Saturday, June 17, 2017


The World theater, Orpheum, and Riviera theatres are long gone from the old downtown. So is the loop and the promenade of cars, driving in circles, in order to be seen and look at others looking. How Midwestern a scene. A cast of characters in its own right. A costume production; one of many staged by a procession of Mayors, Councilmen and minor Pontiffs attuned to changing trends, morals and political expediency spanning a century or more. Along with their alleged demise, the boarded windows and failed businesses, the vestiges of human frailty spring anew from blueprints for urban renewal and change mandated by a Greater Plan.

The World Theater is renamed the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theater, rehabilitated to former glory to honor a literary icon transcended from seasonal affective disorder and bouts with alcoholism. It was even home to a New York maven and his popularly woe-be-gone radio show for a time, although, a tribute to the American Midwest of itself.

Why Keillor never split for the salons of the East Coast I haven’t a clue; I don’t think he stayed for the winters. The eternal hope and optimism espoused by the erstwhile luminary, perhaps, or its long-standing designation as "most boring town in America"? That's why I stayed so long. Used to be, people would just fly over.

Hard to believe we watched so many epic films as we did when rats patrolled the darkened aisles and vagrants slept unnoticed, therefore undisturbed, in sticky, threadbare chairs. Despite the restored opulence of the ’20′s and ’30′s, a funky decadence remains embedded in my mind - cigarette smoke curling through the projector's images, the smell of rot emanating from behind ancient curtains ...

It may have been a respite, from the the hot, humid Summers to the February sun's harsh glare, for this obscure, little prairie town on a big river in America’s Breadbasket. Or maybe it was the lingering omission of our fair city’s fathers cavorting with Depression era gangsters, or the seed of urban decay, its stealthy creep through each neighborhood implanted by the wealth that dripped from the Gold Coast on down to the levees and the landings and the last port North on the river.

Along Summit Avenue, from the Mississippi bluffs to the State Capital, looking down on the city itself, the likes of James J. Hill and the other robber barons thrived off the spoils of labor accrued from thousands of poor European immigrants. Decades have passed since then, unnoticed yet returned full circle, the processes begun anew.

But for the price of a dollar you could spend “all day” escaping from whatever ailed you, lost in Technicolor dreams, even while the very bricks and stone River City stood upon crumbled all around.

between cheap seats
and the flickering light -
the space between reels


william sorlien said...

Thanks to John E. Carley for the third line of the Hokku.

Now then, Johnnie; Why would anyone want to *escape* the "Sunshine"?

bandit said...

edited 06/17/2017