When In St. Louis

The bars sit empty here. They sit empty at three when only a few of the most hardened patrons would normally be sauntering in to their favorite spots in the City (for the purposes of this writing, or any writing, or any conversations anyone ever has with me, “the City” means New York City). Unless their favorite spot serves brunch and it’s a weekend in which case the most dedicated of patrons have been there since ten in the A.M. and by now are sitting propped up against walls, edges of tables, or the bar itself wishfully thinking about a time when they could have lit one of those cigarettes they have in their back pocket right where they stand/sit/lean instead of making the trek out to the street.

No, here the bars sit empty at three, the tender behind the counter more surprised than excited that you’d be wandering in at this time of day to claim a stool. The drinks are cheaper here, which helps you justify buying all of your beers by the bucket. One of the six bottles being finished and inverted back into the bucket at a rate of one every fifteen minutes. Four thirty when the first bucket is done and maybe one other soul has wandered into the establishment. Maybe. Probably not to drink though, probably a high school friend of the bartender who just stopped by to say hello(everyone here went to high school together, perhaps there is only one school that serves the entire St Louis metropolitan area).

The stools sit empty again at six when you’ve finished the second bucket. Six o’clock is usually a bustling time in the city when the business people get off work. They stop in for one drink if they’re the bridge and tunnel crowd and those from the outer boroughs settle into chairs and stools for the night. No one knows what people that live in Manhattan do, for no one has actually met a person that lives there.

Meanwhile in St Louis you are still the only person drinking at the bar, really drinking at least. A few others have come who sit at a table and order food and a pitcher of beer between them. “More cost effective,” you think, until you realize that will be their only pitcher for the night before getting back in their cars and driving home.

Everyone drives here, which might be a reason why there are so few people at the bar. Everyone drives and the public transportation is awful. This is a lesson you will learn later in the night when you finally stumble/saunter back out of the bar and try your best to figure out which bus goes where and where to transfer and eventually whether or not there even is a bus that stops here godddamnit because I’ve been waiting for thirty minutes and I haven’t seen a single one and the schedule says there should have been one ten minutes ago.

But for now you don’t think about how you’re going to get home. Your car is parked outside and it won’t be until you stand up at the end of the night and steady yourself on the bar that you realize getting behind the wheel of anything right now would be a very very bad idea.

A group filters in around eight. They sit together, close to you at the bar. You gather that it’s on of their birthdays so you throw a “Happy Birthday” that direction, not really sure who the intended target is. One member of the group turns to you, a conversation has been struck.

“What high school did you go to?” he asks. So it seems that there is more than one high school.

“York”

“Oh, I’ve never heard of it, what county is it in?”

“York County”

“Ah, so you’re not from the city?” It isn’t clear whether this is a statement or a question, but one thing is for certain, when he says “the city” he isn’t referring to NYC like a reasonable person would. He is referring to St Louis a city whose most recent gift to the world was Nelly, a rapper who hasn’t even been relevant for going on five years now.

You want to explain to him that really I did live in the City for four years before I came here on a flimsy promise of a job that didn’t come through which is why I sit in empty bars all day drinking buckets of beer for twelve dollars and trying with all of my strength to avoid the ketchup and provolone topped crackers they seem to think are pizza.

“No, I’m not from St Louis.” The response unwittingly initiates a game with your potential new friend, the game is called “Let me demonstrate my complete and thorough knowledge of Missouri state geography” it is a game in which the person you are talking to begins bombarding you with local landmarks, highway numbers, and obscure city names in order to determine exactly where it is you are from.

“Is that down near X?”

“No it’s actually in Virginia”

“Oh, so you really aren’t from around here are you?”

“No, I’m not even really from Virginia, my dad was in the army so I moved around a lot growing up.” In the City this was a tried and true conversation starter.

“Oh, well it’s my friend here’s birthday so we’re going back to his house now to hang out, nice to meet you.” Damn, I thought that was going to be my first real connection in The Lou. TC mark

image – kla4067

More From Thought Catalog

  • http://twitter.com/aliciadrown Alicia Drown

    Which high school you went to in St. Louis determines your status/personality/entire life (so they think). This will not be the last time you are asked that. For that, I am sorry.

    • grainofsalt

      MICDS whadduppp ;)

  • Michael Schmeer

    Yes I am from STL but that was fucking stupid

  • Guesty

    i love stl. haters gonna hate.

  • ECS

    I’m from STL as well. And I’ve always said it’s an awesome place to grow up, but I wouldn’t want to move there for the first time as an adult. Anyway, I’d say your best shot is to go out near Wash U or in the Central West End — areas that tend to attract more people who didn’t grow up there. If you’re in the ‘burbs, even in the close in ones like Clayton or Webster, you’re out of luck — the vast majority are born and raised St. Louisans. Good luck.

