Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tonight, it's Bobby's turn.

For those of you who have been reading my column, you know that last week I wrote about how there are no good restaurants in my neighborhood. Because of it, I ended up getting a ton of e-mails. Like, nearly 200. For me, that is an astronomical number. Most weeks I get maybe five. And that's even if the column is highly read and ends up on the most-forwarded list.

Mixed in with the many recommendations for west county restaurants, I got several really tasty bits of hate mail. I responded to the hate mail in this week's column, simply because I couldn't resist. (As an aside: that's probably the last time I'll write an entire column in response to reader mail. Not only did it really end up being a lot of work, because I struggled to really make my points well, but I just feel like it's a little too self-indulgent. Given that my entire column is self-indulgent, for me to say that is kind of a big deal.)

In this week's column, I quoted a reader named Bobby, who had a lot to say to me. I used maybe 0.0001% of what he wrote. Since the guy went to so much trouble to write these diatribes, I figured it was only fair to reprint them here. So, here you go. Let's see if you stick with them longer than I did.

Dear Sir,
In you column entitled, "West County's great, as long as you don't like food", you reveal quite a bit about yourself, and you sir are what is wrong with our society, St. Louis and America. You have chosen to flee to the deep suburbs to live in a land of cookie cutter Mc Mansions.

You move your family into an area conceived and built on capitalistic greed, and then lament it is all strip malls and chain restaurants. Your world was designed by contractors with the promise of sanctuary from the evils of the urban environment. Be careful what you wish for. Your wish has been fulfilled.

Now you have the audacity to complain your genetically engineered utopia is devoid of character. Of course it is, you paid a steep premium to have you world scrubbed free of character, and the price I am referring to is not over inflated real-estate, but the little bit of your soul you lose every time you patronize a Chotchkie's or Shenaniganz, spend every evening in a big box store, or sit on the highway in your mini-van waiting for hours to get home.

You left a wonderful urban landscape, maybe your parents or grandparents actually did the leaving, but here I am using the collective you in a metaphorical sense. You left the culture and sophistication of the city for the safety, security, and comfort of the hinterlands, and now you want the people who have worked hard to build and nurture that ambience to transplant it to your pathetic little Shangri-La.

Restaurants, architecture, museums, farmers' markets, galleries, theaters, record stores, films, cathedrals, clubs, sports venues, parks, rare bookstores, libraries and concert halls are all part of the fabric of their neighborhoods. Those things cannot thrive outside their natural environment.

The saddest part is people like you do not even understand what you are actually missing. You think you can pick up a few restaurants and sprinkle them throughout the wasteland you have created out there and they will magically bring character and culture. You are wrong.

Restaurants and bars, more so than other cultural institutions, are shaped by their patrons and surroundings, and to succeed in West County an establishment would have to be as whitewashed and family ready as all those chains you are currently bemoaning, and once you filled them with all the happy drones in pastels and polos all charm would dissipate and the franchising would begin.

Okay, you know, on second thought, never mind. He goes on like that for several more paragraphs. And that was just the first of the three. I think you get the idea. There's no way you read all that.

Good times.


Anonymous said...

Ok, so I skimmed Bobby's post, but you gotta admit, he has a point. You grew up in if I even mention Hendel's or Fritz's or the Sno-cone lady, you know exactly what I mean. Roberto's, Mrs. O's, etc. Florissant has a lot of those things simply because of age. Kirkwood has them too in defense of WestCo. A lot of mom and pop's though may not be able to afford the store frontage in West Co. Think of Manchester for two sec. Would people even notice a store front restaurant if it were new? Would they go? Take the chance? It takes word of mouth advertising to promote family owned places. Maybe the older parts of the city and county are more inviting to the type of food you are seeking.
Plus, as a Florissant native, you must know that there are perceived differences between North County and West County. Half of them are positive and half are really nasty. A lot of people chose and choose to stay in Florissant for its flavor. They add on extra sunrooms, finish basements, and buy time shares. They could have moved to West Co or St Chuck, but they would have sacrificed some of that expendable income to do it. Some people are live and let live. The rest perceive West Co as the "popular kids" in HS, too stuck up to be taken seriously when they complain.

debbie d. said...

I only got as far as "you are what's wrong with society..." Bob, there may be a lot wrong with society, but I can assure you, it isn't you.