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I’m Car-Free…Again!

ABOVE: Steve Patterson in his vehicle of choice

On July 5th 2007 I was so excited that I was car-free (First Time in 25 Years, I Don’t Own A Car!), having only a 49cc Honda Metropolitan scooter and a bicycle. A year later I bought a car again — I could no longer ride the scooter & bike due to a stroke (I Drove My Car Today). I had to have a car in St. Louis, right?

I felt guilty though:

So now my trick will be to see how seldom I can drive the car. I feel like a failed environmentalist selling the scooter and getting a car. As I start to buy gas I know I will quickly be reminded of just how efficient the scooter was. 

The scooter was very efficient (90+ mpg) and I did a good job of not driving my car often (5k/year).  In July 2010 I bought a monthly transit pass and began to use and learn our public transit system. After nearly two years as a regular rider I knew I was ready to ditch the car. Why you ask? To improve my standard of living!

You’re probably confused how NOT having a car will improve my standard of living, most view car ownership as increasing one’s standard of living. As a low-income person the cost of insurance, maintenance, taxes, and fuel were too much even though my car was paid for. In addition to the expenses the car’s value was dropping. The car was a burden rather than the key to freedom.

I’ll save money by not having to pay for auto insurance every six months as well as annual personal properly taxes. Based on my annual driving and MPG I’ll save about $750 a year in gas.  I’ll also be able to rent my parking space to a neighbor. I’ll be able to increase my available cash by 15%!

After the couple test drove my car they made an offer and I accepted, then it hit me — this will very likely be the last time I own a car. Ever. I’ve been driving for 29 years and all but one year I’ve owned a car, sometimes 2-3. Before when I went car-free I had the scooter and thought that yes I might have a car again but with my income and my inability to work in a paying job the only way I’d ever have a car again is if I won the lottery.

In addition to taking MetroBus I’ll be getting rides from friends and taking cabs. I’ve downloaded the Taxi Magic app to my phone and set up account with debit card. Two St. Louis taxi firms, St. Louis County & Yellow Cab and Laclede Cab Co. use this service. This will allow me to schedule and pay for a cab from my phone without having to call someone. It stores my home address and I can easily type in the other address. Even if I spend $20/month average on cab fare  I’ll still be way ahead of where I’ve been.

I’ve also, reluctantly, gotten a credit card so I can rent a car on occasion, mostly when traveling. I can’t use car sharing services like WeCar because I require a spinner knob to steer the wheel and a crossover bar to operate turn signals with only my right hand.

I understand that my situation is rather unique, I don’t have to drive 15 miles to a job five days per week. It will be a challenge to not have the convenience of a car but I’m looking forward to facing  and overcoming them.

– Steve Patterson


Talking 2011 Tonight on KDHX

December 26, 2011 Media, Steve Patterson Comments Off on Talking 2011 Tonight on KDHX

I’ll be DJ Wilson’s guest on Collateral Damage (KDHX 88.1FM) tonight from 8:30pm-9pm (CST), talking about stories from 2011. If you are outside KDHX listening  area you can tune in online.

– Steve Patterson


So Much To Be Thankful For

November 24, 2011 Featured, Steve Patterson Comments Off on So Much To Be Thankful For

Today I will be with friends I spend every thanksgiving with, enjoying homemade food and cosmopolitans (it’s our traditional drink as we cook).

ABOVE: A close friend's homemade stuffing served in a roasted pumpkin, Thanksgiving 2010

I have much to be thankful for this year:

  • The increasing number of urbanists fighting to keep others (Biondi, etc) from further destroying the city, giving me hope for the future.
  • Starting my 8th year blogging. My longest time at jobs has been about five years (about two longer than I should have stayed), so to still love what I’m doing after 7 years is thrilling & rewarding.
  • Very thankful for my family of friends in St. Louis.
  • And finally, I’m still alive! It’s been nearly four years since I had my stroke. I couldn’t get to my phone to call 911 and I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to survive. Going through that thought in your mind is life changing. The memory of that time and therapy will stay with me until the day I actually die. In the meantime, I’m going to do my best to encourage positive change in St. Louis.
Happy Thanksgiving!

