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It Does Get Better

img_0555Today is National Coming Out Day and, yes, I’m gay.  I was harassed for being gay, before I even knew I was gay, during the 5th-8th grade (1977-1981). I came out in 1983, at age 16 — a year after the term “AIDS” was first used.  Although scary times for me, it got better.

Last week I joined hundreds of others in the Central West End for an important event to show youth it gets better:

“They marched as one. Unified by candlelight, reflecting on some of their darkest days of bullying and harassment.” (Vigil Condemns Anti-Gay Bullying)

Here is a short video clip I shot:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piM5o3uth3Y

The vigil was organized by Growing American Youth:

“Growing American Youth is a social support organization for youth who live near St. Louis and who are 21 and under and may identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, asexual or questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity. Growing American Youth has been serving St. Louis area youth for 30 years.”

In addition to the string of gay teen suicides we now have the story of violence against young gay men in New York:

“Outraged city leaders said Saturday that the city wouldn’t tolerate the “vicious” hatred that had apparently caused a street gang to allegedly beat and torture two teenage boys and a man inside an abandoned home over the course of several hours because they were gay.” (NYC officials outraged over anti-gay gang torture)

Cities are still the most accepting place to be.

– Steve Patterson

 

Happy Labor Day!

September 4, 2010 Steve Patterson, Travel Comments Off on Happy Labor Day!

I’m in Oklahoma City visiting family & friends for the next week, postings will be few. Happy Labor Day!

– Steve Patterson

 

Five Years Ago Today

September 4, 2010 Scooters, Steve Patterson 1 Comment

Five years ago today I bought a scooter — a red & white 49cc Honda Metropolitan scooter (see post).  I had witnessed the horror in New Orleans via CNN. Gas prices spiked.

ABOVE: by June 2007 the scooter was my only motorized vehicle, used in all weather
ABOVE: by June 2007 the scooter was my only motorized vehicle, used in all weather

In two and a half years I put over 6,000 miles on the scooter — what a blast.  After my stroke I sold the scooter, no point keeping it around.  I had hoped to get another scooter at some point, but that is not looking to be a possibility.

– Steve Patterson

 

Growing Up In Sprawl

Our driveway was three cars wide by three deep, plus room for two more in the garage. We didn’t have sidewalks, when I was older I biked to stores — without a helmet. At times I got glimpses of older neighborhoods.  Our family doctor was located in an older commercial district just south of downtown Oklahoma City, known as Capitol Hill.   As a kid the area was likely in transition downward.  There were vacant department stores and storefronts but there was a clear grid of streets — with sidewalks.

ABOVE: Steve Patterson on the big wheel recieved on his 5th birthday
ABOVE: Steve Patterson on the big wheel received on his 5th birthday

My father would occasionally do carpentry work at our doctor’s house.  When he did I always wanted to tag along because our doctor lived in a big old house in the Heritage Hills neighborhood. When I’ve returned to Oklahoma City over the last 20 years I drive through these areas. They weren’t where I spent my childhood, but where I would escape to once I turned 16 and started driving. If a bus system existed I knew nothing of it.

I racked up a lot of miles for a high school kid with a new license, exploring areas that had long been written off or destroyed by Urban Renewal schemes. I preferred the remains of urbanism to the newness where I lived.

I’m curious why I desired a more urban environment? Most of my friends from high school have done as most people did and just locate in newer versions or sprawl further away from the center. Was it the used brick as the veneer on our frame house that got me curious about old brick buildings? The house next door was veneered with a pink brick made of concrete, it looked as bad as it sounds. Was it the fact I’m gay? I hadn’t read any manual on how to be gay.

Why some people have a strong need to break out of suburbia while others are quite happy fascinates me. My two older brothers were about 7 & 16 when they moved into our custom built new home, less than a year before I was born.  They had both experienced older homes before the move to the new home, in the new subdivision, near the new shopping center.  One has traveled the world with the Navy and he appreciates walkable urbanism. My other brother prefers drivable sprawl.

Does the urban gene skip the middle child?

– Steve Patterson

 

Twenty Years in Saint Louis

It was 20 years ago, August 1990, that I first arrived in St. Louis from Oklahoma City.  I was just out of college, 23 and optimistic about St. Louis’ future.  I drove up I-44 with a friend, she and I were going to be roommates in Washington D.C. Her mom lived in a renovated townhouse on Lemp in Benton Park, a block from Venice Cafe. We arrived on a Saturday and the next day her mom gave us a tour of the city.

ABOVE: Former fountain on Maryland Plaza, August 1990
ABOVE: Former fountain on Maryland Plaza, August 1990

I was immediately sold on St. Louis for my new place of residence, it felt right. Of course, earlier that year the Census had counted over 396,000 residents.  I put my stuff I had in her car and put it in her mom’s basement.  After my first visit to D.C., I took the train & bus back to Oklahoma City to get my car and more stuff.  I stayed with her mom for a week or so until I got a job and an apartment.

My first place was in The President on Lindell, next to Boatman’s Bank (now U.S. Bank).  It was an 8th floor studio with a view of the building to the east. The annual gay pride parade was on Euclid in those years so for me it was the place to be.  But in late 1990 I attended a seminar for developers at the St. Louis Development Corporation (SLDC).  At the time their offices were in the building bounded by Olive, 15th, Locust and 14th. At this seminar I met a woman living & rehabbing in Murphy-Blair; now known as Old North St. Louis.

At age 24 I moved to Old North from Lindell & Euclid.  My rent went from $425/month for the studio to $75/month.

ABOVE: My 3-room flat in Old North at 1422 Sullivan
ABOVE: My 3-room flat in Old North at 1422 Sullivan

In my first decade I saw the population drop over 48,000 people, my initial optimism was fading.  During the 1990s there were several times I considered moving. Seattle? Portland? East Coast? Sure, all were considered but ruled out for various reasons.  I’ve long stopped considering leaving, I like how St. Louis is shaping up.  Plus, I enjoy playing a role in the future of this city.

I’m sure I’ll see as much change in the coming 20 years as I did in the last 20 years. I’ll let you know in August 2030.

– Steve Patterson

 

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