Some Wayne St. Wayne Vignettes

If you’ve come here after reading a remembrance of Wayne St. Wayne at the Riverfront Times site, I thank you. I hope it provided some information about his fascinating life and times. I also thank his son David Ermatinger, along with David’s wife Allison Lispki Ermatinger, for filling in some gaps.

What the piece could only hint at, within the constraints of space, was the unique personality of the man. For what felt like years, I saw Wayne on a regular basis, often at Mangia Italiano, but also at other spots around town. When going to clubs along the early Washington Avenue, for example, I can definitely remember visits to the back door of Creepy Crawl, just to say “hello” and to check-in on whatever news story he had to share. These may not be wild, but here’re a handful of quick stories…

Knew this person once. We’ll call her Chrissie, as that was her name. We dated, she moved to Chicago, we broke up. The usual people-in-their-early-20s story. At some point in about 2000, I reconnected for a short visit with her in Chicago, though nothing rekindled on that one level. I did promise her a piece of art, a Wayne St. Wayne original. Asked her what she wanted him paint and she said “corn cobs in space.” I asked Wayne for the piece and he promised to knock it out. Months passed. At least a full year passed. I lost all contact with the painting’s muse. And since 2002, I’ve owned a copy of “corn cobs in space,” which turned out very nice, the helmeted cobs shooting through the universe with fiery tails. So, yeah, a missed deadline on that one…

The flipside here is that you could always luck into a phonecall about a “fabulous deal.” Once, I picked up the phone and Wayne was offering a rent’s-due deal on a piece called “Monster Battle at the Shenandoah Theatre,” which had been hanging in a South Grand storefront for years. He offered to sell the $110 piece for $70. I declined, with hesitation. When he called back with a price of $40, I went up to the shop and paid my cash. It’s another record, a crazy awesome piece. Love it still…

Wrestling. Wayne was a wrestler. He’d tell you stories about his days touring the upper Midwest and central/western Canada. More often, he’d tell stories about Wrestling at the Chase, and all the superstars of the old NWA. He was generous in sharing those stories and, sometimes, pictures. Here’s a little something we collabroated on for thecommonspace.org

Speaking of wrestling, I can’t remember if I’ve hung up the wash, or taken down the wash, or even done the wash. You know, that today kinda stuff. But I can remember the first time I saw Wayne wrestle, under his alter-ego name of Doctor Blood. It was at Affton High School, on a weekend afternoon show that featured a former WWF/WCW star, or two, who’d play out their careers matched up against local talents. I can distinctly recall Wayne’s general act, with involved a lot of whining to the ref, feigning of injuries, complaints aimed at the crowd and lotsa cheap shots. A sweetheart in real life, Wayne was weirdly-cast as a heel, on one level. But on another, he was so committed to the sport that there’s no way he wouldn’t commit to whatever role kept him in the game. He was good at the job…

Last one. And the difficult one to write. In mid-/late-November of 2018, a friend of Wayne’s reached out to me, noted that his health had taken a bad turn and that he was open to telling some stories. Then he wasn’t well enough to chat, then communications ground down. In reality, I let a day become two, a day become a week. With mortality sort of on my periphery at an unusual amount in the last year, the thought of seeing him ill jarred me; my selfish desire to not be put in an uncomfortable moment outweighed his desire to tell some stories. He’s passed now; it’s too late to make the call. I’d love to say that this will make a great difference in my own communications with people, but I’ll likely fall back into bad habits. I do own Wayne a call, though, and always will. I hope some of these words and the words in the RFT are of use in letting some stories be known…

So that wasn’t the last note. This is. We shot a li’l Pixelvision film back in 1997, inside Mangia and his apartment’s kitchen. Feels like yesterday…

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The KDHX History Project: Making the Case

Long story short(ish): I wanted to change the way I freelance in 2018. Part of that would simply mean working a little harder; that’s controllable. What’s not as self-contained is figuring out funding, as outlets continue to cut budgets and rates; concurrent to this, our culture’s become somewhat numbed to patron-based, crowdfunding appeals, what with so many good, solid things needing that group push.

That climate be damned, I set out on a crowdfunding appeal.

It’s pretty-simply named, this idea: The KDHX History Project. The notion is to gather pre-existing items from the KDHX archives, like posters, flyers and the old Airwaves magazines, digitizing as much as possible. And then adding interviews with a wide range of folks: volunteers; (current and former) programmers; (current and ex-) staffers; musicians who’ve appeared on the station; basically any stakeholders in the station’s 30-year history. And because this is an online project, why not add the vast array of media already available and online, but possibly scattered across multiple platforms.

