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Where’s the love?

February 17, 2009

How about that T.S. Eliot reference?

I thought I’d take a break from the digital gang bang that is social media to talk about something that has been bothering me recently. Here goes. You know what really grinds my gears? (that was for you, MP) When people needlessly hate on the city of St. Louis. From the lovely people at Forbes who ranked us in the “top 10 most miserable cities” to displaced New Yorkers and Texans, everyone seems to have something negative to say. I’m sorry you can’t get a decent bagel or a breakfast taco. How about a “warm glass of shut the hell up?” (Happy Gilmore reference)

T.S. Eliot once wrote “The City of St. Louis has affected me more deeply than any other environment has ever done, I consider myself fortunate to have been born here, rather than in Boston, or New York, or London.” Although written in the late 19th century, I can kind of identify with Eliot’s quote. I’ll admit that having spent the last four years on the East Coast, I never thought I’d be back in St. Louis. But looking out the window of Bread Co. on South Broadway, I can’t help but feel sentimental about my hometown. As strategists, we are at heart storytellers, and a cold grey February day like today reminds me of the story of the founding of Soulard Mardi Gras. Oh, you haven’t heard it? It’s a tale of creativity, friendship, and rebirth that epitomizes the resilience of this city.

Contrary to popular belief, Soulard Mardi Gras has little or nothing to do with St. Louis’ French history. In fact, the country’s second largest Mardi Gras celebration started just 30 years ago when Bob Brinkman, the only living founder, and four friends – Hilary Clements, Bill Coleman, Jim Rabbit and Bill Stubbs – decided to host a Mardi Gras themed party. “It was a bitterly cold day in January, nothing to do. I don’t remember who threw the idea out there…you could put any one of our names in there. But we each put in $250 and invited 50 people,” said Brinkman. Brinkman was a jeweler, Stubbs was an attorney, Coleman was a Terminal Railroad yardmaster, Rabbit was a plumber, and Clements was a school supplies salesman. The five of them would always meet on Saturday for “a drink and a game of liar’s poker.” You couldn’t make up a story this good. The first parade took place in 20 inches of snow, up Russell Boulevard from Hilary’s to McGurk’s.

If you’re one of tens of thousands of revelers taking to the streets of Soulard this Saturday, take a minute and give thanks that you live in a real American city with some serious character. In between Bud Lights and shots of Southern Comfort you can thank Bob Brinkman. After all, he’ll be there, drinking out of what I imagine to be a giant Snoop Dogg chalice. “What I’m starting to realize is I am – me and my four friends are – a part of the history of the city. What really gives me pleasure is the amount of young people who come up and say, ‘Thank you,’ Bob told reporters. Thank you, Bob.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. kimtrokey permalink
    February 17, 2009 5:09 pm

    I can picture a fiesty debate between Alex and a former planner who never quite found the beauty in the cruch of a toasted ravioli or the stringy bite of provel cheese. A former planner who actually coined a phrase that was quite demeaning the st louis restaurant scene….

    I’m with you, alex. I love me some st. Louis, some mardi gras and bread co on broadway.

  2. Crystal permalink*
    February 17, 2009 5:23 pm

    You are getting sentimental and nostalgic before Mardi Gras and the party is just getting started. The only good thing about out of town haters is that they are out of town. Alex for Mayor. That could work …

  3. marypatanselm permalink
    February 17, 2009 5:40 pm

    OMG – the election is coming up … If Alex became mayor, he would certainly be the only mayor to throw dinner parties and happy hours.

    I heart St Louis – maybe we can make T-shirts? I never thought I would come back here after graduating either, but alas, here I am. And I am loving every minute of it.

    A note: Miami and Chicago were also listed on “most miserable cities”. There’s something wrong with the rankings if that can happen.

  4. alexmkerlick permalink*
    February 17, 2009 5:55 pm

    There’s tons of chatter around the Forbes rankings. People are pissed off. Just look at the bangers in this disgruntled reader’s comments:

    “FORBES writers don’t LIVE in the
    cities that they write about!

    PS – I would be a great mayor.

  5. kimtrokey permalink
    February 17, 2009 6:05 pm

    you could totally be mayor. unless the scandalous affair that you’ve got going on with mark is revealed to the press….

  6. alexmkerlick permalink*
    February 17, 2009 6:07 pm

    Grandma: Sir, can I trouble you for a warm glass of milk? It helps me go to sleep.

    Nursing Home Orderly: You can trouble me for a warm glass of shut the hell up. Now, you will go to sleep or I will put you to sleep. Check out the name tag. You’re in my world now, grandma.

  7. Heidi permalink
    February 20, 2009 11:56 am

    The Lou has many wonderful things going for it — affordability, cultural amenities, killer architecture, a long and colorful history. However, it also has a few unique problems.

    The City-County municipal split (instituted by the then-fancy city folk who didn’t want the country bumpkins benefiting from all the juicy city commerce) will likely never be mended. Thus, for the foreseeably future, heartbroken City boosters will move to the County when they realize they can’t afford $12,000 a year for grade school, don’t want to send their kids to parochial schools, and don’t want to take a chance on the charter schools.

    The most heinous side effect of the City-County split is its polarizing nature. I’ve actually sat in meetings where a City resident demonized County residents. And there was a County resident in the room. I also have friends who pride themselves on never venturing west of 170. It’s provincial and small-minded, but since it’s so deep in the culture at this point, I don’t think it will ever go away.

    We have an inferiority complex. We just do. We had the fair, and now we feel bad that we haven’t had anything that original or great in over 100 years. Case in point: Mardi Gras is great, but that’s a New Orleans thing.

    Don’t misunderstand me, I do love living here, but like anywhere and anything else, there are pros and cons, pitfalls and benefits, and I prefer to have my eyes open when I look around. I keep hoping that biotech will be our next big thing, but so far, KC seems to be winning that race.

  8. Ben Bohling permalink
    February 23, 2009 4:19 pm

    STL. I’ve never been to a city with such an inflated sense of self-worth. It’s a lovely place, but by no means the urban utopia some would like us to believe.

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