Category Archives: Almost Famous

Just Listen To The Music Of The Traffic In The City

Washington Avenue Historic District
Last week, there was a school shooting two doors down from my building that made national news. (These days “school shooting” is synonymous with “mass shooting” but only two people were shot and they’re both still alive.) News vans have been parked outside of my front door all week. Even though it was a personal dispute that could have happened anywhere (a mentally-ill student shot a financial aid officer), the dialogue in the city immediately turned to downtown safety.

Oh and then. Then! A week later the former Governor of Missouri got robbed a couple blocks from my neighborhood. (This was a silly story because (a) a panhandler was asking for gas money and everybody knows it’s never “gas money”, (b) the Governor whipped out his money-clip, like who isn’t going to grab that and run, and (c) he was walking down a 2-block stretch that I never walk down even with Justin because it’s just parking garages and alleyways and creepily empty.)

Anyway, conversations about downtown safety infuriate me because these conversations are usually sparked by people in the county who have no idea what they are talking about. Hell, I knew nothing about downtown until I moved here. People come here for games or the occasional festival and then leave, and unless they work downtown, county people just imagine it as this desolate concrete wasteland full of boarded up windows, homeless people and gunfire.

They aren’t completely to blame for this, though. Justin has been living here for about 8 years and said it was a completely different world back then – he barely felt safe walking to his car. But thanks to redevelopment grants, the addition of cool places like City Garden and the City Museum, and the first grocery store in forever, Downtown’s population increased by almost 3,000% in the last 10 years. It’s an awesome street now.

My street is almost always in the news for bad reasons. It’s a shame because Washington Avenue has such a rich history, a vibrant community, and it’s absolutely stunning. In fact, it was voted one of the Top 10 Streets in the country.

Usually it’s in the news because Washington Avenue is where everyone parties on the weekend, and during the summer the crowds and noise are totally out of control. It used to be known as the nightclub district, but there were tons of shootings when the clubs got out at 1:30 or 3am, and eventually they shut down the problem clubs. However, there are still shootings, robberies, and other violent crimes. Hell, someone got murdered over a bag of Cheetos a few months ago.

Directly north of Washington is Delmar, a street so notorious for its divisiveness that the BBC made a documentary about it. (I don’t live in the rich white neighborhood that the documentary covers, though – that would be the Central West End.) Delmar marks the entrance to North City, which is where St. Louis earns the statistics that make it the most dangerous city in the county. There’s at least one murder a week. Contrary to popular belief, North City is much more dangerous than East St. Louis. So the juxtaposition of (mostly) wealthy loft dwellers to North City residents is a little jarring, and they typically don’t mesh well.

South of Washington is Locust. Up until a few months ago, Locust was in the news because of a homeless shelter run by an infamous televangelist named Larry Rice. Larry Rice allows people to loiter on his sidewalks. This usually bled over to the park across the street between Locust and Washington–a park which no one went to because it was full of sleeping homeless people and smelled like urine. The sidewalks surrounding his shelter were always packed with people.

I walk past this shelter every day and witnessed the crowds firsthand. They circled around the entire block of the building and even the sidewalk in front of the school across the street. This was a problem not because they were homeless but because Larry Rice does not allow drunk or high people inside of his building, and he doesn’t let people come and go during the night. If you’re in, you’re in. So the people who were outside waiting for food were the people who did not want to follow his rules. These people liked to yell lewd things at women (including me in my running pants), urinate on the street, do drugs and more.

Eventually, I started seeing more and more women out there. And then I started seeing strollers. This is when the city shut down the sidewalks AND put a fence around the park for “construction”. (You’ll recognize that reporter as the guy who got that infamous Todd Akin quote.) In fact, the sidewalks are still fenced off.

Back when all the nightclub shootings were happening, Erin T. asked meĀ  to write about what it’s like to be a Washington Avenue resident. Honestly, I love it. I can’t get enough of it. I’m far enough away from the main stretch of bars that the noise doesn’t bother me. The most noise I usually get is when a wedding reception lets out at 11 (drunk bridesmaids are THE WORST) or if a band is playing at the City Museum.

