I love my city like I love a family member.
Like family, wherever I go, the city will always be part of me. I will defend it when people talk down to me about it, because St. Louis is blood, it's my blood, and they do not know what they mean.
I know St. Louis used to be great. It's like looking in an old photo album, back at its glory days. That picture is of the World Series played in one stadium, because both teams were from here. That picture is a photo of the world's busiest train station, back when all trains flowed through here. There's a picture of our beer barons, and our glorious (but surprisingly gross) World's Fair, and a bustling downtown. There was life and love and history here.
You can kind of pinpoint where things started to go wrong. St. Louis carries the burden of the sins of 150 years ago. Divorced from its county, the city was free to do what it needed to, what it wanted to. And then the car came around.
You can see the total capitulation to the car in how wide Market Street is. And with the car, Urban Renewal came hand in hand. Decades of bad decisions, rolling into a destructive katamari.
St. Louis made casualties out of Mill Creek Valley, a majority Black neighborhood, so it could build the Interstate west. A vibrant immigrant and Black neighborhood was torn down on the riverfront, so that the city could build its monument. The Arch is a thing of beauty, a feat of engineering. I love the Arch. I also can't look at it without seeing it for what it is: an excuse to hurt the non-white, non-western European, non-christian people of the city. It's a monument that the Black workers displaced from that site were not allowed to work on until they loudly and very publicly protested. The Arch is a symbol of the transformation of the city, from a vibrant place to a cold, empty downtown. I love to wander in cities. St. Louis is a city that was made unwanderable.
The thing is, there's pockets of beauty and greatness. Cherokee Street, once a neighborhood known for shopping, fell like so many other places did in previous decades, only to be built back up by Latino immigrants. The Grove, a stretch of Manchester Road, Missouri Highway 100 and a bit of old Route 66, was revived by the queer community. Soulard and Lafayette Park, both home to beautiful historic homes, had to fight being demolished by short sighted (or perhaps purposeful) Urban Renewers. Soulard has an amazing old farmer's market, and a huge Mardi Gras celebration if you're into that. There's a spirit in this city to keep going, fuck you if you're standing in the way.
There's times when I see this place as a relative that fucked up decades ago, but is trying to get back on track, despite themself. You have to root for them, because you love them and you want to see them become the greatness you know they can be. You fear that it will never happen.
But I also see the city as a nephew or niece that doesn't know the past and doesn't care, that sees a place that can be great, and is naive enough to not listen to everyone saying that they can't do it. They're a family member who isn't going to let their elders talk them out of success, just because their elders themselves fucked up. They see the city for what it has already: an incredible music scene, history and culture and diversity, some of the best parks in the country, some of the best food in the country. And they see it for what it could be, if the rest of the world got out of their goddamn way.
I hope that's the future here. I hope they can do it.
I love you, St. Louis, for everything that's worth.