July 5th, 2021

planet

how far I've gone

for today's birthday question sewcute asked How far do you live from where you grew up? why?

Figured it'd be a good one to pick because I was just there!

From age 5 months old to 12 years old I lived in a suburb of St. Louis, MO. So I live a little over 400 miles from where I grew up. Dad was transferred there when I was a baby for a 2-3 year assignment that for some reason lasted 12 years. My parents lived in Kansas City, and in 1992 we moved back to Kansas City, then in 2002 I moved to Wichita for work and that is where I have stayed.

So it's true I haven't gone far. But I've considered st. louis a few times, whenever I was wondering about jobs that was one of my targets in the linkedin filters that I said I'd move to. I'm currently liking my job, my filters are all off, but the idea was fun.

My parents are not outdoorsy people and that's a real shame, because now that I'm grown up I really appreciate eastern missouri's landscape. Caves, streams, camping grounds with trees, the mark twain national forest, the Meramec river, float trips, hiking trails. We don't have anything like that in Wichita. We have the arkansas river (pronounced our-kansas, definitely, thank you very much) and its fun as a gathering spot but there are no tree-lined scenic rivers to float down. Even western missouri is pretty sad. There's the elk river, but you're basically canoeing through pastureland. The water is 100% brown and murky. So if you're in Wichita, and you want to find beautiful nature, you're looking at a six hour drive. This is definitely the worst thing about Wichita.

Growing up as a kid, we took zero advantage of the landscape. My parents would take us on day trips to tourist places, historical buildings, but nature was not on the agenda. I didn't camp outdoors until I was 23 and went with my fellow engineers. That's how I discovered Missouri.

St. Louis also has great italian food everywhere. There's a void of it in Wichita. Kansas City does pretty well. Wichita has great BBQ, Mexican, Lebanese.

St. Louis has awful traffic. Growing up, my mom used to talk about the magical places she'd lived where the streets were a "grid" but I didn't understand that. She said that St. Louis just let people build buildings, then they'd zoom out some random streets to whatever was happening. Consequently we were stuck in traffic all the damn time, and as an adult I've learned that navigation is senseless and requires a turn-by-turn GPS.

Wichita and Kansas City are grid plans, as all cities should be. Everything is easier.

Childhood cities are always weird to navigate though anyway, matching your memories up to reality and changes. I remembered Queeny Park being a metropolis of a playground. It is much smaller. But even my kids pointed out, I was much smaller. I was thrilled that our hotel was by the Chesterfield Mall. That was THE SPOT. In 1989, all my friends and I did was brag about what we'd just gotten at the Chesterfield Mall. Who got to go to the mall this weekend? Who got to hang out? Who was wearing clothes from Esprit?

So one day last week in 2021 when my family was swimming in the hotel pool I said I'd walk over to Chesterfield Mall, even though there were some "for lease" signs indicating that it had some vacancies... but when I arrived, it was all vacancies. A completely dead mall. Closed shops. Unopened shops. Pickleball courts. Yes, there were 10-15 people in there, all playing pickleball. That is was the mall is. Surrounded by shops and rolled-down gates, just mall walkers and pickleball. That's not a st. louis thing I know. It's a "I grew up in the 1980s" thing. We got to see indoor malls at their peak, and then they died.

400 miles, 40 years, both fairly short distances.