Sure, it’s noisy. It’s dangerous at night. There are break-ins in my parking lot. There are muggings near me. People try to break into my building. I get asked for “gas money” every day. Dudes like to rev their engines in my alley at 2am and it echoes off all of the buildings. There’s one asshole who has a train horn instead of a car horn. I hate that guy. And when I’m visiting my mom or my friends in my hometown, I miss it. I miss running around in the middle of the night, feeling 100% safe. I miss the crickets and back porches and trees.

But I LOVE walking to work. I love walking to the grocery store and the general store and bars and restaurants and games and concerts and festivals and the MetroLink. It’s the closest I’ve felt to living in London since I was there – every errand feels like a little journey because I have to walk to get there. I love seeing so many familiar faces on such busy sidewalks. I love the diversity and the noise and the action. I love my building full of riff-raff artists; it leads to something hilarious and weird every day. I live in the same building as a pig, for pete’s sake. In my front yard? THE WIENERMOBILE. (Okay, once.) And my backyard? My backyard is one of the most incredible, insane, weirdly beautiful buildings in the entire country.

I’m a huge advocate for living downtown, but I’m not a total idiot about it. I stay on populated streets. I don’t walk alone at night unless it’s busy and full of people. I stay away from empty, shadowy blocks during the day. If an inebriated/mentally-ill person is screaming in the middle of the sidewalk (at least once a month), I cross the street or I wait until he’s distracted. I tell panhandlers that I have no cash on me, and I’m usually telling the truth. I carry mace in my hand when I walk to the Y at 5 in the morning. I also learn my lessons:

Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 4.14.28 PM

I’ve been trying to make an effort to get more involved, too. I plan on volunteering at shelters once the wedding hoopla is over (just not Larry Rice’s shelter). My next-door neighbor runs Town Hall Meetings and they are my new favorite thing. (It is truly a Parks & Rec episode brought to life.) Here’s me at 14:20 rambling about downtown safety with my hand in front of my face:

.

I plan on living down here for as long as I can. In St. Louis speak, that means until my kids are old enough to go to school. The biggest problem that downtown or any other part of the city has is that the schools are heartbreakingly awful. So unless you can afford Catholic School, you move to the county when the oldest turns 5. That’s just how it is. But who knows? We’re currently having an election for a new mayor for the first time since 2001, and both the current mayor and his opponent are making schools a central issue. So maybe it will continue to get better, and maybe I can stay here a little longer. I hope so. Downtown West is the best.

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“A Man Like That. Where In The Hell Did You Meet A Man Like That?”

So once upon a time, a million years ago (okay, three and a half), I had an awesome birthday party where my friends and I watched The Room. Janet and Courtney, two of my Twin Peaks Club buddies, were in attendance. A few weeks later at TPC, Janet and Courtney were talking about the movie.

“What is that?” asked a tall, quiet guy sitting across the room from me.

I launched into a breathless, hyper description of The Room. Justin told me later that that’s when he started falling for me.

Months later, after we had talked more at TPC, TV Time and other Squid stuff, he organized a covert Room screening at Webster University. We went to a bar for drinks afterward, and he asked me on a date.

Exactly three years later, we went to the Tivoli to meet the writer/director/producer/star himself, Tommy Wiseau!


He brought along his co-star Greg Sestero, and they showed up an hour early to sign autographs. We would have been first in line, but we were like an hour early and left to go get Froyo. We were probably 15th.

Tommy and Greg were AMAZING. They spent at least 5 minutes with everyone who came. We weren’t sure we would be able to do this, but: Justin told them how we met, and we invited them to the wedding!


Greg (who was intimidatingly handsome) seemed genuinely touched and said, “You guys are going to have laughter for your whole lives together.”

And Tommy? Well, Tommy was beside himself, but I think he’s kind of always like that. He told us that he would invite us onstage for the Q&A. Justin and I figured that the whole process was such a whirlwind that he wouldn’t remember. He was still amazing, though. He kept taking things out of our hands to sign, including a DVD, a stuffed dog and the program Justin made for that original screening.


