Monday, August 01, 2011

STL Inception

If you haven't seen the hit movie "Inception", it's worth a look. In the film, Leonardo DiCaprio leads viewers through a maze of multiple levels of the subconscious. By way of entering the dreams of others, DiCaprio and his team of co-stars travel into deeper and deeper levels of a person's subconscious.

If it sounds confusing, it is. It took me two or three times watching it to start to piece the story together. After the fourth time seeing the movie, something dawned on me. The story of Inception is a lot like the day to day experiences we have right here in St. Louis.

We walk and drive through neighborhoods going back as far as the 1700s, many of them bearing no resemblence to their origins. The most extreme example is on the riverfront.

Where today there is a sleek, majestic, urban park, there was once a vibrant riverfront commercial area, and, before that, the original settlement village of St. Louis. No sign of those early days remain, except for the Old Cathedral, and across a section of depressed highway lanes, the Old Court House. In between, the area has completely changed.

The St. Louis riverfront would be mostly unrecognizable to her earlier inhabitants. And, despite the fact the area is in at least its third or fourth iteration of form, the current landscape, dating back only to the 1960s - a timeframe within the dreamscapes of many of us living today - it is designated a national historic landmark.

Travel around town and there are many examples of multiple time horizons sharing the same space, or city block, as it were. On Cass Avenue in north city, the cousin of Samuel Clemens, James Clemens, built a mansion.

In its prime in the middle 19th century, the Clemens House was one of the city's finest homes. Today, it is wracked with weather damage and overall decay. The area around it is almost completely redeveloped, the historic Clemens House standing in lonely juxtapostion to the 1970s and 80s vintage rental apartment buildings that dominate the area around it today.

There are hundreds of similar examples around town. And with each situation comes different human experiences. Many with fond memories, others with stories of neglect, abandonment, and pain. In some places, the personal possessions from previous generations are still present on sites abandoned for decades. There is little sameness in these places and always opportunity for new discovery and the imagining of a new present or a variety of futures.

Have you seen "Inception"? Have you sensed the multiple levels of human experiences under your feet? Have you noticed how often those many levels are present around us? In St. Louis, do you feel how you are adding to the layers of the story?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

They would not recognize all the parking garages.