There's no place like home, there's no place like home, but what makes us want to live here and not there? What makes us come back after an absence? What keeps us here after we've earned a diploma or completed a job? Why do some of us never leave? Try ticking off the reasons -- and it's impossible not to sound like an RCGA tub-thumper: Cheap rent. Sports all the time. Ozzie. Kurt. Marshall. Stan the Man. A free zoo. Art museum. Dog museum. Bowling museum. Small towns aplenty and lots of small-town atmosphere. Great universities and colleges -- and Lindenwood, too. Diverse economy: Bottle beer, make a missile, edit the Sporting News
. Worthwhile weekend getaways in any direction. Laugh-a-minute politicians. International airport. Guilt-free eats: gooey-butter cake, frozen custard, toasted ravioli. Weird eats, too: Provel, anybody? And, yet, not one of these is enough to make a city special. So what's St. Louis have that lesser burgs -- say, Phoenix or Houston -- don't? The answer: ghosts. St. Louis, a city haunted by its history, is overrun by its past. The ghosts of city leaders who built St. Louis into the nation's fourth-largest city -- and let it slip away -- of immigrants who kept us in the Union, of writers and artists who fled this town, of builders of private places, of doctors who saved lives at Homer G. Phillips; ghosts of people who ran to the 'burbs, performed exorcisms, ate ice-cream cones at the Fair, made shoes, waited tables at the Parkmoor, distilled booze, cursed the Globe-Democrat
and cheered the Browns. In a city overrun with abandonment, their markings are everywhere -- breweries built by Lemps, candy plants run by Switzers, feed plants run by Danforths. St. Louisans don't hide from this history: They revel in it, they debate it, they accuse, they explain, they measure each other on the basis of it.