Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The "Take On" Greenberg


Its been the low road. That's where the mistakes were made in the past. That's the method by which those trying to remove Lewis's art continue to follow. Ballwin and now the county, the strategic process that they have subscribed to, grabbing at straws with the litter and danger platform; his art a menace. They continue to threaten jail, fines, removal...all exposing the system for what it is. This is simply part of Lewis's message, believe it or not.

The story is really quite typical, a local governments inability to resolve an issue, a loose leaf path that backfired again and again leaving even more significant legal bills sitting in the "to be paid" basket of the city, nothing resolved, nothing changed. We can be assured now that he is willing to prove his point, after spending 3 hours and 22 minutes behind bars. Lewis called me last night, remarked about how nice everyone was, in between others in his holding cell "fighting and carrying on".

For the record, this writer was there when the prosecutor toured the property, they took pictures and sent a long list of items to change. It was not a simple sawing off the pointed objects here and there. It was the subjective (and what would likely be only the beginning of) pointing to structures here and there, removing, changing, limiting, organizing, ordinance "izing". It wasn't going to work this way and I find it hard to believe that they thought he would comply. The city has been on the wrong side of the 8 ball all this time.

I have said before and have tried to put in to perspective that which would create some peace in the community regarding Lewis and his art. Treat Lewis with respect and love and he will love you back. Treat him with hate and aggression and watch the loud speakers explode with an assortment of button pushing, strategic and legal expression; a line in the sand drawn, not to be crossed for fear of continued surgical expression, press Lewis's button, he drops the hammer.

For this reason I display two pieces of Lewis's art in my restaurant. His RiverFront Times "Best Geezer" award hangs on the wall. I have also on display a Kestral Time Trial bike that he chooses to have there. It is the most talked about bicycle on display in my collection. I have been on the receiving end of embracing Lewis unconditionally, vs. the city and the counties methods of alienation.

It has been hate and disrespect that has fueled Lewis's expression and it has now forced the city of Ballwin (now the county) into a stalemate for resolution. As far as his art goes, people are talking about it again...today I received over 500 hits on a blog entry I wrote three years ago.

I find it interesting, those who pin me as a "Lewis Proponent", just because I choose to write about him, an effort to expose anyone interested to the reality of things. I get a lot of comments from what I call the "low roads". And many people fear that I might be alienated because of my close contact with him, at the cafe, the business, my livelyhood. Frankly, Lewis and I are friends. I have always had interesting friends of all ethnicity's and cultures. I like people who express themselves, regardless of their journey. I don't like homogenization. Bring on our towns excentrics, put them on display at my place so I can learn a thing or two. I have others, Lewis is hardly the champion.

I always hear this: "Ralph, if you were his neighbor, you would..." Ok, lets stop here...I would what?--subscribe and fall in line with the current plan, side with the neighbors, city and county? My gift is simply to report on the other side. The mainstream doesn't seem to go too well for the city, why not try the unconventional? Lewis taught me the meaning of this. He is working on the rest of you.

He is a smart man and knows how to play the game, how to win, how to own the opposition.

"Owned" as recognized by Wikipedia: abstract usage referring to any compromised security mechanism...a part of standard slang, and typically follows severe defeat or humiliation, usually in an amusing way or through the dominance of an opposing party.

The low road was the conventional approach, the method of mainstream. Lewis's art sucked in those who failed to recognize his rights and unique qualities as a human being. The whole community got caught up in the rhetoric; the strategic filing of complaints, the showing of anger, disrespect, the lashing out. His art began to grow. Then, (and this happens like clockwork)...mistakes are made by officials due to pressure from their constituencies.

So we have an angry man displaying images and sculptures of what he feels is important for us all not to forget. First, he is a human being, second, that the Holocaust needs to be remembered, and third, that the meaning of the Holocost is at the center of what is happening.

So deal with the issue by force?--Actions against the the crazy property owner for his beliefs, his expression, his communication, the exercising of his rights without ordinance against. The result: a witch hunt spearheaded by the (now mostly retired) board of alderman and (some retired and some jailed) city officials leading the way--parades of torchbearers. Apply pressure, reflect on the behavior of the community, community resonates the meaning of the Holocaust and the loss of rights for 6 million Jews, art continues to grow. Are you getting this yet!

