I’ve been spending the last few weeks trying to enjoy St. Louis as much as possible. There’s no love lost between me and the Midwest or between me and Missouri, but there are a lot of things I love about St. Louis. Partially, it’s because it’s the only place I’ve ever lived, so there’s a nostalgic “home” element, even though I tend not to be “home”-oriented. And the sad thing is, I know there’s a lot of St. Louis I’ve never experienced, because when I look at Riverfront Times, there are hundreds of restaurants I haven’t heard of, dozens of music venues I’ve never been to, tons of museums and attractions I haven’t seen, etc. Oh, well. Guess I’ll have to come back and visit. ;) But here’s a few things I’ll miss the most (not including people, because duh):
I love Forest Park so much. You can usually find me there every pretty day that I have time to go, either walking under the trees by the Grand Basin, or sitting on Art Hill people-watching, or reading by the stream across from the Muny. I don’t go in the art museum or the zoo or science center much, but I love the fact that they’re there–available and free whenever I feel like popping in. I love the variety of landscape, from the lazy river to the woods in the west, from the European-style Grand Basin to the eastern streams and fake prairies. I love driving home along Lindell and picking out my favorite houses. I love the World’s Fair history and the mark it has left.
Ted Drewes (on Chippewa)
I tried to explain Ted Drewes to my coworker from St. Charles the other day, and she didn’t get it at all. “Why would you want to go somewhere and wait in long lines just to get ice cream, and then have to stand outside to eat it?” The Ted Drewes Experience is ineffable, I guess. How do you explain that it’s precisely the waiting in the lines and the standing outside that makes Ted Drewes what it is? I mean, the ice cream is top-notch, too, but that’s not the reason people turn out week after week all summer.
The Tivoli, Vintage Vinyl, Streetside Records, Subterranean Books, Tomatillo’s, Ben & Jerry’s, Fitz’s, Blueberry Hill (sadly, one of the places I always meant to go to but haven’t), the Pageant, streetside musicians, the best Blockbuster in town, the best municipal library in town…all in the space of five blocks. How can you not love it? If I’m bored and just start driving around, as I often do, I almost always end up at least driving through the Loop (yeah, that would be on the way to or from Forest Park). The people-watching can hardly be beat.
The City and County Library systems
It’s an empirical fact that St. Louis has one of the best library systems in the entire United States, especially if you include St. Louis County, St. Charles County, and the various municipal libraries in the reckoning. In St. Louis county alone, there are probably twenty-five or thirty different libraries. Each of them has strengths and weaknesses, so I frequent probably half of them regularly. Between them all, there’s very little you can’t locate, whether you’re looking for books, CDs, or DVDs. I am so library-spoiled that I expect I’ll be missing St. Louis libraries no matter where I go in life.
The Washington University library
And if you can’t find it at the city or county libraries, WashU almost certainly has it. I can spend hours in there, just wandering up and down the aisles and flipping through books here and there. The film section alone takes up like four or five aisles, which is an incredible amount. And WashU isn’t even well-known for its film programs. From what I’ve seen of Baylor’s library, it’s very good, but it doesn’t have the sheer breadth of depth of WashU. (So, you may ask, why did I not just stay here and go to WashU? Tempting it was…but my wanderlust got the better of me, and one of my essential criteria when school-searching was that it be somewhere else, so I could experience living somewhere different for a while.)
Here again I have to confess to a lack of having really experienced St. Louis dining. I’ve found that most people don’t think of Ragazzi’s first when they think of restaurants on the Hill, but it’s the only one my family has ever frequented. Sure, it’s not authentic Italian. But for fun family time, and more great American-Italian food (and drink!) than you can shake a stick at, it’s hard to beat. I’m looking forward to good Mexican food in Texas, but I’m not sure good Italian food is going to be as easy to find as it is in St. Louis.
The Tivoli and the Hi-Pointe, and the Webster Film Series
I hesitated whether to list these or not. I love the indie film theatres, and the indie scene has been growing in St. Louis, which is great to see. But the Austin film scene is so much better that if I get much chance at all to get down to Austin, I probably won’t miss the St. Louis theatres. I decided to put them in just because I can get to them here in about twenty minutes, and Austin is two hours away from Waco, giving St. Louis the convenience edge. And Waco doesn’t have an indie theatre at all, so except for Austin day trips, I’m stuck with multiplex offerings. Unless there are screenings at the university that I haven’t heard about yet.
Patten Books, on Manchester
AKA my favorite used bookstore. It never fails that I go in there and find something that I’ve been dying to get, and it’s like $4.00, rather than $15.00. I always get four or five books at a time, and I’ve never paid more than $18 a trip. It’s awesome, and the people that run it are great…they’ve always got good recommendations based on what you’re buying, and I–I who never talk to anybody–usually get into conversations with them. I know there are great used bookstores in Austin, but I don’t know about Waco. I would guess that being a college town, it has some.
The variety that St. Louis has
I’m sure that any city made up of a lot of small town has this variety, but I love the distinctive characteristics of Kirkwood, Webster, U-City, South City, Clayton, CWE, Downtown…etc. You’d never mistake them for each other. Waco is small enough that you can drive across it in fifteen minutes, and while it does clearly have sections of haves and have-nots, my slight experience there so far suggests that the differences are superficial and artificial, rather than built on a century or more of history as individual cities, like the different cities that now make up Greater St. Louis.
Is it safe to say that I’m much more excited about Baylor as a university than about Waco as a town? The campus is gorgeous, and I’ll probably end up spending most of my time there anyway. A few things I’m not going to miss…the humidity (Waco has some humidity, more than western Texas, but less than here), the inability to get sweet tea, the cold winters, the drivers who won’t let you in when you signal.