The Tin Cup

After Haji Haji and family hopped on the bus for Maine, it was time for a sorrows-drowning beer. Knowing that a new place was opening up on the South Side, it was time for an investigation of the Tin Cup, located just west of Iron Barley and The Wedge on Bates. Within minutes of arriving, it became one of the most unusual 10 bar experiences I’ve ever enjoyed. Upon departure it ranked in the top five.

Details will not follow. You gotta actually know me. And we have to hash them out in a bar. But not at the Tin Cup.

He Is Haji Haji

A couple months back, I lit upon the idea of a web show called “I Am Haji Haji,” which would center on a kid of exactly that name. Haji’s been a player on the STL United FC youth team for the past couple years and he’s really blossomed as a person during that time. He’s a Somali immigrant with a certain spark for life, so it’s been amazing watching him become more Americanized, while serving as an intermediary between his parents and the world around them; oftentimes, Haji’s the one doing the translation in family business situations, heady stuff for an 11-year-old. So he’s the one doing a little of everything: he can help deal with a power company rep, or he can call for pizza. In some ways, as a mentor of Haji often mentions, he’s becoming a man of the house.

For now, the show’s not getting off the ground. Because just as we were going to start to filming the three-minute weekly segments, the Haji family decided to move to Lewiston, Maine, joining relatives there. If that seems a particularly strange place for Somali immigrants to resettle, well: it is and it isn’t. In fact, thousands of Somalis/Bantus now call Lewiston home, and the Haji family will raise that number by just shy of 10.

Figuring that we had only a week to catch Haji in his element, we decided to start taping him last week, catching his last seven days in St. Louis. My collaborator, Brian Spath, and I recorded him playing soccer and hanging around the flea market where he works in North City, just across the road from the “Welcome to Wellston” sign. We followed him to the off-license neighborhood snack shop, and joined him at home during a farewell celebration, which had him dancing with nearly two-dozen other Somali children under the age of 12. (If you’ve never seen 20-plus Somali kids dancing their hearts out to hip-hop radio, I’d advise you find the opportunity! Whoa.)

The most dramatic moment, though, came when we were standing with his parents in the gangway between two of the multi-family units in their apartment complex. Shots were heard in the distance, then steadily grew closer. Bullets began whistling, cars flew down the street and collided and were abandoned, bodies ran in every direction, police were called… all the usual stuff. Thanks to a police report I secured from a friend, we learned that the house next door was hit multiple times, with a family of three, including a baby, only four-feet away from one bullet’s path through their living room and into a wall. Unreal.

While we post that video below, it’s not the way we’ll frame Haji’s story. The kid’s got life, spunk, moxie, whatever phrase you wish to use. We’ll occasionally share some of that footage, while trying to piece together the larger story. If luck runs our way, Haji will back next summer; he wants to play soccer here and would be able to stay with an aunt. If that happens, we’ll have an opportunity to run through some of our “I Am Haji Haji” ideas. For a kid who’s never ever been to the movies, we hope to let him do a host of new things: cook goat in an organic kitchen; build something at the City Museum; shoot hoops with Billiken center Willie Reed; go foxhunting; and generally engage in educational merrymaking, allowing all of us a chance to watch life as an 11-year-old Somali kid in North City might see it.

Best of all is that the youngster wants to do it. And he’s a natural on-camera.

On Wednesday, we’ll be hopeful, saying “see you soon!” instead of “goodbye.”

(Seem to be having trouble embedding of late, but here’s the vid:)


October’s 13

Still October, people! Despite the lateness, this one’s getting blasted out on the quick, with sketchy WiFi connections, so please excuse typos and the like.

Radio, Topic A: Tonight on Topic A, Amanda Doyle is bringing on guest Geoff Manaugh of the book and blog BLDG Blog. It would be far too simplistic to say he writes about architecture. Instead, he touches on everything you could want to know about how our built environment effects our daily life. Simply awesome. Honored to run the board for a show like this one.

