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It began some time ago, perhaps a quarter-century ago, as a slow, quiet separation -- a drifting-apart that, fueled by the forces of capitalism and technology, accelerated into a wide gulf. Now, there may very well be two different planets: on one, most of us, and on the other, somewhere in Oz, the ones who make and deliver the "news."

On the first planet, we go about our daily lives, worrying whether our job will still be there tomorrow, whether our kids are safe at school, whether our HMO will pay for the treatment, how much money we should put away for old age. We read a bedtime story to our daughter, challenge our aesthetics with a new art film or concert, thrill our parents with a surprise visit, grieve over a lost love and take heart in the resilience of our strength.

Meanwhile, all around us, there is this din, this constant barrage of news reports. Blaring from our televisions, crackling from the radios, screaming from the morning paper's headlines, exploding on Web pages. Soap-operatic reports about JonBenet's parents; the Dow Jones' nosedives; politicians and their peccadilloes; the media and its mergers; Bill and Monica.

And so the chasm widens between them and us. We find ourselves looking at each other and saying, "Can you believe it?" "Did you hear?" "How can they?" In 1998, the disconnection -- between the American people and the powers that be -- was just about complete. The things that mattered in Soulard or Sunset Hills, in Dallas or Detroit, seemed a world apart from what mattered in the inner sanctums of politics, business and media.

It's gotten so bad, they can't hear us anymore. More likely, they don't care to hear. Each time the pollsters ask us about something, we tell them what we want: Get big money out of politics! Rein in the insurance companies! Fix the schools! Build more public transportation! Stop the attack ads! Raise the minimum wage! Don't impeach Bill! And each time, we find that we don't matter. It's no surprise that in the national elections this November, more than 100 million of us didn't even bother to vote. And still, their world dominates, and there is no escaping it.

Locally, we've seen the billion-dollar Page Avenue project rammed down our collective throat and the $2.6 billion Lambert expansion slog ahead while MidAmerica Airport sits empty 20 minutes from downtown. Kiel Opera House stays in mothballs; the Arena awaits the wrecking ball. Forces from the other world are at work.

Some of the key culprits in this disconnect are the top dogs of the media. Instead of questioning authority, they amplify it; instead of telling us stories of our daily lives, they tell us stories about the rich and famous; instead of using their power to set the agenda for public discussion, they hand it over to the political and business elite.

And so, as we look back at 1998, let's keep in mind what mattered and what didn't. And let's relive the stories that hit us where we live rather than the stories that simply titillated us. Where we can, let's be amused, not saddened, by the Shakespearean dramas unfolding in that other world.

-- Safir Ahmed

The following look back at selected news from 1998 has been culled from the pages of The Riverfront Times. It was written by Safir Ahmed, Jeannette Batz, Richard Byrne, Thomas Crone, Melinda Roth, C.D. Stelzer and D.J. Wilson.

TWO DOWN, SIX TO GO: The jury is still out on whether St. Louis 2004 is just another well-intentioned do-gooder group that will initiate some nice community-based programs or whether it is the mother of all civic efforts that it claims to be. Two years into its eight-year run, the group spent most of 1998 meeting, group-thinking, planning, commiserating, studying and strategizing about all the wonderful ways in which the St. Louis region can improve the quality of life for every man, woman and child. Funded by some of the area's major corporations and the Danforth Foundation, and led by former U.S. Sen. John Danforth and former city official and PR flack JoAnne LaSala, the group plodded onward this year with its "action plans." Late in the year, 2004 funded a $100,000 study by out-of-town consultants on the needs of the arts community in St. Louis. The conclusion? Don't reopen the Kiel Opera House downtown but fund a new theater and invest more in the Grand Center district. This, of course, fueled speculation that the study was rigged to bail out the Kiel Center Partners, who had promised to reopen the Opera House in exchange for $35 million in city subsidies for the new Kiel Center. Oh, it just so happens that the same corporate interests involved in Kiel Center funded the St. Louis 2004 study. (SA)

