I wasn’t born in St. Louis, but my parents moved us there when I was about ten months old. So for all intents and purposes, St. Louis is my hometown.
The longest I’ve been away is just short of five years, when a stint in the Air Force took me to South Carolina and Japan. I was okay with being away, and my initial plans didn’t have me returning to St. Louis. But life is funny, and it had something else in store for me.
Before I knew it, I was a St. Louis police officer. It seemed to suit me. Since I spent 25 years doing the job, I guess it did.
For what it’s worth, there was a period when I wanted to move to California. I thought I could take my skills to or around the San Francisco Bay Area, and lead a happier life. But it didn’t come to pass for a variety of reasons. And it may be just as well.
There’s nothing really wrong with St. Louis that isn’t wrong in any other city. Still, I lived there without ever feeling 100 percent comfortable with my surroundings. Something was missing.
In 2017, I took my daughter to Chicago for a five-day vacation. That’s when the seed was planted. That’s when I started to feel what was missing. Repeated trips for concerts and the odd break from my regular life just drove the point home. The more I visited Chicago, the more I felt like I belonged there.
Everyone falls in love with their vacation spot. But cops are naturally paranoid and constantly seeking the worst case scenario in everything. I was no exception. When the urge to move reared its head some 20 months ago (not long after I decided 25 years as a cop was enough), I started looking at Chicago through that darker lens.
To be certain, Chicago has its share of problems, too. But the more I thought on it, the more I realized that the benefits outweighed the detriments. The key would be to move deliberately and cautiously. Due diligence must be done. No moves should be made without careful consideration.
And now I sit on a train, headed north. For good. By tomorrow afternoon, the majority of my personal property will sit inside an 11th floor condo in a great neighborhood with a great view. It’s actually happening.
I only know a couple of people there. It doesn’t matter. There’s a pandemic in progress. It doesn’t matter. It may be awhile before we achieve that “new normal.” It doesn’t matter. I belong in this city. I know it. I can feel it in my bones.
I don’t hate St. Louis. Far from it. But I’ve given it all I have to give. I gave it my professional life, complete with the physical and mental bumps and bruises that went along with it. The next chapter is mine. And I couldn’t start it if I saw my career every time I looked out the window.
I’ll miss parts of my hometown. I’ll miss more than a few people. I’ll miss the Cardinals and the Blues. I’ll miss Pirrones Pizza (even if I always struggle to spell it). I’ll miss Planet Score Records. I’ll miss the “big little town” feel, where everyone is connected by no more than three degrees of separation. At least it seems that way. I’ll miss everything being a relatively short drive away.
But it’s time for the new adventure. It’s time for what’s next.
It’s time for a music scene that gets me from two gigs in ten days in St. Louis to three gigs a night in Chicago (that is, assuming the scene is able to come all the way back). It’s time to embrace walking and mass transit. It’s time to embrace the high-rise life. It’s time to embrace new foods. I’ll suffer the cold and the crowds, even though I’m not a fan of either. In the long run, I think it’ll be worth it.
And so, the page turns. I begin anew. I bid farewell to my hometown and prepare to take a bite out of something just a little bigger. I’m ready. I’m eager. I’m happy.
But lest you think I might embrace the Cubs …
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