With the December issue of the publication you now hold in your hot little bits and bytes, TheCommonspace.org celebrates the end of our first year of publication although not our first year of existence, because this concept began to exist for all of us many months before the publication debuted in January 2001. What began as a series of conversations mostly of the "Why isn't there a decent civics conversation going on in this town?" variety evolved, over time and many pitchers of beer consumed at many neighborhood taverns. We thought about a print publication, but the costs sobered us up real quick. We thought about what we wanted to do, and who we knew who could pitch in, and what we would call our little venture. We (well, okay, Thomas Crone) set an actual deadline for us to get our butts in gear, and there it sat, staring us in the face: January 1, 2001.
The result has astonished and frustrated and inspired and gratified and occasionally disgusted us all but mostly the good stuff. Our monthly e-zine has taken seriously its tagline, "grassroots civics and culture in St. Louis," and has tried to tell the stories of St. Louis and St. Louisans that we think are vital to keeping the heart of this town beating, and that all too often are not told at all. We thought we had some pretty good story ideas, but what we found out was that some of yours were even better. Contributors volunteered (or were volunteered) and brought us the poignant stories of looking back on the faded glory of their neighborhoods, the stick-to-it tales of urban ministers who understand their changing calling in a changing city, the in-the-pit, bird's-eye view of local drag racing, and the mental picture of local hot-dog vendor Charlie Santangelo in a thong.
I think we can all agree that St. Louis is a better place when, if nothing else, everyone knows the story of Kiener Plaza's hot-dog king.
Along the way, we have so appreciated the feedback and e-mails from you, our readers, offering criticism, praise, ideas and encouragement. I, for one, took to keeping a folder in my e-mail program just for reader e-mails, because reading the nice ones reminds me why I keep doing this every single month, inevitably scrambling to pull it all together at the last minute. (Not complaining: it's the procrastinator's bed of my own making.)
My favorite moment every month is that point of realization usually on the 30th or 31st of the month that, "This issue is the best!" I swear I say that every month, but not until the end when I've actually read and edited and reread all the stories, and it slowly dawns on me how great our contributing writers are.
Other people have thought so, too, including the St. Louis Web Developer's group, which named TheCommonspace.org the "Best St. Louis-Oriented Web Site" earlier this year, and the East-West Gateway Coordinating Council, which honored the site with its "Outstanding Achievement in Local Government Community Initiative" award. We are proud of these accomplishments, but only because they're a convenient way to keep score. If the awards never come our way again, we will still believe in the importance of an ongoing, progressive voice in St. Louis.
So thanks to you all for reading, and continued thanks for passing our stories along to your friends and for telling others about TheCommonspace.org.
What's next? Well, the January 2002 issue, for one, but also a new challenge: The Commonspace plans to launch itself as a physical entity, an actual "common space" devoted to all things civic and cultured in St. Louis. We envision our next phase as a cool, civically minded friend's living room, where you'll be able to drop by for St. Louis music, scintillating panel discussions, local art openings, free Internet access, St. Louis trivia contests and much, much more.
We'll save you a seat.
Amanda, Thomas, Brian and Hafiz