It takes a (ballpark) village

The Cardinals recently announced plans for their Field of Dust, turning it into a true Ballpark Village, co-sponsored by Anheuser-Busch who will certainly look to cash in on Cardinal nation before, during and after every ball game and hopefully, keep a little activity going throughout the year or at least March through October.

I’m all for it.

The eyesore that currently sits next to Busch Stadium has been prime real estate, just waiting for someone to jump in. I’m glad A-B did the jumping and I look forward to the new Cardinals Hall of Fame and an interior party area that should get quite interesting any time there’s a Cards-Cubs series going on next door.

I’m glad to see the footprint of Busch Stadium finally get extended – that was supposed to have been the concept all along. Once it’s built, there should be a lot more commerce going on downtown, pulling in people even when they don’t have tickets to the game to at least venture down and be a part of the action, even if it’s simply by viewing it on a giant screen in the interior party area.

I believe this still needs to get some funding in order to go through. I hope the naysayers don’t rise up and say that all the money is simply lining the pockets of the DeWitts and Mr. Brito down at the brewery. I’m quite sure A-B has done their due diligence on the potential for profitability of this concept and I’m just as sure they believe it has the potential to become a nice cash cow.

Ultimately, it will benefit the city as well. It’s another tourist stop. It’s more action going on in a downtown that is continuing to re-invent and re-vitalize itself.

Just imagine if the Rams somehow manage to work out their lease and make some of those major improvements to the Edward Jones dome.

Flash forward to a Sunday in October, 2015. The Birds are in action, having made it to the NLCS for a nationally televised game. The Rams are playing in their newly renovated home with the roof opened up to let the sun shine down on the NFC West defending division champs and downtown St. Louis is literally bursting with action. Cards fans are overflowing the new BallPark Village. Exuberant Rams fans are tailgating and toasting their fast out-of-the-gate start as they’ve gathered in the newly expanded whatever it is that the CVC finally approved. Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

Sports does not a downtown make.

It takes commitment from major corporations. It takes vision from our civic leaders to see the potential of what could be. It takes support from all of us in the surrounding metro area to get out of our comfortable confines and head downtown and make St. Louis come alive.

I know we don’t want to hand a blank check to Mr. Kroenke and tell him we’ll build whatever he wants. Same with the Cardinals organization.

But now that they’ve got a major commitment to get the ball rolling, I want to see it happen.

It sure beats looking at a dusty field that’s doing nothing for this city right now.

Make it happen St. Louis.

In Praise of Single Parents

The Blood household is solidly entrenched in week two of Chris being away of her tour of Northern Ireland with her mum, as Rusty re-traces her roots and the two of them do their tourist thing while I try and hold down the fort to the best of my ability.

So far, so good. No food poisoning to report. No stove left on overnight or bar-b-que grill left grilling long after the food has been removed. No one has been injured, gotten sick or had any serious setbacks to the best of my knowledge.

Three of just finished a nice meal out on our screened-in porch (Tom is out with friends enjoying the weather). I’m getting ready for Catherine’s softball practice and with tomorrow already being Wednesday, the week will be over before I know it and I’ll be picking up Chris from the airport, ready to put these two weeks in the books.

I can’t say it’s been easy or stress-free. I’m in a constant state of paranoia every time I cook or do any other household chore that isn’t normally in my wheelhouse. Simple things like watering the flowers every day weigh me down. Am I overwatering? Underwatering? I have no idea. The flowers and tomato and zucchini plants are still there and don’t look too much worse than when Chris left 10 days ago so I guess I’m okay.

I had to refill the propane tanks from our gas grille today. I had them in the back of my vehicle, just sitting there while I worked out. I had visions of a horrible explosion and a resulting fireball enveloping the parking lot of the Des Peres Lodge. Fortunately, it didn’t happen.

Tonight, while cooking, I inadvertently set the oven time to 19 hours and 30 minutes instead of 19 minutes and 30 seconds. But I was aware enough when I put the meal in the over to realize that 20 minutes had expired so I removed the fish, right as the beans were boiling over.

