Tuesday, August 01, 2006


All right, people, we all know this town is all about reputations. It's the whole, "Where did you go to high school?" thing that I have never quite gotten, making it obvious that I did not grow up here. I guess high school gives you the shorthand for where people came from and how far away that might be from who you are. But in our thirties, it's an assinine question. That's where we've been. What about where we're going?

I'm more interested to see where people live now. I must admit my preference is the South Side, but there are some other parts of the city that have stoked my fire for this city and kept it going. And that has me thinking: all these different places, all these unique neighborhoods, each with their own character, each with their own longings.

Reading my regular round of blogs today, I stumbled across two entries:

1. www. stlstreets.com
On Steve Smith's blog, he wrote an entry about hitting DC a few weeks ago and hanging out with STL ex-pats, and how they all wanted to talk about St. Louis. Being an outsider, it has long been a strange obsession of mine that most everyone seems to leave town, yet many of them come back-- after college, after a job, to raise a family. They come back. How many other cities have people leave and return like that? No where I've ever lived. These conversations about place, we have to have them. It's what sustains us and creates us, and sometimes it takes that distance to figure out what our problems are, or to see our assets. So I get the talk, and it makes me happy.

2. Reading the 52nd City blog today-- www.52ndcity.com-- I looked at a post by Thomas Crone. He quoted the new owner of Off Broadway, Steve Pohlman, as he talked about the South Side. "If it's happening in St. Louis, it's happening down here. People here aren't watching from a safe distance."

I love that. We all see it everyday. And then I am reminded of why I like, no love, the South Side so much. We are not singular or monolithic. It's this beautiful part of the city, as wide and diverse as the land that the Mississippi passes. And there are so many neighborhoods that I love, each distinct in its own way.

So I've been thinking about our reputation. This is it, folks; it's starting. I can feel the word of mouth churning-- the buzz, hot and sweaty. This is not some Washington Ave. fad kind of thing. People are paying attention, and it's coming up-- that talk. We are beginning to see who we are, and we are showing others who we want to be.

My take: watch out. There are three neighborhoods where I think it's going to happen.

Gravois, just S. of Grand. Little Bosnia is going to light this city up with a European sense of aesthetic and tradition, culture, and savvy. My friend Jamie recently stated that was going to be the new S. Grand, and I think he's on to something.

South Morganford, as in South of Chippewa. We were driving through this neighborhood tonight, and ensconced in all the rows of neatly-kempt houses, there were lights, and businesses, and even people-- all at midnight on a Monday. I think as people his the South Side and get priced out of the blocks near Grand, they are heading South and West, and with that, the beginnings of a more thriving small neighborhood nightlife-- young, hip, and sustainable.

Cherokee. Not the anqtique crap; we're all over that and done with it. But the west side-- the side with the taquerias and tiendas, the side with Fort Gondo and Tension Head and all the retail going in.

That's the thing, too. In the last few decades when a minority or immigrant or ethnic mix has dominated a neighborhood, you see people moving out-- everyone sticking with their own. In St. Louis, we are flocking towards that, people wanting that richness, that diversity. Funny that we still can't talk about race, but at least we can celebrate the character of all these organic and spontaneous enclaves.

All I know today is that as I was driving home from S. Broadway, the streets were alive, the thickness of summer steaming off the streets. And people were out. It's only a matter of time until the word follows, and with that, a reputation. Hopefully our rap is the one that we want.

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