Saturday, April 23, 2005

The City as a Museum

They come by the busload from the hinterlands, Bethalto and Hazelwood, Breeze and Eureka, to tour the City Museum, which is housed in the old International Shoe warehouse at Delmar and 17th Street. The museum, the mad vision of St. Louis artist Bob Cassilly, is of Rube Goldberg design, all shoots and ladders and tunnels inside and out, with a firetruck and airplane fuselages strewn about the premises, and an old log cabin in the parking lot, and the latest addition, a giant preying mantis sculpture rising from the roof. It's the stuff of kids' dreams come to life and their parents', too, of course. Passing by each week, I hear the squeals of glee and watch the youthful scampering. But even from a detached distance something about the scene makes me uneasy, as if as a city worker, I am also part of the backdrop for the museum, an anachronistic prop, a historical extra, briefly playing a bit part in the 21st Century. This is the city, kids, where people once lived and worked and played. Remember it and hold it dear.