Tommy: Happy …
Justin: Wedding?
Tommy: Nah, that’s cheap.

He ended up writing, “To Justin and Stephanie, Happy life. Love Tommy. P.S. Be good to each other.”

The pug in the tuxedo was a brilliant thing to start selling at Room screenings. It even talks! Appropriately enough, our place in line was in front of the flower shop at the Tivoli.


Tommy was late to the screening because he wanted to spend time with everyone in line. But he finally showed up. Before the Q&A, he told everyone in tuxedos and red dresses to come up front. They played football with a plastic water bottle for prizes. (It makes sense, I promise.) All the people were lined up for questions, too. So we assumed that he forgot. And then:

“Oh, before we begin, I wanted to invite up a beautiful girl, a beautiful couple with a beautiful story. See, I am an actor, I remember things …”

I handed my camera to the guy behind me (after an hour in line, you make friends with people) and we went up front.

“This is a wonderful story; who would like to tell it?” Tommy asked, and I reached for the mic. (Justin told me later he was like OH THANK GOD.) “You have two minutes to tell us. Okay, go.”


So I told the audience the story that I just told you, and ended it with, “And now, because of The Room, we’re getting married!” The whole audience cheered really loud. I don’t remember much else because it’s hard to remember things when you’re on stage in front of hundreds of people. I just remember Tommy and Greg shaking our hands and saying, “Thank you.”


Tommy and Greg were pretty hysterical during the Q&A; if you ever have a chance to see them, do it. At the end, they said, “We will be back someday soon! Somebody already invited us!”

Justin and I decided that since we had that first conversation at TPC, we could technically do the same thing at Twin Peaks Fest. Then we joked that we should go to Comic Con and pull the same gag at every panel to see how many celebs we can meet.

But really, The Room is what brought us together, and because Tommy and Greg were so kind and genuinely happy for us, that night is something we’ll remember fondly forever.

AND we can’t wait to go to another screening in a few years to tell Tommy, “We are expecteeeng!”

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Filed under Adventures, Almost Famous, Picture Pages, Pop Goes The Culture

I See Red People

Well, this happened:

Want to know what it’s like living on the craziest street in downtown St. Louis on the night the Cardinals win the World Series? Well, here’s a nice relaxing stroll down my street over an hour after the win:

I was going to write some big long entry worthy of such an epic win, but guess what? My street was up honking and screaming until 4am. And remember that legendary Game 6 the night before? Honking til 3 on a Thursday. That lack of sleep, combined with standing in the cold for hours and high-fiving one million strangers equals a mother of a sinus infection. Justin and I are laying on the couch as I type this, coughing and groaning and whimpering.

So here’s some pictures in a lazy slideshow. Keep an eye out for some pictures of our street–after I shot that video, the police closed off the street and firetrucks showed up “just in case”. I also threw in some pictures from Game 1, where we sipped tumblers full of wine, and hung out with like 12 people on the corner outside the stadium (as opposed to the 20,000 you will see below):

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Dog Days

Here’s a link to the video Kim and I helped make. You can see us in the Making Of video! We’re almost to 40,000 hits as of today, which is cool.

Full disclaimer: I did not name this video.

 

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Adventure! Romance! FOOD!

Justin’s film premieres tonight at the Tivoli! It’s at 9:30, though his will play toward the end and we’ll have a giant screening party when he finishes the longer version, so don’t worry if you can’t make it. (I think he finds the $12 ticket price a little embarrassing.)

His mom’s side is in town this weekend and his dad is coming later today, which means we have or will be hitting up every single cool restaurant/bar in my neighborhood this weekend. Rooster, Crown Candy, Blueberry Hill, Rosalita’s, Broadway Oyster Bar, Soulard Market, etc. They were even spoiled rotten by now-famous Dustin at Sub Zero.

We went to Lola for the first time for our anniversary and it was delicious. We also have the Closing Night Awards Party this week, then we’re going away next weekend for a belated anniversary trip. And did I mention last week was our traditional BLT Week featuring giant Indiana tomatoes and corn on the cob?

I’ve run 11 miles this weekend, but still. I am. So fat.

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Moodboard 3: It Fits!