Everything turned out fine and I would go so far as to say it was actually a good tasting meal.

But I sure wouldn’t want to do this every day and every night. I wouldn’t want to have to constantly be checking on the kids to make sure they’re happy and their homework is done and that they’re not having issues with any friends or teachers while doing the laundry and cooking and doing my best to earn an income and enjoy an occasional moment of free time in the process. I honestly don’t know how single parents do it.

I guess that eventually, you get used to whatever situation life deals you.

For now, I’m still not used to Chris not being around. We operate much better as a team and I am truly counting the days (not yet the hours, it’s too soon for that) until she returns. Chris is truly my better half. I’m not nearly as good without her – in every aspect of my life.

We’re good for each other. We’re good for our kids.

Absence truly makes the heart grow fonder.

The real Race for the Cure

The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is tomorrow morning.

I met with a client today who will be participating in it tomorrow. I know several other women who are in it and I salute them for supporting the fight against breast cancer.

Cancer is so darn wicked and it can strike anyone.

It’s almost a shame that the race couldn’t be expanded to include all forms of cancer – colon cancer, lung cancer, melanoma. There are all types and the only real way to battle cancer is to catch it early.

Even then, it may be a losing battle.

A fraternity brother of mine’s wife has been fighting cancer for a few years now. They celebrate the little victories and enjoy each day.

Many women who participate in this race are cancer survivors. They beat the odds and their presence is a testament to early detection and helps generate even more awareness among us all to get checked out.

Skin cancer runs in my family. I’ve had a few of my own zapped off via the dry ice technique and back when I was 29, I had a cancerous growth removed below my right eye. They performed some surgical technique called z-plasty where they had to remove a bit of my lower eyelid. As a result, I’ve had a droopy looking eye ever since. I’ve been told they could fix that by removing a bit of skin from behind my ear and patching it in there but they also said it might end up discolored from the rest of my pigmentation.

I’ve always figured that droopy eye is a constant reminder to me to use sun-screen and not get burnt. By and large, that’s what I’ve done.

But I’m sure there are some cells inside me that are under attack by cancerous ones.

People can raise all kinds of money in the fight against cancer and some day, we may beat those odds and figure out a cure.

In the meantime, we’re all on our own respective time clocks, running around and hopefully, doing good for others in the process. We don’t know where the finish line is or when we’ll reach it.

The key is to enjoy the race. We only get to run it once.

Our small town paper

The steady decline of newspapers throughout the country saddens me.

We live in an on-line world now and newspapers are so yesterday.

It’s a shame, too. To me, I love getting up in the morning, putting on a pair of shorts and walking out to the driveway, hoping that no one sees me in my slightly dis-sheveled Charles Manson state as I very gingerly bend over to pick up the morning paper and then head back inside ready to devour its contents. But those contents continue to get smaller all the time. It’s kind of like when the cereal companies started cutting back on including the surprise inside. There’s just not much there when you open things up.

Monday’s main section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had 16 pages. That’s actually high for normal Monday numbers when it’s been as little as 8 pages before. Here we have an entire planet with economies collapsing, our own in a constant state of befuddlement, supposed global warming, terrorist attacks, major catastrophes and natural disasters and we essentially get spoon-fed a daily diatribe of the latest local murder, meth bust or local city mayor (in the St. Louis area, you have many mayors) who has flipped out, embezzled funds or paid for family family vacations with taxpayer money.

Surely there’s enough news going on out there to justify a few more pages. But newspapers are supported by advertising and subscribers and both continue to tank for the Post-Dispatch.

Today’s feature story on the front page was titled, “Tough To Be A Bat” – and I’m sure it is. But I’m not quite sure how many readers are really wanting to read about how the Army Corps of Engineers is capturing and tracking bats. That’s just not very high on too many people’s priority lists and probably one of the reasons advertisers are spending their money elsewhere – probably online.

Circulation numbers of the Post-Dispatch have steadily declined. In the St. Louis metro area we have more than 2.8 million people. Less than 200,000 subscribe to the paper. That means 2.6 million people in this area are getting their news elsewhere. Or not getting any news at all. Instead, they get bits and pieces of information – mostly gleamed from the internet.

