Tag Archive | St. Louis

Halloween in St. Louis – A Night of Laughs – Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

I sent this funny story to my cousin Joe Palazzolo, for his feature article on Halloween a few years ago – St. Louis style, in the Wall Street Journal. Because we’re related, he wasn’t able to publish. Ashame for it to not be heard, so here you go!

DSC_1628 pumpkins at Charleston Tea Plantation copyrI remember as a kid, I’d trick or treat with my schoolmates at Resurrection of our Lord Grade School. And I vividly remember the Halloween I was about 10 years old. Things were alittle different…

I can’t remember what I wore that year — I might have been a ghost. The kids I hung out with that evening decided to egg cars; something I’m not particularly proud of.

My Dad mentioned that when the people doling out the candy ask us to do a ‘trick’, tell them a joke instead.

I explained I wasn’t very good at telling jokes, and he said “Not to worry…just tell them THIS joke — Why did the chicken cross the road?”

”Dad, I already know that joke!”

“I bet, it doesn’t have the same punchline that you think.”

“Okay, Dad, what’s the punchline?

“To lay it on the line!”

“What does that mean?”

“You don’t have to know what it means, just tell the joke.”

I felt really confused, but yet I took Dad’s advice, and when asked to do a trick, I’d pipe up and say, “Why did the chicken cross the road?”

At the first house, the nice thirty-something couple (holding a pair of red wax lips I so dearly wanted), asked, “Honey, why did the chicken cross the road?”

“To lay it on the line.”

“Ahhh.. Smart kid”, they both chimed in. “That deserves two pieces of candy.”

I kind of half-smiled as I held out my queen-size white pillowcase to accept the desired treats — wax lips, and some multi-colored candy buttons on long strips of white waxy paper.

I repeated this joke over and over, as we hopped from house to house Halloween night, and received the same positive response from all the adults. I was pretty puffed up and proud — like a chicken.

To this day, I still can’t figure what’s so funny about the chicken joke, but it went over well with the “big people”. I guess that chicken’s water broke, and she just couldn’t hold the egg in any longer. Good thing she was smart enough to lay it on the line, not in oncoming traffic.

The bright line down the center of the road is kind of a safe place, if you think about it. Whether we’re driving, or crossing the road, it gives us boundaries.

So be safe this Halloween.
Keep an eye on your kiddos.
And watch out for those chickens crossing the road.

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For Mother’s Day…..Reminiscing about Uncle Willie’s Farm

me and mom backyard Meramec002 crop

Growing up, my best memories were the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of South St. Louis.

The corner confectionary sold rainbow-colored candy buttons and chunk chocolate. Housed in a shiny glass case, the candy was the main act, on show for all to see.

The brick five-and-dime store on Meramec Street, about three blocks from my house, sold everything imaginable. The same store where my cousin Carol, pounded her fists and kicked her feet in a full-out temper tantrum, because my Aunt Katie refused to buy her what she wanted.

Ted Drewes Frozen Custard on Grand Avenue, still standing to this day, made superb lemon floats. I remember many reflective walks to the custard stand with my friend and neighbor Cindy Winschel.

As an adult, I loved hearing Mom’s childhood stories. She frequented Uncle Willie’s Illinois farm as a young girl, and spent lazy weekends exploring with sisters Georgia Lee and Isabella, often getting into trouble with her cousins, the Wagner kids.

What I remember most about Mom is that she was tough. Tough as nails. And funny.

So here’s a tribute to my Mom ‘Gladys’, and to all moms everywhere.

It’s a story that was published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch on October 13, 2010 titled Visiting Uncle Willie’s Farm. I hope you like it.

Visiting Uncle Willie's Farm - STL Post 2010001Happy Mother’s Day…no matter what kind of mom you are….even moms of animal children.

Visiting Uncle Willie's Farm - STL Post 2010002

“A Sudden Light” Garth Stein STL booksigning, and some heart and soul

The same night my favorite fiction author and NYT bestseller, Garth Stein, was hosting a booksigning at the St. Louis County Library, I was one of 65 authors hosting a multi-author booksigning at a local library.

