Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Explorer, 2006

We are a nation of explorers. We were borne of a desire to transcend boundaries, to continually move, to find new things each day. There is that sense of adventure within us all.

I think a lot of exploration. I wonder if there are truly explorers anymore. It seems impossible that there would be new Magellans or de Vacas, but still we go up into space. We circumnavigate the globe, alone, in a sailboat. We climb Everest and trek through the Gobi. We hike the Appalachian Trail. And all of us, when we were kids, traveled and traversed urban alleys, suburban yards, forests, and cornfields. We still explore, it's just different how we do it.

As a modern culture, we have stopped exploring geographically and started exploring information. We have moved beyond exploration to take bounty to our king, or the want of naming a land after ourselves. Exploration, and its sibling of discovery are now personal, and we explore things for ourselves. We travel to learn, to collect stories. People used to travel to see how people are different. Now we travel to see how people are the same. It is the places which hopefully will continue to remain distinct.

I was thinking of all this as I drank iced tea and watched the traffic on S. Grand this afternoon. And then Sarah called. We hatched a plan to hit the N. side, have a shake at Crown Candy and take some photos. They skies were grey and the air cool, the streets virtually empty, and the buildings devoid of life. We found ourselves zig-zagging in Sarah's car, turning quickly onto streets where something interested us. Sarah wanted to roll by Bluemeyer Housing Project. I saw a sign that was training ground for... we're not sure what really. It just said "INC.", and I loved it.

We drove through Old North St. Louis, seeing a mural of a fountain, and a small park on N. Market where they are rehabbing a couple of blocks. New storefronts, old buildings, flying fish painted in the medians. There was progress, beautiful progress.

We walked around ONSL, Sarah telling stories of her grandmother selling newspapers and running into Crown Candy for shelter when it rained. We saw decaying buildings, and then homes with life. A beautiful corner park where they showed a movie outside last week, a community art studio where they had boxes of the painted flying fish. The rowhomes, often overlooked, were as old and intricately ornate as any in Soulard. And then, as we walked South, it was clear again where we were, that graveyard of parking meters rising out of the pavement, the likes of which we never see on the street anymore.

For some reason, everywhere we walked and drove, people stared at us. The place was silent, and it was as if people did not want the silence broken. But we have begun to do this lately, Sarah and I. I often drive around neighborhoods, but lately, we have been picking a destination and getting out and walking around for a half hour, an hour. And it's magic. Like exploring lost lands. Like charting something new.

as we walked today, I knew we weren't the first people to see these places, nor even the first to understand them as we did. But for us, it was still discovery, even if discovery of a place we often pass through. It was the experience of it, the walking, the touching of places that are not ours, but have been loaned to us in a certain way. I may not be finding new things in the world by doing this, but I did feel like a kid again, adventuring, my eyes full of wonder at what I saw, my head making up stories as we went.

Maybe in other ways it's gone, but there's still a lot of exploring to be done in St. Louis, and I'm happy to walk to those discoveries, and through those graveyards of lost lands.

1 comment:

Grace Fall said...

Bradley and Steve have a way of driving that you've talked about before...a sort of meandering, I'll-get-there-when-I-get-there pace and route. I enjoy the same process, just at higher speeds and with a little more grab-the-oh-shit-handle-ness. But I think that's the way you find the best stuff. By accident.