Music makes me think, it's my portal into philosophical, internal pondering. Sometimes the thought processes from listening to a song touch upon my interests related to St. Louis.
The latest song that got me thinking about St. Louis even though it seems to be about relationships is called Nostalgia Kills from Quasi from their 2013 album "Mole City" on the Kill Rock Stars label.
Quasi is a duo of former spouses out of Portland, OR: Sam Coomes (Donner Party, Heatmiser, etc.) and Janet Weiss (Sleater Kinney, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, etc.). Sam writes most of the lyrics and comes across to me as a literate, hilarious, cynical, sometimes hopeless man both in touch and at odds with his place in history. With song titles like "You Can Stay But You Gotta Go" and "Ape Self Prevails In Me Still", you catch my drift.
But the music is loud, the melodies are great and the DRUMMER is outrageously powerful and swinging at the same time. Weiss is 1 of my top 3 drummers on the planet. Only a drummer this good and a singer/writer this strong can make Rocksichord rock this hard...and when Coombes picks up the bass or guitar, they just get louder and deeper. I love this band.
I cobbled together the lyrics that grabbed me as I heard them. Here are the ones relevant to this topic (forgive me if I'm all wrong):
On the backside of memory
Where the future sucked into the past
I tried to find in my mind where I saw you last...
Don't look back, honey
I'm telling you nostalgia kills
Pull yourself together
Replace "where I saw you last" with "where I saw St. Louis last" in the above for a moment. The past is the past. Don't kill yourself over it. Move on...pull yourself together.
Live in the now.
I think one of the things that cripples a can-do attitude in St. Louis is its past failures and embarrassments related to race and urban clearance. Low self esteem comes with a "we already tried that and it didn't work" brand of cynicism. "Yeah, but if we invest in that part of town, the idiots will destroy it." Or, "see why we can't have nice things."
These are all annoying pessimistic momentum killers.
St. Louis, lose the past a bit, celebrate the now. Never forget our history, but you know you will be forgiven for living in the now. Easton Avenue is Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard. McCree Town is Botanical Heights. Mill Creek Valley is a mistake that still hits me in the gut...so much lost...but that was started in 1959.
Move on. Nostalgia kills.
Live in the now and know the past, yes you are smart and learned by knowing where we came from. But, be part of the future. Live in the now, don't get bogged down by our forefather's mistakes and miscalculations...and straight up racism and reactionism.
The now is so much better in St. Louis than in the 1800's, the 1940's, the 1980's, the 1990's.
Nostalgia kills the progress being made. If you're first reaction to new-found optimism and equity building is based on cynicism based on history...check it.
The current state and definition of our city is the one to spend time on. The one to fix. Remember the past always but bury the old St. Louis steeped in undeniably racist ways, the coal and lead polluted one, the industrially driven one, the densely populated one. We have what we have now. Celebrate the now. Don't mourn the past, fix the now.
Look around, St. Louis is a better place today than 10-20 year ago. It may be more equitable for current residents and poised for the future than ever. I'm open to arguments opposed.
I think if you live in St. Louis and are engaged in St. Louis and want to live here, you may find it a most habitable, moldable place. You can make your way here and leverage your needs and wants more now than ever.
It may be a blank canvas, albeit with a somewhat lonely and uninhabited feeling as we continue to bleed residents, but the place is yours to mold.
Eradicate the old school thinkers and entrenched politicians and leaders, overwhelm the schools with students and caring parents, live in the neighborhoods, ride and walk the streets adding positive energy. Shine a light on the old school idiocy and small/parochial actions that plague us.
The old guard will fold quickly if more people demand more. The system that has sat on its laurels for years will have to wake up and sign up or get out. Demand better from them. Speak up.
Unite and take down the old, staid guard. We are on the verge of getting rid of our bloat with 28 alderman down to 14. The city peaked at ~800K, we're down to ~300K and dropping. Those 14 local leaders have to be the cream of the crop. They have to be the most intelligent, heartful, nice people who love people and the city. Eradicate the racist, old school, entrenched, sometimes criminal, nepotism-driven guard.
We are a democracy. We are a city that can. We can reinvent ourselves for all who live here and build a place for new, good people. Get rid of the haters and the old world thinkers. Move forward, damn nostalgia. Take the best of what previous generations gave us and get rid of the bad shit.
Let our dirty history inspire you for change rather than wallowing in guilt or inaction or apathy.
With age comes nostalgia, you can't help it. As an old head, I get that. I am watching my glory years repackaged and refed to me and I'm cynical of the new story. It was good back then when hairs on head were less grey, but it wasn't all that, and the future can/should be better.
I'm learning it's best not to try and relive the past, or recreate the good elements from the past when STL was a powerhouse city. Steamboats are gone. The riverfront is gone. Mill Creek is gone Hop Alley/Chinatown is gone. The mid Century redo wasn't good. The Interstate system cut us up and divided us.
We're left with those mistakes, but it's healthier to channel energy into building better in the present with knowledge of the past successes and failures. Live in the now as if investing in the future.
Forget dwelling on the world's fair. Forget redlining. Forget the great divorce. Work within the rules and boundaries that exist now and make St. Louis the place the current and future residents want it to be. If Clayton and the other 80 or so cities in the suburbs don't get it, cut them out. Try to bring them in, but if they don't want in, cut them out. Rise Above.
We are not an all white city settled by European's. We are an integrated black and white city. Let's take it and own it. Let's build the place we want. Let's continue to welcome immigrants and new people willing to build a better city.
As we near the time when we move from 28 to 14 aldermen, read up on the voting records of the current pack. Pay close attention to them.
Take steady aim on the ones who clearly have no positive activity in their area and take them out. Only the loud get heard.
Post-Ferguson, I'm hearing a new crop of young people that just seem so damn driven and clear. They are jumping over the cesspools of hate and intolerance and failed policies and are moving on.
St. Louis seems so backwards and introspective at times it can be stifling. But, you're either part of the problem or the solution, no? If you find yourself sitting on the sidelines in the suburbs and want to join up with the future St. Louis, move here and vote here. Fix shit here.
Damn, that was a preachy long winded post. Sorry...back to the pretty pictures of brick buildings and rock records that keep my middle finger poised for a quick raising toward the old guard.