Three films from the fall 2011 edition of the video series have been selected for the 2012 St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase.
You can find them at our YouTube channel.
Or you can visit the Cinema St. Louis page (soon) for detailed info on showtimes.
It’s been awhile.
And, apparently, it was a while between visits to Phuc Loi, the Vietnamese micro-restaurant on Gravois, west of Grand. On one visit, the entire Nguyen family was in place, behind the counter, bussing tables, running the ovens in the kitchen. A month later… bang! Same location, same name, but an entirely new staff, a mostly new menu and a completely different feel.
The new staff featured a familiar face to me. After a time, it was determined that she was the cousin of one of my former soccer players. Asked where the Nguyen family had gone, she told me that she didn’t know, they sold the restaurant and that was that. It was obvious, though, that the young lady knew more than she was letting on. And trying to get the information from the cousin proved totally useless, so this mystery remains. And it’s bothersome.
Straight-up, I loved the old Phuc Loi. The food, the environment, the eventual melting of customer/worker relationships. Never had a bad meal there, even when the orders that came out were slightly different than the ones placed.
In the past few weeks, I’ve popped through a few Vietnamese restaurants on the South Side, ones that I hadn’t been into, yet. My hope is that one of these visits is going to yield a positive ID. The Nguyen’s will be there as new owners, the food’ll be great, the atmosphere welcoming. But it’s also possible, I suppose, that the parents are back home, the kids scattered to their various side jobs all over town. And then, that’d be that.
I’m holding out hope, though. You’ve seen the folks? Tell me that you’ve seen these folks:
Not long ago, we posted some video evidence of the song “Pretty Girls,” at least as it was sounding in the Native Sound studio during the recording process.
The final product’s now available online, right here.
The South Side of Luck was originally intended to run over for the summer of 2011, featuring the video work of some Webster University students, lead by Tyler DePerro. The daily content stream stopped, even a bit shy of summer’s end, but the project continued with two more WU students in the fall of ’11: Andy Alton with seven more video pieces and Jamie Thomason with seven audio features. You can find all of those, easily enough, on the site; or you locate the videos on YouTube, the audio bits on soundcloud.com.
After not securing any student talent for the spring, it seemed that the site might be dormant for the semester. But, instead, we’ve struck up an official relationship with The Royale, which will keep a few videos coming over the next months. Many of them will showcase folks that do business in some way, shape or form with The Royale, but the focus will be solidly on these entities, rather than the restaurant and tavern.
As an example, yesterday, Steven Smith and I traveled just a few blocks down Kingshighway, to meet with Andy Ayers, who may be best known in St. Louis as the chef and operator of the long-running Riddles Penultimate. After leaving that Loop landmark, Ayers quickly moved into a new venture, Eat Here Saint Louis, which unites food producers with consumers. The short version is this: Ayers strikes up relationships with farmers, some on working farms, others making the best of small, urban plots. He brings the food to his near-South Side warehouse, then distributes the produce from there, bringing it directly to local restauranteurs. This way, those venues get local produce in their kitchen, without having to establish their own relationships with area farms. In the process, everyone makes a dollar, or saves a dollar, with all the monies tightly circulating within the region. There’s a lot to like about this.
Obviously, Ayers is taken seriously in this process because of his great reputation at Riddles, which included a heavy dose of local sourcing. We look forward to bringing that video to you shortly. We’ll also be visiting the Civil Life Brewing Company in another week, or two, and that video will soon follow.
After about 10 hours of screen time yesterday, and with all other humans and animals in the household sound asleep, last night seemed a good one for some late-night investigation. Because word had reached me that Slo-Tom’s had been sold, I put my vehicle on auto-pilot and headed down to the South Broadway flats, figuring that something might be shaking, especially if the ol’ place was going into its last days. Sure enough.
Inside, an argument had kicked up, probably long before I’d turned onto Broadway. The bar’s two, omnipresent faces, bartender Kim and owner Tom (real name: not Tom), were inside, along with A Guy Leaning Against the Jukebox, The Typical Barroom Wag, A Veteran Who’d Had Too Much and Mr. Unconscious. The combination was really quite a sight. And a sound. The Wag and the Veteran were having the equivalent of an “I know you are, but what am I?”-style fight, with the Wag suggesting that he’d give the Veteran $1 if the latter could actually walk out the front door. This didn’t sit well with the Vet, who told the Wag to shut up in six different ways. The Vet, though, seemed less likely to toss a punch, so I sat next to him; even though, it turned out, he’d just ordered the last Busch, leaving me with a Busch Light and a frown. That’s no friend.
Once things simmered, the Guy Leaning Against the Jukebox was met by a Lady Who Walked in From The Street, who then walked back out, after a trip to the commode. On South Broadway, the imagination can take you all kinds of places. Her cameo was followed by the arrival of The Fellow Just Out, who mentioned, with a sigh, “Every time I come home, I wind up walking into this bar. I wonder why that is.” It’s a question that many of us have asked after stepping into Tom’s.
It’s not quite as bad in the winter, but in the summer, the air of Slo-Tom’s doesn’t seem still; it seems to not exist, at all. A smoker at 5 p.m. can enjoy a couple cigs and the remnants are left hanging in the air, cartoon-like, all the way to midnight. And unless someone’s been feeding the jukebox a few dollars, or the scritchy-scratchy color TV is “tuned” into a ballgame, the quiet of Slo-Tom’s is all-encompassing. Conversations are sometimes started there, I’m sure, just to beat back the eerie quality of that peculiar Slo-Tom’s silence.