  • Guesty

    Sorry people didn’t pretend to think your childhood was interesting in STL

  • Kate

    This is a useless.  I went to college here, and it’s a great city.  Stop comparing yourself to The City.  You can’t expect STL to have the same hustle and bustle. 

    • Kate

      *comparing STL

      • Emily

         Exactly. I currently go to college there (at Wash U, just outside in Clayton,) and am spending the summer at home in NYC.  I can’t even tell you how much I miss St. Louis.  The city is very culturally rich if you’re able to scratch past the surface.

  • Guesty

    Also, can I just say, pizza in NYC is not -that- good.  It’s just not, okay?  I’ve eaten pizza all over The City and it’s mostly  just greasy and floppy like other pizzas around the country, rarely mindblowingly delicious.  

  • cady

    this could have been written in any city in america, nothing about this screams “st. louis!!!” except for your snark about the pizza.  this felt like a very bitter piece, like you’re taking your anger out on st. louis. maybe you should consider moving elsewhere if you really think the city is to blame for your dissatisfaction. 

    • STL2NYC

      the pizza comment isn’t even correct.  the pizza is made with provel cheese…a mix of provelone and mozzarella.

      As a St. Louis to New York transplant I get why he’s having a hard time, but I agree that sitting around and moping isn’t going to help anything.

      and since when was fordham actually in “the city”? Bronx doesn’t count….

    • STL2NYC

      the pizza comment isn’t even correct.  the pizza is made with provel cheese…a mix of provelone and mozzarella.

      As a St. Louis to New York transplant I get why he’s having a hard time, but I agree that sitting around and moping isn’t going to help anything.

      and since when was fordham actually in “the city”? Bronx doesn’t count….

  • G.

    I see this is your first article for TC.   Please don’t write anymore.

  • Court

    Why don’t you come down to South (STL) City where the rest of the kind of people who read Thought Catalog and open up your print studio or photography studio like other transplants have and enjoy life. Stop drinking beers in suburban or lonely bars. Seriously, get out there and meet us and join us. I promise I won’t ask where you went to high school, and it beats having an existential crisis in a shitty bar. Man, why are you drinking buckets instead of pints of one of the City’s three new breweries opening this year? :)

    • Native

      Or, OR! : why don’t you go really deep in south city, to the area where the truly disenfranchised and pissed-on-by-life-and-society kids live and ask someone to shoot you? Existential crisis ended! 

  • Court

    And take no heed to the old school question, it’s dying out. So what do you like to do? Music scene? Art? Photography? Urban design? Barter? Zines? Urban farming? Political activism? Literary scene? Building rehab? Beer and good food? If you want to make the most of life you’ve to open yourself up to it, and there are plenty of people here willing to help you out. P.S. You can tweet me at @STLTransit if you want to get to know our public transit syste
    ;)

  • Bobby

    I feel sorry that you can’t enjoy a real American City like St. Louis. Sounds like the people have shown you nothing but love, and how do you treat them? Oh, by mocking them becase they have civic pride in ‘the city,” that they were raised in love. Go back to your mess known as New York, and please dont come back to the midwest.

    • Court

      Let’s not hate on him. Tons of people I know came here unsure how to find other like-minded people and make friends. It’s hard in any city, it was hard in Seattle and Chicago, and I’m sure NYC is the same. Let’s just tell him where are the good bars and shows, and let him figure out of what he can make the best.

      • Ryan

        People can come here and be unsure, but be open-minded, that’s much different than hating on our city.  I love this town, but that doesn’t mean I have to cheerlead for it to people like this.

      • Court

        I just don’t think hate is productive, in situations like this. This is lonesome, not hatred. Why shouldn’t we encourage him to make this a home, however temporary, as a place, a time in his life? He’s here, the rest of us are here, we’ve got one goddamn short life and why not invite people into that short window we have?

  • foxxxrob

    Wow you are awesome! You call NYC “the City” because you lived there and it’s amazing. WOW.  Seriously dude you are like, head and shoulders above everyone else in STL. 

    I grew up in St. Louis, and live in St. Louis now. I do not intend to stay in St. Louis (recently graduated) as I don’t think it has a ton to offer me. I even hate that I can’t leave already (have to save). That said I would probably just off myself if I sat around being a mopey bitch about living here.Seriously it’s a city, you can’t find anyone you enjoy out of the 2 million people in the area? That’s on you. Apparently you don’t like HOW people are friendly to you here, at least according to this article. I have no idea where you are going out but another comment was right, you need to stay away from the ‘burbs (usually).  Go to Central West End, Washington, or South City.  Sorry we have our local quirks, or rather that our local quirks piss you off. Every city has them. Deal with it. Like in New York for example apparently residents have to fight the strong urge to fuck a manhole because they literally want to physically make love to the city they live in. 

