD. DES PERES, MO 63131

314-293-3614 40 RONNIE’S PLAZA ST. LOUIS, MO 63126

LAMBERT AIRPORT TERMINAL 2

THREEKINGSPUB.COM

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Riverfront Times March 6, 2019  

Riverfront Times March 6, 2019