UNCHARTED WATERS: In what is perhaps one of the most low-key but high-minded efforts ever begun in St. Louis, a committee of nine men, including Mayor Clarence Harmon and his three predecessors -- Jim Conway, Vince Schoemehl and Freeman Bosley Jr. -- met quietly for most of 1998, working to bring efficiency and decisiveness to city government by changing the city's antiquated charter. The long-term goals include ridding the city of its patronage-heavy "county" offices (treasurer, license collector, recorder of deeds, comptroller, sheriff) and consolidating more power under the mayor's office. Led by Bert Walker, a Stifel Nicolaus executive, and George Wendel, a political-science prof at St. Louis University, the committee had enough support by year's end to introduce legislation in Jefferson City to allow the city to change its own charter. That was the good news. The bad news, though not insurmountable, was that most of the "county" officeholders, along with Aldermanic President Francis Slay, are opposed to the major changes. It's going to be a long, slow haul with plenty of opposition from protectionist types, but it's a brave effort and ought to be supported. (SA)

BLACKOUT: A handful of African-American civic leaders were so outraged this year by Missouri Attorney General Jeremiah "Jay" Nixon's relentless drive to end the state's involvement in the voluntary school-desegregation program that they decided to lead an effort to work against Nixon's run for the U.S. Senate, instead supporting the Republican incumbent, Christopher "Kit" Bond. Never mind that Nixon's record overall, on issues of concern to blacks, was far better than the conservative record of Bond. The issue, as Nixon's critics saw it, was the Democratic Party's taking for granted the black vote. If they crossed party lines this time, the critics figured, perhaps the Democrats with ambitions for higher office would learn a lesson. Led by Donald Suggs, publisher of the St. Louis American, and James DeClue of the NAACP, the anti-Nixon campaign did cut into Nixon's support among blacks, although Nixon might have lost to Bond anyway. Will the Democratic Party heal this wound before Nixon's next attempt at public office? Look to the upcoming settlement in the deseg case for clues. (SA)

RINGIN' THE BLUES: In Missouri's epic tale of insurance conversions, 1998 was the year of climax. First the courts restored our faith in justice by finally ruling that Blue Cross and Blue Shield had broken laws when it converted from a nonprofit to a for-profit insurance company and therefore owed the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars it had saved from its tax-exempt status for years. Next, Jay Angoff, the state's insurance director and the man who led the fight against Blue Cross' conversion, announced his retirement, saying that the years of battle had taken their toll. Money collected from Blue Cross will presumably be used for the creation of a health-care foundation, but that's still being debated in the courts. (MR)

PAGE AVENUE FREEZE-OUT: It was a long, bumpy trip on the highway to hell this year for Taxpayers Against Page Freeway, opponents of the $1 billion Page Avenue extension project. Concerned that the 10-lane extension through Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park would accelerate the urban exodus from St. Louis and St. Louis County to St. Charles County and ruin the park to boot, opponents gathered enough petitions last summer to get the issue on the November ballot in St. Louis County. But the concrete cartel -- homebuilders, developers, contractors and others who stand to profit from the new highway construction -- spent hundreds of thousands of dollars campaigning under the Astroturf (as opposed to grassroots) name of Citizens for a Livable St. Louis County, leaving their opponents far behind in the political dust. Taxpayers Against Page Freeway, like most out-spent ballot issues and candidates, lost soundly. (MR)

HE TAKES A LICKIN' AND KEEPS ON KICKIN': It was just too good an idea to win the approval of the conservative Missouri Legislature, yet the proposal to fold small-business owners and farmers into the existing state employees' health-insurance pool made its way fairly far up the political ladder this year. The idea, sponsored by the Marathon Man himself, Rep. Tim Harlan (D-Columbia), scared the daylights out of conservatives, who thought it smacked of socialized medicine, and insurance executives, who figured it would hurt the industry's profits somewhat by creating larger pools and lower premiums. It was approved by the House after five arduous days of floor debate but failed in the Senate's insurance committee, chaired by the now-retired Sen. Phil Curls (D-Kansas City), who has since gone quietly to work for the insurance industry. Harlan promises Round 2 in the coming session. The smart money says Harlan will win this time. (MR)

CASH BAR: Missouri's attempt to clean up the money in politics by passing a true campaign-finance-reform law didn't fail this year, it simply became the ironic victim of its own enemy. After gathering more than enough signatures to place public financing on the November ballot, Missourians for Clean Elections pulled back on their efforts because the group didn't have enough money to compete with potential opponents. In fact, business interests, which are quite content renting and buying politicians, threatened a media blitz so large that reformers found themselves having to decide whether to try and probably fail or to wait and really try. They decided to wait and really try. Maybe in 2000. (MR)

