It’s a Gas

Gas, Edward Hopper, 1940

The end of the road begins here, disappearing into an already darkened woods. It is not a very promising locale for a gas station. The last car seems to have already passed by long ago. The lone attendant is shutting down his pumps for the night, soon he will turn off the lights, lock up and go home. Like a last outpost, the station sits at the edge of civilization, surrounded by wilderness, at the moment of twilight between day and night. All that is missing is a hand painted warning sign, No Gas – Next 50 Miles. The brand new then Tokheim 39 pumps stand as sentinels, with their illuminated lamps held high, ever watchful for any last minute traveler. They stand silently ready to dispense the magic elixir that will then speed these lonely individuals to their eventual destinations.

I mailed one letter today and tomorrow will mail another. Each one dispensing another car from my fleet. In little over a year, we will have gone from owning four vehicles to soon only one. Dan’s car died in LA. Living now in Brooklyn, he is doing without. With the letter I mailed today, Dave will take ownership of his car in Boston, clearing it from my books. Tomorrow, I’ll mail the title to Anne’s ancient automobile off to NPR and I expect that within a couple of weeks and hopefully, before MSD comes calling, we’ll be a one car family again, with only the Prius owned. It has been a while since we were a one car family, a long while, but think about how much gas we will be saving. Our fleet average will jump to 50 MPG. Jockeying schedules are already stressing this plan though. If it eventually breaks down that will simply present us with a buying opportunity. I would gladly trade a new car for one that is 22-years-old.

I succumbed to reality and broke out warmer wear for bicycling in the park. There is a chill in the air now. Shadows, even at noon are longer, as with each passing day the light turns further away from us. While the crickets still chirp at length, soon only the ants will quietly toil. GoT to admit it, winter is coming. 😉

Forest Park Great Streets Study

I visited an open house for the Forest Park Great Streets study on Thursday, which was held at the park’s visitors center. Representatives from the design team were present to curate their poster board presentation. Forest Park Forever funded this study. As the title implies, the study’s emphasis is on transportation and encompasses changes both within the park and in its immediate environs.

After reviewing the presentations, I would say that the primary thrust of this study is for alternative modes of transportation (walking, bicycling and public transit) over automobiles. Don’t get me wrong, I heartily support these goals, but I do expect some pushback by park patrons who are more reliant on their personal vehicles than I am.

Probably the two most contentious aspects of this wide-ranging study are the redesigns of the segments of Skinker and Lindell Boulevards that border the park. Green blub-outs will narrow vehicle lanes, slow traffic and reduce parking, but will also give these two border roads a more park-like look and feel. A new bike path is also proposed for the park side of Lindell, but this will not narrow vehicle lanes. The short section Pine between Grand Drive and Lindell would be closed and the intersection of Lindell and Union would become a traffic circle.

On the south side of park Tamm would also be narrowed to accommodate new bike and pedestrian lanes. This aspect of the plan is contingent on zoo plans, which include eventually moving their adjoining parking lot, south of the highway. When the zoo purchased the old Deaconess Hospital property, it launched that institution’s southward expansion. At that time the zoo had its own similar planning study, which included gondolas over I-64. I asked about them and it appears that they have not made the cut. This is in the nature of early studies, they throw-out all sorts of ideas and then wait and see which ones stick.

Another aspect of the Great Streets plan is public transportation. Bi-State has run for years a Forest Park circulator service. These free buses allow visitors to ride around the park from one attraction to another. However, these repurposed regular buses are neither wheelchair nor stroller friendly. Part of the plan is to replace the existing buses, accommodate all communities and distinguish the circulator buses from the regular Bi-State buses that also ply Forest Park.

Placemaking is a word that I was not familiar with. In this context it means converting underutilized park facilities into go to destinations. In line with circulator improvements, a transit hub is proposed for the upper Muny lot. This hub would include amenities. Steinberg ice rink is only used half the year. The fish hatchery is hardly used at all. All of these languishing resources are placemaking candidates.

There was a lot to take in from this study. Many of its proposals I totally support. I look forward to seeing how this improvement plan evolves. In my twenty years of near constant cycling in the park, Forest Park Forever has been a force for good and has rejuvenated this jewel of a park for Saint Louis.

Christina’s World

Christina’s World, Andrew Wyeth, 1948

“Christina’s World” is artist’s Andrew Wyeth most famous painting. It shows a woman looking away from the viewer and looking towards a distant farmhouse, while lying in a tawny grass field. Christina, a real person, was actually crawling through the field, because she could no longer walk, because she suffered from a degenerative nerve disease. She was Wyeth’s long time Maine neighbor and was in her late fifties when she was painted and lived for another twenty years afterwards. Years after her death, upon his death, Wyeth was buried at the foot of the pictured hill, fulfilling his request “to be near Christina.”

It is painted in the style known as magic realism, where everyday scenes are imbued with poetic mystery. In the painting, Christina appears to be younger than she was. She also appears isolated, where even her home, the distant farmhouse looks far away. Initially, the picture paints a bleak and lonely picture, but learning Christina’s background recasts this artwork into one of human struggle and determination. MoMA has always owned this painting, but chooses to display it in a busy hallway and not a gallery. One’s viewing is distracted, with all of the passing people. Its location does not to the work justice.

Turning from Christina and Wyeth’s world of magical realism to Anne’s real world, finds her ever busy with her third graders. Highlights from this week include a visit by a delegation of Indianapolis teachers and a field trip to Powell and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra played a sports themed concert for the hall full of kids. Highlights included the Blues hockey team’s mascot conducting the symphony in a recital of the Saint Louis Blues March, a reading of Casey at the Bat and the playing of various baseball standards.