No matter where you go, there you are

Posted August 22, 2007 5:49 pm (about 4568 days ago)

Before gearing up for this next school I year I decided to take a few weeks to squeeze in some more traveling to catch up with family and friends down South and in the Midwest. The original plans included time down in the Yucatan, but Hurricane Dean squashed that idea, which freed up some time to write. So, in the interest of posting a blog more than twice a year here are some thoughts about the recent travels.

St. Louis
Finally, an area that I’ve visited at least twice a year for nearly 15 years due to family ties. I even lived here for awhile but I just never got connected to the area. To be fair, I stay on the Illinois side, just outside of East. St. Louis (St. Louis, MO and East St. Louis, IL are divided by the Mississippi River). On this side of the river, I didn't find a whole lot to do except shop and go to strip clubs, neither of which are up my alley. Still
there were some good clubs I used to kick it at. There are a few hidden gems, if you know where to look, but I never found enough to keep me here. I just never met the right people. I have friends who went to college here and they loved it. I myself never hated it, I just never felt a strong tie, beyond the fam. Having said that, I made another connection from Japan that showed me another side of St. Louis itself.

Ron and I connected at our orientation in San Francisco, before we even made it to Japan. We got into a few adventures out there and I rang him up when I came to town. When in the area I tend to lay low and try to get re centered. Meeting up with Ron forced me to break my routine, and I’m glad we did. We ate at this Latin Fusion place called Mirasol in the Delmar Loop that I never would’ve set foot in. Too trendy for me and I came up on home-cooked food.

But, damn! The food was good. It was another reason to rethink my relative ambivalence to the area. Back on the East side, I noticed more Thai spots popping up and there was a new Indian restaurant down the street from the crib.

Believe it or not, my life isn’t merely one big meal. What I look for are signs of genuine diversity in communities, which includes the restaurants. I pay attention to if restaurants are culturally authentic or geared towards mainstream American pallets. St. Louis is coming up! For those in the area, I’ve known about places such as Fairmont City, Cherokee St., and Olive Boulevard. I used to love shopping at Jay’s International Market and I know about the Asian markets around Scott A.F.B. I even DJed at spots like Club Viva. However, I got tired of having to make a journey just to eat a decent taco, get a boba drink, or find someone who looked like me. Maybe that's just me being snobby. Either way, things are definitely changing. I honestly didn’t make time to really explore beyond the culinary level, but I did receive a call from a telemarketer who spoke Spanish only. It’s beginning to feel like California out here!
Moving beyond food, I did make a slight venture into the music world, although I had no luck in the Chicago steppin’ scene. I tracked down a copy of Inbox magazine, even if they didn’t respond to e-mail. I also checked out the hip hop night at Quinn’s in Fairview Hts. I was impressed. Quinn’s is more of a bar with several pool tables, but they do have a small stage. These weekly event features local performers, and while most of the guys I heard weren’t memorable, this one dude named Ill One caught my attention for his flow. I was not in the mindset of speaking to anyone that night, but he does deserve a shout out. I haven’t been to open mics in years and I’m pretty much burnt out on hip hop events unless I already know that the performer puts on a good show. All that aside, while observing things that night I thought about, of all things, multiple intelligence.

I mean, dudes were swearing up a storm, there were probably underage folks there, some were lighting it up, and some of the females came dressed as if it was an Uncle Luke video shoot. But what stood out to me was the positive vibes. The crowd was young, probably 80% African American, and East St. Louis was heavily represented. If you know anything about that demographic, you know that the stereotypes aren’t quite model minority. But as I said, it was about positive vibes and I was really glad to see that young people (damn, I sound old) had a positive place to go on a Tuesday night. The MC (as in the host) even told people to come support the school supply give away that he was putting together that weekend. Getting back to the multiple intelligence thought, many people who consider themselves in the hip-hop scene don’t have the skills or personality to pull these nights off. I couldn’t do it. Too many people who study hip hop wouldn’t even come to an event like this. Major labels don’t even have the sense to check out these events. To clarify, hip hop is so diverse that people who operate, say in the more activist vein, don’t always connect with regular folk. I definitely wish these guys well. Talent, positive vibes, and community service? How can you go wrong? OK, there can be some discussion about gender politics and what not, but you can’t throw the baby out with the bath water!

And just to think that this was in Fairview Hts., a place best known for its mall. Talent-wise, other hidden gems I came across in Fairview Hts. were the R&B group AZ One and graphic designer Brian Williams. I’m sure there are more, but for doing minimal exploration, those three were impressive enough. In a broader sense I’ve always thought that the St. Louis area has some of the most amazing hip-hop talent in the world. On the DJ side, Alejan, Needles, and Charlie Chan are among my personal favorites, as are Oatmeal, Lonnie Bee, and Dirty Red on the Eastside. While I was never able to carve out a niche down here, I still have some good memories. Seeing all of these people after only a few days makes me think that if Mobile doesn’t work out, maybe I need to move to the ‘Lou…

So the lessons learned on this venture? Traveling is still the largest enemy to ignorance. sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know till it’s in your face.  I’m excited to see the changes coming to some often over-looked areas and to have connected with even more good people. This school year’s going to kick my butt, but I can’t help but think of the next trip!


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