INSURING TROUBLE: The moral this year was, don't look at the industry that's running, unfettered, an increasing proportion of our lives -- because if you do begin to write about insurance companies and how they operate, you'll learn what Corey Weber and the Mead family (whose stories the RFT chronicled in 1998) learned: that these companies judge and punish "crimes," then deny coverage, without any help from the legal system. You'll also realize they're profoundly altering not only the methods and values of health care but the kind of people attracted to the healing professions. And your phone will ring off the hook, logging more horror stories than you can begin to report. (JB)

FITTING THE BILL: When we wrote seriously about the problem of sex addiction, we didn't know we'd see a president impeached for behavior that just might fit the diagnosis. It's not about sex, though, oh no it's not. It's about lying, something people never do about sex. Let's face it: Our puritan country doesn't have the healthiest attitude toward privacy, morality, sex or emotional need. And now we're getting a taste of the consequences. (JB)

FEEDING THE WORLD A LINE: News of St. Louis' own biotech giant, Monsanto, flooded the world this year, despite the silencing of Florida journalists Steve Wilson and Jane Akre after a threatening letter from Monsanto. A special issue of The Ecologist got pulped by a timid printer who read its anti-Monsanto contents; people voted across Europe, Asia and Oceania to ban or label genetically modified foods; activists in India and eco-terrorists in Ireland protested biotech firms' unprecedented power to alter nature for profit; government scientists in Canada issued a bravely critical report and took the rap for it. Prince Charles warned that "if something does go badly wrong, we will be faced with the problem of clearing up a kind of pollution which is self-perpetuating." And Monsanto's chorus echoed: Agricultural biotech will save the world's resources, feed its people, preserve its diversity.... (JB)

NOAH'S ARK, WE AIN'T: Unless they're twinkling with white lights in the frontyard, we're just not sure what to do about urban deer -- as the battle in Town and Country showed -- or any other wild animal whose former territory we now occupy. Hell, we're not even sure what to do with dogs that bite or get tortured. These problems are real, and dangerous, and they set "animal lovers" apart from those loyal to human beings, as though the two are mutually exclusive. Have we built a society so inhospitable to the other animals that intelligent coexistence is impossible? (JB)

THROWING AWAY THE KEY: In a year punctured by the acts of inexplicably violent children, 15-year-old Vince Greer was an easy target for local prosecutors. Any child who could shoot his sweet, loving mother to death and wound his father -- senselessly, but with obvious deliberation -- should be locked in the darkest penitentiary for life, they reasoned. The system's mental-health professionals bolstered this by repeatedly diagnosing "conduct disorder" and fretting over Greer's use of marijuana. Then the state's own appointed psychiatrist said Greer was suffering from schizophrenia, a major mental illness that is believed to be biologically caused and can indeed drown out rational moral thought. But Greer's still incarcerated with seriously criminal adults, waiting to be tried for Murder One. It's just not popular these days to treat a criminal differently if he's sick. (JB)

ONE NATION, INCLUDING ISLAM: Two hundred years of religious freedom, and Americans still run the words together when they utter phrases like "Muslim terrorists." Muslims living in St. Louis are, by and large, decent, charitable, successful and God-fearing (their Allah being not an exotic separate entity but the same Creator referred to so smugly on the country's coinage). Their personal blurring of church and state can make dyed-in-the-wool patriots nervous, but overall the Koran's much better than the Bible at making room for other faith traditions. And the Muslims who've become U.S. citizens know the importance of American freedom and pluralism a lot better than most WASPs. (JB)

HAVE GUN, WILL CAMPAIGN: In November, John Ross, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. House seat from the 2nd District, lost the election to Republican incumbent James M. Talent, but his candidacy may have helped promote two of Ross' other passions: guns and literature. The Clayton-based stockbroker garnered 57,665 votes to Talent's 142,313. Ross' unorthodox political views caused the Democratic Party to shun him. A licensed gun dealer, Ross is also the author of the novel Unintended Consequences, a fictional account of how jackbooted thugs from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms wreak havoc on constitutional rights. The book, popular among members of the gun culture, is being sold through Internet sites, including one created by a member of the Missouri Sport Shooting Association, the state affiliate of the National Rifle Association. Some proceeds from the book's sales through, the online bookseller, are being added to the coffers of a campaign to legalize carrying concealed weapons in Missouri. Look for the measure to come to a ballot box near you. (CDS)