At the end, it’ll be something of a book and something of a website. Free for all, in the spirit of the station.

Trying to line up about that many chapters, I sketched out a few immediately: the history and context of KDNA; histories of the buildings that’ve housed KDHX (on Magnolia, Delmar/Euclid, Washington); profiles of affiliated programs and businesses (Squatter’s Cafe, Folk School); remembrances of programmers who left our airwaves (and world) too soon; reminders of the local origination/cable access programs of lore. I’d love to address bigger picture items, like the role of radio today vs. at the time of the station’s debut. It’d be fun to summarize what the St. Louis music scene was like 31-years ago. And why not check in with stations of a similar bent, like WWOZ or KEXP?

And while some folks were kind enough to kick in on the early portion of the Indiegogo campaign, I didn’t do a few things that I should’ve done prior to launch. I might’ve shared sneak peeks with more key members of the KDHX stakeholding community; planting seeds, if you will, for the later effort. I heard from other folks who encouraged the project, but I didn’t nail down specific help that they could/would offer and I’m reaching back out to them now. And, to be honest, this type of fundraising’s a little tough for a private, self-conscious person to do; I can’t help but feel that the project’s up-or-down-success-or-failure future is somewhat tied to me, as a human, not just the project. In a social media age, I imagine a lot of us have had that feeling when shaking the digital cup. It’s awkward. It kinda sucks. It also makes some projects happen. Hopefully, this one.

I wanna do this project. I have a good resource for copyediting/proofing and research, a just-departed KDHX staffer in Allison Jane Wilson. I can dedicate the time needed to pull this off in a first-class way, if given the financial support to do so; that would allow to trim back on other, short-range work. To repeat: I wanna do this project.

So it’s time to get to real work. Time to close the gap of funding with two-weeks-and-change to go. Time to show some resolve and to get past high-school-era neuroses, on a personal level. Time to make the case, as… I wanna do this project!

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A Vague Proposal of Modest-to-Major Change

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post; welcome back to 2008! In this note, I’d like to sketch out the fact that I currently make a living from two main outlets: as a freelance writer, with about 30 years experience, primarily covering arts and culture in St. Louis; and as the co-owner and operator of a reborn corner tavern in South City. After 17 years spent, oft-unhappily, as an adjunct professor, this recent, four-year run has had many positives; the fact that I’m writing this from a quaint coffeeshop in the middle of the day, with chickens crowing in the background, is an example of that. Life’s okay. Could be a lot worse.

But it could be a lot better, too. And it feels time to make some moves to that effect.

In terms of media/content production in editorial environments, the work’s seldom been tighter and pay rates have never been smaller. It’s a tougher side hustle than just a couple of years ago. And while bar management’s had some amazing moments, my legs aren’t getting younger and my nerves are fraying a bit. While I’m trying to be a better adult, I may as well as admit that I need to build up my finances, while doing work that has some built-in, social decency, if that’s at all possible. This is where I hope you, or someone like you, might be able to lead an old horse to some sweet, sweet water.

Things I’d like to do, would be open to do, or would do if the cash is correct (bolded for you shortcutters):

A couple of times, I’ve been hired to do a bit of ghostwriting. It’s weirdly fun. I’d be a ghost again, for sure. (Example of possible work: I could imagine a rich St. Louisan wanting their life story to be told/published. I could also imagine taking down their stories, shaping them, writing up a coherent summary of said life, all done under their name. Maybe this’d be a book, a site, a hybrid project. What do I know? I’m not rich!)

Akin to the above, I’ve done some research for books. I’m cool in helping others achieve their publishing goals, while staying as anonymous as a… ghost. (Example: compiling quotes or statistics, shaping content, allowing the writer to come at their text with a clearer, cleaner set of words and data. Have done it before, actually, and, no, I won’t tell you for whom/what.)

Your band is dead. Your restaurant is no more. Your dream project’s just long enough removed from existence that it escaped the digital age. It’d be super-duper fun to research, write and digitally represent such past projects, giving them a fitting online epitaph. ‘Cause right now, your baby’s digital footprint is a damned mess. (Examples: your band, your restaurant, your dream project; RIP.)