– Steve Patterson


I First Arrived in St. Louis 21 Years Ago Today!

August 11, 2011 Steve Patterson 12 Comments

ABOVE: Arsenal & Lemp, August 1990

It was twenty-one years ago today that I first drove into St. Louis from Oklahoma City.  My college friend Mary Ann and I were on our way to Washington D.C. where were going to be roommates. Our first stop was her mom’s house on Lemp. I was just 23.

The buildings along I-44 got my attention immediately. Exiting I-55 onto Arsenal and then turning right onto Lemp I was blown away but what I saw.  I was less impressed by what I smelled, the wind was blowing the hops smell from the brewery that direction.

ABOVE: Looking north on Lemp, August 1990.

The next day, a Sunday, her mom and a gay couple she knew gave us the grand tour of St. Louis. If I wasn’t already sold based upon what I saw upon arrival, I was by the end of that day. I had my first concrete from Ted Drewes, saw the Central West End along Euclid & Maryland Plaza, Forest Park, etc.

I decided I would not be moving to D.C., St. Louis would be my new home. I removed most of my stuff from Mary Ann’s Civic wagon and placed it in her mom’s basement. We drove to D.C., I still wanted to see it.  After a few days I took the train to Chicago, my first time there, and caught a train into Kansas. From there I got a bus to Oklahoma City.

I loaded up my car that I had left at my parents’s house and drove up I-44 again. The last 21 years I’ve had a love-hate relationship with St. Louis. I nearly moved away in 1994 & 1999. Both times I got sucked back in. I’m glad, because I don’t think I would have enjoyed Portland or Seattle as much as St. Louis.

Tonight the author of For the Love of Cities, Peter Kageyama, will give a free presentation tonight at the Regional Arts Commission (RAC) 6128 Delmar, 6pm-7:30pm.  How could I miss such an event on such an important anniversary?

– Steve Patterson



Three Years at Home Post-Stroke

April 30, 2011 Steve Patterson 3 Comments
ABOVE: Missouri Rehabilitation in Mt. Vernon MO where I was a patient from March 21 - April 30, 2008

Today is a special day for me so this post is very personal in nature.  It was three years ago today I returned to my loft where I’d had a massive hemorrhagic stroke three months earlier. Except for 12 weeks of outpatient therapy in the Fall of 2008, I’ve had no additional therapy outside of the therapy in two hospitals. Yet, my physical condition has improved.

When I came home I still couldn’t hold anything in my left hand, now I can hold non-breakable items, switch on lights, etc. Not much for someone who used to be left-handed but I’m thrilled I’ve improved as much as I have.  I now feel right-handed.

I’ve fallen four times in the last three years — three out in public and then two weeks ago at home alone. I can’t just stand up after falling, but I knew how to push myself up onto my bed and then stand.  I just had to scoot myself on the concrete floor to get there. The second time I fell I fractured my left wrist so I’m happy with just a sprained wrist.

Tonight I will go out to dinner to the same restaurant where I’ve gone on April 30th for the last three years – Meskerem Ethiopian on South Grand. After months of hospital food I wanted something different.  Now it is an annual event for me.

Not a week goes by that I’m not reminded how fortunate I am to have survived and recovered as much as I have, for example, earlier this week singer Phoebe Snow died:

Ms. Snow died Tuesday in Edison, N.J., from complications of a brain hemorrhage she suffered in January 2010. She was 58. (Source)

There are differences between a brain hemorrhage and  hemorrhagic stroke, but they are related.  Here is Phoebe Snow performing her signature song “Poetry Man” in 1989:


Thank you for allowing me to ramble on about my anniversary.

– Steve Patterson