FullSizeRender(2)Working for Alderman Cara Spencer of St. Louis City’s 20th Ward, I’m writing a year-long series of blog posts around the people, places and developments within that corner of South St. Louis. The project got off to a slower start, but just as the weather’s allowed for a little more traveling within the Ward, the stories are starting to appear.

This short feature, on Earthbound Beer, is how I’d like the blog to look/read as the year progresses.

With a little luck, another project of the same sort will be undertaken with the next month. As always, updates as they come.

Write That Letter

Some months back, I got an email; not exactly testy, but definitely direct. The gist of it was that my monthly music coverage for St. Louis Magazine was lacking in one important respect: not enough diversity, especially racial diversity. Some of the facts presented in it, I quibbled with, but the writer had a point and I started to think about how to diversify the blend of acts that I was covering. The work involved in that was pretty simple: sit and think and contact folks.

At the start of 2016 and looking to the half-year mark: two of the artists I’ve profiled are African-American, three focus on women and one’s still to be determined. It’s a good list of varied artists so far, all of whom deserve media play.

I ended up accidentally erasing the email that kicked off my thinking on this topic and the act he was pitching (if in a unique, just-shy-of-aggressive way) is way out of my head, lost to space and memory. But the gist of the letter, even if challenging, was a worthwhile one to both make and consider; they made me look at this monthly gig in a different way and kicked me out of the autopilot, talk-to-friends-and-friends-of-friends rut I’d fallen into. By extension, I’d like to think that people can civilly, even pointedly exchange ideas and get a result. I appreciate getting the note, in retrospect, sure do. Here’s my list to date:

2016: June, Paige Alyssa; May: TBD; April, Kellie Everett; March, River Kittens; February, Paul Stanton; January, Walk Miles aka The Walkman

2015: December, Mikey Wehling & Vandeventer; November, Lliam Christy; October, Rich Wooten and Nick Barbieri; September, Clockwork; August, American Wrestlers; July, Beth Bombara; June, Animal Children; May, The Tennis Lesson; April, Ethan Leinwand; March, Aaron Griffin; February, Tom & Alice; January, Town Cars

2014: December, Tommy Flynn; November, The Dock Ellis Band; October, Mathias & The Pirates; September, Ian Fisher and The Present; August, Pat Liston; July, Big Brother Thunder & the Master Blasters; June, Lizzie Weber; May, Boxing Clever Records; April, Willis, March, Sleepy Kitty; February, Brothers Lazaroff; January, Jenny Roques

2013: December, So Many Dynamos; November, Kimmy V; October, Letter to Memphis; September, Kentucky Knife Fight; August (not in rotation); July, Tommy Halloran & Guerilla Swing; June, Syna So Pro; May, Black James; April (not in rotation); March, Mike Apirion; February (not in rotation); January, Bruiser Queen

2012: December, El Monstero; November, Tory Z. Starbuck

Looking at that list, I give myself an overall B for effort (with late push), C for execution (ditto). Moving those grades up in 2016.

(And props to Stefene Russell for the continued and appreciated work.)


This Is What I (Currently) Do

student-using-computerAs someone who makes a partial living through journalism, I’d like to be honest about how my bills are paid. Of late, I’ve been tossing a few rounds at the Great Dartboard of Freelance Opportunities and Funded Projects and a couple of those dart$ have stuck; others, well, those duds hit-and-bounced, but no one died in the process or got stuck in the eye. Such is the freelance experience. In the spirit of disclosure, here’s what I do and don’t do, circa November 2, 2015. The image is an accurate one of me, while slaving away at Nebula.

Tick Tock Tavern: This past weekend marked my passage from a full-time GM to one with fewer daily responsibilities. My current roles at the bar include: booking of acts and events, social media, curating our beer and spirits selections, hanging out. In short, I kept all the fun stuff, sneaky devil that I am. Which brings us to…

The Gaslight: So, yeah. I wrote a piece about The Gaslight, an in-construction recording studio and lounge, located on the edge of The Hill. When I originally wrote the piece, I did so without thinking that conversations would continue and that I’d sign on as a content provider for the business. In coming months, I’ll blog, provide a bit of social media, help book acts into the studio, offer writing services to clients and will undertake a Gaslight Square web project that’s been residing on the back-burner for a good, long while. I’ll be hosting open houses at the space each Wednesday in November, noon-4 p.m., 4916 Shaw; drop by, starting in two days.