CRITICAL MASS: When Washington University began excavating near the corner of Wydown Avenue and Big Bend Boulevard last year, former St. Louis building commissioner Martin Walsh became concerned. The university has since completed the construction of new dormitories at the location. Walsh, an alumnus, recalled that he had been warned in the 1950s to stay clear of that area of the campus because it contained radioactive waste. The caveat came from his chemistry professor, the late Joseph Kennedy -- a co-discoverer of plutonium. A Wash. U. spokesman said the radioactive waste had all been located and removed years ago. But university documents indicate that low-level radioactive waste was buried at the site for more than a decade. University records further show that in 1958, when the first residence halls were built in the vicinity of the nuclear dump, the administration could not pinpoint the location of all the waste. (CDS)

ON THE RIGHT TRACK: It's a senator! No, it's a presidential candidate! Wait, it's our own U.S. Sen. John Ashcroft, a politician who spent 1998 launching an early bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 2000. Ashcroft spent February fighting a doomed battle to prevent Dr. David Satcher from becoming U.S. surgeon general -- a stand that even some of his Republican Senate colleagues believed was harebrained. In the spring, Ashcroft released a new classic in the field of spiritual autobiography, Lessons from a Father to His Son, and he spent much of the year setting up political-action committees to raise campaign cash. Ashcroft even joined the wave of national candidates taking advantage of a campaign-funding loophole in Virginia to raise large sums of cash that evade Federal Election Commission scrutiny. Ashcroft didn't ignore President Bill Clinton, either. He was one of the first talking heads to appear on CNN and MSNBC as Clinton was testifying to a grand jury in August, and one fundraising letter that Ashcroft sent out before the disastrous GOP election campaign in 1998 could be summed up as "Bring me the head of Bill Clinton!" Keep on running, John! Mel Carnahan is right behind you! (RB)

LUMP OF COLE: It hasn't exactly been a banner 1998 for St. Louis Post-Dispatch editor Cole Campbell, has it? The year was punctuated by plagiarism and libel disputes at the paper. The libel dispute was the one Campbell created for himself last spring when he attempted to strong-arm the St. Louis Journalism Review and its editor, Ed Bishop, by sending a letter to the paper before SJR published a profile of editorial-page editor Christine Bertelson. The letter told Bishop that publishing "any statements alleging that her appointment was made for personal reasons" would be libelous on its face -- "to her and to me." Bishop published the profile -- and Campbell's letter -- anyway. The plagiarism hubbub came in October, when the RFT found that an editorial by P-D editorial writer Mubarak Dahir cribbed from an article in the New York Times. Several national experts called it plagiarism, but Campbell didn't, preferring to write an editorial note stating that the piece's "failure to attribute its key source violates the spirit of our standard." (RB)

MARKETING MARK: Seventy home runs? OK. Seventy million references to Mark McGwire? Well, it wasn't actually 70 million references to McGwire in local media -- but with McGwire pushing hurricanes, plane crashes and national and international news off the front page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch every day, it seemed like it. The October issue of the St. Louis Journalism Review found 1,812 P-D articles with McGwire mentions through Sept. 14 (compared with a mere 961 mentioning Monica Lewinsky), and the final article count probably topped 3,000. The highlights of Post-Dispatch coverage included a profile on local people named "Mark McGwire" or some variant of the slugger's name, and a front page on Monday, Sept. 28, that had nothing but McGwire news. It was a boon for circulation, however, with the paper selling out of a number of special editions and reaping a publicity jackpot. The question now is how the Post-Dispatch will handle the Pope's upcoming visit. We're betting on McGwire treatment. (RB)

KASEN THE JOINT: It's rare that the story of a radical radio station can be told within a calendar year, but that's what happened at KKWK (1380 AM) -- the brainchild of local talk-radio gadflies Mark Kasen and Onion Horton. Kasen brokered an amazing Rube Goldbergesque deal that saw local radio giant Emmis Broadcasting donate a station to local minister the Rev. B.T. Rice, which Rice then allowed Kasen and Horton to run. The motley crew of malcontents that the dynamic duo chose to staff the talk slots early this year quickly landed the station in hot water, as hosts traded insults -- some racially charged -- over the airwaves. In July, Rice cut his losses and traded in the gab for jazz. But the story doesn't end there. Kasen and Horton are now suing the law firm and the lawyers (Lee Platke and Stuart Berkowitz) who helped put together the deal, claiming that they were wrongly aced out of the station. What do Kasen and Horton want? They want the station back, of course. And the radio carousel spins on.... (RB)