Remember that bridesmaid dress I ordered in a size too small? YUP, it fits. In fact, it’s almost a size too big.

I’ve lost 25 pounds so far this year, which isn’t a lot unless you realize how many times I get taken out to lunch at work. But people are noticing. Last weekend, Justin and I visited a few of our neighbors during City-Wide Open Studios, and we realized we live above a former Project Runway contestant.

“Oh, it’s Y Girl! We go to the same Y,” Michael D. said to me when he opened the door. “You’ve lost a lot of weight–looking good, girl! ” And then I died.

So needless to say, a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders (and stomach and thighs and ass) and I’m feeling pretty relieved today. And confident. And hungry. So if you’ll excuse me.

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Filed under Almost Famous, Moodboard

Harry Potter World Premiere

When I was in London in 2001, I roomed with this awesome girl named Kacy. She suggested Harry PotterĀ  to me any time I needed a new book, but English majors can be dickishly superior about popular books, so I would always turn her down. That is, until I flew to Rome for Fall Break. I read the first one on the flight over and was so hooked that by the time we landed, I shelled out about 50,000 lire for an English version of book 2. After we got back, I locked myself in our room for about a week and finished books 3 and 4.

So when Kacy asked me if I wanted to go to the World Premiere a few days later, I said sure. For some reason, I thought we were going to watch the movie. Little did I know that we were heading down to Piccadilly Circus at 10 in the morning to watch them set up and hopefully grab seats in the grandstands.

We ended up hanging out with this kid named Simon who was dressed like Harry. All the reporters wanted to interview him, so that day you could see Kacy and I grinning in the background like fools on channels all over the world, including Telemundo. We were there so long that we ended up flirting with the bobbies and got wristbands to the grandstands–second row, right in front of the door!

I actually took home one of the posters below and kept it in my room til the end of the semester. If I had known what I know now, I would have paid to ship it home. Ugh.

We had primo seats to watch all the celebrities pose for the paparazzi. We only knew half of them, though. The little girl in front of us thought she was the shit as she haughtily explained who the people were. “She’s on Footballer’s Wives. He plays for Arsenal. Do you even know what Arsenal is?”

I had my boyfriend Tim’s camera, which took pictures on “film” that you had to “develop”. Also, you had to look though this little hole to see, and it did not zoom. So below are pictures of celebrities, some amazing and some awful. Some celebrities that were there that I didn’t get pictures of included Helen Hunt, Jessica Simpson and Ben Stiller.

I could show you which face is Daniel Radcliffe if I had MS Paint on this thing.

Hermione!

Ron!

Hagrid! Robbie Coltrane was so awesome, the crowd ended up chanting, “Robbie! Robbie!” over and over, and the paparazzi took tons of pictures of us.

Fuzzy J.K. Rowling!

Madame Hooch!

Fuzzy Warwick Davis!

Fuzzy Fergie!

Baby Spice!

STING! AGH!

The highlight of the night was when Daniel Radcliffe started walking toward the front door. “Harry! Harry!” we all yelled, as his publicist shielded him from us. But just when he seemed like he was heading our way, we noticed something out of the corner of our eye. “Harry! Harry! Ha-CHER! OH MY GOD IT’S CHER!”

Cher looked as excited to see us as we were to see her. She looked amazing up close. She high-fived tons of people, INCLUDING ME, and then I got the most awesome picture of the day … so awesome that when William (the receptionist at Regents) saw it, he said, “You bitch.”

So that’s my story of the first Harry Potter. And last night I saw the last one with Jen, Ron and Justin. It was amazing, and not just because Neville Longbottom kicked ass.

I showed Justin all the previous films over the past month or two, and it was great reliving the whole thing and getting to experience the last one with him sitting next to me. (Good thing; I needed a shoulder to cry on and Jen was too busy crying on Ron’s.) This has been a huge part of my life for the last ten years, and even though I knew how it ended, it was touching to see it brought to life by these actors we’ve watched for the last 10 years, too. The fact that the entire cast was on board for eight films is pretty remarkable.

Oh, and SPOILER ALERT: Continue reading

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