    Oh, and if you want some good pizza go to Pi you fucking douche. 

  • Sam

    This is really irritating. Since when did the correct definition of a “city” become New York? Dumbass.

  • voltarine

    I’m not from St. Louis, either. It’s a hard place to break into at first. But it has its own sort of weird magic, if you know where to look for it. I am not crazy about the pizza either (the cheese is gross), but most cities have gross food, NYC included, and at least the pizza is here is interesting and regional and not just Domino’s, which is the case for most cities. Go to South City, or you can come up here to North City, where people stay in the bars till 3am and they have a seriously heavy pour…you may want to bring your own flask of tonic…

  • Sam

    Ha, his blog’s name is “Exile in The Lou”. For someone who seems to loathe THE CITY so far, you sure do mention it a lot. By the way, no one really calls it “The Lou”, douchebag.

    • Guest

      NO ONE calls in the Lou, except for college freshmen, but they cut it out after a few months.

  • bill

    Nice piece, really nicely done. And I feel ya. I moved here kind of on a whim, by choice, not *really* knowing the place. I didn’t learn to love it right away that’s for sure. But it grew on me. Stick around and it’ll grow on you too. 

  • Brit

    My whole life I have heard that New Yorkers are inconsiderate, selfish people…I think your St. Louis experience is a perfect argument for the common belief that stereotypes must first stem from truth.—

    I have a suspicion that this story takes place in a suburb of St. Louis, not the actual city itself. (In New York, “The City” refers to NYC… But apparently the phrase is used in metropolitan areas everywhere! For example, in Oklahoma, “The City” refers to Oklahoma City–where I happen to live.  On the Oregon Coast, “The City” could be used to refer to the city of Portland, and also in Missouri, “The City” could be used to refer to St. Louis.  Go figure, Right?) I just wanted to make sure that was cleared up before I continued.—

    Perhaps the bar wasn’t a ‘bustling hub of activity’ because it was 3 in the afternoon, likely on a weekday I’m sure…—

    The guy at the bar was being friendly. After all, approaching the lone stranger at the bar top, who shoots dirty looks and complains about the food (while ALONE finishing multiple buckets of beer) isn’t what most would consider typical bar practice. (Another case of stereotypes stemming from truth: midwesterners are friendly, and hospitable.) The question about your high school was obviously an attempt to start up conversation, and maybe actually become friends, (requiring participation from both of you). There is this really crazy pattern that seems to be popping up everywhere… people who live in the same areas also often attend the same high schools, AND have been seen frequenting the same locations. It’s crazy I know, because sometimes it just makes sense to drive an hour on a random afternoon to sit at a bar identical to one a few minutes from home…and OBVIOUSLY  if someone in Miami asked you which high school you went to and you told them you attended “Memorial” they would automatically know you were from Tulsa, right?—

    Honestly, the guy was being nice, and could have been your “first STL connection” but if the conversation really happened the way you described it then I don’t blame him for promptly ending his evening with someone as truly fascinating as yourself… —

    Good luck with your STL life… it’s really a great place that has a lot to offer. I think you could come to realize that if you lose the pretentious attitude that all non-New Yorkers are feeble peasants compared to those who reside in “The City”. 

  • Waicool

    dude you need to meet the scooter guy, sign up and then go on with your bar-centric lifestyle.  walk into the front door at any high school so you have an answer when
    you get “that” question.   oh, and thank your dad for his service.  enjoy!

  • Marie

    I wouldn’t have cared so much about the bitching and moaning if this article wasn’t so damn boring.

  • http://maxwellchance.wordpress.com Duke Holland of Gishmale

    Summary: 
    “Oh mah gawd, nobody’s drinking at 3PM?! This city–NOT THE CITY, MIND YOU–totally sucks.”

  • Dancingdrew31

    Im originally from STL and have lived in NYC for 7 years, and I gotta say I feel for the guy. St.Louisans can be really friendly but they sometimes, almost even more than nycers , think the whole world revolves around them. It can be tiresome. That being said, its a really quirky city and there are so many things I love about it. Keep giving it a chance mr.

