St. Louis is, if nothing else, a city of contrasts and it is easy to find the counterpoint to the shiny, clean, downtown I have shown here.
Wellston is a municipality directly north of where I live bordering St. Louis City itself. Fifty years ago it was a thriving community; these days it is a hollow shell revealing decades of neglect and decay.
It's poor, mostly African-American (92%), and is one of those places that a lot of folk around here won't go near. Looking at it close up, it's not all too surprising why.
The derelict buidings, many of which were once quite attractive, are a depressing sight. Too many boarded-up windows and peeling 'No-trespassing' signs; at least one house in this state to found on almost any Wellston street.
It was gray and cold this afternoon, weather that fitted these scenes perfectly. Even so, there was plenty of activity – a parade of cars moving up and down and a cluster of people congregating outside a series of shops. There seemed to be a bed sale going on, judging from the pick-up trucks that were leaving the scene with wobbling mattresses and the animated crowd standing outside.
I was only the person there with a camera; I was the only white person to be seen. A certain trepidation came over me, feeling, as I undoubtedly was, that I was an unusual presence in this neighborhood.
That's a shame – that I should feel that way and that this is way of this neighborhood. Even so, I didn't feel anxious despite a nagging sense that somehow I should. It's hard to shake stereotypes ingrained by too many cop shows and movies.
However, beyond the tumbledown buildings and stained concrete, I noticed some small signs of renewal.
The road was actually being resurfaced and the curbside repaired. Compared to the persistent aura of disintegration, though, such steps seemed tentative and easily reversed.
Areas such as this seem to operate outside the rules that guide the more privileged society. For all the current talk of economic recession, these are the places where recession seems permanently entrenched.
One can only hope that the uplifting messages scrawled outside yet another shuttered building plant some hope and lead to some lasting action.
Meanwhile, life goes on.