Fatoush Sessions @ Gateway Community Hospital, East St. Louis

Over the summer, I’ve picked up the hobby of finding and exploring abandoned and new (to me) spaces around town, inc., so far, the Powell Square Building, Times Beach, Carondelet Coke and, on the opposite end of the spectrum, New Town St. Charles. It’s not a particularly unknown hobby, generally; plenty of folks around STL engage in it, writing and photographing about abandonment well.

Yesterday, Steve Smith and I accessed the old Gateway Community Hospital in East St. Louis, located at 16th and MLK, south of downtown ESL. We combed the four-story structure, finding everything from records rooms – teeming with moldy paperwork – to the maternity ward and its whimsical wall-paintings. Never quite located the elusive operating rooms, but did come across the physical plant, plenty of nurses’ stations and, best of all, the rooftop, with its abundant view of nearby ESL and the hazy STL skyline.

Joining us a bit later – delayed by an MIA band member and my own badly-given directions – were Eric Hall and Jeremy Brantlinger, who perform and record as the duo Fatoush; originally, it was to be Peanuts, the two along with the missing Sadeeq Holmes. Armed with a boombox, small MP3 player, digital recorder, some night-sticks and not much else, the three of us bid farewall to busy businessman Smith and headed back up to the fourth floor of the hospital, where Hall and Brantlinger set up a recording lab amidst the rubble. Percussive beats rang through the halls and out into the courtyard; if I’d lived nearby, I’m sure I would’ve assumed a round of demolition was underway, or a particularly vibrant ghost attack was taking place.

Shooting some video and taking pics, I eventually put down cameras and began to clang on pipes and tile walls. It was fun and somehow very freeing.

Despite the fact that dozens, if not hundreds, of people surely died in this facility, there was a strange sense of calm in the place, though I confess that the fourth floor seemed to come alive during the recording session. Doors began to slam, wind was whipping scraps of torn wallpaper, a tootin’ train passed and birds (and one tough-as-nails, yellow cat) began to take flight.
As creative Wednesday afternoons go, this one was a keeper.

Video uploaded soon. Pics at flickr now. Clicky-click, at your leisure.

Summer/Youth Writing Workshops – MoKaBe's

Monday, June 18 – Friday, June 22
Monday, July 23 – Friday, July 27

The writing workshops will be broken into two age groups: 8-11 and 12-15; the younger group will meet from 9 a.m.-10:30 a.m.; the older group from 10:35 a.m.-12:05 p.m. Discounts are available for multiple children from the same household and students from St. Francis Cabrini Academy, as well as students signing on for both weeks. Select amount of individual day slots are also available. Parents are welcomed and encouraged to view sessions.

Like last year’s workshops, these sessions will emphasize: small class sizes, various writing games and activities that students can use for the remainder of summer; and an open, progressive environment. This year, we’ll able to take advantage of the walkable neighborhood around the home base of MoKaBe’s, including the South Grand business district and Tower Grove Park. Parents, meanwhile, can enjoy the Wi-fi, coffee and other comforts of MoKaBe’s.

Parents interested in discussing rates, reservations and other bits of information should contact the instructor, not the coffeehouse. The contact info would be: thomascrone@yahoo.com, or 314-776-6929.

Tonight: Suffragette City

Got the last minute word of an opening on Suffragette City tonight, 10 p.m.-midnight. Thanks to Rene Saller for the opportunity. If listening, give me a holler at 314-664-3688. Compiling a setlist currently and it should be interesting.

Marti Frumhoff

Got a phonecall around 8:50 this morning asking if I’d heard the news about Marti Frumhoff. I had not. “She’d passed, yesterday evening, news was going around.” Wow.

Since getting home late in the day, I thought about this situation, read the other blogs and their comments about her, thought a bit. Here’re two things I’ve not seen written about her, specifically:

At some point in the early ’90s, Marti was a print publisher. I remember it well, meeting her for the first time, in a small, brick-walled office above the old Sunshine Inn on Euclid. She was putting together a new, monthly magazine, called “Steppin’ Out.” She sensed that the RFT wasn’t getting to all the news it could, so why not have publications that would complement, if not compete with the established weekly, then still in the advocacy journalism phase of the Hartmann years. I was impressed by her pitch. Though money was tight for freelancers, she had me write one story, on not-yet-famous The Urge, which I still have in a clipbook somewhere. I wish I kept a few copies of “Steppin’ Out,” just for days like today. Magazines like that take up space, in a box, in your basement. One day, you just have to move them out, then wish you hadn’t.

Also, a couple years back, there was a several-week-long, intense, hell, remarkably-intense conversation about the future of Metropolis. A group, of which I was a member, was talking of running a slate to disband the group. Marti was invited into a large meeting, of about 20-25 people, held in my backyard. Out of everyone there, Marti was the one person to wind up not signing off on the plan. See saw something we didn’t. The election went down, a curious, somewhat fractured one, but one that left Metropolis intact. Marti was a passionate, very vocal critic of any desire to discuss the matter further. It was over, she seemed to argue, there was an election, it was done. Situations like that can sometimes strain relations between folks. Marti was always the same thereafter, though. A pleasant, passing “hello,” a “hey, Thomas, what’s new?” In fact, I got that line just last week from Marti at Hartford Coffee.

In fact, I’ll probably look for her there, or at MoKaBe’s some afternoon in the near future. And she won’t be there. And I’m sorry that’ll be the case.

The spins

Two, for sure, this month, several more in June:

Saturday, May 19, 10 p.m.-close (circus music, Tuvan throat singing, no-wave).

Friday, May 25, 10 p.m.-close (showtunes, barbershop, jazz fusion).

It’d be delightful to see you at The Royale those evenings, but I’m not going to pander by, say, baking chocolate chip cookies. That’s not going to happen.

Sat. Night Date(d)

Sad to say, my final scribblings as the “Saturday Night Date” columnist with the Saturday P-D mini-Get Out is tomorrow. Unless something’s gone horribly awry, it’ll be a piece on the Blueberry Hill dart tournament.

I will miss giving some ink to interesting, deserving theatre companies, bands and venues. I will miss, more than even that, the weekly check.

Over

As of four minutes ago, my semester at Webster University reached a satisfactory conclusion. Save for the tears and red-ink spilled during the grading of about 125 papers*, the 2006-07 school year has come to a close.

And while I don’t do windows, I am certainly open to any reasonable work offers between now and mid-August. Thank you, in advance, for your consideration.

Meanwhile, some schemes and plots already set into motion will be unveiled here in coming weeks.

* A guess, and possibly a conservative one, at that.

Clips, May

Let’s see, a piece on Dana Smith in St. Louis Magazine.

Articles on Cherokee Street and Leslie Sanazaro in Sauce Magazine.

Plus some Saturday Night Dates in the Post-Dispatch, at least in the immediate future.

June should be busier!