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What salary do I need to buy a house?

What salary do I need to buy a house? I struggled with that question in my 20s and it probably kept me renting a year or so longer than I really needed to be. Then again, considering the housing crisis of 2007-2008, renting a year or so longer was a small price to pay to avoid potentially making the biggest financial mistake of my life.

One of the reasons for that financial crisis was not enough people asking that question. A second reason was banks being dishonest about the answer. For the record, I think buying a house is a good idea and it’s worth it. But you have to be sane about it to keep from getting into trouble.

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Robert Koch Hospital, St. Louis

The last exit on I-255 in Missouri before the Illinois border is Koch Road. Turn right on Koch Road, in a community now known as Oakville, and you run into the curiously named Robert Koch Hospital Road, which runs through a residential area. But where’s the hospital? It turns out Robert Koch Hospital was demolished in 1989. But stories of this hospital, including rumors the site is haunted, spread through generations of St. Louisans, even those who don’t know the hospital’s name. Its presence explains why a 500-acre swath of land along the Mississippi River in a popular upper middle class suburb remains an isolated, lonely place. Even if you don’t believe in ghosts, the site seems cursed.

Robert Koch Hospital was established to help St. Louis deal with a cholera epidemic that killed 6 percent of its population. It survived for decades, mostly treating tuberculosis, until medical advancements alleviated the need for an isolated quarantine hospital in the area.

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Remembering Rossino’s

I thought of Rossino’s, a hideaway Italian restaurant in St. Louis’ Central West End the other day. And then today, I saw the obituary for Nina Lee Russo, one of the owners of the secluded yet popular restaurant.

The obituary mentioned the restaurant closed in 2006, when the second generation wanted to retire. But the obituary mentioned some other facts that explained a few things.Read More »Remembering Rossino’s

Lake Forest Pastry Shop, and other old St. Louis bakeries

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a story this week about vintage baking. It profiled Chris Leuther, an area baker with 30 years in the business who collects old bakery equipment and recipes from long-gone, but beloved and not-forgotten bakeries such as Lake Forest Pastry Shop.

The money quote: “I’ve worked in a lot of bakeries and talked to a lot of bakers, and when it comes right down to it, so many of these places worked from almost exactly the same formula… A lot of times different places made exactly the same cake. It seemed special because it made a special memory — but that’s all it is, a memory.”

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Remembering 11 September 2001

I was on my way to work when they said on the radio something was wrong. The details were scarce, but an airplane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center. Then the other. And as I was pulling into the parking lot, the news came that one of the towers had collapsed.

The day didn’t get any better as it wore on. I remember it well. Looking back at what I wrote on that day, some details faded over the decade, but my recollection of most of the day is vivid. I can tell you more about that day than I can most of the days of the past week.

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Is your neighbor hungry?

I heard something really disturbing in church this morning. Something not terribly surprising, I guess, but something that isn’t right. There are kids in that community that aren’t getting enough to eat.

I go to church in Oakville, Mo. Oakville is a sleepy, isolated, upper-middle class suburb along the Mississippi River. On the surface, it’s the picture of affluence: Nice cars, manicured lawns, big houses. But somehow, there are homeless people there. Or people who are having to choose between buying groceries or paying bills, apparently.

If it’s happening in Oakville, it’s happening other places.

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The best band you’ve never heard of

I went to a Bebo Norman concert last night. Bebo Norman is a Christian singer/songwriter. I saw him open for Third Day a few months ago, and as good as Third Day was, Bebo kind of stole the show.

Video editing on a shoestring

When you go to a church like Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Dayton, Ohio, or St. John’s Lutheran Church in Ellisville, Mo., it’s easy to get overwhelmed with their video productions. They produce slick, professional, grabbing pieces that wouldn’t look out of place on broadcast TV.