I know the Post-Dispatch has a growing online presence and I’m glad they do. Their staff has been drastically cut, though, and if you read the bylines, you’ll discover that much of the news they’re putting out as their own is actually just recycled from the various news services. Local beat writers don’t have much of a beat to follow anymore. In-depth investigations aren’t quite so in-depth. It’s a downward spiral and I don’t see any way to reverse it.

I don’t know what Joseph Pulitzer would say about today’s Post-Dispatch. Even if he did have something to say about it, I’m not sure who would report it or who would read it.

If you made it this far, you’re proof positive that people still do read.

Which brings me back to a statement from Howard Gossage that I have mentioned and twisted around for my own personal use – “People read what interests them. Most times, it’s not the Post-Dispatch.”

In search of my cooking gene

When Chris left for Ireland yesterday, the rest of the family went into survival mode.

Since we’ve been married, I have been completely spoiled by my wife’s total culinary charms. She is truly an outstanding cook and I could probably count on one hand the number of meals I have cooked since we were married more than 19 years ago. So the prospect of me once again taking the reins of the kitchen was truly a stomach-churning thought.

Yesterday was Father’s Day – a day where I have learned to sit back and do nothing more than watch the U.S. Open, eat the appetizers passed my way at whatever family gathering we were attending, consume a gin or tonic or two and enjoy a great meal. That wasn’t quite the case yesterday.

Chris was picked up by her dad who took her and her mom to the airport and the Blood household was officially without its pilot. I will be the first to admit that Chris runs this ship and I just try and pitch in where I can. In matters related to food, I have more or less been banished, not going too much beyond making cereal or occasionally utilizing the microwave. Our new oven still mystifies and frightens me. We have a large, outdoor gas grill that came courtesy of my dad but I’ve never even ignited it.

The intimidation factor was daunting.

But knowing that I really had no other choice, and determined to not allow our children to be subjected to some sort of Michael Moore-type experiment involving our fast food nation, the four of us left behind set out for the local grocery store, armed with a list and determined not to buy pre-made meals or load the cart up with bags of junk food.

We bought a lot of fruit and immediately began consuming it. That in itself is a good thing.

I bought some ribeye steaks, some burgers, corn-on-the-cob and some fish – all suitable for bar-b-quing. The rest of the fridge seemed fairly well stocked but I did add some broccoli to the equation – a staple of my bachelorhood days.

Meal time came around and I went to work. I seasoned the ribeyes, started boiling a pot of water for the corn while Catherine began preparing our salad. I was in and out of the house way more than Chris ever would be – making sure the water didn’t boil over and that the ribeyes didn’t get cindered to a shriveled, blackened mess.

In the end, I think I undercooked the corn and overcooked the ribeyes but we were all members of the clean plate club.

Tonight, it was burgers and fries and no one complained or has keeled over yet from any food poisoning.

Two dinners down, twelve to go.

Julia Childs, I’m not. But I think even after two days, we all believe that somehow, we’ll make it.

Bon appétit!

The return of our China man

Tom Jr. returned from China on Wednesday afternoon and picked up right where he left off.

Though he should have been tired and spent, he wasn’t so tired that he thought he needed to stay home. So out he went.

Thursday morning, he was up and at ’em for the first day of his job as an Upward Bound counselor at St. Louis U High. He came home around 3 pm, took a nap and then was gone for the evening. Friday was work, then out with friends.

As I write this right now, he’s sleeping, storing his battery, re-charging himself for yet another night out.

Our conversations so far about his trip have not been all that in-depth. I’ve yet to see any of the photos he took and the most I’ve gotten out of him so far is a few anecdotes about their tour guides and the fact that China is a strange, strange country.

He was happy to see a blue sky again.

