SLAY'S GOT THE MONEY, SO IS THIS THE TIME? There's been a lot of loose talk about Aldermanic President Francis Slay running for mayor in 2001, but one thing that's solid is his cash -- he's got $167,783.69 in the "Slay for Board President" fund, just in case he decides to run again for aldermanic president, or for something else, like mayor against Clarence Harmon.
Slay, of the 23rd Ward, says he has no "present" plans for the money. Because he was unopposed in the April election, it might be asked why he bothered to raise so much cash. "I had to get poised for a potential challenger who never surfaced," says Slay. "You just can't sit on your hands and wait until the filing deadline before you start raising money, so I raised some money.
"It costs a lot of money to run any kind of race," he adds. "It's easier to raise it in increments, over a period of time, than trying to raise a ton at once. And you keep people involved in your efforts." The idea is to "build up a campaign war chest in case there is a war." And he's planning some more fundraisers.
"Being in my position, it's logical for people to question my next move as far as my political aspirations," says Slay. "I haven't made any decisions in that regard."
The next mayoral election is in 2001; it'll be six years from now until the next one. Is 2001, against Harmon, too soon? Is 2005 too long for the 44-year-old Slay to wait? Running against a weakened Harmon, assuming the incumbent doesn't suddenly become effective, would mean going toe-to-toe against the incumbent mayor on the vote-heavy South Side, which is a power base for both. A standoff there would put added importance on North St. Louis. Would North Side voters support Slay? State Rep. Quincy Troupe says he would consider it. Even if there weren't much official support, Harmon hasn't done much to win over that area, where he was trounced in the 1997 election by the incumbent, Freeman Bosley Jr.
But it's a bit early for all this speculation. The highest-profile African-American elected official who supported Harmon last year, Ald. Sharon Tyus (D-20th), has since bailed. "Harmon's a total breakdown, a failure. I am embarrassed," says Tyus. "Every other black elected official who didn't put their name on his literature, they were smart. I was the only one, and I was the dumb one to do it. I would never support Clarence Harmon again for anything in life; I wouldn't support him for dogcatcher. I never would think I'd be sitting here comparing him to Freeman, but at this point Freeman wins hands down."
Don't get the wrong idea -- she's not backing Slay, but Tyus is looking for somebody else. "If I have a husband who beats me, then I'll divorce him. If I get another husband who beats me, I'll divorce him. Clarence is my third mayor; I'll be looking forward to my fourth mayor."
BOWLING FOR LOVE: The magic happened one last time Saturday night at the Carriage Bowl, 4923 Arsenal at Kingshighway. Soon to be a Walgreens, where the magic will be diminished considerably, the second-to-last bowling alley in the city ("Bowling for Fewer Dollars," RFT, Jan. 27) held a karaoke bash on its last official open night. The bowling was great, as always, but, boy, if only we could help trade deficit by shipping that karaoke concept back to Japan.
Down at the eastern end, at lanes 15 and 16, a married but still romantic couple interrupted the third frame of the last, lone bowler at 1:15 a.m. so that they could pose for a photo. The two kissed while their son snapped the shot. Seems the happy couple, Janice and Steve, were bowling in these two adjacent lanes when they first met in 1974 -- or it might have been 1973; they couldn't agree. He went to Southwest High School, she to Roosevelt High School. "Rival schools back then," Janice recalled. Now Southwest, across the street, is closed, but it will probably reopen in a couple of years. Roosevelt is brimming with students.
"A lot of good started here," said Steve as he stood at lane 15, referring to their three children and, one hopes, the attendant good times. As is usual with life in this constricted city, a lot of that good went elsewhere -- Steve, Janice and offspring now live in High Ridge. Their last name? Bundy, although they seemed real and likable, not at all like their Married ... With Children television namesakes.
