Columbia is a city of the 90's

May 6th, 2014, 12pm

Pre-‘American Idiot’ Greenday plays on the radio. Unironic bursts of easy listening music waltz tandem with the same pop that filled my radio-tethered teenage summers.

Oasis. Soundgarden. That song ‘Runaway Train’ — who played that again? — ah, right, Soul Asylum. They’re all here, too. Living on the airwaves of Columbia, Missouri. Waiting for me to return, to bring me back to the years I spent making those early mistakes that the 90’s seemed to have been perfect for, no matter what age, no matter what flavor of mistake was your favorite.

Downtown Columbia is red brick, far as the eye can see.

I’ve heard stories that some mayor or governor or other politician owned a brick company, or stock in a brick company, or was somehow related to a brick company, and as a result, all the new buildings in the city ended up being built from them.

I don’t know if this is the case, but it’s the kind of political scandal one might expect in the 90’s; the kind that were salacious enough to warrant retelling, and maybe a shake of the head, but not so horrible as the ones that would come later. We had a decade during which scandals were funny. I think that’s nice.

There are moves being made which are pulling Columbia into the 21st century.

I say this not to imply that the people here are technologically left-behind, but rather to reflect that the trends and trappings of the outside world — a place where there are myriad problems that you simply don’t find in a place this small, this pleasant, this integrated and educated — are sieving their way through the barriers of Kansas City (to one side) and St. Louis (to the other) and making themselves known.

The impact of Trader Joe’s-esque markets. The influx of gluten-sensitivities. The abundance of medium-high-end clothing stores filling up the guts of former-malls-turned-new-malls. The ramshackle outskirts of downtown being walled in by ‘renovated-warehouse-style’ student housing, built from scratch to look like it’s been there since the 90’s.

It may be that this is what I see because of when I lived here. I left Columbia shortly after the 21st century dawned, and as a result, I may never be able to see it in the context of the ‘here’ and ‘now’ and ‘year 2014.’

But I’m not too concerned about that, because I truly don’t mind red brick, and it’s been ages since I heard ‘Runaway Train.’

Marcus, Ragini, David Wade, Christine and 1 more said thanks.

Share this moment

Colin Wright

Author, entrepreneur, and full-time traveler / I move to a new country every four months based on the votes of my readers / My work ( / My blog ( / My publishing company (

Create a free account

Have an account? Sign in.

Sign up with Facebook