POL POSITIONING: Back in September, the RFT sat down for an interview with respected local TV reporter and anchor Don Marsh, who was retiring from the TV biz to run In the Line of Duty, a police-training-video business. Among the most provocative things Marsh said in the lengthy interview was that "the political coverage on local television today is the ad. That's it." The RFT decided to see whether Marsh was right about that, and our resulting survey of local television news one month before the 1998 elections found that the eminent TV newsman was completely vindicated. Only Marsh's former station, KDNL (Channel 30), ran more than one minute of local political news at 10 p.m. for the entire week. KMOV (Channel 4) didn't run any. Veteran GOP political consultant Don Sipple (who headed up Bob Dole's presidential run in 1996) put it bluntly to the RFT: "You want to control the agenda with paid advertising." In 1998, that was all too true on the local TV screen. (RB)

TRIPPED UP: You've heard so much about the nation's ongoing political saga of 1998 -- President Bill Clinton's affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky -- that you've probably gagged on it a few times already. So let's not rehash the seamy details (the dress, the tapes, the oral sex) at length once again. History has rarely been made from less substantive stuff, but that's the funny thing about history -- people shape it with their immediate actions, but they don't get to write it themselves. In the early days of the scandal, the RFT went to Washington to get a firsthand view of the madness, and David Carr -- editor of the Washington City Paper -- summed up the year succinctly and correctly only a week into the scandal. Noting that the story had advanced little beyond the allegation that Clinton and Lewinsky had a sexual relationship, Carr said that "the template of the story has been down since day one. Now (the media) has got to take these little balls of lint that are left and roll them into something." Carr was absolutely correct, but who could have predicted that we'd have such a big ball of lint (and an impeachment) as this misbegotten political year draws to a close? (RB)

NOTHING A FEW BILLION DOLLARS COULDN'T FIX: There are three things you just have to do, and "pay taxes" is not one of them. You have to die, you have to wait to die and, while you're waiting to die, you have to hear why it's absolutely essential for the St. Louis region that Lambert Airport be expanded. W-1W is the $2.6 billion answer, whatever the question is. Of course, don't ask the pilots' association and the air traffic controllers, because what do they know? They only fly the planes and make sure they take off and land safely. Both groups expressed concern and opposition about W-1W, but never mind -- the fix, uh, the deal, was done. This year the Federal Aviation Administration issued its "record of decision," which said, basically, "Yeah, go ahead, if this is what you want to do." Meanwhile, across the river, the $300 million MidAmerica Airport opened near Scott Air Force Base. Surrounded by cornfields, soon to be linked with MetroLink and waiting for flights, the new airport stands virtually empty while the bulldozers are idling in Bridgeton. But just wait. Even Lambert's estimates say its current average delay of six minutes will be decreased only slightly and for a short time by the expansion; by 2015 the delays will have grown back to six minutes. By then, some enterprising airline may start using MidAmerica for point-to-point discount flights, thereby relieving Lambert of some of its congestion -- something that could have been done many years, and several billion dollars, ago. (DJW)

DEVOLUTION OF DESEG: Sometimes the best reason for something is that the world would be worse without it. That may sound like a weak argument to support the 15-year-old St. Louis school-desegregation program, but consider what the city, and the metropolitan area, would be like if the estimated several billion dollars of extra state aid hadn't been given to area schools. Or if the tens of thousands of African-American city students hadn't been given a choice to attend suburban schools. Or if white suburban adolescents hadn't been immersed in perhaps the only integrated environment they had all week. Sure, the black kids all sit together in the cafeteria, but that's just lunch. This was the year that Missouri Attorney General Jeremiah "Jay" Nixon's obsessive effort to bring the issue to a head succeeded, if you want to call that success. The Legislature crafted SB 781, a bill -- somewhat flawed -- to provide continued funding for deseg, thereby making a settlement possible. Trouble is, for the plan to continue in any manner, a sales-tax increase has to be passed by city voters in February. Even if that passes, the most optimistic estimate is that the city schools will have a $10 million shortfall in funding. So the troubled city schools will have to make do with less money. If the sales-tax proposal fails, then it's back to the judge and then -- maybe, finally -- a full trial on the issue. (DJW)

