Friday, March 25, 2011

World News

St. Louis can be tough nut to crack. Ask anyone who has spent some time in a downtown hotel without a Cardinals game to attend and nary a 314 area code in their personal Rolodex. Through visiting eyes our fair city can look hollow.  A hard gray shell-- the meat inside presumed to have dried up around the turn of the last century.

St. Louis isn't hollow. Nor is it dried up. But it takes a good nose, or some expertise to locate and access the choice bits. It also takes some time, as you will have to cover some distance.

For whatever combination of reasons St. Louisans of generations past decided to build our city outwards. Taking the idea of a Gateway City to heart they pursued their own personal manifest destinies and made for themselves homes, then villages and cities, in the green expanse just past the far edge of what had already been civilized.

And so the City of St. Louis begat it's inner ring suburbs. And like rabbits, Maplewood and Afton and Normandy begat Hazlewood and Chesterfield and Fenton. And here we are. A medium sized city with with 92 downtowns. One in The City of St. Louis and 91 in St. Louis County.

For those not familiar with St. Louis County, its is composed of seemingly countless little cities.  Some of them almost look like real cities. They have crosswalk signs with countdown timers, and Thai restaurants. Others look exactly like decrepit suburban strip malls. Regardless of how they look, each municipality apparently gets to put its city limit sign on the side of Northbound 170 between Page and Natural Bridge. Their City Halls can be red brick, limestone and columns, or cut-rate drywall, fluorescent lighting and drop ceilings. Either way, if you live under their jurisdiction, your gonna end up seeing their address in your checkbook eventually.

Downtown Clayton is the Washington DC of St. Louis County, both another municipality and the seat of the County government.  In Clayton, their has been created a 1/3 scale model of the perfect Midwestern police state. Where, by night, cologne'd white people enjoy food from chefs who could maybe be a contestant on a second tier cable cook-off show in two or three years; And by day, people work in banks and/or bail their cousin out of jail.  It has a telling prevalence of European automobiles, a jail, a 10 meter diving platform and an excellent news stand.

World News is the big city news stand of my youth, where after dark the register was manned by an new wave rocker of the makeup and hairdryer tradition. Where they sold pornography and laffy taffy, and let you hang out for while.  I used to go there on dates. You can too. If she's not into obscure Italian fashion magazines just buy her an ice cream bar and move right along.

Browsing racks of magazines has long been a hobby of mine. Before the Internet a good news stand was the place to check out glossy photos of interesting things. Now most people carry little computers around in their pockets so Google image search is rarely more than a few steps away. Even so, the news stand is not irrelevant.

The Internet is mostly written by soft drink companies, 15 year old girls, and content providers.  Magazines are put together by enthusiasts for enthusiasts. They are trustworthy in a way that the Internet isn't. The editor of Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder isn't into it just for the money; he's just into it. Same goes for all these magazines, and the large man behind the counter. He'll special order you any magazine he can figure out how to get his hands on. Don't be afraid to ask.