Barnyards are not as fashionable as they once were. At the apex of their popularity, literary luminary George Orwell wrote a wildly successful book about them (or so we've been told), and you couldn't open Look magazine without seeing a bevy of nubile starlets cavorting in the shadow of a barn. Suson Park (Tesson Ferry and Wells Road) is attempting to revive the glory days of the barn with their Suson Park Barn Tours, and they're doing a darn good job of it. For $20 per tour group, you can tour the barnyard to meet and greet its nearly famous denizens: the chatty ducks, the bon vivant pot-bellied pigs, the stalwart bull and even the charming-but-aloof peacock. Tours depart at 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m., and reservations must be phoned ahead (call 314-615-4386); the canny style-watcher recognizes this as an early sign of an impending popularity surge, and plans accordingly. Be fashion-forward: make your appointment before the masses catch up.
Thursday, July 17
Most museum exhibits keep a safe distance between the artwork and the viewer. Not just a physical distance, but an emotional one as well. The objects on display may be beautiful, even transformative in their aesthetic power, but there is rarely a sense of the life of the piece. Not so with the Eugene Field House and St. Louis Toy Museum's current display, A Century of Teddy Bears. There is an inescapable, comforting certainty that each of the little bears on display at one time had a name, and a favorite food, and an honored place in a home -- and that all of it was imagined by a child. Such is the enduring power of the teddy bear. Mass-produced for one hundred years, in thousands of shapes and colors, found in millions of homes throughout the world -- and yet each one retains a unique life of its own, always visible in those tender button eyes. The Eugene Field House is located at 634 South Broadway, and the display is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Admission is $4 for adults, fifty cents for children younger than twelve. Call 314-421-4689 for more info.
Friday, July 18
The jazz musician/ instructors of Webster University don't grow old, and they don't lose their chops -- they just have to take a little time now and again to go back to the well, is all. That vacation time is interrupted by a week of free Summer Jazz Concerts at the school starring the musicians and their soulful little protégés. Wednesday's show features instructors Randy Holmes, Paul DeMarinis, Steve Schenkel, Carolbeth True, Kevin Gianino and Dan Eubanks, the founder of local funksters Dangerous Kitchen. Thursday's concert features the Willie Akins Quartet, starring the eponymous saxophonist. Both of those shows are at the Webster University Music Annex, behind the Thompson Music Building at 8282 Big Bend Boulevard. Tonight's finale is a showcase for those cute little jazz campers to do their Coltrane and Mingus impersonations at the aging Moore Auditorium, 470 East Lockwood Avenue. All the concerts start at 7 p.m., and all are as free as a social disease. Call 314-968-7032 for more.
Saturday, July 19
Let's hope there's an ambulance waiting outside the doors of this year's St. Louis Public Library Book Sale. With no air conditioning (or very little) at last year's affair in the old film library, it was as hot as a demon with jock itch, and serious readers had to risk heat stroke as they browsed. This time, the sale has moved to the shuttered Sears at 6524 Manchester Road in Marketplace Plaza (near a Sam's Club and a Kmart), from 4-8 p.m. Thursday ($5 admission Thursday only; free all other days), 3-8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. today and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. The books, magazines, CDs, records, cassettes, videos and CD-ROMs are as cheap as Leona Helmsley. At this time, with funding cutbacks to the arts and education, fill your trunk with old issues of Model Railroader magazine, Clive Cussler books and battered Leon Redbone CDs and support a good cause. Call 314-539-0345 for more details.
Sunday, July 20
If you're lucky, you've got a friend like we do -- a guy who can do a deadly funny impression of the dialogue from the most Mametian of David Mamet's plays. Oh, those awkward silences and thoroughly unrealistic cadences, and the cussing and the machismo (we're beginning to understand the success of Neil LaBute). Back in the day (1986), Rob Lowe and Demi Moore pranced naked through About Last Night, a Hollywood makeover of Mamet's Sexual Perversity in Chicago. The original play, about the love lives of four foundering singles, was much more gritty, and now the newly formed Barfly Theater performs Perversity at the Commonspace on Friday and Saturday (7:30 and 9:30 p.m., 615 North Grand Boulevard at Washington Avenue), and 3 p.m. today at the intriguing venue of the Comedy Forum, 4141 North Cloverleaf Drive in St. Peters. Call 314-842-6684 for tickets, priced at $11.
Monday, July 21
The sport of modern rock climbing (i.e., without pack animals or bearers and guides) originated in upstate New York in the 1930s, but it wasn't popularized until the arrival of the Vulgarians in the late '50s. The Vulgarians, a loose affiliation of avid climbers who believed climbing was for everyone, broke the polite climbing rules that dictated maintaining three points of contact with the rock face at all times, only permitted climbing already-blazed paths and other self-limiting nonsense. They also climbed in the nude. Upper Limits Rock Gym and Pro Shop (326 South 21st Street, 314-241-7625) offers thirty-five foot walls, modern safety gear and courses for all levels of expertise, and continues the proud tradition of the Vulgarians (but again, you must wear pants; this is a family establishment). Monday hours are noon to 10 p.m., and you pay a one-time $5 initiation fee with the standard $11.50 weekday pass on your first visit.