I chose to embrace this special character years ago when I found a human being in need; a flat tire and nobody willing to help him. Because I offered to help a stranger I made a friend, not the stereotypical friend, but a loyal, loving, caring man who requires patience and understanding. He is an artist and is expressing himself in a manor that, when his piece is done, we will all understand. The finishing touches are heavily weighted upon the communities ability to embrace what is important to one man: acceptance, tolerance and memory of the Holocaust.

Until then, expect the occasional display dolled out in assorted mediums.

22 comments:

MBA said...

I noticed one person commented in favor of the neighbors on an earlier related post. I'd be curious to hear what provoked the neighbors to call the police repeatedly, attempt to have him committed, take him to court and throw him in jail. It seems there must be more to this than just some yard sculpture. It just doesn't compute.

Ralph Pfremmer said...

The story is written on the bathroom wall, near the window, overlooking his nextdoor neighbors yard. there is more to the story and it is deeply within the complexities of his personality. It takes a while to sort it out. Wish I had the answers too.

TSL said...

As I sit here in my fortress of conservatism located literally seconds from Greenberg I give my take. I will like to state that my position, the writers position, and everybody else in the worlds position on everything has bias it is COMPLETE BS if anybody tells you otherwise, this fact though does not discredit anybody and perceived bias is in the eye of the beholder. But I digress. I am not a fan of Mr. Greenberg. He has lowered property values of every single house int the imitate area, there have been property appraisers and the county adjusters opinion. When we first moved here in the late 90's and up through most of the early 2000's if I remember right Mr. Greenberg had a scant amount of artwork which though it might not be some people's taste did not disturb the peace, (You see us crazy property owners are not against reasonable personal expression, I myself think modern art is great)but that all changed a few years back he went from a couple to dozens pieces of art. I doubt myself and most of the readers (and writer) of this blog can agree on economics but you'd couldn't tell me that you'd be happy if your property values went down. To answer MBA's question there is much more than artwork contributing to Mr. Greenberg's police file a mile long. He harasses people including my mother (I would like to point out that I'm 15) and another female neighbor. I could go on about this subject for days but in reality he is a pain in the side to all the residents of this fine subdivision. If you have any questions please leave your comments and I'll try to answer your questions.

Thanks for you time,.
TSL

Anonymous said...

Without going into ridiculous detail, there is a whole lot with this story that doesn't make the paper. I am so glad so many are happy for Lewis and wish him well. I would ask them why they don't offer to buy up the homes around his and become neighbors. After all, thanks to him some can't even find a buyer... certainly not at a value that homes on the other side of the subdivision can.

Anonymous said...

Let Lewis take a crap on the front step of your coffee shop everyday and call it art. Then write your blog.

Let's get real said...

"All comments must be approved". And there it is, the hypocrit is exposed. Lewis can do whatever he wants without regard to those around him, all in the name of free speech. You, on the other hand, will only allow my free speech on your blog (your neighborhood) if YOU deem it fit for approval.

Mommabear said...

I am about the most conservative person I know. Therefore it makes absolute sense to me that I stand up for this guy's right to have this art in his yard. (His word, not mine, but hey, I don't care for Picasso either so what do I know.That he might need some psychological help could be debated. But this IS about freedom to do what you want on your property. As long as he obeys subdivision covenants that he agreed to when he signed the paperwork on his house, and poses no danger to neighbors, which I don't see that he does, he is within his rights. Would I like living next door to him? Him personally, probably yes. I tend to like quirky people. Would I like the yard art? Maybe not so much, but I wouldn't get heartburn over it either. Heck I live in a subdivision with people who won't paint their house or trim the yard. His is at least maintained.

herekittykitty said...

If none of us ever "stepped outside our boxes" our lives and those surrounding us would be rather bleak and the world rather gray. We need the color!

Ralph Pfremmer said...

@lets get real, uh, there is a spam problem on eblogger. I have to filter out a bunch of it every day so you are pretty much shut down in regard to your lame attempt at discreditation. I do try and keep the information clean and free of flame bait, but your comment was worth explanation and I thank you for it. I find it interesting that you are apposed to me writing about it. I choose not to engage that it is right or wrong, please read my bio. The problem is how he has been dealt with. Do you know the definition of insanity (and not at all referencing Lewis?-Its doing the same thing to solve an issue and expecting different results? Am I now exposed? Go and read a little more about that on my blog. I think I am exposed, I am very visiable. It is you who chooses not to be. Thanks for the good point though. I will stive to be "out".

