(Note: This is the fifth in a series of posts about the first meeting of three online friends.)
At least one of you has looked at kids in those crawl tubes at fast-food restaurants and thought, “I wish they had that for adults.” On my recent trip to St. Louis, a unique place granted that wish and more.
I don’t know that a long, drawn-out narrative would do this place justice, so I’m going to let the pictures tell most of the story. Warning: veritable photographic blowout ahead.
After the Brewfest, I carefully executed a series of controlled turns and one u-turn in the Mini Cooper to get us to the City Museum. At first glance, that doesn’t sound like a very exciting place for three guys to spend their afternoon, especially when two of them are inebriated. The thing is, although it technically holds enough historically significant facts and artifacts to be called a museum, it doesn’t fit that moniker at all.
Although the rain shut down MonstroCity, when we pulled into the City Museum parking lot I could tell that we were in for something unique. A fire truck, an airplane, and a school bus were perched high in the air, connected by tunnels of rebar. A sculpture and a playground in one, at its base was a huge ball pit big enough for adults.
Once we paid our admission, we didn’t stop for about three hours. We squeezed through tunnels with walls and without, dead trees, and in places we weren’t sure we were supposed to be.
The three-story Monster slide was our first taste of the excitement awaiting us. Looking for an even bigger thrill than the slide alone provided, Moksha later grabbed some paper towels from the restroom and used them as a sort of mat. The former standard, he said, was for the Museum to provide a treatment of Pledge for decreasing friction. The potential for severe injury was too high, they decided, and the employee we approached steadfastly towed the company line.
Moksha, who had been there many times before, often scrambled to a tunnel’s exit point to wait as Simon and I inched and grunted our way toward him. More often, though, he was there with us, making his way head first instead of feet first, or on his back instead of his belly. That freedom and the fact that many tunnels change ensure that the City Museum is never the same experience twice.
During a particularly long and somewhat painful trek over rebars spaced nearly a foot apart, I made my way in front of Simon. About 10 minutes in, after a snaky scramble between two pipes, I wasn’t sure we were in an area intended for patrons. “Is there a way out?” Simon called.
“I hope,” I said, by then proceeding head first and flat on my back to preserve my kneecaps.
Something slapped the concrete walkway below me. It was a familiar sound.
“I think my wallet just fell out of my pocket,” I said.
I turned my head and looked between the rebars to see my new open-face wallet lying there on the concrete, my debit receipts of the past week splayed out beside it.
Nobody stood directly below, but I heard voices coming our way. I stuck my arm down through a gap and waved my hand. “Hey, over here!”
“What? Who is that?” a female’s voice replied.
“Can you see me?” I waved my hand again.
“Oh my God! There’s somebody up there!”
“Can you please come over here? My wallet fell out and it’s right there.” I pointed.
Three girls came around the bend and one went straight for my wallet. She bent down and collected up all the receipts and clipped them into the wallet’s magnetic money clip as she extended her arm above her head. I reached down to grab the wallet from her outstretched hand.
A few minutes later, after the relieving discovery that the tunnel had an exit point, I waited for Simon to make the last squeeze between pipe and ceiling. That way provided maybe an inch more clearance than the space between the rebar and the pipe.
“I’m glad they were honest, because if they had taken off with that, there’s no way I could get down from here fast enough to catch them,” I said.
Simon emphatically agreed. Then he turned around because he couldn’t quite make it through the last tight space.
The City Museum’s just that kind of place; you have to go there before you truly have any idea.
A word to anyone planning a visit: if you have a chest larger than about 40″ and a waist bigger than about 32″, there are many places in the City Museum you simply will not fit. Height shouldn’t be a factor if you’re fairly good at contorting yourself into a pretzel. The sculptures and the industrial elements the artist has incorporated make it worth a trip even if you don’t plan to make like a tunnel rat.
The place is filled with highlights. Some favorites were: rebar corkscrew tunnels suspended high above a water fountain; a three-story stainless steel slide; a skateboarding area featuring quarter-pipes and bowls (and tunnels underneath); the enchanted caverns (starts underground and goes 135 feet up into an industrial space featuring a pipe organ and vintage pipes).
If you have a kid hidden inside you somewhere, the City Museum will find it.
The City Museum