The New Yorker

Quebec City Street at Night

Quebec City Street at Night

When I first retired, I subscribed to the electronic version of the New Yorker, both because I like the magazine and they were offering a great introductory deal, ten-weeks for only five bucks. I’m sure that in the T&C of the subscription agreement, which I didn’t read there was a provision for an automatic $90 yearly subscription. However, I used a credit card that has since expired, so no automatic renewal will occur. I still might renew anyway, because I like the magazine, but it will be my decision not theirs. Anne’s mother likes the New Yorker too. She is old school and she reads the print edition, which arrives on Wednesdays, while the electronic one drops first thing Monday morning. This gave me two days to read ahead of her. In addition to the magazine that is published once a week, daily content is also made available. Sometimes these pieces end up in the magazine, but sometimes they don’t.

I read one such candidate article about the University of Michigan’s football coach, Jim Harbaugh, entitled The Mania of the Maize and Blue. The writer is an Ann Arbor native and lifelong Michigan fan. I asked Anne if she knew the woman, Robin Wright, but she didn’t. The six-year age difference would have precluded them from meeting in school. In her article, she describes how in 1975 she was miraculously able to secure a telephone in Mozambique by singing Hail to the Victors. The local phone company bureaucrat was a Michigan alumni. It was a nice article, but somehow, in her singing of praises, she neglected to mention last year’s Michigan State game. I’m just saying…

Last week’s issue featured a short story from our former next door neighbor, Curtis Sittenfeld, entitled Gender Studies. A few years ago she created a little bit of a ruckus with a NYT Op-Ed. There were angry letters to Post-Dispatch flying, because she referred to Saint Louisans as clannish, which they can be. I thought that the overall tone of the Op-Ed was rather favorable. Still people took exception. In Gender Studies she approaches no closer than Kansas City. It is the story of a one-night stand and was sexually charged enough that I googled her, just to see if she was still married and was able to satisfy myself that she still is. Still, it’s not the kind of story that I’ll be discussing with my mother-in-law anytime soon. I’m just saying…

Undies In A Bunch

Aeroshell and the Arch

Aeroshell and the Arch

I was first exposed to the phenomenon of Saint Louis parochialism the first year I moved here. At work, two senior Mac engineers were going at it. One was a native, while the other one was a transplant. I was new to town then and had my ears open to any advice on settling into this city. The problem here though, was that the advice offered wasn’t any good. The native engineer advised me not to go to Forest Park, because it wasn’t safe there. He also announced that he didn’t need to go up in the Arch, because he had seen it being built. The old transplant tried pushing back on this nativist propaganda, only to be dismissed as only a newcomer, to which he retorted, “But I’ve lived in Saint Louis for 34 years!”

Flash forward 33 years and I find myself in the shoes of that old transplant. We’ve raised two native sons of Saint Louis, who in turn have joined the ever-growing diaspora of former Saint Louis residents. We’ve worked our careers here and have plans to retire here. Saint Louis is my home and I considered myself a fully fledged Saint Louisan. I love this city and would be first to defend it from its detractors, but I still don’t have an acceptable answer to the question, “What high school did you go to?” I find the recent claim that Saint Louis is the most sinful city in America only worthy of derision. Sometimes though this sense of Saint Louis protectionism is over zealous. Such is the case over the recent umbrage being taken locally about what my former neighbor wrote.

The root of this tempest in a teapot was a June 8th New York Times opinion piece entitled, Loving the Midwest, by Curtis Sittenfeld. In her article, Ms. Sittenfeld first dishes on Saint Louis, but ultimately comes to love and then speaks her love for this town. It doesn’t take much though for some people to get their undies in a bunch. The article sparked immediate turmoil in the blog-o-sphere, along with letters to the editor. We only became aware of this mini controversy, after reading about it in this last Sunday’s Post-Dispatch. Really get to know St. Louis by Martin Daly took offense from some of Sittenfeld’s less than flattering observations about Saint Louis and its Saint Louisans.

As I said we were neighbors with the Sittenfelds. They were a quiet, relatively young couple who lived next to us during their first few years in Saint Louis. We would coo over their two young daughters, before they moved on. Reading her article, I was reminded of our own sense of loneliness, when we first moved here. Native Saint Louisans generally have their own rich lives, full of family and life long friends, with little room left over for newcomers. Our first friends were also transplants. We’ve been able to sustain friendship in Saint Louis through the vehicle of our hobby, bicycling. Still, neither Anne nor I can get more than a puzzled look, when we answer “Pioneer High School”, to that most stereotypical of Saint Louis questions.