Excuse me?  St. Louis is NO boil

Status by Chris Andoe of the Vital Voice and worth a read if you’re passionate about loving STL! What did you think about the Riverfront Times article calling STL a “boil?”

chris andoeBy Chris Andoe

In Response to the Riverfront Times Trashing STLA city’s weekly alternative paper is where one turns to find writers who really get the culture of a place, so it was nauseating to see The Riverfront Times run a story about what a worthless burg St. Louis is, or as they described it “a boil on the butt of Missouri”. When it comes to our image we already have an uphill battle, but if the publications our local businesses advertise in opt to kick us when we’re down, and we just take it, we’re in big trouble.The piece in question, The Nine Distinct States of Missourah, includes a woefully distorted and one dimensional take on our region. Nobody at the RFT would even put their name on it, making me wonder if perhaps it was written by an intern at the corporate headquarters in Phoenix.

I find this city so interesting I moved here from California to write a book about it. Some have asked if I’m embarrassed to champion the city in the wake of Ferguson, and I tell them Ferguson only enforces my premise. A 2013 report by the Malcom X Grassroots Movement One showed that a black man is killed every 28 hours by the police or security officers in the United States. Sadly, the situation in Ferguson was not rare, but the response from St. Louisans was. Whether you’re supportive of the protest actions or not, international media wouldn’t have come here to cover the events if they weren’t interesting. If the Malcom X report is correct, several Michael Browns have fallen in the weeks since, but just happened to fall in municipalities where people were less passionate, and instead of taking to the streets they may have simply mourned the victim over potato salad.

When New York police officers choked a black man to death for selling cigarettes there wasn’t nearly the same outcry there, and the people who did complain aimed their rhetorical fire at the NYPD, not New York as a whole. When a black man was dragged to death in Texas, Texans of all races did a whole lot of nothing, and nobody down there dared talk smack about their region.

I’m normally coming to the defense of St. Louis with detractors outside the region. As up and coming middle-American cities jockey for relevance, it seems their boosters often feel compelled to take swipes at St. Louis, finding the mighty but PR challenged old queen an easy target. In 2009 a mayoral candidate in Austin, Texas made his campaign about equating St. Louis’s zenith of 1904, when the city hosted the World’s Fair, to Austin’s recent boom, warning voters that without good stewardship their city could become another (shudder) St. Louis. My response, published in the Riverfront Times, was as follows:

“Brewster McCracken is correct in noting St. Louis was one of the most regal and important cities in the nation in 1904, but he’s presumptuous to imply Austin enjoys even a fraction of that kind of international attention and relevance today.
I’m familiar with 1904 St. Louis. I’ve studied 1904 St. Louis. And, Austin, you’re no 1904 St. Louis!”

Many cities feel they’ve arrived when they land a sports franchise or a fad restaurant or retailer. Their civic boosters, chests puffed out with pride, inevitably take pot shots at St. Louis- a city that felt she arrived in 1250 A.D. when Native American mound builders constructed the largest metropolis north of present day Mexico, larger than London at the time, at the confluence of two mighty rivers. A city that felt she arrived in 1894 when she opened the largest and busiest train station in the world. A city that felt she arrived when, as the 4th largest city in America, she hosted the first Olympic Games in the United States. A city that felt she arrived when launching the first transatlantic flight, which bore her name.

They argue she’s past her prime. Maybe so, but before she peaked she built the West, and the shimmering crown she received from a grateful nation forever cements her place in the American psyche and gives her one of the most recognizable skylines in the world.

Some are afraid of this city, which is one of the things I like about it. I’ve lived in New York and have spoken with many New Yorkers who felt their city was much cooler when Times Square was the domain drug dealers and porn theatres, as opposed to chain restaurants, tchotchke shops and tourists. I’ve also lived in San Francisco where longtime residents are being purged from the city by the thousands as lawyers and investors work to circumvent rent control laws. These people were the soul of that city, and are replaced by the soulless who work to sanitize and lobotomize it while still claiming the street cred.

Our coastal capitals have fallen to corporate interests. Many of the places deemed “interesting” are little more than parodies of their former selves, dumbed down and commoditized. Much of America is suburban and dull. Give me classic Gotham. This real city that inspires passion and fear, where people gather, where helicopters hover, where characters clash, where artists create.

The RFT article should be a humiliating wake up call to everyone in this region, from the protesters in the streets to biotech researchers to the historic preservationists to the Cardinals fans, to the advertisers in their very paper. A city is the people who inhabit it. If you live within the RFT distribution area, you are St. Louis, and they just called you a boil.
Screw them.

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