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Sports & Recreation

Best Place to People-Watch 

Maryland Plaza in the Central West End

No, it's not because the people are "different" from the bland Land's End suburbs -- colorful, flamboyant, maybe even ho-mo-sexual. We're praying St. Louis has passed that junior-high gawking stage. Maryland Plaza's best because everybody is watching and being watched -- and knows it. A juggler plies his spheres, arms aching, and nobody looks up from café conversation. A woman walks by with a standard poodle, and voilà! the dog leaps, catches one of the juggler's balls in midair, steals it and does a small twirl on the sidewalk. The crowd applauds. The juggler presses his lips together, furious at the show-stealer but trying not to show it. The woman hurries the dog along, sensing tension. Agendas have clashed, disrupting stale ritual and exploding it into spontaneity. Such things happen often here, because people watch for them. They know that at this cobbled intersection, everything comes together: The sport of voyeurism. The parade of possibilities. And the infinite varieties of the human condition, treated as public art.

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