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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


St. Louis Natives vs. Newbies

ABOVE: St. Louis' street grid was a recent topic of conversation. Click to view in Google Maps

Last week I posted the following as my status on Facebook:

“I’ve got a couple of friends who are new to St. Louis. Ray & John arrived about the same time, one from SF, one from NYC. The other night at The Royale John was talking about how great the street grid is here! It is just so nice talking to non-natives because they tend to “get it” more than those born here.”

In a short amount of time a heated discussion broke out among my friends, getting nearly 50 comments very quickly.  My original point that those not from here don’t “get it” like those that move here as adults got lost in a debate about St. Louis vs. Kansas City.

Over the weekend a friend told me of a woman from West County that was certain she’d be shot and killed driving to the federal building downtown. In law enforcement, she had a weapon and was planning to wear Kevlar.  She doesn’t like going east of Lindbergh Blvd. Amazing people think like this!?!

Those new to St. Louis, especially those from more urban areas, seek out the urban areas of St. Louis whereas suburbanites often, but not always, fear urban areas. I’m dumbfounded each time I hear stories of people my age living in the region who are afraid to enter the city limits. So I often seek out those who move here from outside the region because it is all new to them.  I get to share my favorite restaurants & pubs, talking about architecture, the street grid — the raw potential.

My two new friends came here for work.  Had they found work in other cities they wouldn’t be here.  But they are quick learners, getting to know our people and institutions better than many who have lived here for years.

I know many natives, of course, who get it, who seek out urbanity rather than fear it.  I love my conversations with them as well but the thrill of introducing a newbie to gems in St. Louis is such fun.  I want them to tell their friends on the coasts of the potential here, the friendly people, the inexpensive cost of living, etc.  Each one needs to get several friends to visit with one deciding to move here.  Eventually it will snowball.  100,000 new residents from each coast would do the trick.

The ratio of natives to newbies would shift and so would the political winds. Sure, it will take a while, but I’m not going anywhere.

– Steve Patterson


Sixth Anniversary of UrbanReviewSTL.com

ABOVE: Steve Patterson 8 months before starting this blog.
ABOVE: Steve Patterson on his 37th birthday February 28, 2004, eight months to the day before starting this blog. Location: Marin County Civic Center by Frank Lloyd Wright

Today marks the sixth anniversary of this blog. I had no idea what I was doing at first, I just needed  a distraction from my Dad who was recovering from a heart attack on 10/1/2004. Many things have happened since:

  • In early 2005 I ran for alderman in the 25th ward. I lost the race.
  • After Katrina I bought a 49cc scooter.
  • In 2006 my Mom passed away. Later that year I started the Master of Arts in Urban Planning & Real Estate Development (UPRED) program at Saint Louis University.
  • In 2007 I went car-free and moved to a loft downtown.
  • On New Year’s Day 2008 my Dad passed away.  A month later, to the day, I had a massive stroke from a hemorrhage on the right side of my brain.  I was hospitalized for three months.
  • In 2009 I finished the coursework for my degree.

As my life has changed this blog has changed.  Where I live, where I go and how I get there plays a big role in what I write about.

Tomorrow, as I start year seven, I look forward to the next six years and beyond.  Thank you!

– Steve Patterson


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:


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