This just cannot be right. There has to be some sort of mistake! St. Louis – my beloved place of birth and home until age 16 – ranked #5 in the list of “10 Saddest Cities in America”? Uh-uh.
When I visit, it still seems to be the city of my youth, with 3 little changes. (1) Now there are malls. No way that can make anyone sad, especially this time of year, with all the extra lights and sounds and hubbub. (2) Now there are interstates. Those creations make my trips there faster, but I will admit I get off at the first sign of a familiar street, and go to my neighborhoods via all the red lights /green lights. That reminds me of a childhood game played on the sidewalk in front of my favorite house, which is still there, by the way, having endured a bit of cosmetic surgery, and with the same boy next door! (3) Now there are fewer scary parts downtown. In the pre-Arch days, my daddy didn’t like having to drive in that area. I remember it being dark, creepy and smelly, and I didn’t mind not going there often.
Except at Christmas. Then it was magic, with throngs of Moms and Dads holding kids’ mittened hands as they strolled the sidewalks serenaded by carols and bells to view the motion magic in the storefronts. It was cold because I could see proof of every breath, but I didn’t feel the frigid temperature through the soft fuzzy layers of boots and britches, sweaters and coats, hats and earmuffs.
All the schools I attended remain, and are still in use, just with smaller playgrounds due to building additions. My neighborhoods have changed only in the landscaping. The trees are either gone because they were huge and troublesome, or they’ve grown to be huge and trimmed now if allowed to stand. Forest Park has not lost its allure, with the Muny and the Art Museum, the Planetarium and the Jewel Box, and its magnificent animal paradise – just erase that snake house from the blackboard of my memories.
The downtown magic has morphed a bit; many of those storefronts were demolished, but it still has a Busch Stadium, and the scary parts aren’t so scary anymore, with horses and buggies to take one to all sorts of culinary treats waiting behind renovated or new facades. The magic is still there, as if guarded by that shining Arch. I still visit, and see my breath, and take in the lights and the music and reminisce through the soft fuzzy layers of childhood memories.
Now I can drive myself to the enchanted city. The sad part for me is that doesn’t happen often enough. Uh-huh!
Below is the section about St. Louis that appeared in the Yahoo news feature on “10 Saddest Cities in America.” (Author Christa Sgobba, Men’s Health, 12/01/11)
St. Louis, Missouri
You would have thought a World Series win would have put more smiles on the faces of St. Louis residents. Yet, they rank near the top ten, among our 100 cities, in terms have feeling down most or all of the time. And they’re tied for third for most antidepressant use. Maybe the Gateway to the West should lead people through a comedy club first.