Friday, November 16, 2012


The Delmar Restaurant and Lounge closed.  Lupe is sad about it closing, but the nature of the Loop is changing.  For better or worse is frequently debated, but a definite transition is occurring.

Here is an account of the Delmar Lounge's last night on August 16th  by local icon Tef Poe:

"Delmar Lounge was one of those places where it truly was all about the music and it didn't matter what kind of music to be exact. We lost a true gem on this night, but it was a great night and I'll never forget it."

Lupe wanted to add, about Tef Poe's blog post on the Delmar Lounge, which is by all other measurements great, but it really is unkind to call Mike "Crazy Mike" in print, even if you call him that in person.  (Which quite possibly Tef Poe does.)

Lupe herself used to refer to Mike as "Crazy Mike" before she made the effort to get to know him.  He is in the Loop almost everyday, and all day during the summer.

Mike is crazy, you can usually tell just by looking at how he is dressed.  That is before he tells you about his grandmother, Billie Holliday, or his mother Diana Ross.  He might adopt you too, which is how he got the (much kinder) nickname "Uncle Mike".  Lupe has been Uncle Mike's cousin, aunt, and sister, on various days.  One afternoon she was informed of a change in familial status twice.  (Sister to Aunt, on that day, and back to Sister.)

Some of the businesses do tolerate him, a few welcome him, but everyone knows him.  "Uncle Mike" is one of Lupe's favorite Loopies.   She enjoys his dancing and animated antics and always enjoys his warm smile and honest greetings.  Sometimes happy, sometimes aloof.

If Mike is upset with you about something you will know it. It may not make strict  rational sense when he explains the reason, but he is not completely unintelligible.  But once you listen to whatever has upset him there is generally forgiveness.

He has family all over U City and Saint Louis. He is not a panhandler or thief or dangerous in any way.  If you are friendly to him he might ask you to buy him something, but he is not desperate or on the streets. He is a student at a local community college and in his late twenties.  He spends a good chunk of his allowance in U City and in the Loop.

And he is not allowed in many businesses because he does dance around in front of the windows and have arguments with himself.  And most people think that is bad for business.

Uncle Mike does not phase the older college students, urbanites, or the Loop locals.

In Beverly Hills and other upscale areas of large metropolitan cities, it is not unusual to see several such people gesticulating, and often homeless and in much worse mental health or disposition.

 Lupe is not saying this is a pleasant thing about Los Angeles, but she is saying this is not an unusual phenomenon in Beverly Hills. Uncle Mike is very preferable in terms of street life.

 Uncle Mike is very hygenic and always dressed like he is a Beverly Hills rock superstar.  And if you don't look at him he will go away.  He wants an audience for his performances, not money or handouts. He is not offensive and he is easily ignored.

He is really harmless and a neighbourhood with a better imagination would create a space for him and give him some celebrity. He spices up the neighborhood in a very harmless way.  Many people find watching him amusing and some find his crazy dancing and laughter uplifting.

One type of behaviour that got him the nickname "Crazy Mike" is actually the behaviour of an intoxicated young person.  It's just that Mike behaves that way sober, too. (And being intoxicated in the Loop is fine, and actually encouraged, but only as long as you are intoxicating yourself at a restaurant. Drinking from liquor  from a liquor store concealed in a paper bag is considered drinking in public in the Loop, but don't worry about it unless you are a panhandler or beggar, white or black.)

 And Uncle Mike is African-American.

Uncle Mike seems to scare the suburban and rural white tourists that are visiting the Loop specifically to visit Fitz's for family fun. And those that visit Blueberry Hill for an experience that is described as a "St. Louis Hard Rock Cafe."

Also this same crowd at the Moonrise, that feels like Saint Louis is very big city, or perhaps just the biggest city that they have ever been too.  And then also the international students that perhaps cannot tell the difference between Uncle Mike and a genuine gang member or dangerous type of crazy, and who already feel vulnerable in a foreign city and culture.

