By the early 1970's Soulard was a doomed, inner-city slum, a neighborhood to be demolished as soon as government funds became available. Then rehab took hold and a number of people worked for many years to save the interesting housing stock and to turn the area into a residentially oriented historic district.
Unfortunately, the neighborhood made an unexpected turn. A large number of bars and restaurants took root, latching onto and feeding off the Soulard Mardi Gras. The City of St. Louis supported this development, designating Soulard as an "entertainment district." Residential interests were sidelined.
One of the consequences of evolving into an entertainment district is the tremendous amount of vehicular traffic in Soulard. Sometimes vehicles are driven by careless young people. Some drivers have trouble driving because they have been drinking. For whatever reason, their attentions are elsewhere. The result is property damage.
Thus, we were awakened shortly after midnight on Saturday, June 27, by the crunch of metal on metal and the screech of brakes. Dashing out front, we found that a parked Porsche on S. 12th Street near the intersection with Lami had been smushed by another car.
Later, we were told the story that a woman from Arnold was driving alone, she reached for her cell phone and the rest is history. She passed the breath-a-lizer test, administered by John Law. The explanation for the numbers of people on the scene was that they were friends of hers who were in another auto which was following her, for an unstated reason.
Last year there was a similar accident on Lami, half way between S. 11th and S. 12th. A rather fancy parked car lost a whole bunch of metal and plastic when it was hit by somebody or other in the middle of the night. And, of course, on Mardi Gras Grand Parade day, there was an Infiniti parked on the alley on Lami between S. 11th and S. 12th with its back end half way into the street and the alley. The first cop car passing by called it in and had it towed away. Whoever parked it must have been really smashed, but the car wasn’t.
Cars go shooting down S. 12th at 50 miles and hour and blast through stop signs. Motorcycles do the same, while producing an ungodly amount of noise. On any afternoon or evening, speeding vehicles and loud motorcycles announce the corroding presence of those enjoying the Soulard entertainment district while disrespecting the residential element of the neighborhood.
The fallout from these bars and restaurants - the noise, the litter, the discourteous visitors, the property damage - could not continue without support from neighborhood residents. A party culture has evolved in Soulard. Instead of contemplating how to improve the neighborhood, those submerged in the party culture focus on how to improve their party. In other words, Soulard has lost its focus and the party has become the thing.
The hollowness of this culture can be perceived by their excuse. "Anyone who lives in Soulard isn’t going to be anti-bar. You wouldn’t move here if you were!" That is the comment from "Gary Siddens of the Soulard Restoration Group," as printed in the Sunday, August 29, 2004 issue of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
For years his bombastic and glib sound bite has provided sustenance to the arrogance of Mardi Gras and bar and restaurant apologists, enablers and beneficiaries, supporting and excusing bad behavior and the problems these negative elements cause.
Thus, an additional sound bite would be: "Anyone who lives in Soulard isn’t going to be against having their parked car trashed in the middle of the night. You wouldn’t move here if you were."
Nobody can make a comeback to these comments. The bottom line seems to be that if you move to Soulard, for some strange reason you become part of an excuse for bad behavior You are automatically a supporter of the party culture. And if you have lived in Soulard for years and years, somehow you don’t count. Par-tay trumps quality of life every time. This is the message of the trashed Porsche.
(Top two pictures: a bruised Porsche. Bottom picture: Mardi Gras parking problems.)