Friday, June 20, 2008

Long live St. Louis

"Everyone has a tear or two for gritty cities facing
hard times — for the Detroits, the Clevelands, the Buffalos — but who spares a
thought for the elegant dowager reduced to reusing teabags?"

So begins a Time article on the proud city of St. Louis, which has seem a dramatic population decline, and now faces a takeover of its beloved Anheuser-Busch brewing company by InBev, from Belgium. Everyone from Govenor Matt Blunt to Senator Claire McCaskill to the 58,000 who have signed the Save A-B petition, are trying to stop the deal from happening. But it looks doubtful that anyone can stop it.

"In the end, poor St. Louis may have to trust in InBev's promise to
keep St. Louis as its North American headquarters and flagship brewery," the article concludes. "As
for the Clydesdales — most of them moved to a farm in California years ago."

One St. Louis University professor summed up the city itself in this way, "St. Louis is, unfortunately, the city of yesterday. It
was built for the factory system, the steamboat and the railroad—and
made obsolete by the internal combustion engine."

Voting to secede from the surrounding county in 1876 to avoid paying an increase in services, St. Louis was one of the few major cities that did not extend its boundaries. In the 1950s, highways and affordable mortgages allowed people to live in the suburbs, and St. Louis saw a dramatic population decline.

However, the size of the city is not a measure of its worth. St. Louis is charming and accessible. The people are friendly. They can talk everything from baseball to poetry, yet there is hardly a whiff of pretension anywhere around. The restaurants sum up the city well: they are both cultured and pedestrian at the same time. St. Louis is home to well-heeled universities, three major sports teams, great ethnic food, beautiful neighborhoods, good music, riverboats, one 630-ft.-high stainless-steel arch, and, for now, the largest brewery in America.

Long live St. Louis.

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