The Ignorant Traveler   

Related Article:

St. Louis:
Bombed Out

 

Online Reading:

If your heading to St. Louis, here's some references to get latest info on happenings, eateries, and the music scene, before you go: 

Sauce
Magazine

RFT - Riverfront Times

Missourians Are Misserable

 

St. Louis
Hate Turns Into Like of My Namesake City

By Louis V

I don't know why people live in the midwest. Family I guess. You always stay close to family. A hundred years ago someone said go west, and the smart ones made it to California and the coast, and the not so smart ones or the ones who gave up,  made it to St. Louis and stopped.

The entire midwest is flat, and boring, and flat, and humid, and hot, and in the wintertime cold. Family has got to be the reason why people stay, or they just have never been anywhere else to know how bad it is.

I've been to St. Louis a bunch of times. Let me tell you there is nothing -- Nothing -- like being in St. Louis in the middle of July. I'm talking about being in the center of town, right under the arch, the highlight of St. Louis.

The arch itself is a big dumb structure. An architectural marvel no doubt, but still, about the only thing you can do with it is touch it to say you've touched the arch, or get in this tiny, claustrophobic elevator capsule, and take it to the top at which point you're 630 plus feet high. And then you can view out its tiny windows and see all of the flatness around you. And it dawns on you that you've just gotten off a plane where you were 30,000 feet high when you looked out the window, so what's the point of this? You're as high as being on a high floor of a Manhattan office building, but in Manhattan, you're working in the office... and there's something to look at when you look out the window.

At the front of the arch is St. Louis's river view. Picture yourself in the ugliest part of Bayonne New Jersey, if you've ever been to Bayonne New Jersey,  looking out at the  factories and dirty water, and you're in St. Louis. The Mississippi river's water is brown, and you can see tires floating by. Across the way are factories, and urban blight.

Tourists

The saddest thing is that the place is littered with tourists, most of whom have some real Louisiana backwoods drawls, who have no clue how bad this place is. And they're taking pictures of the arch, and of themselves standing in front of the mighty Mississippi, and sweating like bastards in the 95-degree, 100-percent humidity heat, which is absolutely swealtering. You get drenched in sweat just standing there.

Casino St Louis

Then there are the casino boats, three or four of them permanently anchored to the waterfront, so that you can walk on board and enter the tackiest, saddest casinos you've ever been in. This is not James Bond's Casino Royal, or Vegas, or even Atlantic City. You feel like you're walking into a saloon in the 1800's, filled with shady characters, bad lighting, ugly carpets, and very sad, poor people throwing every quarter they have into poker machines.

And then you realize why the St. Louis Cardinals led the major leagues in attendance throughout the 70's and still do well today. That's all there is to do in St. Louis -- go to a baseball game. 

Reassessment - St. Louis's Fine Points

I may have been a bit too hard on St. Louis. On return trips since I wrote the piece above, I've been determined to explore the city beyond the downtown area and tourist-driven Riverwalk. And I've discovered that St. Louis does have some features to offer the ignorant traveler.

The Soulard area for one, is an old neighborhood that has gentrified a bit in recent years (although the crime rate is still through the roof, if one were to rent an apartment there). Soulard offers numerous local eateries and music clubs tucked away within a walking neighborhood of turn-of-the-century homes. One of the finest eateries and clubs is 1860's Hard Shell Cafe (www.1860hardshellcafe.cjb.net) which offers fresh, local seafood dishes in its restaurant, including a spicy Crawfish gumbo that is one of the best dishes of any kind that I've eaten. Walk out of the restaurant, turn the corner, and at its front entrance, 1860's Hard Shell Cafe offers a blues club featuring local musicians. The night I dined at 1860, I left the restaurant after finishing dinner but couldn't help but be lured right back into the blues club at the front of the restaurant for the delta blues of Marcel Strong and his band. Marcel sings like Ray Charles, isn't blind, and plays a pretty good saxaphone. He's backed by two lead blues guitar players, who switch off on solos, and a drummer. Hot stuff. You walk away wondering why is Ray Charles so famous, and Marcel Strong not?

St. Louis's other area featuring lots of live music (besides the river Casino's) is The Loop. The Loop sports a number of blues and other music clubs along one main street -- Delmar Loop -- the largest of which is The Pageant, which seats/holds in the area of 500 people and features A-list musicians and bands that pass through the city.