DSC_1014 Garth crop copyrCall it it a ‘gut feeling’, call it what you may, but I was been tugged in the direction of the Garth Stein event. My heart and soul wanted me there.

I told few friends about the Garth Stein event.

One such friend, Diana, met me at the library. Diana’s love of authors (in general) amazes me. It probably far surpasses mine, since I’m zoned in to certain genres. Not Diana. She’s like a cat, wide-eyed, adventurous and eager to learn about all. I’d thought she’d appreciate this booksigning.

As we settled into our seats with our new purchase, A Sudden Light, we anxiously awaited Garth’s arrival.  As I spun around, I eyed probably at least a 100 people or more.

DSC_1017 Garth smiling crop copyrAs Garth entered and took the microphone, the room became quiet.  As he spoke, I was captivated by his quick wit, and charming personality.

He mentioned how his first 2 books won awards.  In spite of the accolades, he didn’t sell many copies.  His next manuscript was told from the perspective of a dog (smarter than humans, of course) which was soon nixed by his literary agent.

Garth fired him over the phone.

By coincidence, Garth found another agent through an author friend at a networking event. This agent believed in Garth and loved the book’s concept. The Art of Racing in the Rain went on to sell more than 4 million copies, and stayed on the NYT bestsellers list for over 3 years. Garth took time to properly market the book, traveling and speaking about the book’s message and purpose.

In his new release, A Sudden Light, Garth promised this book to be even better than The Art of Racing in the Rain.

When the opportunity presented itself to ask questions of Garth, I jumped at the chance.

“Why did it take so long between books?”

DSC_1019 Garth crop copyrGarth explained that he tried to write the book where the protagonist flashes back to different time periods, and it just wasn’t working. His wife — his best editor and critic, suggested he write the book in chronological order.

Garth went on to pen more than 100,000 words, which took more than 2.5 years. Those years were spent in character development and history — basically the family tree of A Sudden Light.  After this undertaking was complete, then and only then, could he begin the actual story.

Wow. I was blown away. Now that’s an author that stands above the rest in my mind! Not worried about the almighty dollar, not worried about what others think. Just following his heart to know what he feels to be right. He’s also cofounder of Seattle7Writers, a non-profit dedicated to getting books to those in need.

I supposed that’s why I enjoyed The Art of Racing in the Rain. It’s my favorite fiction read.

Garth said, “If just one person is touched by what he reads, then I’m happy and I’ve done a good job.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The reward of a thing well done, is to have done it!”

DSC_1025 Garth and me copyr

After his talk, Garth autographed books, and exchanged words with his fans.

Diana and I headed to a local restaurant for dinner, and chatted about the fun evening. During dinner, I opened my copy of The Art of Racing in the Rain and turned to the page Garth signed.

I smiled as I read the words, “Sheree, somewhere the zebra is dancing.”

That he is, Garth, that he is….

 

 

Are people still alive, even though they’ve passed on?

Mom & Dad (4th & 5th from right, Grandma Kate, Grandma Mary (far right)

Mom & Dad (4th & 5th from left, Grandma Kate, Grandma Mary (far right)

I read an article by Bill McClellan in the St. Louis Post Dispatch on Wednesday titled “No one to name faces in photos”.

Although I didn’t quite understand why the story was titled this, I read on.

I was touched by Mr. McClellan’s urgency to look at old photos tucked away in a corner of his home, after his father passed on.  He cleaned out the mobile home his dad and his mother lived in, all the while wondering what items to save.

He sifted through photos of his sister, dog, and parents while living in Chicago over 50 years ago.  There were photos of his grandmother from Belfast and his sister Sarah.

There were antique photographs – you know, the sharp and crisp kind, of days gone by.  People got dressed up for special occasions.  Or for no reason at all.

As he sifted through the cardboard box of memories, he realized that no one alive could identify mom and dad’s friends in the photos.

