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  • I am running out of loose leaf tea, so I decided to head off to my tea store, Jay's International Foods, to replenish my supply.

    It's on Grand Avenue, just south of Tower Grove Park, in St. Louis city. An area that is one of the hipper parts of town, with cafes, restaurants, bars and something of a thriving nightlife.

    The store has been there as long as I can remember, and that's over thirty years. It was a pioneer international store in St. Louis, specializing in Asian foods but carrying a worldwide selection, and the go-to place for reasonably priced foods that were unavailable elsewhere in the city.

    That situation has changed more recently. More stores offering food imports have opened in the city and the suburbs. Still, none maintain the charm of Jay's.

    A charm that somehow has survived the smashing of the store's windows during the riots of November 24 after the decision not to indict Darren Wilson for the August shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson.

    The most destructive rioting that night was in Ferguson itself, but unrest spread into the city and onto Grand Avenue. Jay's and a number of other stores and businesses on Grand were damaged. Today, three weeks later, many buildings remain boarded up but open for business. The plywood coverings have become canvases for local artists, mostly conveying messages of peace and love, but sharper flashes of discontent glimmer here and there - "Why? We need our jobs."

    One board is decorated with painted band-aids, a sign I took as a subtle comment not only on the temporary window covers but on much that has occurred in St. Louis since the shooting. Scratching the surface, whether it be through political platitudes or the angry wildness of the riots, that's all that's really happened. People may be more aware of the discontent smouldering beneath the hitherto apparently placid surface of St. Louis and its suburbs but, given the gulf of misunderstanding between the advantaged and disadvantaged and persistent deeply entrenched adversarial attitudes, I think any change for the better will proceed at a glacial pace.

    Still, glacial is better than static.

    Meanwhile, the staff at Jay's seemed just as cheerful as usual, buoyed, I suspect, by the support, help and kindness offered by many local residents in the aftermath of the rioting.

    So I filled my cart with Indian and Iranian teas, nan bread and pitas, spices, nuts, semolina, garlic powder and a bar of Lindt chocolate, paid and left.

    Just as I always have done.
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