Anonymous #1, I don't talk to my neigbor because he keeps his home in dis-repair. I have a concern too.

TSL, bravo to you for taking such an intellegent leap in to this issue. Very well put. Don't be suprized when there is a better than expected outcome of the situation. Keep the perspective in mind.

Anonomous crap, that made me smile, but I wouldn't let him do that on my front porch, nor would you. If you choose to provide that type of response to my perspective I will go ahead and assume that that is your best shot. I think it shallow your assumption that, just because I provide a perspective, that I am the enemy. You fall in to the low roader catagory. Thanks for reading. Btw, it is a coffee house, featuring live entertainment and cultural experiences.

Big Mamma B- be careful, this topic is full of that which everyone at some point disagrees. Good fuel for the brain, bad blood for the heart.

Kittin sister, very well put. But you have to recognize the nighbors plight. Regardless of the color.

Anonymous said...

Many good and some just ignorant comments. However, as the Blogger has stated, as long as Ballwin continues to stay the course, Lewis will also do so, and this story will go on and on and on. There is a lot that has not been written about (like the issue with the neighbor circulating a failed petition to get Lewis committed), which underscores much of what is ocurring and the one-sided nature of the mainstream press on the topic. I am sure that this will be continued for years to come. Lewis is a pretty fit and health guy...
-Redbadger

Anonymous said...

Regarding the "crap" comment I wrote, I was just trying to bring a little humor to the situation, not take the low road. I did not intend to say you are the enemy. I just find it interesting all these posters that say it's wonderful. Just wanted to see how one would respond had your space been violated. The point is, one person's art is another person's crap. Is his yard art? Yes, I agree it is. Does it look like crap. Yep.

I think most of the neighbors were fine with this 'art' up to a point. The problem is there's no middle ground with this guy. Try to resolve a conflict with him and he fights back that much harder. Did all neighbors respond appropriately? I don't know. But I do know how he responded.

And honestly, the only reason I post this anonymous is, sorry to say, fear. Am I wrong, I hope so. But I won't tell the sleeping bear where I live.

Without Eyes said...

I am beginning to understand that Greenberg is a difficult character and tends to piss people off, and perhaps his version of yard art is not to everyone's liking. But the all out attack on him by his neighbors is very hard to comprehend. I suppose its good to know that if you make bad landscaping decisions your neighbors can team up with local bureaucrats to put you in jail or an asylum, whichever is more politically expedient. After all, doesn't good landscaping trump civil rights? Please tell my why anyone in the rest of the country should view these neighbor's actions favorably? If you can't solve a personal dispute with someone, you try to put them in jail? Just imagine yourself on the other side of this, and think twice before putting out that concrete gnome or plastic deer. It could cost you your freedom.

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled on an article on line about Mr. Greenberg and in doing research found this blog.
I live in North County the land that everyone thinks you cannot even ride through unless you have a big dog and a gun. This by the way is NOT true but you cannot change the minds of the ignorant.
The house next to mine has been vacant for atleast 5 years. The grass gets to be as high as the top of the fence before the bank, or whoever, comes to cut it. I would be happy to have some ART next to me and not snakes that hide in the grass. And an empty house that evidently cannot be sold.
Property values are down everywhere. Not just because there is what some see as "junk" in a yard. If the house were landscaped and property around it still did not sell what would be the excuse then?
I am sad that you work your entire life to own some little piece of land and then anyone who does not agree with your style can take aim at you.
From the pictures I have seen the yard seems neatly groomed. Maybe not everyone's cup of tea but hardly offensive. What if I do not like the color you have painted your house? Or the bunny birdbath in your yard? Or the rotting trees or Christmas decorations or Satelite dish?
Put your energy to good use. Sign up for Race for the Cure!! Unless you are offended by the color pink and the right for an individual to wear it.In that case just make a donation!

Ralph Pfremmer said...

Crap, no worries. I was hearing you. This is some sensitive stuff. Lots of emotion. My favorite part of Lewis's art is on the inside. Pretty cool.