The line that struck me most from the article goes like this:

“They say a person is really dead only when nobody alive really thinks of them.”

I’ve been thinking about this statement for two days.  I wholeheartedly agree.

Although my Mom and Dad have passed on, I think about them daily.  I pray for them daily.

I often think about my grandmother on my Dad’s side, Mary.

I remember the Saturday morning drive to visit her in the Soulard district of St. Louis.

I remember walking up two flights of stairs, and the pungent smell of liver and onions wafting across the back yard.

I remember her opening the weathered and paint-chipped door to her apartment, and always being surprised to see us.

I remember her broken-Lithuanian accent and her frail, arthritic hands.

I remember she used to shake her fist at Dad, and curse at him in her native language.

I remember she used to call me “She-ree” and slip a twenty dollar bill in my hand, each time we’d visit.

I remember her smile, the wrinkles at the corner of her lips, and that sometimes she didn’t wear her dentures.

I remember she was short of stature, and had a huge heart.

I remember that she was humble.

Daily she’d trek to Soulard Market by foot for vegetables and fruits with her rolling cart.

I remember that when she passed on, my Mom, Dad, brother, and sister-in-law helped clean out her tiny walk-up apartment on 8th street.  One of the interesting artifacts we found was a bag of birdseed, within a glass jar, within another bag of birdseed, within another glass jar.  I suppose she couldn’t let go of the memory of her pet canary.

I remember a photo of my grandfather with a handlebar mustache.  Although an illness took him early in life, I felt like we’d met. The picture hung above her dusty tattered sofa.

So I guess a person is really dead, if no one thinks of them.  I don’t like the word dead.  I try to use other synonyms when referring to ‘that’ word.

I think of all those loved ones who’ve gone before me – their spirits are still alive in my heart.  And I can see their faces in front of me.  Almost like I can reach out and touch their physical presence.

Thank you Bill McClellan for your article.  Although the purpose of the article may not be what you intended, it stirred up great memories for me.

Photoshoot – Chef Jason McGraw, Executive Chef, Levy Restaurants and Edward Jones Dome

This October I had the pleasure of doing a photoshoot of Chef Jason McGraw for Missouri Life for their December 2012 Missouri Beef Association Advertorial.

During my time with Jason, I discovered he was a pretty cool guy, not to mention he captured first place for a beef dish with the association.

My husband came along as my assistant, and chatted with chef while I searched for interesting places to shoot.

Turns out, the two of them had alot in common – hunting, fishing, and motorcycles.

While I also snapped pics of a beautiful brisket he prepared, those photos didn’t  make it into the article.

Attached is the pic that did, straight from the pages of Missouri Life.   MO Life- Dec 2012 -Chef McGraw - SNielsen

While shooting Chef, I asked him if he could show me some ‘attitude’.  The pic below is the result.

Game Two, October 8, 2012 – National League Virgin

October 8, 2012 – Game Two – National League Series – Cards vs. Washington Nationals

Okay, I admit a sign that says “National League Virgin” is a bit irreverent. But isn’t it every St. Louisian’s goal to be seen on the Jumbotron at Busch Stadium (especially since your friend’s hubby locked down two tickets behind third base line)?

As a newbie to Busch Stadium, and a National League ‘virgin’, I guess I could fall in love with grand views of the capitol building, the glistening sun reflecting from the left leg of the Arch, and fireworks displays in appreciation of repeated home runs.

What really gets me choked up is what (we) St. Louisians call Cardinal Nation – Fans waving white rally towels in support of their favorite ballplayer, pom-pomesque girls blowing whistles and launching t-shirts from a giant sling, a group of middle-age women wearing bright red wigs, and cotton-candy covered toddlers sitting next to me.

I’m beginning to understand what ‘seeing red’ means.

With adrenalin flowing and the crowd cheering, I realize I’m stack dab in the middle of sports history.

For a stadium newcomer, I could get used to this ‘baseball thing”.

And from where I’m sitting, the view of David Freese ain’t half bad either.