The Return to St. Louis: Falling back in love with my city

By DAN BUFFA, We Are Live Radio columnist

There's really no place like home, ladies and gentlemen. The familiar saying carries weight all over the world, and it cuts deepest with where one calls home. That may not be where they live at the moment. Our apartment may just be a place for our stuff and to sleep. Our home may be a different place. Somewhere that takes a little effort getting back to. 

On July 5th, I moved back to St. Louis with my son Vincent after spending nearly 19 months in Little Rock, Arkansas, a place worth waving off as you head down I-55 for Memphis. It wasn't an easy decision. There was an opportunity to kickstart a career back in The Lou while my wife finished up work down south. Any single parent can attest that the difficulty in charging after a dream job and taking care of a wildly energetic four year old is truly running with the wolves.

I was up for it for one simple reason. St. Louis is pretty awesome. 

Sure, it's not for everybody and has turned into a violent inhabitant of hate during the past two years. The shooting death of Michael Brown sparked a deadly outburst in North City that hasn't lost a flame two years later. When you mention St. Louis these days, people try to look away or wonder what is going on there. They ask you why you stick around. I tell them it's not perfect. It's just home to me. 

I grew up South City. Tholozan and Kingshighway. Right next to the Hill. I ran around those streets as a kid and run around them today as an adult catching his fitness fix. There's a familiarity that I look forward to when I drive down Chippewa and that includes all kinds of memories. The days of watching Jean Claude Van Damme in Nowhere to Run three times on a Saturday at the Avalon for a total of fifteen cents. The days of treating 7-11 like a pit stop during my adolescent years. Driving to the Esquire 8 for a flick with my dad and hoping they put the new release in the main auditorium, which was my cathedral to pray to the movie gods for a week spent in school. 

There are so many things about this city that don't exist elsewhere for me. When you spend nearly two years away from your hometown, there is a re-connection that happens upon your return. It's like plugging your phone into the one outlet in the house that actually works. Here are a few of the things that I have done in the past five weeks since my return to St. Louis. 

~Drink a cup of coffee at Shaw's Coffee. When I leave my radio show at seven in the morning, I drive over to Shaw and Marconi and get a real macchiato. Something Starbucks simply doesn't understand. You tell a "barista" at the Bux to make you a macchiato and fail to say caramel or latte in front of it and they look at you as if you mentioned quantum physics. The lady at Shaw's knows exactly what I want and throws four shots of espresso and some foam into a small cup. I nod to the table of old wise men and depart. That's my place. It's getting hit as hard as one can with espresso and getting a mood boost out of it. 

~A sandwich at Mom's Deli. The beloved Dolores Vago, the Mom of "Mom's Deli", passed away this week at the age of 92. If the world works the right way, her deli will be open another 92 years. There's nothing like it. Sorry LeGrand's and Amighetti's. You don't compare nor stand a chance to the simplicity and ferocity of a Mom's Special. A Subway club type sandwich but made with fresh ingredients and warm lovely bread instead of dry meat and stale bread. Add a special sauce that brings it all together. I've eaten there at least 30 times and it never changes. Love at first sight is one thing. Quality over seven years is quite another. 

Riverfront Times

Riverfront Times

~A run down Fyler. I step outside my house and take off. Up Mardel avenue, across Wabosh/McCausland, and down to Fyler. I run down all the way to Kingshighway and around to Chippewa. Along the way, I see a cast of people that could get screen time on The Walking Dead, Sopranos, and The Wire. That's my city. It smells a certain way and that isn't just the fresh cut grass as you run up the sidewalks of Tilles Park off Hampton and Fyler. It's a six mile trek that kicks my ass and reminds me that home is a simple pleasure. The streets never change. They welcome you without a stop watch but a demand. Say hello and be kind to the next patch of pavement. Most importantly, come back. 

~A game at Busch. My second home. My girlfriend on the side. A ballpark wrapped inside a building. A place where sorrow and happiness play a chess game that lasts seven months and includes up to three seasons of weather. It doesn't matter where I sit. If I am inside Busch watching Adam Wainwright spin curveballs towards the plate and seeing Yadier Molina command the field like Dutch in Predator, I am home. I can lean back in my seat and close my eyes. Listening to the crack of the bat or the roar of the crowd. It's a visual stunner or a trusted book on tape that requires no headphones. The Cards can go 40-122 or 100-62 and I will be addicted no matter what. 

STL Magazine

STL Magazine

~Smoking a cigar in the lounge with my dad in Richmond Heights. My dad is a cut the shit cigar smoker. He transformed his garage into a cigar parlor complete with a sliding glass door, fan, and big screen television. There's nothing like lighting up a brick packed cigar with my old man and watching a movie for the 55th time. We recite dialogue before it comes out of the actors mouth, crack jokes about it, and say a few inappropriate things about the females that makes my wife elbow me in the ribs because Vincent repeats everything I say(and I mean everything). We can sit there and unplug. I can stop thinking about what I need to do tomorrow and if Vinny is okay. My dad can hang out with his friend. At 34 years old, no one is a closer friend than my dad. Cigars and a cup of coffee as strong as an ox are usually included. 

What is home to you? A place or an experience? Both? For me, it's everything about St. Louis. Driving down Manchester at 10 o'clock at night. Hanging out with my St. Louis Game Time colleagues and diehard Blues fans before a game. Riding the metro. Going to La Cosecha Coffee in Maplewood. So many places, memories, and things. I grew up here. I got married here. My son was born here. I'll die here. 

St. Louis isn't just my home. It's a part of my DNA. A book with pages that mean something different to me. 

Do you have a place like that? If not, find one and never let it out of your sight.