As noted, the conversation was plenty animated last night, and the appearance of The Fellow Just Out was looking like the real kicker of what wound up my 15-minute stay. He talked about never wanting “to go back in”; he inquired at to whether his dad, who’d just beaten cancer, ever came through; he offered the notion that his mom was “in the hospital, or someplace” and “might be in a wheelchair.” As barfly eavesdropping went, it was deeply satisfying.
And now it was Gary’s turn.
Gary was the Veteran Who’d Had Too Much and it appeared that he and Mr. Unconscious – whose finger-points and lightly-mumbled words indicated that he was dialed in on every discussion, though rendered completely inaudible – were in a tight contest to win the night’s Most Wasted Trophy. Sensing a new mark, Gary began one of the most interesting monologues I’ve caught in years, one that made the drive utterly and completely worthwhile. As I’d just had my fortune told earlier in the week, Gary’s suggestion that he’d been put on Earth to help people really piqued my curiosity. His convoluted introduction stressed his God-given gift and his uncanny ability to put people on the right track. After a time, he asked for my problem. I gently steered the conversation another direction, telling him I’d find him a smoke, as he kept dabbing at his empty shirt pocket. This didn’t sit well; I wasn’t telling him a problem and he was going to help me, whether, or not, I wanted him to. Or, maybe, he wouldn’t. Then came this:
“You’re not going to tell me a problem.”
“I’m thinking of one.”
“If you don’t tell me, I can’t help you.”
“I understand that. I appreciate what you’re saying. I’m thinking of one.”
“You’re not like us.”
“I’m not like who?”
“Like us. You’re not a normal American.”
“You’re not. I can tell by your ways. You’re not drunk. You’re. Not. One. Of. Us.”
Now to be told that I’m not a drunk South Sider is a very serious charge and I was thinking of my best comeback. I decided to tell him a problem and literally said, “Well, here’s a problem. I’m trying to write a story and I can’t quite finish…” which was met by a volcanic sneeze. Gary’s body slumped against mine, then the man hit the floor, with his ballcap flying. Having never seen a fella go horizontal after a sneeze, I just stared, then heard Gary moan out, as clearly as he’d said anything yet; it was a resigned, world-weary “aaaawwww, shit.” He laid there like a fish on a dock, four limbs moving independently, the body going nowhere. The Fellow Just Out and The Typical Barroom Wag came over and plucked him up like a baby, with The Wag yelling at him to sit down or sober up. Gary argued that he was fine and just needed some peace. At this point, I sensed my moment and walked over to Tom (real name: not Tom) and asked him if the place was being sold.
He said it was and that he hadn’t seen me in a while. True, my mid-2011 rounds took me through Slo-Tom’s a time, or two, but I never thought he noticed me. I was wrong. There’s a week left for this 33-year-old version of Slo-Tom’s and I told him I’d be back before it was all over.
But 10-seconds later, out on Broadway, I realized that I’d just begun asking Gary for a story. And he provided me one, before the sneeze shook him to the core. I’m not sure that I’ll top this experience at Slo-Tom’s in the next week and might need to retire my attendance, as is. Thanks for the memory/ies, folks. You didn’t have’ta.
(Did you know Slo-Tom’s is famous: check this out!)
Wow. A tad bit outta date on the updates.
Let’s go ahead and toss out the remaining pieces from the fall 2011 semester.
Audio/video/editing by Andy Alton. Additional production by Thomas Crone. Here they are:
So, The Royale’s kitchen is small. That might not seem, at first blush, to be story-worthy. And, yet, think of three people working in a tight space, for five-to-eight hour shifts, in one of the more pressure-packed gigs around. From chefs to dishwashers, anyone’s tested when the work environment has challenges. For The Royale’s kitchen staff, the one-and-only challenge, really, is simple: space. It’s a tight room and cooperation and efficiency are the keys to keeping things moving, especially on a busy weekend night.
We stopped by on a relatively mellow weekday afternoon and got the skinny (drum roll, please) from several veterans of the venue.
Andy Alton on all the technical stuff. Me enjoying a beer at the bar. Sounds about right.
Having coached many a game and practice at the ol’ Cherokee Park, this one makes me happy.
Andy Alton’s videos are rolling out this week and weekend. This piece caught a nice slice of action during the filming of Go South for Animal Index, a Poetry Scores project that shot a good chunk of screen time in a South Side garage. The scene on the afternoon in question was very much a South City one, with an international group of kids kicking a soccer ball, characters drifting up and down in the alley in ’40s period clothing, and both camps (kids and actors) occasionally getting amusing conversations.
Several cast members were interviewed, including: Ray Brewer, Natalie Partenheimer, John Eiler and Stefene Russell, who wrote the original poem on which the fable is based. Director Chris King also chimed in with some additional commentary. What’s fun is everyone’s varied approach to describing the project, which does have enough whimsy involved to allow for some rather varied notions of what the whole thing’s about.
In the background, my not-quite-period-appropriate self is creeping around. In between shooting segments, I asked a few questions of the actors, though Andy did most of that. He also handled all the production elements, including video, audio and editing.
Here’s our first offering of the fall season. We’ll roll more to life in coming days.
Our final three audio pieces of the semester are up and live, compliments of Jamie Thomason, our audio associate for the fall 2011 semester.
We’ve got pieces on:
* Ital K, host of Ital Rhythms on KDHX
* Bowls MacLean, co-creator of “Love Stalker” (interviewed at the Silver Ballroom)
* and the Firecracker Press, with an emphasis on their poetry broadside series
You can listen to all three pieces on our Soundcloud stream.