St. Louis Magazine & It’s a joy to have editors with whom you enjoy working and I’m pleased to continue providing stories to’s Arts and Dining sections; thanks to Stefene Russell and George Mahe, respectively. I’ll also continue to write a print magazine feature each month. Journalism’s done here. A new gig, I’m writing weekly web content for the athletics department at Saint Louis University, highlighting various aspects of the SLU program; this work is done directly for SLU. A self-produced, offshoot project idea called is being mothballed until funding is found. (Thinking hoops season may provide a push here.)

Riverfront Times: After a big ol’ gap in writing for the RFT, I’ve contributed one piece to the new-look RFT and am currently working on a second. It’s pleasing to be offered an occasional byline with the outlet that started it all for me. Journalism’s done here, too. My goals in life do not include being an elected politician. Too much work! But I do maintain an interest in civics and politics and am pleased to have begun prepping a new project in support someone who works harder than most folks I know: the 20th Ward’s Alderman, Cara Spencer. This weekly blog, to be launched in January, will feature news and content relating to the progressive happenings in a South Side ward that’s undergoing a tremendous amount of change, with lots of progressive, people-friendly efforts underway.

The Schwag: You shouldn’t attempt to create a package of freelance projects without doing social media work for a Grateful Dead Experience, or so I’ve been told. Social media support‘s the gig here, along with the odd road trip report.

Mostly, I’m done throwing dart$ for the moment, but I’m always interested in project conversations. ‘Cause, you know, what I’m doing, or not doing, this week could always change. Like, next week.

Cheers and peace to all fellow freelancers. May free dental insurance and a bounty of steady checks be yours!




A Man Called Typewriter & The Artican Curse

9062149365_cff8c91935_oOn Saturday afternoon, Typewriter Tim Jordan was at The Tick Tock Tavern a little bit ahead of his normal schedule, loading up our mezzanine with artworks done by the good people who take part in projects at Artists First. That’s a Maplewood-based storefront that offers open art studio hours (along with materials and instruction) for people with disabilities; formerly, it was known as the Turner Center for the Arts. This was the third time we’d opened our doors to Artists First/TCA and we teamed up with the band Unifyah to host a CD listening party for that ska/reggae group’s latest album at the same hour, thinking the two events would dovetail nicely.

Not gonna lie, the turnout was a downer. Sure, there were plenty of reasons. A nice, beautiful Saturday; maybe too nice, too beautiful to be indoors. The Cards in the playoffs, making a mess out of everyone else’s plans. Other art events and sales were taking place around town. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Still, dudes, I was bummed.

At the end of the two-hour fundraiser, I wrote a check to Tim, a teacher at Artists First. I was sheepish in handing him a check for a such a small total, though we also bought a piece of art for the bar.

Me: “Wish it were bigger.” Tim: “Don’t we all.”

A day later, Typewriter Tim, in the guise of the performance artist Bodybagman, apparently fell off of a wall while performing at Artica. Thought he’d dislocated his hip, though he’d actually broken it. In the span of a day, he went from his usual gregarious self to an injured version; though I shouldn’t assume that he’s not upbeat today, too. He kinda just comes that way.

What’s weird is that a year ago, I doubly-broke my wrist while leaving Artica, in a cycling accident that took a toll on both body and mind. I went under the knife, as will Tim. When something like that happens, you deal with pain, first. And the awkwardness of daily activities. Plus there’s the pain. The loss of income and the outta pocket expenses. And there’s the mental push of getting right again, hard to do, what with all that pain. It sucks and it somehow sucks more when it happens at/during something you love. Tim will have a memory of his first Artica, but not one that anyone would want.

This year, I wasn’t able to attend as much of Artica as in the recent past. It’s a great place to chill and be energized, to spend multiple hours just being around. It’s a hopeful, spirited, whimsical, sort childlike environment. So, the kinda place that Tim would seemingly fit into, any day, and certainly during one pretty weekend in October.

This accident’s a drag, but you take something out of the experiences of others. This bit of badness reminds me to give a lot more, whenever possible. ‘Cause of this…

Here’s a quick anecdote from Saturday. Tim was talking about the artist Paul Stanton. I’ve never met Paul, not even during some drop-bys at Artists First. But along the way, I’ve bought three pieces of Paul’s for the bar (Miles Davis, Dizzy Dean, Redd Foxx) and one for my house (Nelly). Self-taught and then polished at Artists First, Paul’s got a recognizable style, one that you’re immediately drawn to when looking at AF  works in a group setting. Not to say the others don’t have gifts, but Paul’s obviously in possession of a unique talent. Just a couple days back, Tim was preaching to the choir of one, me, that he was going to keep working to break Paul in St. Louis and beyond; they’ve already combined to get Paul’s work into a few “important” hands. And that’s the plan for the foreseeable future: to do portraits of famous folks and to get those works into their possession.

