The Long Blue Tail – St. Louis
William Least Heat-Moon starts off Blue Highways talking about February 17th, “a day of canceled expectations”. It was the day that he learned that his job teaching college English was coming to an end. A month later, he set out on the road, using the Interstate to put distance between him and his experiences in Columbia, MO. Perhaps I should stop and spend a little time in Columbia. I don’t believe I’ve ever been there.
I believe that the closest I got to Columbia was in 2000 when I flew into Kansas City, and then drove west to the Association of Internet Researchers conference in Lawrence, KS. September, 2000. I was still working full time for a large hedge fund. Kim and I were finalizing the details for our nuptials to take place in November. I don’t remember much about Kansas City, other than getting in the car and driving.
I don’t know if Least Heat-Moon spent much time in St. Louis, but I chose the city as my the first stop of my virtual trip. There are a lot of good websites to help find places to explore in a city, and I started with Yelp. Yelp describes itself as a “fun and easy way to find, review and talk about what's great (and not so great) in your world.” Their tagline is “Real People. Real Reviews”. It is the sort of site that I would expect travel writers to use as a resource.
At the top of the list was their write-up about Crown Candy Kitchen. Crown Candy Kitchen at 1401 St. Louis Avenue has been “A St. Louis Tradition since 1913”. The review that caught my attention simply said, “I had a butterscotch malt and it was awesome.” Another person pointed to pictures of Crown Candy Kitchen on Flickr. Roadfood, a site that Kim likes to check had a similar review.
From there, I checked Placeblogger. The idea of Placeblogger is to provide a good listing of citizen media on a hyperlocal scale. I read through several listings for St. Louis, but many links were dead, or not really relevant. Then, I stumbled across a very interesting link.
Four blocks south of Crown Candy Kitchen, the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group was having Rehabbers and Developers Fair. A block or so away in the other direction, the vacant, yet historic Fourth Baptist Church was destroyed by fire.
Another blog post led me to the North City Farmers’ Market. The farmer’s market is in its second year. It has a recipe of the week, when I visited the website, it was for collard greens. The website also describes how they accept Food Stamps.
I checked the list of vendors, which included The Burning Kumquat, “a low-impact, intensive garden on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis” and New Roots Urban Farm. They say, “On the most local level, we think each block or each neighborhood should have a localized food system that they create to meet their community food needs.” They are a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm.
With that, my virtual visit to North St. Louis comes to an end. I didn’t visit the Gateway Arch, the Budweiser World Headquarters, the St. Louis Cardinals, the St. Louis Zoo, or the Missouri Botanical Garden. I’m sure all of them would be interesting, but I felt that this small visit to North St. Louis was more in keeping with Blue Highways and the other great travel writing I love so much.
From here, I’ll try to wander in a pattern that somewhat follows the Blue Highways. I might backtrack to Columbia, or stop down in Lebanon, MO, pass through Mark Twain National Forest, or just head straight on over to Grayville, IL, depending on what I can find for good websites and stories along the way.
If you stumble across this story and you have some suggestions, be sure to let me know.