Anonymous said...

Those that have picked up on the neighbors' reaction are starting to get a glimpse of what led up to today. Just to underscore, LEWIS WAS HOTLINED, WHICH WAS PROMPTED BY A NEIGHBOR'S INITIATIVE. Why? And I will try not to be biased, but the neighbor did not like the yard art/junk/crap/call it what you may. The neighbor, along with city officials, made a (failed) attempt to have Lewis committed over f'ing yard art! Also, know that the petition became public, and as anyone would, Lewis was pissed. So, before you cast stones on Lewis, look at how the city and neighbors attempted to deal with the problem--have him committed. Start there, and then some of what has happened since makes a little more sense. Lewis is ecentric--no doubt. But, ya know what, so what. He truly loves his art--always have. The ironic thing about all of this is that everytime the STPD publishes an article, Lewis' "15 mins" start over again, which he loves. So, those of you who make comments on the STL today page, Lewis sees them, and he thrives off of it, along with the massive attention he has gotten of late from people wanting to see the art. This story will end when the City changes tactics, as Ralph has correctly pointed out numerous times. Like it or not, the neighborhood has always been conservative and Lewis' art (even when it was very tame) was never liked or appreciated, and nothing has changed or ever will. Lewis appreciates your support. Those that cast stones, look in the mirror before doing so (especially, YOU, that one particualar neighbor).
-Redbadger

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous- why are you fearful? Lewis is the one getting threats over the internet and elsewhere. In anyone should be fearful, it is Lewis, since there appears to be a lot of actual hatred directed his way.

- Redbadger

Doc said...

Good morning. Just another day along the saga of "lewis". My concern is for safety and property values. Someone's grass is too tall, the city cuts it. Someone's home falling apart, the city gets involved. Lewis' art (yes, it is art... not my taste) is destructive to the housing values of the neighbors around him. Hence, they, who would have moved to get away, had but one choice. They got their taxes lowered.

As a small business owner and one time restaurant owner, I wonder what the impact on your business is? Any idea what diminishing the opinions of virtually everyone in the subdivision does to you traffic flow?

Not to mention, I thought you gave up this blog. What prompted the change?

Ralph Pfremmer said...

Doc. Good morning. Let me see if I understand your point. You would like to cast a stone somehow towards my perspective on this whole thing. Use the "how could you?" card. "Shouldn't I consider how this may or may not hurt the business, the business owner allowing Lewis to enter my business, patronize the business, walk freely among my customers? Why at all embrace him as a human being, a sensitive citizen in my community who just doesnt fit the norm? Who else should I single out? How could I admire his art display it, give it exposure by displaying "Greenbergs"...engage instead of conform to...the low road...the status quo...the homogenous...path...to...boring...
robot...corporate...chain...politically correct...crap?

Respecfully, the cafe is a cultural temple of sort, designed to expose the community to that which is a tad different, it's my art; to create a better sense of community, invite cross sections of the community to be displayed together. There are over 300 photos of families from the community, I really don't judge them. They are just images of the community doing community things. The Lone Wolf references what the community once did, the speakeasy down at the end of New Ballwin Road, the hisroty of Castlewood, the people, not all of them as savory as what you might find acceptable. It is suppposed to provide subtle advocacy: Active Living, Family unity, Wellness, Persevearance, Entrepreneurship (not confused with blue blooded entrepreneurship with those who contol the banks), Expression through Art, Music, Cultural Events, Exhibits, Fund Raising, Community Events. We have knitters, unemployement groups, Dog Jogs, Midnight Runs, political groups. We have a stage called the Soapbox just for anyone who feels the need to spout. It is a concept that embraces all of that, without bias, regardless of what is considered acceptable or unacceptable by our coveted West St. Louis County conservative standards. All that and good food at a reasonable price.

I do appreciate you reading my blog. I did give it a rest. It is a part of me and an experement/social media medium that, after some thought, didn't deserve to go away. I will continue.

Business is brisk, new menu coming out soon, Bob Biribin is the new manager and he is the schnizzle. Look for lots of neat things happening at the Wolf.

Doc said...

