by Michael R. Allen
“Methinks it should be now a huge eclipse of sun and moon, and that the affrighted globe should yawn at alteration.”
– Othello, Act 5, Scene 2
Yesterday, the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival ended this year’s run of Othello, and the quote included here reminded me of where I had been on Saturday. On Saturday, I spent some time with a journalist examining the sites of north city buildings that were sound and saveable but whose ends were near or already passed. While the ongoing depletion of north city’s neighborhoods is not the sudden and intense calamity that fell upon Cyprus in the play, it certainly represents a tragic eclipse occurring slowly and deliberately.
The globe of the city seems to yawn in response indeed, even though the results of building loss render some corners more rural than the Bootheel. At the northwest corner of Evans and Newstead avenues, we came upon the unearthed foundation of a corner storefront freshly demolished. Seven years ago, I walked this block of Evans to be greeted by a medley of brick buildings richly detailed with abundant ornamental brick, terra cotta, stamped metal and carved wood.
Now, the view from the corner makes the eye aim a half-block to hit a building wall. What the eye catches there is a vacant building, whose own life seems at a close. To the north, there is meadow and tree line for two blocks. Upon the soil no longer is rendered city, but some decomposed self. Like Othello, we have been blinded to the truth of our condition. Yet no schemer’s machinations lead us astray — just the neglect of inadequate policy.