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Dear... People? of the Future:
I’m writing this around 1 am, on Thursday, August 11th, 2022.
There’s a neighborhood near me called South Grand, and I’ve lived in or near said neighborhood for over 20 years now. Here are some places on South Grand that no longer exist:
City Diner, a staple of the neighborhood. It was open 24 hours a day on the weekends (and I think at one time open 24/7?). I hadn’t been in a few years, even before the pandemic. But once upon a time it held a lot of fond (if not particularly sober) late night memories. The City Diner closed last week without announcing anything. As I write this it’s for sale and might reopen as something.
The Upstairs Lounge was a late night dance club that did goth/industrial nights on Mondays, and more popular dance music genres on the weekends. I DJed there many times back in the day. The Upstairs always smelled like an ashtray, until they finally banned smoking in bars in St. Louis, after which it always smelled like sweaty gym socks.
In the same building, The Jade Room was a former cybercafe turned dive bar that was always playing James Cameron’s Avatar on the TVs while some loud music blasted. Josh the bartender was friendly and kind of a fuck up. Joe the bartender hated everyone and I never understood why he had a job that required dealing with the public, but I suppose the man needed a job.
(Joe was/is also an accomplished noise musician. I can’t tell if he’s any good because it’s noise music.)
(For anyone reading in a future where noise music has been lost: it’s a genre of experimental music that’s loud and atonal and deliberately avoids things like “melodies” or “songs”. It has a small but dedicated following. I can appreciate it in the right space and time.)
Both Upstairs and Jade Room were in the same building as a Vietnamese restaurant, and all owned by the same family. Both closed by 2018. The building was most recently a Mexican restaurant, but it’s currently empty and for sale.
Mangia was an Italian restaurant and sprawling late night bar. On Fridays they’d have live freeform noodly jazz, and while I normally avoid freeform noodly jazz, it was always a familiar, welcome noise there. For the last couple of years before the pandemic, I DJed at Mangia every Tuesday, spinning weird trip hop and lo-fi downtempo shit to a handful of regulars and then eventually post punk/new wave/alternative as the late night drunk crowd rolled in. Mangia had been in decline for years due to shitty owners, and finally closed in 2020. It’s now Steve’s Hot Dogs.
(Steve was the lead singer in a band called The Urge, who were big in the 1990s. His hot dogs are pretty great.)
Petra was another South Grand bar, a hookah bar with weird artwork painted all over the walls. About a decade ago I’d spin for sweaty crowded dance parties where much of the crowd was under 21. The Petra kids could not get enough of Daft Punk’s One More Time, well over a decade after it came out. Petra is now a slightly bougie vegan restaurant.
Urban was yet another South Grand bar where I would DJ back in the day. It was small and dark and kind of shitty but the owner was cool. Urban closed in 2015, and is now a Brazilian restaurant.
Pho Grand was not a bar or club, but the first Vietnamese restaurant on South Grand. They did not have DJs, but they did have the best pho I’ve ever eaten. It was the perfect thing when you were sick, just an absolute godsend. Pho Grand closed this year after 33 years, the owners were ready to retire and the unending pandemic and inflation are causing havoc on the restaurant business.
I was on South Grand earlier this summer, and had a weird moment walking around and just looking at everywhere I spent my 20s and 30s that’s been replaced by something much more respectable. Time marches on.
But I hope that in the same way old theaters carry the memories of their past, that some memory of the seedy past remains. Late night as folks are closing up the vegan restaurant, they hear a strange echo of Daft Punk and the smell of way too much sweat and PBR…
Next Time: the long threatened story of the Beggar’s Carnivale, or maybe some current events, or a deep thought. I don’t know I didn’t plan on writing this until tonight.
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