That is not to say racist  people, either. Lupe wants to be very clear about that.  For one thing, the multi-cultural diversity of the Loop is proud heritage and well known and actually a big part of the Loop's attraction for many people, and the truly racist are not really drawn here at all.

But there is a kind of cultural racism and also obviously uneven treatment regarding not race, but money, "classism".  "Classism" is culturally white in this country. Uncle Mike often gets unfairly lumped in with the beggars and panhandlers by those that do not know him.  Panhandlers are considered to be a real scourge of University City.

Panhandlers are black and white, but mostly black.  And they come to beg to the wealthy and mostly white students.  And students do get mugged, and a lot of people think panhandlers are muggers, or that they attract muggers.  A poor person that asks for money is considered the scourge of society.  Leeches.  Possession of money is nine tenths of the law, it seems.  Bankers and politicians rob us blind, but our culture does not hate them as much as the beggar and welfare recipient.

(And, of course, the income gap between the North side of Delmar and the South side of Delmar in Saint Louis city has nothing to do with it.  The median yearly income on the south side is $40,000, and the median on the North Side is $8,000.  Of course, that situation was not created by the University students, so why would the University even consider it the income gap was a contributing factor? And businesses have no responsibility to the community outside of their customers? Is that correct?  Lupe is, of course, being somewhat facetious and Swiftian.)

And as for rural areas, in many small towns there will be only a few black people, and often times those black people will be culturally "white".  That is how Lupe sees it.

In St. Louis and many other cities in the U.S. black and white people live in two separate worlds.  Most people that find "Uncle Mike" threatening would not if Mike were a white guy, behaving and dressing in the same manner.

 In Lupe's experience, many white people cannot tell the difference between a black man that is a real criminal or a suburban kid dressed up "gangsta style".  (On the flip side many black folks do not know how to tell the difference between a truly racist skinhead and a tatted up aging punk rocker that shaved his head cause he was going bald.)

Because of both the history and heritage of U City,and also the college culture,  the Loop remains and probably always will remain a place where black and white people and cultures can interact with and learn from each other., but with the closing of the Delmar Lounge it seems like the opportunities are narrowing.  (Although opening up in other parts of the city in very encouraging ways.)

Visitors and tourists unconsciously understand a neighbourhood because they observe the way the locals interact with each other.  The Loop has become dominated by Joe Edwards businesses and real estate on one hand, and Washington University student housing and student services on the other.  Both are profitable to city government and create jobs and opportunities.

Both would actually prefer to close the Loop off to anyone but current college students, and people that want to be surrounded by 1970's white college culture.  Both are united against panhandlers and beggars.  Both are heavily invested in increasing University enrollment and student housing.

Neither is much interested in preserving the neighborhood or enriching its growth outside of a Main Street with the aforementioned "white, 1970's college culture" theme.

The artists and burners and diy-ers  and crafters are over on South Grand and Cherokee, and the Gay and Lesbian community is in the Grove.  Those communities do not appear to be coming back to the Loop, which is too bad, in Lupe's opinion.

The Loop isn't really a neighbourhood anymore. It is the "old neighbourhood" of grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, hippies and multi-culturalists of the 1970's, punk rockers of the 1980's, Park Place house renovators, and the place where many reunions of baby boomers and generation x-ers are held, usually at Ciceros or Blueberry Hill.

(Lupe understands that  black folks reunite at to the old Hadley's, the Escalade now. And at the "Annual Heman Park All U-City High School African-American Alumni Picnic". University City's African- American community does remain strong, just not Loop-centred.)

The Delmar, along with Riddle's, was a loss to the community neighborhood of the Loop, but perhaps the community that could support it is already gone?

There are many great neighborhoods in U. City, but Lupe is not sure the Loop is a neighborhood anymore.

She would welcome any evidence otherwise. 

Other posts on this blog about the Delmar:

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