Okay. Gimme me a break. "How could you" card? My dimes aren't going into the place. I simply nugged that taking a very, very public side in a matter which has his neighbors wildly upset might not be the best course of action for someone who wants to build a place in and for the community. You can read in to that that you should exclude Lewis and all that other crap if you want. I could care less where he shops, eats, or spends his time.

The heart of the case, even though Ballwin didn't have the stones to push it, is where do my rights as a landowner end and my neighbor's begin. Look what happens when a foreclosed home pops up on the street. What happens? The average sales price for that area is diminished. The same effect is being felt for those around Lewis' home. That is what this is all about.

One can throw in the Holocaust, art versus not art, and so on. In reality, talk to real estate agents who work West County. They know the neighborhood and keep lots of their customers out of Whispering Oakwood. Is that right? Would you like it to happen to you? I truly wish Lewis had a medium to express himself that was personal and not as destructive to the neighbors around him.

This, of course, doesn't even touch the danger issue to children. And yes, no child has an inherent right to wander onto the property of others; however, be realistic, it happens. That is why county requires fences around pools, and so on.

I am happy to hear your place is surviving these trying times. I am not sure I could call it a cultural temple, yet, again, I don't write the checks so call it whatever you want. Business success is often in the eye of the beholder...and all too often in that person's wallet.

Ralph Pfremmer said...

Doc, your comment referenced my business, me personally and my position in the matter with a smatering of "you better watch out"...

In the context of things, I percieved it as just another low road comment. Just as I risk a negative reaction to what I write, you do to. My perception has not changed. Would love to visit sometime at Lone Wolf, 15480 Clayton Rd. half block West of Kehrs Mill off Clayheath.

You can answer this without my help, Would you take satisfaction in knowing that my business failed (or struggled) because I wrote about Lewis in a context that wasn't acceptable to you? You don't need to respond.

I have fielded this question before. From my wife and others. It is not my mission to help Lewis create more art or continue to bother his neighbors. In fact, I am saddened by it. You won't catch me debating the reality of home prices, forclosures, danger, (fill in blank). My goal is to make him smile more and establish a communication. One that requires patience and understanding. I want Lewis to know that not everyone hates him. He doesn't understand forgiveness, he can't. He has a beef and he won't stop pushing buttons until it is resolved. This as a result the casting of stones over what appears to be a long time.

As a writer on the subject, it has been my position to help show the community what forgiveness looks like. By embracing him rather than alienating him. I suppose I am concerened that there is colateral damage. But I am more concerned that the community has taken the wrong path with Lewis and that it is time to approach the issue with grace, love and mutual respect. The methods used in the past have not produced a very good outcome.

Doc said...

To be honest, if you are actually concerned about "you better watch out", I would say that that is a little to late. I actually shop at your business; however, your staunch support for Lewis has not made you many allies in this nor nearby neighborhoods.

That being said, I am not one who blinds myself by the freedom of others' speech. I simply pointed out that as a business person I am careful when I get involved. I believe if you were to read many of your posts from this blog and the Post you would see how your opinion, no matter how noble, comes across as one-sided. That has placed many, who would be fans and patrons of your company, in the seats of other nearby coffee/food places. That was my point.

As to your stupid comment that I might wish your company to fail. How about just plain no?

You also stated that "He doesn't understand forgiveness, he can't."
So, if I understand this correctly, a community that feels a violation(s) has occurred should simply move on with love and understanding while a neighbor continues to diminish their property values. That's ridiculous. Plain and simple. It has been hard enough for several people to sell their homes in this economy. They don't need Lewis to help. Also, since you confirm an inability of Lewis to understand and accept, what does that say about him?

This is an issue with deep roots. I do not believe you have thoroughly heard both sides. Perhaps you should. Maybe you could mediate and bring this unpleasantness to an end.

Ralph Pfremmer said...

"Maybe you could mediate and bring this unpleasantness to an end".

Now your talkin Doc! Bravo! I didn't think anyone was going to get it. Whew!

But I don't have the answers. I have only ante'd up the opposite of what everybody else has done. Maybe, if I stay on track, things will improve. That has always been the vision. I am not sure if my position has changed much on this. I do understand the risks of personifying Lewis as a human rather than monster.

Can we put this down for a bit? I am all wrapped up in advocacy for health and wellness for our children.

Thanks again for your comments.