In China, there is a perpetual haze of pollution that seems to hover over the entire country. He said the people were always in a rush, always on the move and that there is no sense of individuality there. Everyone more or less looks the same and dresses the same. When they went to historic areas and saw great works of art, even though they were created by individuals, the works are simply credited as being from a certain period or dynasty. In some of the schools where they performed he said that he was told of the great creativity of the students – yet he said he saw no real examples of that creativity.

I think he did appreciate the fact that in America, you’re allowed to be an individual. You’re allowed to pursue what you want to do and you don’t have to follow the masses.

He was glad to get back. Glad to use a knife and fork again. Glad to sink his teeth into a burger.

Our immediate family – Chris, myself, his younger brother, Michael and his younger sister, Catherine and yes, even Annie, the dog are all happy to have him back – even if we don’t see him that much.

Tom makes our family complete.

But the family unit is about to get rocked again.

Chris leaves for a trip to Ireland on Sunday and a new dynamic will be at work, particularly with me now in charge of the meals.

God help us all!

In memory of Chip

Bernard Callaghan MacDonald the Third died over the weekend.

If you would have asked me his first name, I’m not sure I could have told you. He was always Chip MacDonald to me.

I hadn’t seen Chip for at least ten years or so. Yet I know that if I would have bumped into him at a Cardinals game or out and about somewhere we would have immediately reconnected. Right now, I hope he’s smiling down at me and reliving many of the same moments that are popping back into my conscious.

His death came as a shock. I have no idea how he died but it all seems so sudden. There was a funeral notice in the paper yesterday, visitation was last night and the funeral was today and I wasn’t there for either of them and I’m truly sorry I wasn’t. So now, I’m trying to pay him my own last respects. He certainly deserves them.

Chip was a long-time buddy of mine. I first met him while I was at Mizzou and we immediately hit it off. Chip was the life of the party. He was, as we used to often say, a true shade. If you’re wondering what a true shade is, that’s the guy that’s wearing the lampshade late at night to get a laugh. Chip and I shared many laughs.

We partied together quite often. There were about six or seven of us that would frequent Cafe Balaban in the West End or head up north on a Sunday night to some place called Cowboy. We had many, many memorable moments, some so memorable that I won’t share them here.

We knew each other well.

For a decade or so, we saw each other almost every week. But time has a way of separating people – you go in different directions, each doing your own thing and you drift apart. It happens so easily – I think to guys more than girls but that’s just my own opinion. We stop picking up the phone, stop staying in touch. Suddenly one year is one decade and you wonder where the time went.

I lost track of Chip. I read in the paper he has two children, Kendall and Callie whom I’ve never met. I know his wife, Donna, and if I saw her right now I’d give her a hug but I haven’t seen her for a while, either. I cried a bit tonight for all of them. Then I said a prayer for Chip, his family and all of his friends and thanked God for letting me know him.

Life is so damn short.

And now, even though I haven’t seen Chip for who knows how many years, I miss him dearly.

A toast to Chip. You and I will forever be in our 20s in my memory book and I’m glad for the many times we had together.

I hope to see ya’ on the other side.



Yesterday, I made a startling discovery. I am fat.

Not the obscenely overweight, “look at that slob,” kind of fat, but still, fat nonetheless.

The revelation came to me while we were swimming over at my in-laws. I had gotten out of the pool (I don’t think the water level changed any), had toweled myself off and was sitting in a chair when I caught a reflection of myself in the window. I thought perhaps I wasn’t sitting up straight and that was the reason for the rounded figure I was seeing. But I was sitting up straight. Still, there was a rounded image confronting me in my reflection where there shouldn’t have been one. I reached down and jiggled my belly and yes, jiggle was the correct word. Then I proceeded to grab my love handles and there was plenty to grab.

What happened to me?

I’ve always had a bit of a gut. Even when I was a freshman in high school weighing in at 132 pounds there was a slight paunch around my middle. When I graduated, I was 6′ 2″ and weighed 196. I guess by definition I was overweight then, but not by much. Thirty years later, I had gotten up to around 206 which I figured was pretty good in the aging process. But today, after working out (which I still do between three and five times a week) I stepped on the scale and much to my dismay, but not to my surprise, I came in at 218.

