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Creve Coeur, Part 3

             The Grand Opening of TGI Fridays 
	     (now just Fridays having dropped the confusing “Thank God It’s”)
	     in the Westgate Mall felt like a big deal. 
	     The buy one-entree-get-one-free coupon, 
	     the stained-glass lighting fixtures, 
	     the peppermint striped awning—
	     all added to the festive feeling.

                                My dad got the steak 
		and asked for the whiskey glaze on the side. 
		It came with the whiskey glaze on top, of course. 
				We anticipated a fuss, 
		but after a weighty pause, he approved 
		while pushing the sauce around with his knife. 
		I thought the dining room appeared dark
				for a family restaurant.
		The bar-waiting area was playing Gary Stewart’s 
		I’ve got this drinkin’ thing, to keep from thinkin’ things. . .
		It didn’t help anything. Our table was sticky, too, 
		which reminded me of the whiskey glaze. 

				A few minutes later,
		my Wednesday Burger arrived. I ordered it medium rare
		and let’s just leave it at that. The table next us 
		was enjoying an oversized basket of Nachos. 
	        They looked pretty good. We talked about family in Memphis 
	        and how hot it is there, how Uncle Leo called my mom flea 
	        and how she enjoyed whatever 
				             little attention she got. 

		I suggested we try the Nachos next time. 

		Mom and Dad looked like some horrible news 
		had just been delivered. Sorry I even mentioned 
		the Nachos, 
                                       and The Blue Raspberry Lemonade 
		was tempting no one at our table. 
		And it’s a lonely thing… The power walker hums 
		along as he huffs. His arms swing with pride.
		But it’s the only thing. . . that heart broken 
	        love suicide, the Falls, the memorial park 
		and the aerial view of the broken-hearted crack
		at the mouth of the lake. 

A wonder! A wonder!

        His ranch house (the Furies hurl!) 
	reconfigured into a park 
			We were heading west on Ladue Rd. past the haves,
					          whose futures look bright
			whose families have thrived 
			in the Ladue school district, then pass 
			some forgotten 70s condo units, where two 
					          grown-ass men are 
			enjoying a front lawn lounge, 

			Bud Light koozies: Life is sweet
			reads one T-shirt, I Hate Everything
					          reads the other, 
			likely from the George Strait song, 
					          a kind of consolation prize, 
			or as my dad used to say, 
			a constellation prize!

                And this, a more damaging myth: “By 1950, St. Louis City 
		had reached its peak population forcing returning soldiers 
		to look for housing in St. Louis County. 
		Wage-earners wanted bigger houses, more yard space, 
		and places to park their new cars. The automobile industry 
		had a vision of two cars for every suburban family: 

		one for dad to go to work, and one for mom
		to drive to the market or to the kids’ activities. 
		The new affordability 

		in the automobile industry, along with 
		the construction of highways, further pushed 
		the westward movement away from downtown.”

				        Put that expansion-to-the-suburbs myth 
				          next to the real Harland Bartholomew,
 				        urban planner, whose vision was 
				          renovation by demolition.

				        For Bartholomew, the bulldozer 
				          was the best tool for postwar 
				        urban planning. His vision guaranteed 
				          no people of color could inhabit 
				        this westward movement 

				        to the suburbs. In 1939, 
				          St. Louis approved his proposal
				        to demolish over 20 square miles 
				          of inner-city real estate, 

				        over 400 apartment buildings 
				          and houses, mostly renters, mostly 
				        Black families. And with the destruction 
  				          of those homes, also came the destruction 
				        of a bohemian culture 
				          of bookstores and coffeehouses, 
				        demolishing what was once 
				          termed as the Greenwich Village 
				        of the West. To this day, 
    				          massive stretches of downtown 
				        St. Louis remain					   	   		     
                                          either scorched or poorly

				        developed—handfuls of low-rise buildings 
				          stand alone on empty lots and
				        stretches of highway on-ramps 
				          headed west to the suburbs.

				        “Everybody has roots.

			     We go on living. We permit ourselves,”
			     Mr. Paterson, “to continue.”
			     For who?  For who wants to hear it? 

			     What is the story, the myth again, the namesake? 
			     Tell it, please. Can it be told with pictures? 
			     Through The State Historical Society of Missouri? 

			     Their archives? County libraries? court documents?  
			     Can the story be told through transcripts, 
			     revised transcripts, revised interpretations? 

			     “Something else, something else the same.”


urban housing disaster

P R U I T T – I G O E !

Originally the Wendell O. Pruitt Homes and William Igoe Apartments

known together as Pruitt-Igoe

                                              “We were visited to check on standards for cleanliness!

			                                               The walls always had to be painted white. 
                                              The welfare office restricted the type of food we bought,
                                              the jobs we could apply for, surveillance was a constant fixture.”

        Is there a right way to power walk? 
	Any movement, no matter what you do, 
	is better than none. But if you want to get faster
	and fitter, then it does make sense to pay attention 
	to your walking form. 
	There’s plenty to think about 
	from head to toe: 
	how your feet hit the ground, the movement 
	of your hips, the angle you lean, 
	the swing of your arms, 
	even the direction of your gaze. 

Robert Fitterman is the author of 15 books of poetry, including "Rob’s Word Shop" (Ugly Duckling Presse), "No Wait, Yep. Definitely Still Hate Myself" (Ugly Duckling Presse), "This Window Makes Me Feel" (Ugly Duckling Presse), "Rob the Plagiarist" (Roof Books), and "Metropolis," published in four volumes. Forthcoming in Spring 2024 is "Creve Coeur" (Winter Editions). (Image Credit: drawing by Don Colley)

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