Regular Life

Regular Life

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. – Robert Frost

That’s No Museum

(Note: This is the fifth in a series of posts about the first meeting of three online friends.)

Simon Turns the ScrewCount Your Mokshas

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.

Mark and Moksha CorkscrewingView from the Corkscrew

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.

Up the StairsMoksha assured us that, “Nobody has died in here, but somebody lost a finger once.” My compadres mostly sober by then, I was feeling good about it.

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.

Monster SlideThe 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.

Emerging Simon

Interesting Exit PositionMoksha, 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.

He Made This OneDuring 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.

This One He Did NotA 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.

Squeeze OutA 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.

Down the StairsThe 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.

Preferred PositionSlide EntrySqueeze InSumo SimonSwingin' SimonTotally TubularUp AboveMoksha Reaches the End
Big Boy ComebackCanadian ArcherComin' Atcha
Being Born BreachBowl RunnersCanadian Through PlexiglassMore ComfortablePeekabooFirst Foray
Enchanted Caverns' Organ RisesFrom AboveMore of the Organ

The City Museum


10 Responses to That’s No Museum

  1. This dos as good a job as I’ve seen trying to explain just how cool this space is. But in the end, as you said, you just have to see it. The vast majority of the building material is refurbished and reused from other places (the use of factory rollers as stair rails and along the slide…each one hand-painted by a local child as one example.) It’s that sort of thing that keeps you wandering the space in awe even when your not climbing.

  2. OK…climbing through tunnels, not my bag. Too fat. I think I would have stayed at the beer tent on that one. I’m glad you guys had fun though.

  3. Mark –
    Awesome pictures of one of my favorite places. One correction, though… I happen to know from personal experience (ahem) that a person with a chest of 42 inches can squeeze their way through these passages:)

  4. You put about 8 beers in me and take me to that freakin’ place, and you’re going to get a free lesson in why you should never ever do that.

    “Clean up on the spiral tunnel!”

  5. “When two of them are inebriated”??

    I’ll let you know that I was very nearly sotally tober by the time we got to the Museum, thank you very much.

    I tried to describe it to my dad when he came over for supper Monday night, but just gave up after a couple minutes because of my inability to do any justice to the place. I’ll send him the link to this post and that should clear things up.

    Other than the sheer interpersonal pleasure of getting to know two stellar individuals, this museum was certainly the highlight of the trip. My inner 10 year-old was squealing with delight the entire time. I especially liked ordering the “carnivore” personal-sized pizza hot on the heels of Moksha ordering his veggie one. There was a childish sort of balance in that.

  6. Very cool pictures. It is one of my favorite places to go to in St. Louis, and if someone has not gone before, it is hell to convience them to go to a “museum.” But, now I will just send them to your blog.

  7. Moksha – Oh, yes, it definitely is worth the price of admission just to see everything without any tunneling. I regret that I took no pictures of the working shoelace manufacturing machine. That was just cool. Not to mention the guy welding (and we never did find out if he was, indeed, the artist behind it all).

    Charles – Those tunnels might not be your bag, but we’ll always have the underground waterfall at Lost Valley.

    Okay, if you weren’t my brother that would sound really gay.

    Moonshot – Well, if the chest is comprised largely of squishy material, then I’m sure it can squeeze through!

    Simon – You made a great point that I failed to point out prominently. The best time, of course, was any time with you guys.

    Okay, if you weren’t my… dang!

    JET – Between the links you and Simon send out, I should see a huge bump in readership.

    Well, maybe not, but I expect at least a few random hits from Google searches.

  8. I so need to find a reason to go to St. Louis.

    Of course with my greater-than-40-inch (male, non-compressible) chest and 34 waist, I’m not sure I could make a go of it in the tunnels… fortunately I now have an excuse to mask my true problem, which would be terrifying claustrophobia.

    Mark, next time I go spelunking, you can be my safety buddy.

  9. I’m getting claustrophobic looking at those pictures! *LOL*

  10. Ye gods, I am so glad I saw the photos first! I am way too claustrophobic for this museum, but I’ll bet my grandsons would love it!


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