Buggers

For once, Unreal is scared to get between the sheets. Plus: Anheuser-Busch gets buzzed, and the Francis Howell School District plans to take back Christmas.

Is St. Louis ready for bedbugs?

Until recently the lowly bedbug was little more than a word in a lullaby rhyme. Then, as the century turned, Cimex lectularius rose from seeming extinction with bitter vengeance. And not only do the wily bugs exist — they're evil.

Unreal asked Tim Deppe, regional accounts manager for pest-control company Terminix Inc., about the bedbug invasion — which, he says, St. Louis has so far avoided.

Unreal: How have we evaded bedbugs?

Tim Deppe: I think it's because we don't have as much international travel. That's not saying that people haven't been concerned about it, letting hotel management know. But I haven't gotten any calls.

So as long as nobody ever travels to St. Louis, and those of us who live here never leave, we're safe?

Yeah. But if you go on vacation, be careful what you do with your stuff. Bedbugs can live in a sterile environment for over nine months without a blood meal. They get a blood meal, they're able to shed their skin, grow a new exoskeleton, and get bigger and bigger.

Delicious. How do we spot an infestation?

When you travel, pull the sheets down and see if you see blood stains on the bedding. Look around the walls, up on the headboards. They're hitchhikers, so keep all of your belongings — your suitcase, your clothing — off the bed, because that's where they're going to come out at night to get their blood meal.

Happy traveling! What about when we get home?

Vacuum out your suitcase. They could end up in the cuff of your pants and you'd never know it. They're going to go through a washer and dryer, and they're still going to be OK.

This Buzz for You
In the escalating battle between Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing, Dennis Bampton is a mercenary.

During its 30 years in the aerial-advertising business, St. Charles Flying Service has made decent money hauling banners on behalf of the local brewery. The most challenging of those flights, Bampton tells Unreal, involved a gigantic can of Budweiser that A-B paid him to fly around downtown St. Louis a few years back.

"Lots of wind resistance on that one," notes the 59-year-old Bampton. "We had to go real slow or else we'd tear it up."

And while Bampton had never flown for another beer maker, when representatives of Miller Brewing called last month, he didn't hesitate to accept their mission.

"We have no loyalty," confirms Bampton. "For us, it's strictly a dollar-and-cents thing. As long as the verbiage isn't too nasty, we'll fly whatever you want."

So it was on the morning of April 26 that Bampton's crew executed a brazen, daytime attack on A-B's Pestalozzi Street headquarters, buzzing the brewer's bell tower with a banner that read: "Sire, Sire, Pants on Fire."

Peter Marino, a spokesman for Miller, says the salvo came in response to a Wall Street Journal article that reported the King of Beers had changed the taste of its best-selling Bud Light, despite A-B's denials.

"We considered the banner a tongue-in-cheek tactic to question why they reversed their previous stance about changing Bud Light," Marino tells Unreal.

Whether anyone on terra firma understood the abstruse banner is debatable. Even its messenger failed to grasp its meaning. "Until you told me just now, I had no earthly idea what the hell it meant," Bampton admits.

What's more, Bampton doubts A-B executives got the message — and he should know. In the mid-'80s, after flying a "Mets Are Pond Scum" banner over the ballpark, Bampton received a call from none other than August A. Busch III.

"He told us that it was unacceptable and poor sportsmanship," Bampton recalls.

This time around, Bampton says, he's received no similar response. And Anheuser-Busch representatives declined to acknowledge the issue, even when Unreal suggested the company might retaliate by placing a burning bag of doggy doo on Miller Brewing's front steps.

Break Time
Nestled in the heart of Christendom — a.k.a. St. Charles — the Francis Howell School District isn't really known for making headlines. But school board member Terry Black changed all that recently when he led a four-member majority vote to change the name of the district's winter holiday break from "Winter Break" to "Christmas Break."

Unreal caught up with Black to get his thoughts.

Unreal: What's wrong with winter break?

Terry Black: I don't know that there's anything that wrong with it. But our district is steeped in tradition. For 140 years our district called it Christmas Break. Then all of a sudden — and very quietly — the label disappeared from the Francis Howell calendar.

It's been suggested that you're trying to draw attention to yourself for political reasons. What gives?

First of all, I have no political ambition. This job is an unpaid volunteer position, and those who are suggesting that are trying to demean me and embarrass me in some sort of fashion. That's what they're up to. I tried to bring this up quietly.

How is this going to improve the education your district provides its students?

No one ever said this is going to do anything to improve students' achievement. This is all about respecting the people who founded the district 150 plus years ago — just like we'd respect the people who wrote the Constitution.

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