It’s an interesting concept. One of probably 100 that Tim’s talked about doing over the past years and one that obviously means something to him. You can hear it in his voice, when he talks about Paul and the desire to see him be a working artist.

Tim and I have circled similar scenes for years. Shared a physical space more than once, usually with something interesting happening. We’ve done a good turn for each other, when possible. And today?

Today’s a day to encourage the ultimate encourager.


Billiken Extra & Backstory

billikenextra2For around a decade, I found myself in a deeply-patterned work life, splitting time between teaching appointments at a local college and freelance writing assignments. On some levels, these were worthy ways to make a living. But the lack of certainty in both fields eventually lead me to leave teaching, while continuing to write for a few local publications and sites. Turning to a completely new career (co-owning and operating a South Side tavern, The Tick Tock) ensured that I’d spend every day of the last 13-months learning something new. Freelance writing on the side’s been doable, but challenging.

My current goal is to transition from daily operations of the place within 2015, now that good business patterns and habits have been established, though I’ll still have a direct, near-daily impact on the workings of the bar, through booking events, purchasing, promotions and my marathon Tuesday shift behind the bar (4-7 p.m, donchaknow).

Freelancing through this process, though, has taken a toll, in its own way. While I enjoy some really great editors, there’s still a stress level involved in the story-to-story pitch process, let alone the pursuit of national clips. Even longer-term ideas have suffered; a project that I undertook this year, the “Ax to Table” experiment for Feast, has listed. Other ideas never found funding or a green light with editors. (And here I’ll note that Stefene Russell, culture editor at, gets my lifelong respect for her continued support of my work, in its various forms.) The idea of forming a tight circle of independent, individually-run projects has been my goal for a few months now and the first step in this direction comes with Billiken Extra, which is launching today.

The site’s live. The impish mascot, courtesy of Kevin Belford, is secured. A complementary side project, a weekly feature story for, is set begin today. And, yes, here comes the money part: the Indiegogo campaign is underway.

My hope with this is that a hunch pays off. The idea’s this: SLU sports are under-represented in local media coverage. I go to my share of SLU sports games. I write. Hey, I could write about SLU sports! While I’m not going to say “no” to anyone’s contributions, my target for contributions to this site are primarily the people who enjoy the program, but feel it could be better-presented in local media.

So. Here’s another media experiment. And another public can-shake.

The creative process is well-underway. The stories are going up, interviews are arranged and my own life is being reorganized. If you wanna help the latter go a bit more-smoothly, your tip of a dollar is welcome. I hope my hunch don’t go sideways. Thanks for reading.


A Gn’R Flashback

Last night, I spent 14-minutes on 920 AM, discussing the Guns n’ Roses riot, which is now 24 years deep in the history books. It’s a night I’ll never forget and one that I’m happy rambling out at any opportunity. After being invited to the show, I did some research, falling into an hour-long Google bender. Found some wonderful old clips and a few surprises along the way.

Links below.

The conversation on The Brian Stull Show.

A piece from the on catalyst Stump Stevenson.

Daniel Durchholz’ recollections of the event, from 1991.

A shockingly-comprehensive clip history of the night via a Gn’R bulletin board.

Today, I’m trying to live the present. Yesterday was plenty fun, though. Hope to be around in another 24 to *really* embellish things.

Hitler Reacts to the Peacock-Blitz Stadium Plan

Reposted from FB:

Okay, here’s the deal: I dedicatd most of 1-4 a.m. last night building my first “Hitler Reacts” video. Interesting experience on three levels.

One: My family fought on the wrong side of war and there’s still something inside me that says “too soon” in respect to “Hitler Reacts” videos. Feel that way about many Ken Burns’ war-porn projects and “Hitler cat” photos, too.

Two: They’re tougher to write and edit than you might expect. Tweaks here, edits there. Hours were spent. Yet I’m still missing the use of “is” in one instance, after re-uploading no less than a dozen times and proofing more seriously than I do for paid gigs.

Three: No one, if honest, puts up a video and doesn’t think, “This could go viral.” Thought it, yes, though I’m sure this one won’t. And, yet, getting a couple “Likes” on it through Facebook doesn’t satisfy. Not no way, not no how. So here you go, again.

3 Minute Record Podcast: Wow

It’s not that I necessarily want to hear myself talk for 89-minutes, but I have to say that a recent conversation with 3 Minute Record’s podcast team was maybe the most “me” thing I’ve seen/heard/read ever. Four guys, four microphones, the back room of the Tick Tock Tavern and a host of conversation topics and… hey, an interesting listen emerges. At least if you’re into hearing me talk for 89-minutes. Anyway, that’s all I have to say about that.