UNBELIEVABLE: It was too good to be true. Believers should be indicted for their naivete; the dealmakers shouldn't be convicted for their sleight of hand. The city was operating Kiel Opera House and Kiel Auditorium at a deficit, while the Arena on Oakland Avenue was funky and not up to the current gold standard for indoor-hockey venues. The solution? A new group, Kiel Center Partners, a subset of the paternally omniscient Civic Progress, would replace the auditorium with a new, glorious Kiel Center, if the city pitched in $35 million and closed the Arena to eliminate competition. And what the hey -- as part of the deal, the Kiel boys would fix up the ol' Opera House. At least that was the public line. But behind closed doors, that "renovation" was limited to $2.5 million; later, the Partners said they'd met their obligation, but the Opera House was nowhere near ready. Cry foul? Well, the city signed a "certificate of completion" saying the Kiel Partners had done their part. Since then, three studies -- two paid for in part by Kiel Center Partners, one by St. Louis 2004 -- have recommended that the Opera House not be reopened. Efforts are being made to reopen the Opera House, but whether the money exists is another matter. There is no smart money in this game, but if you have to bet, place a wager on some sort of museum use for the building and be thankful the one idea from the Fox Associates' study wasn't adopted -- keeping the facade, gutting the insides and turning the Opera House into a parking garage. (DJW)

BLOW IT UP REAL GOOD: Yes, if only John Candy were alive, the city could hire him to show up in February to reprise his old SCTV skit in which, as a bib-overall-wearing film critic, he rated movies by the number and quality of their explosions. On this scale, St. Louis has, as Candy would say, "blowed up real good." Next on the list is the Arena. More than 200,000 people a day pass the edifice on Oakland Avenue. Yes, there are many memories there -- the Blues, the Spirits of St. Louis, concerts by the Who and Bruce Springsteen, and even, in decades past, the Firemen's Rodeo, featuring the Three Stooges. But it appears that this too (the Arena) will pass. Maybe the Arena Angels, the group of unpaid activists who oppose its demolition, are right. Maybe the fix was in for the Arena. With Mayor Clarence Harmon, the Board of Aldermen and local captains of industry all signing off on the deal, it might be time to recognize the obvious, because the dogs are barking and the caravan is moving on. Just watch for that day in February, bring a cooler and enjoy the show. (DJW)

RE-PETE: When it was conceived, KKWK (1380 AM) seemed to offer the fan of fringe talk radio just about everything they could want, with a number of veteran, caffeinated hosts congregating on one convenient spot on the AM dial. Though you could pick favorites from a varied cast that included Onion Horton, Charlie Tuna, Virvus Jones, Hank Thompson, Bill Haas and Mark Kasen, the sound of the world falling apart may have come in clearest during the overnight hours. Pete Parisi, the longtime host of the outrageous cable-TV staple World Wide Magazine, hosted a show that repeatedly punched every hot button. He played old tapes of the Amos and Andy Show. He hung up on other hosts. He pulled in longtime WWM contributor Black Jesus, then had him argue with four or five callers, all live, in a conference call. At moments like that, minidramas played out at 3:30 a.m., all voices competed, often hot-tempered and obscene. It was absolute comedy. Though its run was short, KKWK bristled with a buzz of anger, venom and, importantly, not many commercials. It was talk radio stripped bare, ugly and insightful, a whore not to advertisers but to the egos of hosts and callers. (TC)

OUT IN THE STREETS: On some Saturday nights, you'd get the idea that downtown is back, completely. Cars line the 1200 and 1300 blocks of Washington Avenue, and valets zip around, pulling their rides onto crowded lots. Young people with cell phones stand in long lines, waiting to enter half-empty clubs that keep demand up by keeping people waiting. It's an interesting game, and it's upon us. Washington Avenue -- and the blocks of Locust and Tucker nearby -- has been the area tabbed by many as the next area of downtown to really "break." The arrival of nearly a half-dozen new bars to the scene has certainly invigorated that perception. Now, the district faces the task of integrating other facets of city living into the mix, starting, obviously, with apartments and lofts, coupled with services: copy shops, a Laundromat, a video store. The public and financial interest in the zone has never been higher. That alone is a positive sign -- ideas and money wedded to see the area grow. (

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