I Feared For My Life In North City The Other Day

On Sunday, November 17 I had two hours to myself...nothing responsible to do.  The weather was unseasonably warm, so I decided to do one of my favorite things, fire up the Yamaha 125 and head out on a city ride with camera in tow.

I decided I hadn't been to St. Louis Place in awhile, so decided to visit one of my top 5 favorite places on the North Side.
  1. St. Louis Place
  2. Hyde Park
  3. Academy
  4. North Pointe
  5. West End
Anyhow, I had the camera and was visiting several parks for future blog posts, which is really just a ploy to get me off my butt to explore/photograph the various states of decay and soul north of Downtown.

Adventures seem to be around every corner in North City, a part of St. Louis I've never lived so is still new to me.  Seems like every time I go, I get into interesting conversations or experience great history lessons, etc from residents.  Today, I got into a conversation with some random people who thought I was a property speculator looking for homes to buy.  After trying to sell me their house, the conversation evolved into talk about crime misperceptions in St. Louis Place and my fascination with North City, the older, most built-to-be-urban part of the city. We talked about the city wearing its problems on the sleeve and the inner suburbs of St. Louis having the same problems, but flying under the radar, letting us take the bullets in the public consciousness.

I later got into a conversation with a guy who was directing traffic in and out of a church parking lot that was PACKED on this Sunday.  We talked scooters and the crumbling buildings in the area.  As the conversation ended he warned me to be careful "it's gettin' ugly up in here".  I thought he meant the element of crime not the ominous skies to the west.

It seems like only a mere handful of minutes went by when the sky went black, rain mixed with haril was coming at me sideways.  The force of the wind nearly took me sliding into an empty lot.  I had to slow it down to ~10 mph...I was soaked, couldn't see and wind was swirling all around me.  Tree limbs were falling from high sycamores, the street was blocked, I had to jump the curb to get out of here.  There was nowhere to go and bricks were flying off the crumbling, abandoned buildings onto the street.

I had to duck and cover...pulled my scooter up into the front yard of an abandoned building that looked like it had the best chance of not falling over on it/me.  I went into the doorway of one of these homes hoping I didn't scare the shit out of squatters.  I looked inside and there were leaves and debris swirling inside the home.  I crouched down and waited it out...soaked and heart pounding.  I was sure I was going to get injured by flying debris.

I will never forget looking across the street and seeing a young guy in his 20's who was walking and got caught in the storm just like me.  He too was taking cover between two buildings.  I looked at him, but could barely make him out...we made eye contact and he gave me the peace sign (two fingers in the "V" shape).  I felt like I had someone to help me if the scooter wouldn't start back up.

The storm passed as quickly as it hit.  I went over to the Yamaha and it started right up but was running rough (rain in the exhaust pipe).  The guy walked over and asked if I was alright, I said yeah, you?  We was too and said that was some crazy shit.  I agreed and rode home through the streets littered with debris.  Trees and bricks and glass everywhere.

Finally got to Jefferson where trees were blocking the road, cypress leaves were piled up like berms near Wells Fargo, bus shelters were in the street just south of Chouteau.  It was scary.  I feared for my life for awhile there.

You may choose to call me a dumb ass for riding a scooter in the rain...and it's my own fault for getting caught.  Whatever, it was an experience I'll never forget and if I waited for perfect conditions, I'd miss a lot.

People always ask me if I've run into trouble running around taking pictures and checking out the off the beaten path places in St. Louis.  I have had some crazy things happen to me, but this one takes the cake.

Be careful and keep exploring this historic city...you gotta see it while it attempts to hold off the elements of nature and forces of man:  neglect, abuse and carelessness.  Both are chipping away at our historic buildings and oldest parts of the city.