Mike Arnold, a tireless booster of the St. Louis food and drink scene, was run down on June 21 by a stolen Ford F-150 in downtown St. Louis. A pair of carjackers, fresh off pepper-spraying two women, apparently saw the bearded 54-year-old filming them with his cell phone, veered off the road, and intentionally slammed him with the two-and-a-half ton truck, authorities say. They then crashed into a pole and were arrested within moments.
In a way, it was a very St. Louis crime: stupid and needlessly violent, with an element of small-town familiarity.
Arnold had become a favorite character in the city's hospitality industry. He worked for 30 years for AAA, but it was his alter ego as the gregarious driver of the 14-seat party bus (dubbed "Gus Gus Fun Bus" by one of his children) and unofficial St. Louis ambassador that endeared him to brewers, restaurateurs, and bartenders. He delighted in a good beer and gutsy young chefs who gambled on optimism. He used his ever-growing Twitter following to celebrate their work and introduce others to his favorite spots around town. In between, he offered congratulations on new babies, raised money for any number of causes, and delivered weather reports with paternal advice to take care on the roads.
At home, he was a father of eight who lifted sitting kids, chair and all, in his arms and danced them through the air, a husband whose wife woke to his voice: "Good morning, Angel." He and his wife first purchased Gus Gus Fun Bus because it was one of the few vehicles big enough to accommodate their blended family.
On the day Arnold was hit, he was downtown for a festival, a celebration of local food and chefs. He obviously knew about the city's darker side. Anyone who has spent any time here is familiar with the violence that can so easily overwhelm. The wickedness, the dog-dumb brutality of his own death was a reminder of that St. Louis.
And if you want to fit his killing into that worldview, you can. But you will overlook what he saw in St. Louis. You will miss the feisty beer-makers, the Cardinals' baseball games, and the restaurants that get better every year. You will miss the fun.
From "The people who died, 2018."
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