Best Of 2023

Grant's Trail.
JAIME LEES
Grant's Trail.

601 South Holmes Avenue, Kirkwood; bikegrantstrail.com

Grant's Trail is 10 miles of walking and biking bliss, where the only human interaction you're expected to participate in is maybe nodding when someone flies past you in the opposite direction. It's the perfect place to be if you don't want to stare at the walls of your house or car but also don't want to actually engage with other people. Conversation is not only discretionary, it's practically shunned: Everyone you encounter is listening to their AirPods or barely able to catch their breath while exercising. Running from the south side all the way up through Kirkwood, Grant's Trail will show you the best of St. Louis — and you don't even have to say a word. —Jaime Lees

Best of St. Louis 2023: People & Places

Best of St. Louis 2023: People & Places
Tony Bame.
BRADEN MCMAKIN
Tony Bame.
St. Louis isn't the easiest city from which to launch yourself to social media stardom. The most-Instagrammable of backdrops — white sand beaches, picturesque mountains, McLaren dealerships — are hard to come by in these parts. But Tony Bame hasn't let that get in his way. He has taken what St. Louis has to give — potholes, primarily — and turned them into Instagram gold. TikTok, too. Bame's videos typically feature him beside either a gaping pothole or a horrific car crash as he delivers his classic salutation, "St. Louis city. Wouldn't you know it?" before riffing on whatever godforsaken road condition he's putting on display. Do we totally get it? No. Do we get how crypto is involved? Also no. Do we love it? Sure.  —Ryan Krull
Andy Cohen.
COURTESY JULIE LALLY
Andy Cohen.

Few people rep St. Louis better than Andy Cohen. He's kind. He's graceful. He tells it like it is. And despite his great success as a TV host and reality television star, Cohen has never shied away from his Midwestern roots. He's even working with NBC on a coming-of-age comedy based on his upbringing in the St. Louis suburbs, while he proudly displays St. Louis memorabilia on the set of his Bravo hit Watch What Happens Live. He rightfully received a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame in April, during which he let St. Louis and the rest of the world know, "I'm proud to be from St. Louis. Go Cardinals!" —Monica Obradovic

@McPherSTL.
SCREENSHOT
@McPherSTL.

The McPherson blog has been quiet as of late, but maybe that's because the man behind it, Jack Grone, has moved his commentary over to X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter. @McPherSTL's posts often highlight what isn't being said in the political conversation du jour: the silence of city officials as Kim Gardner's office crashed and burned, their generally quiet acceptance of Mayoral Dad Virvus Jones' trolling tweets. A resident of the city's new, hotly contested Ward 9, Grone was also particularly well-positioned during #Aldergeddon to document the glut of direct mail that polluted his and his neighbors' mailboxes. His observations are consistently cutting without being mean. Best of all, you get the sense he doesn't spend all his time on social media. There's already plenty of very-online people to be found online. —Ryan Krull

Kyle Kostecki.
MONICA OBRADOVIC
Kyle Kostecki.

instagram.com/poopyknife

He stands in the heat wielding a keytar — a whirlwind of synth notes, jean shorts and cheetah-print boxers. He fashions Mad Max-style armor out of football pads and kitchen knives. He sometimes goes by the name "poopyknife." In other words, Kyle Kostecki is clearly St. Louis' best busker and, honestly, one of this city's finest artists in any medium. Kostecki has caught the attention of many a local commuter over these past summer months, standing as he does at busy intersections and plying his unique trade, and videos of his antics have repeatedly gone viral. The flute buskers of the Loop and sign-flyers of Kingshighway can't claim that honor — and frankly, they should probably up their game before Kostecki leaves them in the dust. —Daniel Hill

Shaw.
FLICKR/PAUL SABLEMAN
Shaw.

For the modern urbanist, Shaw seemingly has it all: street after street of attractive homes, storefront businesses, great park access, young families and even a corner ice cream shop. But more than that, it has a spirit of resilience well-honed by decades of commitment to city life. Shaw residents are not easily fazed, a trait never more in evidence than in the past year after a resident of Flora Place was murdered in his own backyard. You might have assumed things would fall apart. This, after all, was every city dweller's worst nightmare — a random act from an intruder who seemed to have spiraled out of control and a terrifying reminder that even the priciest city blocks are not safe from violence. Yet the residents of Shaw did not fall apart. They grieved, they mourned and they came together. Christopher Brennan is not forgotten. Far from it; green bows remembering his life still bedeck trees on Flora Place. But his neighbors didn't flee. Housing values have stayed strong (a little too strong for many buyers, tbh!), and the neighborhood kids continue to race from backyard to backyard. Life in the city hasn't been easy in recent years, but Shaw is one neighborhood that will never throw in the towel. —Sarah Fenske

Michelle Smith.
Monica Obradovic
Michelle Smith.