Sponsored content‘s odd, right? But it’s all over the place. While I don’t wanna live in the pocket of The Man, I’ve seen local niches where a bit of corporate sponsorship could/would go a long way. (Example: I’ve covered the comedy scene in St. Louis for the past couple of years, but stories have been waning and my beer bill at open mic’s isn’t getting smaller. For sure, I could envision a brewery, distillery or liquor distributor finding a natural tie-in to such coverage, be that for my current outlets, or for a standalone site. Ditto coverage of music.)

To switch inputs, I’ve gotten more comfortable as a bartender, even as I already feel pretty good about buying inventory and generally helping shape the look/feel/sound of a bar. I wouldn’t mind a weekly shift at a higher-volume spot, to improve on the former skill. In that kind of environment, it might actually be fun and educational to just do the job, nobody to manager but my own damned self. But… to be perfectly honest, I’d love to give another concept a shot. If there was a struggling, underperforming bar in Maplewood, central STL County or Soulard in need of a reboot, I think there’s a solution, one that wouldn’t be a passion project, but would generate some heat. (Example: no surprise, here. It’s this.)

If this note seems a bit scattered, consider that the problem with generalists, generally: we’re, uh, scattered. But interesting, creative and semi-employable. So get at me via this LinkedIn noise?

Oh, yeah, almost forgot: I’d move to New Orleans in a hot second! So you Louisiana folks, don’t feel left out of the help bubble.

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The 2018 Book List

There’s this one guy I know. He’s asked me to post a books-read list for 2018; in fact, he’s asked me more than once. I’ve said that I’d do just that. Today, procrastination gives way to action. Here’s the updated list for the year.

I read a lot, though I’d love to read more. Maybe you’ll find something in here worth your time.

January: No Big Thing by Wm. Stage (novel); The Visible Man by Chuck Klosterman (novel); Alice Fantastic by Maggie Estep (novel); Salt by Mark Kurlansky (historical non-fiction); Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon (memoir); Point Omega by Don Delilio (novella); Fear of Music by Jonathan Lethem (cultural/music criticism); The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs (non-fiction and THE BEST book I’ve read in years)

February: Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble by Daniel Lyons (memoir/tech culture criticism); So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson (media culture criticism); The Sellout by Paul Beatty (novel); The Professor in the Cage: Why Men Fight and Why We Like to Watch by Jonathan Gottschall (sports criticism/memoir); We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates (socio-political non-fiction)

March: Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji & Anthony G. Greenwald (psychology); Hell to Pay by George Pelecanos (novel); The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman (collected non-fiction); The Tao of Bob by Spike Gillespie (memoir); Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers (novel); A Bomb in Every Issue: How the Short and Unruly Life of Ramparts Magazine Changed America by Peter Richardson (media history)

April: Black Gods of the Asphalt: Religion, Hip-Hop and Street Basketball, Onaje X.O. Woodbine (memoir, cultural criticism); Sputnik Sweetheart, Haruki Murakami (fiction); Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States, Bill Bryson (social history); Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff (experiential journalism); No Death, No Fear: Comforting Wisdom for Life, Thich Nhat Hanh (Buddhism, spirituality)

May: The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin (memoir/self-help); The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chandler (noir fiction); High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (my favorite novel, re-read for the third, maybe fourth time)

June: Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous, Gabriella Coleman (tech/culture); The Prophet, Khalil Gibran (poetry); The Tree, John Fowles (nature/memoir); In the Garden of Beasts, Erik Larson (historical non-fiction)

July: Medieval Lives, Terry Jones & Alan Ereira (history); Retromania, Simon Reynolds (culture/media criticism); Dream State: Eight Generations of Swamp Lawyers, Conquistadors, Confederate Daughters, Banana Republicans, and Other Florida Wildlife, Diane Roberts (memoir/regional history)

August: The Plot Against America, Philip Roth (historical fiction); Siddharta, Herman Hesse (fiction); Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times as a Weatherman, Cathery Wilkerson (memoir/radical history)

September: Shoot the Piano Player, David Goodis (noir fiction); Fear, Bob Woodward (contemporary events/horror); In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan (ag studies); Talking to Girls About Duran Duran (memoir/pop culture)

October: Signifying Rappers, David Foster Wallace and Mark Costello (culture criticism)

November: Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America, Michael Eric Dyson (civics/race relations)

December: You’re on an Airplane, Parker Posey (memoir); Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, Sebastian Junger (social science); They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, Hanif Abdurraqib (memoir/cultural criticism); The Education of Kevin Powell: A Boy’s Journey into Manhood (memoir); Fox 8, George Saunders (illustrated fable); Animals Eat Each Other, Elle Nash (novel); Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (psychology/self-help)

Target for year: 52 books

Completed: 50 books (d’oh)

Enjoy your own reading in 2019, as will I.