That is absolutely unacceptable. They say when you get older it’s a lot harder to lose weight. I’m about to find out. I know it’s not my workout pattern that needs to change, it’s both when and what I eat. So it’s time to start skipping dessert and the late night bowls of ice cream topped with an extra dose of Hershey’s that I’ve been enjoying recently. Time to cut out the cheese nachos for lunch on weekends along with the snack food that I gobble down while watching whatever golf tournament is on during the weekend. Instead, I plan on eating smaller, healthier portions, spread out more throughout the day. I’ll also up my intake of water, so I can flush all these toxins out of my system.

My wife, Chris, always serves healthy meals complete with lots of veggies and protein and the servings are not super-sized. It’s all the extracurriculars I consume that’s been doing me in.

Ten pounds dropped in three weeks. That’s my plan and I’m sticking to it.

Time to go eat a rice cake.

Please don’t read this while driving

A study came out yesterday that revealed some startling news. The amount of people who text and read messages on their cell phones while driving continues to climb and many fear it’s near crisis situations throughout much of America.

I never text while driving. But I must admit, I have read emails while on the road and have been known to check scores of games via my droid while behind the wheel.

Shame on me.

Accidents happen when you least expect them – that’s why they’re called accidents. It only takes a split second for something unforeseen to happen and if you’re in the midst of sending or reading a message, your brain is not wired to the immediate task at hand of driving a vehicle that is essentially a lethal weapon should it ever hit anyone.

Nothing is so important that it has to texted or read while you’re driving. And if it is, then pull off the road into a gas station or a side street and do what you’ve got to do.

We see all kinds of “Don’t drink and drive” campaigns and so often they show the horrible consequences – a best friend killed, someone maimed for life or sentenced behind bars.

It’s only a matter of time before those same campaigns begin rolling out for “Don’t text and drive”. Because you can have identical consequences to drinking and driving.


Tell your kids. Set your own example.

Leave the phone alone.

Please, don’t shoot!

When I first started my career in advertising (to give you an idea, I was working on a manual typewriter) I had the opportunity to shoot a TV commercial my fourth week on the job.

In those early years, I spent about 40% of my time working on commercials – writing them, producing them, being a part of the casting for talent, going to the edits and then having the pleasure of seeing my work on TV.

I had no idea how fortunate I was.

Today, the commercial production business in general is way down. Here in St. Louis, there are still a number of good production houses but they seem to specialize more in interactive and it’s hard for me to remember the last time I saw a great, locally produced TV commercial. And the film business? It’s not welcome here.

St. Louis once had a Film Commission. It doesn’t anymore. Apparently, we couldn’t afford it.

I remember when I worked on the Missouri Film Commission account. We ran ads and did a fair amount of direct marketing and it appeared to be working at the time. But the Commission was abolished. Yet another thing that we couldn’t afford.

Supposedly, the state has $4.5 million set aside to promote filming in Missouri – and though that’s less than the cost of two commercials on this past year’s SuperBowl, it still could have been money well spent. But there’s not a single employee within the Department of Economic Development who is designated to recruit any out-of-state productions. So it sure is difficult to get anyone to consider shooting here when there’s no one to encourage them to do so.

Deciding where to shoot big budget films is big business. The economic impact of any movie being filmed in the area is huge. But it takes work and it takes cooperation. You need to have a community that is committed to closing down streets if necessary or re-routing traffic or who knows what. But it’s worth it in the end.

People in the St. Louis metro area and throughout the state of Missouri fail to realize what a tremendous amount of diversity we offer to filmmakers. There’s a little bit of everything you can find around here – from beautiful countryside to the ugly underbelly of parts of St. Louis city. We’ve got it all.

I remember an ad we created for the Film Commission about the fabulous movie whose main character was Snake Pliskin. The headline read, “To Escape From New York, Hollywood Came To Missouri.”

That was a long time ago. The movie tanked, but still lives on in cable.

Hollywood doesn’t come to Missouri very often anymore. We’re just another flyover state.

Can anybody out there write a happy ending to this tale?