Missouri has been on a "killing spree." That's the way Missourians to Abolish the Death Penalty co-director Michelle Smith describes the state's use of capital punishment. The state has executed four people so far in 2023 — and Smith has advocated for each of their lives with unwavering ferocity and seemingly endless empathy. Whether on the steps of courthouses, outside of prisons or at a protest in front of the Missouri Capitol, Smith advocates for people who've been defined by their life's biggest mistake — even the most heinous mistakes. Smith will always claw back against so-called state-sanctioned murder. Plus, through Missouri Justice Coalition, Smith battles for the wrongfully convicted and for more humane prison conditions. It's hard and often unforgiving work given Missouri's overwhelmingly pro-death-penalty stance. Yet Smith fights hard and remains in the lives of the family members whose loved ones paid the ultimate price for their crimes. —Monica Obradovic

Mary Anne Sedey.
COURTESY SEDEY HARPER WESTHOFF
Mary Anne Sedey.

Mary Anne Sedey is well under five feet tall, with the kind of high-energy warmth that leads people to deploy metaphors like "firecracker" and "pistol." It's impossible not to enjoy her company — unless, perhaps, you're facing off in court. Sedey is every badly run company's worst nightmare, a well-armed advocate for employees who've been harassed, discriminated against or wrongly terminated, and she has the roster of corporate scalps to prove it, going back to her landmark $47 million victory against Rent-a-Center in 2002 and the U.S. Supreme Court decision where she proved that even judges could be held accountable for their treatment of employees. But bulldogs are not known for resting on their laurels, and neither is Sedey. Just this past year, she won another $1 million-plus verdict, this one on behalf of a pair of female colleagues facing relentless harassment from the Mercedes-Benz dealership that employed them. Just another day in the courtroom for Mary Anne Sedey — and another bad boss who learned his lesson the hard way. —Sarah Fenske

Kim Gardner.
RYAN KRULL
Kim Gardner.

We defended Kim Gardner a long time — longer than we should have. We knew the justice system needed reform, and we were hopeful that, for all her flaws, she could be a change agent. We even defended her when the Greitens cabal, and all those well-paid attorneys at Dowd Bennett, tried to have her disbarred. But what became increasingly clear in recent years is that the sloppiness and the secrecy that led to bizarre untruths being uttered under oath in the Greitens case wasn't an anomaly. It was simply the incompetent way Gardner operated, and her poor management led to near-total staff turnover and contributed to hundreds of defendants being yanked around by the criminal justice system in ways that would have been unfathomable under predecessor Jennifer Joyce. It wasn't just that she failed to bring reform; it was that she actively made a bad system worse. The straw that broke our beleaguered backs, of course, was the shocking revelation that the whole time we'd been making excuses for her, she was in a nursing program lining up her next gig. It was shameful behavior that set criminal justice reform back for years — and we can only cringe when we see the national media try to paint her as the victim. We gave her plenty of chances. She gave us only partial attention. —Sarah Fenske

Brandon Bosley.
RYAN GAINES
Brandon Bosley.

Former alderman Brandon Bosley got a head start on the 2023 competition when, a few days before last Christmas, he pulled a gun on a woman lying in the snow and threatened to shoot her — all while streaming the proceedings on Facebook. The scion of a local political dynasty claimed that the woman had tried to carjack him, though the story never really added up. When Bosley lost reelection a few months later, we suspected he might lay low for a while. How wrong we were. In June, the feds indicted Bosley for defrauding an insurance company after he allegedly told his mechanic to inflate the repair costs on his Toyota Prius. It was a pretty banal crime that Bosley still managed to commit in colorful fashion. His mechanic was Mohammed Almuttan, by far the city's most famous federal informant, who was almost certainly wearing a wire when Bosley (allegedly) instructed him, "Mark that motherfucker all the way up. ... Fuck that insurance company." —Ryan Krull