Reported impressions from a visiting artist

A catch-all forum for urban discussion. If it doesn't fit elsewhere, post here.
For the last several days I've been playing host to the soloist in our upcoming concert. Julia Meynert, who will be playing the Brhams Violin Concerto with the TCSO on Sunday (2:30 pm at Principia's Ridgway Auditorium:13201 Clayton Road, St. Louis 63131) was born in Germany, and lived in Vienna, and presently jets back and forth between Chicago, New York, and Boston. (Which is to say she's been around a bit and knows the sexier towns.)

She was utterly shocked at how beautiful and inexpensive things are here. (She basically expected another zero behind what I paid for my house. Full honest to god order of magnitude.) She was surprised at how cheap groceries are. She loved Vietnamese food and had never encountered a Vietnamese restaurant before in Boston or New York. Or Afghani. (Or Bosnian, come to think of it.) Even East Coast immigrants can see us as surprisingly diverse. (You know, when you drive along the right strip of Grand. Or Olive for a little while longer.) She loved our parks. She was surprised that Tower Grove Park is not the largest park in town. (And deeply impressed, particularly by the busts around the bandstand. Yeah classical music! Says symphonicpoet. Of course.)

We didn't do a lot that was touristy, as this is a working trip. But there will be more time, so I'm hoping to drag her one or two other places yet. (Got to hit the Japanese garden. This is a must. Since she's half Japanese and going to the original in a couple of weeks on business.)

The short version was she was impressed. I didn't drag her to the most abandoned parts of town, but I didn't shy away from the rougher parts of Dutchtown, at least. (Heck, I took her to eat at a Vietnamese restaurant near Grand and Chippewa, since that's my wife's perennial favorite. Stopped at a grocery there too. And she didn't blink.)

I've assured her that there are issues and even talked about some of them, since they're national issues as much as local. And she's moving into this mess. (Which I would like to officially dub the "redeveloping world" with all the baggage that might carry.) . . . (The US, that is. She's lived here five or ten years, but she's only recently become a card carrying i-number bearing permanently staying person.)

To get back to the topic at hand, all in all her impression was remarkably favorable. We have problems. They need to be fixed. But when you look at the place right apparently it is in fact still quite pretty. Remarkably so.

(I do always try to give a good impression. Think of me as a sort of bespoke civic booster. I craft new believers one at a time with tremendous care and effort. . . . In a way that doesn't really scale well.)

. . . (And remind me to drag my camera out next time. There's got to be a photo op or two here.)
Most of my out of town friends have the same thoughts. My wife grew up on the west coast and went to college in the Northeast so we get a lot of coastal friends that come visit. Most are always surprised on what STL has to offer when they come. One friend was in town and my wife told me she loves to eat meat, so we decided to take her to The Block. I mentioned it to the friend and she acted surprised my wife said that. It turned out she only eats "happy meat" (or meat you know the source and is grass fed/etc) and didn't think we would have that around here, which still makes me laugh. Everyone always enjoys the architecture. When I drive thru the loop and point out all the different ethnic foods options they seem surprised as well.

We always try to talk the city to get people to visit and possibly move here. Oddly enough we have one couple we are friends with that the wife is from Canada and wants to move here, and the husband is from here and doesn't want to move back. Which seems backwards to me but we are still working on them.
symphonicpoet wrote:
Tue Aug 28, 2018 1:18 am
The short version
Is there such a thing from symphonicpoet :D

I've had a similar experience with a guy from Australia who moved here for a job at Boeing. He said STL made a terrible first impression driving from the airport, but since has really grown on him, impressed him. I did my best to introduce him to the city.
I'm in West Philly for the next 2 weeks and it's making all except the most forsaken parts of north STL look like paradise. I just don't understand what people see in Philly aside from it's proximity to other places. Haven't seen Center City yet–I'm sure it's impressive and expensive–but large swaths of Philly are just falling apart and covered in garbage. And it's totally normal. Sometimes we take things for granted...
urban_dilettante wrote:
Tue Aug 28, 2018 10:05 am
I'm in West Philly for the next 2 weeks and it's making all except the most forsaken parts of north STL look like paradise. I just don't understand what people see in Philly aside from it's proximity to other places. Haven't seen Center City yet–I'm sure it's impressive and expensive–but large swaths of Philly are just falling apart and covered in garbage. And it's totally normal. Sometimes we take things for granted...
I enjoyed Center City very much, it whelmed me much more than I had expected. Didn't see anywhere other than Center City, however.
We talked about Philadelphia too, actually. Both of us were fairly impressed (seeing only center city). Lots of green. Lovely architecture. Julia even said it was quite affordable, which surprised me. But having had friends from eastern Penn, everyone local seems to truly hate the place. (And I thought we were too often down on our city. I think Philly natives have us seriously beat there.)
quincunx wrote:
symphonicpoet wrote:
Tue Aug 28, 2018 1:18 am
The short version
Is there such a thing from symphonicpoet :D
. . . Yes?

