Regular readers of this blogger know that she sits about six miles from Ferguson, Missouri. It’s a bit up the road and through a few slums from here, but not so far away that in August of 2014, during the Michael Brown thing, we didn’t hear all the sirens.
This week, the fair city of St. Louis, Missouri, is in the news for a different confrontation: the second presidential debate. It is due to take place this evening in the brand spanking new field house that is, almost literally, down the street at Washington University…in St. Louis. (Forgot. The current chancellor is a pain in everyone’s back side about “in St. Louis.” We natives and alumni still call the place “Wash U.”)
Without giving away too much about the neighborhood, and just where the seat is where this writer is typing away, this part of town is plain and simply upper middle class. In a metro region known for its private neighborhoods, just about everyone lives in one. Some of us are in gated communities, too. Most of what is around here was laid out and built for the most part before World War II. This pushes traffic to the main streets which have been there since horse and buggy days (many are narrow), and one little disturbance in the force…you get the idea.
Into this tightly packed place comes a presidential debate, mainly due to the involvement of a local political family, the Danforths, and the speed and efficiency with which the city pulled off the last minute one in 1992 at the same location. After living with this…crap…for a week, we the people are more than ready for it all to be over. See, one of the main arteries of traffic from north to south has been cut off in a part of town where there are no others.
Officially, road closures did not start until Saturday. Unofficially, a vital stretch of street that runs right next to the field house has been a mess of arriving tractor trailers all week. Sitting and waiting fifteen or twenty minutes for one to back onto Francis Field was nothing. As of Saturday, the people living in the $500,000+ houses in the blocks across the street are fenced in. The only way out is a small street that runs through the middle of that section. One member of the church choir who lives two doors away from the street along the field hosue said there were semis AND impenetrable fences across the openings. This morning on the way home from church, police were directing traffic and checking IDs of the people who lived in the neighborhood.
Due to the road blockages, MANY of us have been taking detours all week. To church, the grocery store, Walmart, you name it. We’re not completely cut off, but as the hour approaches, more and more is going to be blocked off. As of this writing, two east-west streets are blocked cutting of access to several churches on this lovely Sunday.
Also disruptive in this whole mess:
- Transportation staging is being done at a local high school that shares a parking lot with one municipality’s indoor rec center. Parking is a disaster.
- Security staging is happening in the same building where a very active community theater group is rehearsing for an upcoming production. They’ve been kicked out.
- Wash U students cannot drive into or out of student housing this weekend. It was actually requested that they leave the campus. That request was denied.
- Communications staging is a little ways away, and necessitated another road closure close to a different college. (Happens to be Catholic, as does the “ghetto” as we like to call it, that’s blocked in across the street.)
And that doesn’t count closing off the highways to get the candidates in from the airport. Or the helicopters once it all starts rolling. After it’s over, the sirens….
This is what happens around here when the debate comes to town. We do this on a regular basis. Security for this particular one is so over the top, though, that we who can walk to the campus can’t even take pictures from across the street. The brand new grass that was put in on the field is now covered with trailers, tents, and satellite trucks. The field lights have been augmented. (It’s a regular college football field where the 1904 Olympic track and field events took place.) It’s plain and simply disruptive, and the schedule of when the roads will be open again changes by the hour.
So, are we who live close to the October 9 debate venue ready for it to be over? You better believe it.