 

The New World

Thanks to Dylan Hassinger for un-bugging this site. Over the course of three months, I kept thinking that there were actual items I wanted to blog on, so we’ll see if that notion was real, or imagined.

By the way, had a good three months. Hope you did, too.

The Miracles of the Web

As memory has it at, I went to a lightly-attended film festival of black-and-white, experimental works in the early ’90s, while finishing up school in London. The short feature that really grabbed my attention was called “Another Girl Another Planet,” directed by Michael Almereyda and named after a song by The Only Ones. The film’s compressed-by-Pixelvision look, story about 20-something romantic ennui and, if honest, presence of actress Elina Lowensohn conspired to hook me. A tricky journey to find my own copy of the film followed.

In time, I’d find it in a box of tapes submitted for inclusion in my hometown film festival, but that only came after some obsessive, pre-Internet searches that eventually had me on the line with Almereyda, who was editing another film when I reached him by phone; as awkward calls go, that was one of them. While he didn’t ship the tape to his annoying superfan, as promised (said only to get rid of me, I’m sure), the quick conversation with him and the discovery of the tape in that big, ol’ box of lightly-marked VHS tapes cemented the movie in my mind. If not my favorite film, per se, it became the most-important and I’m not sure that it’ll be bounced out of that slot, ever.

Over the next decade-and-change, I’d watch the tape at least 20 times; the short, sub-hour film’s dialogue becoming so well-known to me that watching it was becoming less of a joy, my brain moving more into autopilot with each view. An ill-timed loan, though, caused that tape to move into a second life of being lost-to-me. It’s been four years since watching “Another Girl,” though that’ll change this weekend.

Inserting myself into a conversation about VHS tapes at the bar, I talked about the movie, how I’d lost in the tape in a friend breakup, how I’d searched for it on different forums with no luck. Within about three-minutes, one of the folks in that discussion asked, “is it about 55-minutes?” “Yeah, why?” “It’s on YouTube.” Simple as that. What was lost had been found.

The discussion, from there, veered into all sorts of threads about the worth of things, how everything will end up in the public domain eventually, and how the notions of ownership are being (re)shaped regularly. Those are all worthwhile, thoughtful conversations, but I’ve gone on too long already. (And the spirit of “Another Girl” is brevity, after all.)

There are not one, but two uploads of “Another Girl Another Planet,” available on YouTube today, Wednesday, July 26. I won’t assume them to be there forever and look forward to uploading it to my personal entertainment microchip in a few years. {Edit: one of the two are whacked; here’s hoping that I’m not giving up the goods on the following, now-single transmission…}

Now Hear This & Comedy Coverage, via stlmag.com

Can say that St. Louis Magazine, specifically those sections headed up by arts editor Stefene Russell, has been very good to me of late. After struggling to find a consistent blog presence at stlmag.com in mid-to-late 2016, I hatched an idea about 30 years old: a weekly music column. Turns out that the idea’s found a home and that’s quite pleasing. So far, four pieces have been published, including this week’s, which has a variety-pack approach.

In addition to the music coverage for the blog, there was a perceived need for some added material on the local comedy scene, be it standup, improv, game-/talk-show based or other. For starters, I’m going to roll out a series of occasional Q/As with local comedians. The first one’s just appeared and more will follow.

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Yes, I’d Love to Join The Board of Artica

At some point in the late, weird days of 2016, I caught myself saying these words aloud, in this very order: “I think I ought to join a board.” Having served a couple of brief tenures on the boards of local non-profits over a decade ago, I knew the kind of situation that’d keep me interested and active. As it turned out, an opportunity presented itself nice-and-quick.

After years of covering the arts festival Artica, I look forward to joining the board as of, uh, right now, giving me plenty of lead time to help promote this October’s edition. And, yes, I see myself mostly working that promo angle, rather than signing on for on-site art creation; attendance at the event, though, almost requires some type of active, live-time engagement, so we’ll see how that manifests itself.

Also, along with the artist and educator Con Christeson, I’ll be working on the curation of an up-’til-now retrospective of Artica, which will likely be booked for mid-2018 run.

While I certainly gained a lot by attending multiple Artica events and writing about them, primarily for St. Louis Magazine’s website, I look more forward to this type of participation. Super-excited.

Some photos from past events here:

Artica 2016
Artica 2015
Tiny Totem Pilgrimage
Artica 2014
Artica 2013
Magic River Door
Artica 2012
Artica 2002