Happy New Year And Thanks For Reading

I just wanted to check in and give thanks to folks who've followed this blog or who've stumbled upon it over the years. I have been at this website for over eight years and I had a blog called South St. Louis City Talk before that, so I've held this as a hobby for almost 25% of my life.

I never expected anyone to read this, but once I figured out that people do, I had to change my writing style to be responsible and not just shooting my mouth off like I can do in person with friends/acquaintances.

I surpassed 1M page loads in 2016 and I told my wife I would hang it up after that. I've made (multiple Busch-induced) claims like that before, but something personal tells me to keep going. I just enjoy it too much to quit. And it still doesn't feel like work...it remains a hobby I visit when I want to and no regrets or anxiety when I don't.

I firmly believe in setting free the things you love before they become stale. But that's not been the case here.  I've received largely personal goodwill from this endeavor. I've connected with people researching their pasts or looking for a place to build their future. I've met librarians, firemen, academics, bloggers, city employees, teachers, politicians, researchers and most of all, my fellow St. Louis citizens through this endeavor.

This website keeps me feeling positive. It is something I feel like I can control; or, a narrative I can create for myself to keep my chin up and to share with others free of charge.

The more cynical I become or the more I learn that disgusts me or disappoints me about St. Louis tend to feel like distractions when I fight it with positivity and stay focused on the potential of the future.

My professional training is biology and laboratory research and my job has morphed into scientific writing in the recent past. While I love agriculture, science, ecology, data and statistics and explaining it to experts around the world, it is rather clinical and, well, data based. There's little room for creativity and opinions in scientific writing, and this blog frees my mind to write in a more subjective manor with a slant toward bias: my love of St. Louis.

As it turns out, I need this outlet to stay intellectually stimulated when thinking about where I live and justifying my life decisions.

Hell, I bought a 49cc scooter because of Steve Patterson, before I even met him. He inspired me to watch traffic patterns and be aware of design of streets and city infrastructure. I bought a nice camera because I wanted to take pictures like Built St. Louis. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. You wanna tell me Badfinger doesn't rock?

These were the people writing about the stuff that I wanted to read. They filled the niche that the mainstream media didn't cover on TV, radio or in print. I've learned so much from them. They've inspired me in their writing, lectures, tours and overall integrity-laden support of St. Louis.

If you are a music fan, you've heard the story of how not many people bought Velvet Underground records, but those that did started bands. I wanted to see if I could do it too.

And it has been nothing but fun. I've kept it a hobby. I try not to be too political or negative. I try to keep a cup half full (not empty) next to the laptop and camera when I write and share photos.

And, one of the things that makes me so proud is there is a growing community of people much younger than I that GET IT. They get urbanism. They get the real definition of St. Louis as a city and not a region. They understand the politics and are trying to come up to speed with the history and local context. They are critical and skeptical. They have tools I've not yet developed. They are connected.

And they are thoroughly inspiring to me...my hope.

Some of these young people are starting to get serious and run for offices and work within the system for change. The old guard and racist/protectionist ways from both black and white people in St. Louis will get challenged.

I feel this next generation sees St. Louis is a different light. They see race, ethnicity, urban living and class in a different light than my suburban 1980's ways. They are the light that I want to follow into the future where we finally see a gain in population in this city.

I felt like when I moved here I fell in love with this old city. I felt like I was in the minority though as a transplant from Illinois. It was like being a Squirrelbait fan...like minded people were not easy to find pre-Internet. When my first generation STL friends started to leave the city it burned a little; I've been honest with them on this fact so I don't mind saying it here.

I needed a goal to make me intellectually explore whether I should stay or go, to raise a family here or move back home or to another city.

St. Louis City Talk is largely the result of me trying to fully understand St. Louis north to south, River to Skinker. To give a fair shake at a true understanding. To break down myths and colloquial thoughts that I'd inherited from the media and St. Louisans and suburbanites. I had to find out for myself.

And eight years have passed on this blog, twenty two living in the city.

And when I think about whether to keep or drop this hobby after all these years, I still feel like I can fill a gap where others can't...and that is pure freedom to responsibly say what ever I want with nothing but my reputation at stake.

I have nothing monetary to gain, and am beholden to only myself.

I have never made one dime from this website. If I've been paid, I've donated the money back to the organization, or given it to my neighborhood association. I don't advertise, so am free to criticize developers that are bilking us for tax dollars that should go to better uses than private profiteering.

I don't copy protect my photos. They are for all to use and reference. They are now used in text books and magazines and websites all over. All I ask is for proper citation. It's all free, one of the reasons I like the information age. My hobby has been fun, it is free, it is yours to read or not. I'm not trying to gain popularity or anything. I don't advertise, I don't promote other than twitter and facebook.  I do this for me and I share it with you. That simple.

I'm not an architect, builder, lender or anything that would hold me back from criticizing projects. I'm not overly political. I'm not a die-hard Democrat, Republican, Green or Libertarian. I'm independent and free to support the best person for any office. I usually stay out of political stuff, but I've gotten involved in the past for more personal reasons than larger political views or power shifts.

I'm for anyone who gets city living, can relate to the pluses and minuses of our schools, cops and neighborhoods and can bring people together to move us forward.

I feel like I can be critical or praise anyone I want. I feel like I can give an honest perspective on St. Louis because well, I live here, not the suburbs. My kids go to SLPS magnet schools (so far anyway), so I can talk about that from a firsthand point of view.

I've lived in several neighborhoods, some racially and economically mixed, some not. I've dealt with the cops and fireman in good and bad ways. I (as have friends and family) have been the victim of crime here.

I've rented and owned property. I pay taxes here and I vote in every election.

I don't try to be a fake and speak up on the County issues. I don't live there, I can't vote there, I will respectfully leave those issues to the folks in those cities. I'd feel like a charlatan if I started to weigh in on how people in Pine Lawn should or shouldn't police their small town (I just shut up and pay the traffic tickets) or how University City people should or shouldn't feel about pastie bars.

Although, I can't resist the occasion pot shot at the haterz in the burbs. Trust me, I'm been awash in St. Louis potshots from suburbanites for the 22 years I've lived here. They need a little in return...but, boy is that skin thin. So I've learned and been coached to tread light(er).

But, I don't mean any harm and I don't like internet contentiousness. As a pre-Internet Gen-Xer, I firmly believe lively debates should happen in person. I think I've been lucky enough to avoid weirdos and haters for the most part. The comments and feedback I get are largely positive, I've received constructive criticism from people I respect. That is the best of all.

We need independent voices and I feel like I can do that with honesty and nothing to gain other than an occasional new friend, acquaintance or connection.

I've tried to remain accurate and factual in all my writing. Sure I get it wrong sometimes, but I'm not a journalist and don't claim to be. I don't double check sources every time.

Spellcheck is on, but my unofficial editor sits by my side unpaid and a bit sick of my spiel. She humors me and provides me the time to do this hobby and for her I'm most grateful in 2016 and every year we've been together.

But, you can bank on my heart being in this and trying to do the best for the city I love.

Thanks to all those who've followed along over the years, who've given kind words, constructive criticism or just listened to me go on and on and on about STL.

Happy 2017!