For Elaine and Irv Waldman, the owners of the Carriage Bowl since 1979, the buyout was bittersweet, but at least the last-night bash was festive and lucrative. Half the lanes were busy past midnight, and close to 100 folks sat at tables, played shuffleboard or bought up and drained those Bud Light bottles shaped like bowling pins. Elaine noted that one table of folks said that they lived in the neighborhood and were stopping by for the first time. Left unsaid in Elaine's recounting of this tale was a sad lesson: If only a bunch of these people had come earlier and more often, the location would have had people bowling and drinking, even horribly maligning songs by way of karaoke, into the next millennium instead of being the scene for people to show up with Walgreens coupons to save 40 cents on rolls of paper towels.
But they didn't, so the dogs bark and the caravan moves on. An auction at 10 a.m. Friday will peddle off the alley's remaining bits and pieces. The last-night bash kept the karaoke master busy; he said a 50-song night was a good one, and near the end they had gone through 63 tunes. Some of the songs were hard to recognize. Memo to two young women who sang Melissa Etheridge's "I'm the Only One": Please, for everybody's sake, don't do that again in public.
The classiest rendition of the night came from 65-year-old owner Irv, who closed the night -- and the bowling alley -- with "All the Way," the classic with the lyric "If you're going to love somebody, it's not good unless you love them all the way." It was true for Elaine and Irv, and it was true for the Bundys. Wonder whether the magic will happen when two strangers meet in the aisle set aside for "TV items" at Walgreens. Probably not.
NURSING THE WOUNDS: At St. John's Mercy Medical Center, the flow of "Internal Bleeding" (RFT, April 28) isn't quite stanched. The last two issues of the administration's Q&A newsletter hemorrhaged with protest over the article, which quoted and analyzed many of the pro-union nurses' frustrations. First came genuine outrage from patient-care assistants whose growing role in health care was an inadvertent casualty in the nurses' war on staffing policies. "Don't they think people should have the right to better themselves?" asked one. Another blamed the nurses themselves: "Why don't they help less educated people to learn new skills instead of complaining about us? I think it might do their soul some good to do some housekeeping."
Then came sheer disgust, from a staffer who called the article "Eternal Whining." "Over the years," wrote this person (the Qs of the Q&As are anonymous), "I have learned to be suspicious of crusaders. Often it is the case that when you pull back the veil of nobility, you find people with an ax to grind." Would the ax-grinders "prefer working for a financially strapped hospital," asked another, offering the example of a Russian institution where nurses are paid with vodka. "Anybody," agreed the administration, "can turn a positive into a negative."
The most recent newsletter ends with a rare Q critical of the administration, especially its coldly businesslike profit focus, and the unrealistically heavy workload and frustrating sense of helplessness. The first part of the letter is censored, labeled "inappropriate to print because the overall tone is demeaning to some employees." The writer ends by reiterating frustration over "a profession I love and a hospital I have given much of my life to."
The administration's response? "Your comments are so varied that it is hard to know what to address. If you have specific questions, please submit them and we will try to address your issues and concerns." St. John's nurses will vote on whether to unionize this July. (JB)
FLOTSAM AND JETSAM: Maybe it was a reference to the Korean conflict, or an old M*A*S*H episode -- only God and Mike Shannon know for sure, although God may be scratching her head. Consider this Shannon line from a recent game, when the Florida Marlins catcher dug the ball out of the dirt and bolted up, ready to throw. Said Mike: "He came out of there like a guy running out of a bar in Seoul."... Did the daily newspaper of record have to run a photo of Lacy Clay bending over talking to J.B. "Jet" Banks in its May 29 edition covering Banks' indictment? Couldn't they find a photo of Clay, Banks, Virvus Jones and Benny Goins all together?... That Dick Vermeil is no Mike Shannon, but the Rams coach can turn a phrase. When new phenom Tracy Holt signed with the Rams (check that hamstring), Vermeil said, "We're all in the same wheelbarrow." In literature, isn't this called foreshadowing? What do you do with anything in a wheelbarrow? You dump it, right?
Contributors: Jeannette Batz, D.J. Wilson
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