your heading to St. Louis, here's some references to get latest info on
happenings, eateries, and the music scene, before you go:
- Riverfront Times
Hate Turns Into Like of My Namesake
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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?
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.