Saturday, April 09, 2005

An Ode to St. Louis...Sort of

Chuck has some thoughts to share on living in Missouri in general and St. Louis in particular. It prompted me to reflect on my time there a little.

I spent a little over 3 years there, having attended Eden Seminary, and I have to say that by the end of that time I had become pretty infatuated with the place, much to my surprise. I arrived there from Smalltownville, Ohio and was immediately repulsed by Big City cynicism, detachment, rudeness, and whining. Oh, how Big City folk like to whine about the rest of humanity.

But after I relaxed a little and realized that I myself ironically could detach myself from the detachment, my time became much more pleasant. Our group of friends became appreciators and patrons of local St. Louis establishments: museums, coffeehouses, bars. We'd wander Forest Park on a sunny afternoon and cruise University City in the evening. We'd catch some of the local musicians at Blueberry Hill or Cicero's. We visited the haunted Lemp Mansion and ride up those little egg things to the top of the arch. I frequented the penguin exhibit at the zoo when I wasn't enjoying a bottomless cup at Kaldi's or a sandwich on The Hill.

I came to appreciate what the city had to teach me about social justice as well. Racial tensions run deep in St. Louis even though it was quite a hotbed during the civil rights movement. Gay rights groups have strong anchors there. You can visit the local Reform synagogue and hear about how the Jewish community lives among a large Christian population. Area UCC churches frequently join with others in some or all of these causes.

St. Louis left its mark on me, after I let my guard down a little. Now you can view the night skyline whenever you wander into my office.

But after a little more consideration now that I'm away, I'm guessing that romantic notions will fade as time passes and on the opportunities I get to go back. After all, I didn't really experience any of the harsh realities present in the city, having lived in more well-to-do areas and having only really spent time in 'safer' parts of town. The downside of the city wasn't immediately apparent to me if I didn't want it to be. I could leave my field placement in Florissant and travel back to Webster Groves whenever I was finished for the day without having to deal with the area's poverty on any real basis.

I still love St. Louis, but if and when I return for any period of time we'll have to sit down together and get past the infatuation and into a real relationship. I already am, but that's easy to do 500 miles away.