Thursday, November 8, 2012

Lewis Greenberg Makes History

I ran into Lewis Greenberg the other day.  That's always a treat.  I was killing some time at the new Schnucks, the controversial Schnucks, in Ballwin.  It's a nice store, with lots of nice people, lots of Stepford wife looking women, that's what I was thinking anyway.  They shopped with their carts, while there husbands busily plotted to turn the west county scenery in to robots.  I grabbed a V8 and went upstairs where a meeting room and some tables are handy for doing what I was doing.  I brought a book with me, Breakfast with Bhuda

Now, that's one hell of a paragraph if you ask me.  Lewis, Schnucks for some chill time, Stepford wives and a book on Buddhism?  Needless to say I didn't open the book.  Lewis appeared from the stairwell and shouted my name from across the room.  No filter, never a filter with Lewis, remember.  I was happy to see him, noticed that he looked good, was in good spirits, cantankerous, but in good spirits. I smiled and motioned him over.  Lewis has always been respectful of my time. We got at it. 

I recommend that you follow the link above to get the Lewis Greenberg story. There are lots of stories that I have chronicled along the way. 

I prepared myself for what I knew was our protocol for having a conversation.  And that's all it took, a memory of what works best with Lewis, a process that anyone must go through in order to have a meaningful conversation.  A process that anyone must go through, if you want to extract the goodness out of a person so filled with the desire to do some major ass kickin stuff. 

I love that about him, to be quite honest.  He is in ass kicking mode 24/7 and once he decides to go for the jugular, he turns on the super turbo ass kicking laser bomb.  There is no filter, you better have your act together.  And if you don't, he will tell you, in the way that everyone understands, that you are an idiot.  He is 100% authentic, all of the time.

I miss knowing Lewis like I once did.  Back when I had the restaurant over on Clayton.  It wasn't really all that long ago.  What I remember taking most from our friendship was the influence on the way I appreciate art and culture.  He gave me that gift.  Lewis taught me everything I know about it.  So much so that I incorporate art and culture in to everything I do now.  Everything has storytelling, everything has a connection to something else.  I learned this from him.  He convinced me that people in my (our) town suffered from what he calls, cultural depravity, and that his calling was to express himself with the Holocaust Revisited display and with his 1st amendment rights.  I think everyone is hip to Lewis's calling. 

As a student, or a friend, or an apprentice, if you will, I went about carving out a space for him in the restaurant--a random spillage of art and images, photos, streamers and artifacts.  My stuff was on the theme of active living, but it was purposed a little bit like Lewis's house.  It was a journey equipping the Wolf with cool stuff.  I put pictures of Lewis up too, paintings that he has from his collection.  Because I was once asked by my neighbor:  "Why do you even let him in the place?"  I said: "You know, I not only let him in the place, but he is memorialized and, he is the only one who may bring his bicycle inside".  I hung a sticker covered Kestrel in the window for 4 years in his honor of being a cyclist.   

I didn't expect people to understand, nor did I care.  Lewis brought joy to the way I went about expressing myself to the customers. And the customers liked the place.  It's less interesting to have less interesting things around you.  I have a bit of a  track record of doing interesting things, and meeting and hosting interesting people. It got a little sticky from time to time.  Once Lewis interrupted a group of business men in prayer.  Lewis says he is an atheist Jew.  So something set him off and I had to shuttle him out.  This happened from time to time, but I didn't mind. 

The Wolf has changed, Bob Biribin and family are making it theirs now and I am really happy about that.  I am still there just about every day.  Because I love the people there.  Bob has amazing food and I eat healthier because he and his wife have a great eye for "real food" and better beer.  Less about me, the Wolf now is, and all of the Lewis artifacts are gone.  But the spirit and history of expression will always be there in my opinion.  And even though we changed the name of the place to The Wolf Public House from Lone Wolf.  People still call the place Lone Wolf.  Tell that to the Isle of Capri.

So why did I highlight Lewis Greenberg, the one so controversial, the one often jailed, the one often casted out from businesses and events throughout the city, for just being him?  Why did I choose to dedicate space in the restaurant to his art?-- which, if you haven't seen it, you should?

It's pretty simple, the dude has been running from the torch bearers for quite a while now and I wanted to give him some room to breathe.  I also wanted to let him know that he is appreciated as a human being, not some sort of side show hunchback.  I wanted to show the community, those with the slightest sliver of open mind to get to meet him.  I wanted to show them exactly what they were missing or sure what they did not want.  Because there was a percentage of people who "get Lewis", and I wanted to make sure that those friendships were kindled. 

No, mot everyone adores Lewis.  I would bet that  the local police draw straws when getting the calls from folks who think he is out of hand, dangerous, troubled.  One thing for sure, the more they come, the more the art evolves.  The closer the torches get, the brighter the glow upon his rooftop.  This has been what is most interesting to me.  You see, the community, by way of their own involvement, by way of their dislike and mis-understanding of things, by way of their own cultural depravity, have contributed to his art.  And Lewis, who's canvas appears each morning when he opens his eyes, begins another day by being him in a community that, like it or not, is enriched by his presence. At least some folks think so.

Lewis mentioned that his son was set to come and visit soon with his grandchildren.  This was quite the sparkle. 

He has a new piece on his garage door, in case anyone disputes the fact that his theme is Holocaust related.  Its a massive Auschwitz image.  You cannot miss it and there is no chance of not figuring it out.  The photo is also on his business card.  I recommend you go over there after patronizing the Schuncks store in Ballwin, the one that filled the auditorium at city hall in opposition with the same folks who want him jailed for his art.



Jim Moore said...

The most interesting conversation I ever had in the Lone Wolf was with Lewis, that guy is quite a character...never a dull moment with Lewis.

Anonymous said...

I ran into him in a local store.It was certainly on of the more interesting conversations I have had.I enjoyed the time with him .

Anonymous said...

My brother, sister and I ran into Mr. Lewis at Smash Burger today I found this blog because he gave me his business card after his conversation with us. He is a man who is unique, and I could see how many might mis-understand him as if you don't listen to what he is saying you may accidently take offense. However throughout his conversation with me, I found myself smiling the whole time, he may appear old, but he has a radiance about him.