More blogs, Matt Thenhaus: There are people you know with an ability to have an interest in everything. But they also have that one thing that they’re sort of known for, whether, or not, they want the designation. Matt Thenhaus knows beer. And now he’s sharing that enthusiasm with the world, via the RFT’s blogs and his new effort over there. Go, Matt!

More blogs, Claire Nowak-Boyd: We wish a delayed fond farewell to CN-B, who is traveling to Detroit for life’s next chapter, taking with her the blog Curious Feet. C ya, C. And save us a room. 

Photography, The Super Six: Haven’t been active/involved in boxing for some time, but there was a time when I was deeply interested in not only the sport, but all media surrounding it. Including art photography. There’s a set at Flickr that’s got me interested in the topic, again, shot amazingly by Howard Schatz.

Book, “Juliet, Naked”: Here’s a psychological gem. I cannot start reading Nick Hornby’s “Juliet, Naked,” because I don’t want to have finished it. In effect, I view each new Hornby title as a gift from the heavens, so I’m just staring at his newest title, in hopes of not racing through it. Which, by extension, means not starting it. CRAZY. But I will read up on Hornby at Nick’s Books.

Documentaries, “Old Dog, New Trick” and “The Pride of St. Louis”: Have I invited you to the movies I helped make? If not…

Site tip, Place and Memory: Haven’t had a chance to dip into this in any real way, but Place and Memory looks wonderful. Thanks, Byron.

Lush B-sides compilations, “Topolino“: Think somebody would’ve told me about this. Nope.

Magazine articles, Malcolm Gladwell on football, concussions and dogfighting: Well, I’ve basically given away the headline of this piece, but any Gladwell piece is worth reading and this one’s no exception, especially given the conversations taking place around this subject in recent months. A lengthy piece, worth every minute spent. Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to play football.

RIP TV, “Freaks and Geeks“: Played the first/pilot episode of this late, lamented comedy for my Media Writing classes at WU and it went over like a lead balloon. Wouldn’t have expected that, a bit. But the viewing got me ready to make a commitment to the series, for a second time. Genius show, friends, genius.

Local albums, “Matt Harnish and Other Delights“: Favorite local album of the year, even if Matt Harnish doesn’t want me to say so.

Awards, Kick Ass Awards: Have I invited you to attend this, too? No. Well, now I have. Sunday, November 8, Joe’s Cafe, 7 p.m., free. Clickey.

MLS players, Kyle Patterson: In a few minutes, Kyle Patterson is dropping by Cabrini Academy to talk to soccer players there, who were coached by him a summer back. While there are more high-profile players in the league, I’m not thinking that too many would spend multiple afternoons visiting kids, a year after working with them, and with a pro career underway. If Kyle was in town in November, he’d walk with a Kick Ass Award. So, he gets a symbolic one, in absentia.

Emily Hemeyer @ The Beacon

I’d like to dedicate all of this week’s posts to Steve Pohlman, co-proprietor of Off Broadway. Not that anything bad’s happened to him. Instead, I’ll note that he needled me at the club the other night, about not having posted anything new here in some time. So, for a little while, buoyed by the fact that I have one reader, I’ll move into hyper-drive.

For today’s second post, here’s a link to a short story about Emily Hemeyer at the St. Louis Beacon. With the online publication now running shorter spotlight articles on local artists, this is one of the first ones to appear. Was happy to spill some digital ink on one of the South Side’s most creative.

It’s right here.

The Trophy Room

This story is 100% true.

Just returned from the Trophy Room, on Arsenal and Brannon. The radio show The Men’s Room was broadcasting from there today and I’d hoped to run into co-host Brian McKenna post-show. Missing him, I figured that I’d sit down, nurse a beer and watch some of the live coverage of the balloon racing across Colorado. At the bar were about 15 bottled beer-drinking hoosiers, along with the stacked, just-off-shift bartender, relieved by another young lady of similar ilk. Nothing about the scene was particularly surprising or new or notable.