And glad to hear you've had some luck with your bespoke booster services. ;-)
Also, she majorly plugged our beer and architecture this morning on RAF. Was sitting there in the broadcast booth as she said that and privately grinning to myself. "Job well done, composer boy!"
My cousin was impressed too with our cost of living and cheap housing but he splits his time between Monte Carlo, Dubai and building an island house in Croatia so its all relative :D . He did buy 4 Cardinal hats at Ballpark village and thought the $160 price tag was a bit much.
Philly is one of the coolest, realest, most under-appreciated cities in America. I think being in NYC's shadow is both a blessing and a curse. Anyone who loves old scrappy cities can't not appreciate Philly-- it's perhaps the closest example of what St. Louis' might've grown to become had the bottom not dropped out on STL in the middle of the 20th century. It's unpretentious and a little beaten down and rough around the edges, but still a vital urban center with a real pulse.

Back to St. Louis-- based on the impressions of out-of-towners who come to our shop, St. Louis doesn't have to try too hard to impress visitors, no matter where they're from. It's friendly and interesting and beautiful and historic and accessible. It really is a unique city full of character that plenty of cities are jealous of. There's something cool to discover around just about every corner. I can't even begin to tell you all the flattering things visitors from all over-- New York, Australia, Portland, London, etc-- have said about St. Louis when they are in our shop.

The real challenge is convincing people who aren't familiar with St. Louis to actually consider visiting (or to think about it at all). Our national reputation is probably the worst of any city in the country. Worse than Detroit, because Detroit is known all over the world, and owns its tough image- it's its brand. There's no cachet in being the second shittiest city. St. Louis needs to shake things up- break through its relative obscurity, and create a narrative that is authentic to the city that we know and love.
I had a recent engagement with a newly transplanted couple from Seattle. Law School Student + Midtown Ad Agency Writer and they both had nothing but incredible things to say about their first few weeks here. Here's a summary:

- Seattle is getting overcrowded with "Tech Babies" and therefore too many Buffalo Wild Wings.
- Cost of Living is insane and even the overflow into Eugene is an issue there. Same issue for San Francisco with their friends there.
- St. Louis' food, nightlife, beer scene is incredible.
- Cost of living in STL is mind-blowing
- They chose STL partly because it wasn't one of the finalists for AMZHQ2
- They hope to buy a house in TGE in the next few months.

Was really interesting to hear this 'cost of living' story considering you hear it all the time in articles... and really nice they chose St. Louis.
Honestly I don't really want StL to get nationally hyped and overrun with techies and hipster bros.

I just wish people in the StL region saw the city for the gem that it is.

Side note, I'm just starting law school at the U of I, Champaign, and I am surprised by the level of Chicago Centrism. Obviously I expected it, but StL and Indy aren't ever even mentioned and 7th circuit is right there lol.

Anyway, StL not being trendy means less compettition for me lolz
^ i certainly don't want St. Louis to become San Francisco, but i don't think we'll ever have to worry about that. we still have significant quality-of-life hurdles to overcome, though, particularly in the realms of poverty, abandonment, and pedestrian safety/non-automobile accessibility. and even maintaining current infrastructure into the future is going to require at least double our current population. parts of the city are absolute gems, but those gems remain disconnected by parking lots, stroads, highways, and abandonment. we really need to get serious about city government reform and building a place that is safe and accessible to people without cars.
I've had similar experiences myself.

I live over in KC now but was raised in suburban St. Louis. I brought 5 or 6 guys I work with over to St. Louis for a weekend and they LOVED it. We took Amtrak, which is a BLAST when you're with a group of people, stayed at the City Center hotel across from the Gateway Station and hit Lafayette Square (must visit when showing visitors the city), the CWE (via MetroLink) and Wash Ave on Friday then a Blues game on Saturday afternoon. Couldn't have gone any better. It was the last regular season game and the Blues were heading to the playoffs. They put on a clinic against Minnesota, building was jam packed and rocking. Walked down to BPV after that which was also very crowded, despite no Cardinal game, and watched the Masters on the jumbotron they have out on the old Busch II field. After that we hit 360 (another must visit with out of towners) and a few other spots. They couldn't get enough and we've now made it an annual trip. The train trip back all they were saying was how much KC sucked lol.

One note about Amtrak, the route into St. Louis is very clean, which to us natives may seem a bit odd considering the heavy industrial areas the line runs through in the City. But the amount of dumping and garbage along the alignment in KCMO was flat out embarrassing. I've seen boats, a school bus, cars, and mountains upon mountains of garbage.