I have only one firsthand memory of the city, from my younger, dumber days. I was on a Greyhound trip, going...somewhere, in some summer after 1997. I was young, and unhappy, and in possession of no excess of ready cash, so my layover in St. Louis offered no options more enticing / available than sitting behind the terminal, vaguely staring at the police station I remember there. No option that I took, anyway. I just sat, and smoked, and took hits off my one-hitter, and sipped the occasional bit of GHB I'd made from a kit I bought off the Internet. Vile, poisonous stuff. Hard to keep down. I probably made it wrong from those mispurposed industrial chemicals, and I always choked on the foul taste, even before the inevitable nausea struck, and I never shared, because I didn't believe in poisoning people, even then. Other people, anyway.
It would pass for water, though, if nobody looked too close, and its primary effects were things I badly needed then: an hour or so of a drifty drunk / stoned feeling; about five hours of impenetrable unconsciousness; a hard transition back into awareness. A good mix for travel. Thick insulation against the press of humanity, the deluge of psychic stimulation, the spiraling and painful mind that always results from a confined body. (As I've mentioned before, punk zines by Aaron Cometbus & Al Burian told me to travel and go crazy, and (so) I did.) So I sat by my backpack, and I smoked, and I smoked pot, and I sipped GHB, and I stared through a couple humid hours of one St. Louis summer night. That's it. That's all I know. First-hand, anyway.
If I open up a little, and allow knowledge and feelings that are mediated by sports, instead of punk rock, drugs, and zines, I realize I always felt like I was supposed to hate St. Louis. I was—and am—a Royals man; thus from Kansas City must I oppose the Cardinals from St. Louis. And now I roll with a crew of sports smarks, who can't let any perceived conventional wisdom go un-snarked, and thus must Cardinals fans get demoted from "Best Fans in the Game" to "Intolerably Smug and Suspiciously White", and their uncontroversially excellent manager is reassessed as "Unpleasant Meddler, Possibly a Mean Drunk". All of which is fine. It's a big world, and knowledge of it must needs come from manifold sources far exceeding my firsthand experience; so, fine: sucks to St. Louis, sucks to the Cardinals, sucks to their satisfied fans, and sucks to Tony La Russa. I don't really give a shit.
Which brings us to the St. Louis Blues. This is truly a beautifully established franchise. Rich history, despite being founded as a way for savage chisler Bill Wirtz, who we met earlier in our series, to monetize an arena he happened to own in St. Louis, the team has a lot to brag about. Great goalies like Jacques Plante and Glenn Hall had tremendous success there. Brilliant pure scorer Brett Hull put up shocking totals in a Blues uniform. The team made the playoffs 25 straight years, an inarguable skein of mid-tier achievement.
I have to list these things because they probably don't come immediately to mind when someone says "St. Louis Blues". Indeed nothing probably comes to mind when someone says "St. Louis Blues". While the possession may be somewhat anonymous and more or less mediocre, the owner is far from a lightweight. His efforts may not have received enough attention, but when he's not busy being a union-busting booze-profiteer, he's fighting to make his beloved toy a success. Invisibly, he strives for the Blues to escape, to shed the insulation of their geographic isolation and historical lack of achievement. Unfortunately, his plan seems to be "be the New Jersey Devils of the Central Division". This means slow, boring hockey. And the Blues rather obviously lack the uniquely gifted goaltender who made it all possible all those years in Jersey...but, hey. Maybe overwhelmingly avuncular Dr. Phil life-alike John Davidson can craft a real winner in St. Louis, not just a team but a franchise with a perduring identity, stable and trans-individual, and qualitatively different than what came before.
It could happen. There's precedent: identities can change. That man who sat in St. Louis, desperate and numb, isn't the guy who's writing this. I'm no longer cut up by what's around me and what's inside me. I don't reflexively reach for something to blunt...everything anymore, and I don't read punk fanzines to make sense of my stupid life. I quit doing drugs, and I definitely quit punishing myself with cross-
country trips via Greyhound.
Or maybe things don't change that much. I wrote this on a plane, after chugging a bloody mary & a Yuengling. I'm carrying the same backpack I had on that trip through St. Louis a decade and a half ago. And the words that make the most sense of St. Louis still come from a punk fanzine by Aaron Cometbus. Anyway, good luck, St. Louis. Good luck, St. Louis owner. Good luck, me.
Little Johnny approaches with a big smile on his face. "To old-school St. Louis punk," he says. "Drink up. This round is on me."
And that's when I start to feel sick, though Little Johnny is a guy I've always liked...
I start to lose it. Fifteen years of frustration well up inside me and threaten to break.
Why even try to put a positive spin on the story of our lives? Everyone we've ever loved has been wounded, and everything we've ever cared about has been turned into a joke.
I'm not bitter about it, I'm pissed.
Fuck old school St. Louis punk.