But then… at some point in proceedings, one of the resident wits decided to fire up the digital jukebox with The 5th Dimension’s “Up, Up and Away,” which caused the locals to either yuck-yuck, or to sing along to the chorus “up, up and away/in my beautiful/my beautiful balloon.”

Not sure that I needed to be reminded that The Trophy Room’s regulars were a band of dipshit huckleberries, but I just got one anyway.

I Just Spammed Howard Zinn

It’s 10:22 a.m. on a Wednesday. This is normally the time I’d be rousing myself from sleep, but an appointment had me up earlier than normal today. With a few minutes to kill, I noticed that at 8:35 a.m., I’d already received about 57 e-mails on the morning, a good number for a full day. Even the quickest check showed something awry, as almost every subject line was “re:” and there were dozens of those, mixed in with the daily dose of junk and even a few legit pieces of correspondence.

Well, apparently, my account just added to the world’s spam problem, as my Yahoo contact list has been used to distribute some Canadian pharmacy options to friends, colleagues, countless former students and folks that I couldn’t place in a police lineup. As I’ve responded to each, I’ve gotten more e-mails, along with responses to my responses. I’m currently at well over 100 e-mails sent and received this morning. Fun.

Wading through additional readings every few minutes, I’ve begun to detect a pattern in the responses-to-responses. Guys over 30 often write “Don’t need Viagra… yet!” Others bear a vaguely hostile “WHAT IS THIS?” or the more confused “Huh?” And while I appreciate the “I just wanted you to know” tone of many… I know! I know! And I’m so sorry! But I know!

After changing my account password, it seemed a good time to trim away at the 1,031 names in my account book. Now, I’m a lean, sinewy 690, simply by knocking out students from 2001-2008, names that I simply don’t remember and a few dozen enemies. It’s very cleansing. But only cleansing, after the fact. Because at some time during the 7 a.m. time block this morning, my computer sent Viagra appeals to all these good folks:

Noted American historian Howard Zinn

The parents of my soccer players

Former State Senator Jeff Smith

All of St. Louis’ TV and radio sports media, including Rich Gould, Frank Cusumano, Martin Kilcoyne, Bob Ramsey, Andy Strickland and Rene Knott

At least two employees of Roxy’s

Someone named Silab

Soemone named John Doe

Various people that write me checks

Roger Boyd of the band Head East

And all my current students at Webster U., which will make for countless enjoyable comments at the start of the next couple classes

Happy Wednesday, folks!

Halo & Heart

One of my many jobs is serving as the quick-call-fill-in-deejay at the Halo Bar, which happens to be one of my favorite jobs, as well. This very Thursday night, I’ll be there ’til the witching hour of 3 a.m. After enjoying several Sunday night slots recently, always with the Pageant dark, this gig will follow an actual show at the main room, by Ghostland Observatory.

Now this got me thinking about the fact that my ears and eyes have suddenly started growing shut, as I’m fairly certain that I’ve never heard the music of Ghostland Observatory before yesterday, and have only the dimmest memory of ever reading the duo’s name. YIKES. This is happening on a far-too-frequent basis of late, but I’ll just deal, while playing and enjoying music suitable to my generation. Yes. Dignity will be applied. Always.

Speaking of dignity (being damned), I can fully blame Marla Hare Griffin of the Royale staff, for causing me to play mid-’80s, comeback-era Heart on a daily basis for the past two weeks. Thanks to YouTube, I’ve been reliving my teens, spent in miniscule, low-lit TV lounge of Loretto Hall, crushing on Nancy Wilson during the hyper-frequent playings of MTV hits like “These Things,” “Never” and “What About Love.”

Have to say, the one that’s sticking for me is “Alone.” Hadn’t thought of the cut in years, but now I’m aware of the Seattle acoustic show, the Carrie Underwood version, the Carrie Underwood-with-Ann Wilson rendition from American Idol, etc., etc., and so on. Thanks, YouTube users! Let’s fire up the time machine with the original today.

‘Cause I need more nostalgia in my life.

(Edit: Okay, after eight attempts to embed the actual video, it ain’t gonna happen. The link, then.)