  • http://twitter.com/dj_denim Heath Harris

    Taylor, please read the link below. No, it is not from 2011, or even 2007. It is from 2002, and some of the references are dated, but fortunately the truth still holds. St. Louis is not easy. It is for the curious, the explorers of the world. We don’t wait for the fun to come to us. We make our own fun, which is the best kind of fun.

    http://www.riverfronttimes.com/bestOf/index/2002?section=bestof&limit=4

    • Taylor Riccio

      Hey Heath,

      Thank you for this link. I don’t mean this to be an excuse for the published piece here but wrote this a few weeks ago right when I moved to St Louis and was pretty upset about the whole thing. And while even I am put off by the pretention of it, it’s a piece of fiction, not an article which seems to be how most people who took the time to add comments responded to it. It was not intended to be  an “expose of St Louis” which is what it seems to have be taken as. I understand the anger that resulted from it, mostly. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to understand the amount of hatred some are able to feel and express towards people who are basically strangers on the internet.  Since I’ve been in STL I’ve worked for the Shakespeare Festival St Louis, I’ve seen a Stray Dog theatre production, I’ve been to the City Museum, I’ve visited the opening of the CAM’s Goya exhibit, the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts’ “Dreamscapes” exhibit, White Flag Project’s “Another Kind of Vapor” exhibit, the Body Worlds 2 exhibit at the St Louis Science center, and I’ve been to the top of the arch. I’ve been to Sasha’s wine bar, the Silver Ballroom, and the Schlafly Bottleworks three times, and I volunteer my spare time at the LGBT center in the Grove off of Manchester, and I plan on visiting the America I Am exhibit tomorrow as well as the Heavy Anchor which is near my house and I only hear great things about. Yes, I wrote this piece prematurely responding to my situation in St Louis. I actually submitted it over a week before it was published and practically forgot about it and the blog I had started because they seemed silly to me as I was starting to really explore this city. Again, I understand the response to this piece. It reads like an attack on St Louis. I apologize for that. I am exploring and getting to know this city. While it is hard to find sushi or halal meat, there are a lot of things that this city offers (if anyone could point me towards good places for either of those I would greatly appreciate it). I didn’t mean to attack this city, it is my new home. I’m going to be here for at least a little bit, I plan on enjoying it and putting this whole thing behind me. I hope those from St. Louis will extend to me a second chance. I doubt anyone will actually go back and read this but I hope that at least a few will and better understand where I was coming from. 

      Thank you.
      Taylor Riccio

      • Ricky

        Try Drunken Fish for sushi (two locations in CWE and downtown) or Cafe Mochi on South Grand (they have the best happy hour sushi – would get 25 dollars worth for only less than 10 dollars)

      • Taylor Riccio

        Thanks, I’ll be sure to check them out

      • http://twitter.com/jessistafford Jessi Stafford

        I highly approve of this post. Clearly, people in St. Louis are overprotective – as was my experience (EXACTLY like yours) when I first moved there right out of college. I felt I was always drinking alone in the bars more often than not, as I did not attend an STL high school. I found your fiction to be funny – people should lighten up – or read Metromix or something for accurate city reviews. I even lived in Soulard, the “drinking” neighborhood…

      • http://twitter.com/dj_denim Heath Harris

        I think you’ll find St. Louis pretty forgiving. Hey, you’ve already made a name for yourself here. See how easy it is to make a splash in a town of this size? :) It is harder to get lost in the crowd and become anonymous here than in larger cities. At the same time, we want our people to succeed. Just look at that asshole Mark McGwire.
        Ok, well it looks like you have already begun to uncover the hidden gems here. There are many more to come. Go get yourself some halal at http://www.the-vine-cafe.com/thevinecafe/Market.html and find some more cool people who love St. Louis on this site my company built: http://stltweets.com/People/Urbanism  –  you are one of the kinds of people we made it for, those who have just moved here. Knowing St. Louis can be difficult to connect with, we used Twitter to curate according to interest the people and links that show the real face of our city.You’re Welcome.

      • http://twitter.com/dj_denim Heath Harris

        I think you’ll find St. Louis pretty forgiving. Hey, you’ve already made a name for yourself here. See how easy it is to make a splash in a town of this size? :) It is harder to get lost in the crowd and become anonymous here than in larger cities. At the same time, we want our people to succeed. Just look at that asshole Mark McGwire.
        Ok, well it looks like you have already begun to uncover the hidden gems here. There are many more to come. Go get yourself some halal at http://www.the-vine-cafe.com/thevinecafe/Market.html and find some more cool people who love St. Louis on this site my company built: http://stltweets.com/People/Urbanism  –  you are one of the kinds of people we made it for, those who have just moved here. Knowing St. Louis can be difficult to connect with, we used Twitter to curate according to interest the people and links that show the real face of our city.You’re Welcome.

  • Electrospectralperson

    turf war

  • Maxwell Smart

    So what I got out of this was that people did not drink enough in STL to suit the OP. That blows my fucking mind, because the entire town is soaked in beer. You can drink in the City Museum. You can drink at the zoo. You can drink at the mall. There are 5 bars per block. How the fuck could you be dissatisfied with the amount of alcohol in STL?

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