Thursday, May 29, 2008


The sun is shining but it's not too hot. Down in front of Ben & Jerry's a sax player is tooting out Dave Brubeck's TAKE FIVE. On Westgate next to Blueberry Hill the St. Louis Symphony Street Team is spray painting a street mural. (And you thought that only hip hoppers and indie rockers had street teams.)

The sidewalk tables at Blueberry Hill, Meshuggah, El Maguey, Brandt's, and even the neglected Starbucks are filled. (Lupe's random, sporadic, and unscientifically conducted poll has statistically determined that the Starbucks customers are not usually Loop locals or regulars. If you are in the Loop, skip the homogenized, bland chain and head on down to Meshuggah for some real coffee.)

Plenty of bare legs and bare arms as summer weather finally makes it's debut. You don't have to walk far to hear someone laughing. Or come across a chess game (mostly at Bread Co.) or a really interesting conversation, or see someone reading a book you've never heard of.

Lots of beautiful and stylish young muchachas are out shopping. Let New York keep Fifth Avenue, and L.A. can have Rodeo Drive. Loop ladies have something you can't buy from a designer: fearless personal style. (And if you do need to buy it, or at least be inspired, go to Ziezo's. You won't find one on Fifth Avenue, or on Georges V in Paris, or anywhere else on the planet.)

The world is here in the Loop, and the Loop is "u"-nique in all the world. There is no other neighborhood like it. New York has it's Greenwich Village, Los Angeles has Melrose and Venice Beach, Chicago has Belmont, New Orleans has the French Quarter, London has King's Road and Mayfair, Paris has Rive Gauche and Champs Elysee. But those places are like a rich man having money to spend.

For a city of two million to have such a wealth of culture and counter-culture, fashion and style, interesting and interested people; to have so many unique and one-of-a-kind businesses, and in a stretch of city pavement that barely measures a mile- well, that's like a poor man who knows how to spend a hundred bucks like it's a million dollars.

Stroll down past Napps Hair Salon and you will hear the lyrical tones of African women talking as they take a break from dreadlocks and braids. At El Maquey you will hear food ordered in staccato Spanish. Down Westgate and there is the Lebanese grocer and falafel restaurant.

Have a yen for some japanese sushi? There's Seki's. How about delicious garlic laden Middle Eastern food and belly dancers? Right across the street at Saleems. Want some Ethiopian? There's the Red Sea. Greek gyros, an abundance of Thai restaurants; toasted ravioli and St. Louis Italian style pasta at Cicero's.

There are American cheeseburgers and root beer at Fitz's, and plenty of eclectic choices at Blueberry Hill. (Mmmm, Lupe loves BH's mac and cheese. They have good jerk chicken, and BBQ beef sandwich, too. ) And fine dining is available at the Delmar Lounge and Riddles.

You have hippies, rappers, bohos, hip-hoppers, punk rockers, fashionistas, emos, rastafarians, trend-setters, collegian grungers, and enough tourists from the county to remind all the rebels what they are rebelling against. You can hear jazz, classic rock, reggae, soul, r&b, and indie rock at the different clubs. And you can find all these different kinds of music, and more, at Vintage Vinyl for a reasonable price.

Whenever Lupe shops at her favourite bookstore, Subterranean Books, she is always amazed at how refined it is. Every book Lupe wants is there. And a thousand she never would have found at a big chain- even if they'd carried it. Because Sub Books, like the Loop, has sifted through the fluff and down to just the best, the most interesting, the most provocative. There is no excess, just counter-culture excellence.

The City Planning Association was wrong. The Loop isn't one of the ten best neighborhoods in the U.S., it is the best neighborhood in the world!

And one of the best thing about the Loop, that is not true in any of those other places (except Paris), is that any restaurant will be happy to give tired doggies a complimentary bowl of water.

See You in The Loop!

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