by Aimee Levitt
More than twenty years ago, an intrepid Brit named Mark Sutherland left his home in southern England and, inspired by a half-hour BBC travel show that told of a city of brain sandwiches, frozen custard and "a 192-metre steel arch," plus an acceptance letter to Wash. U., ventured westward to St. Louis.
He liked it here so much, he stayed. He even composed an essay in praise of his adopted hometown which ran yesterday in the Expat section of the London Telegraph. Well, actually, he said it was the best city in America.
Within hours, of course, it went viral in St. Louis. Though some St. Louisans received it with enthusiasm, others gleefully -- that is, mockingly -- began quoting some of its choicest lines.
They also have a love for sports. The main pastime, baseball, is well represented in St Louis, as this is the home of the St Louis Cardinals who won their regional competition last year.
It does sound silly, but it's probably easier than trying to explain the intricacies of Major League Baseball to people who don't even give a shit in the first place. (Still, Mark, it's kind of unforgivable to throw in a mention of the Rams in the middle of a paragraph marveling over how St. Louisans' love of the other football makes you feel so much at home. After twenty years, you should know the difference!)
And what about the beer? It's highly likely your first beer was from this neck of the woods. Mine was. As an 11-year-old in southern England, my first Budweiser had "Anheuser-Busch, St Louis, MO" proudly stamped on the can.
Well hey, it's not like an eleven-year-old could just go strolling into the pub and ask for a pint of whatever's on tap. Some experiences are univeral!
They love accents around here. Everyone wants to talk to you if you have an accent. They also love the Royal family, kilts, and everything else British. Walk into a place with an accent and a kilt and you'll meet everyone in the room.
Now this, this makes us seem kind of silly. But would an American elicit the same sort of reaction in a smaller British city if he or she walked around in, say, a pair of cowboy boots? (Anybody here actually done this?)
Still, is this any reason to mock Sutherland? His heart is in the right place. He works in PR, formerly at Monsanto, currently at Elasticity, where he was hired to, in the words of management, "class up the joint" with his accent -- this is the language that he speaks, laudatory and inoffensive and simplified for the masses. How, for instance, could one explain the City Museum in such a manner? It's much easier to describe the varied business opportunities that are available and the low cost of living.
Besides, if he tried to explain some of the things that make St. Louis so charming -- its smallness, for instance, and its self-deprecation, and its devotion to the past (the World's Fair, the high school question) -- it would just come off all wrong.
But a city in the middle of America where the local brewery makes a single-malt Scottish ale and you can pick up lasses just by, well, using words like "lasses" if you've got the right accent? Hell, yeah!