From the monthly archives: "October 2011"

October 11, 2011—

The heart hangs like a thick branch of a cypress tree

over a wake in the narrow Mobile River.

Looking at the water and the sky

like the space between now and then.


Did you see the turkey vulture?

Flying over the side of the freedom highway. Look!

Maybe you were sleeping to a Mavis Staples lullaby

as I drove off into another day.


My father always said to stay cool.

He has the warmest of souls

He now sleeps and rests a trembling arm

And unforgiving legs that showed me the way.


Decency is the tributary into a sea of understanding.

He taught me that when I was young.

The Gulf breeze hits and I remember that kindness

As golden leaves fall




Oct. 3, 2011—

Travel is a stream of consciousness thing.

That’s what I was doing late Friday night when I was sitting alone at the Terrace Bar at Pioneer Place in downtown St. Cloud, Minn.

The bartender asked me if I had seen “The King.”

Well, of course I have been to Memphis.
But he was referring to the monster porcelain floor urinal on the second floor of the former Elks Club, 22 5th Ave. South not far from the Mississippi River.

I normally don’t hang out at urinals. The only memorable urinal I have seen  is the rock waterfall urinal accented by clamshell sinks at the technicolor Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, Calif. That one was created by a Hollywood set designer. I once stayed in the Caveman Room at the Madonna and the Flinstone anti-Feng shui vibe pissed off my pal Kathy.

But I checked out “The King” and it was basically amazing. And  functional. I returned to the first floor Terrace Bar and told the bartender it sure made me feel small.

One waitress laughed.
“When new couples come here, the guy goes to the bathroom and comes back downstairs and whispers into his girl friend’s ear,” bar manager Mike Soule told me. “Then they both disappear.”

The old Elks Club is now the home of the Pioneer Place on Fifth theater. The Terrace Bar is an adjacent wine bar with a beautiful veranda overlooking 5th Avenue. The 180-seat theater also presents live music including singer Shawn Phillips (Nov. 18) , Jimmy Buffett sideman Peter Mayer (Dec. 11) and the wonderfully named Bob Seger tribute act Charlie Dominick & The Silver Mullet Band (Oct. 13, 14).

You know their shrinking prostate hit “Night Moves.”

“The King” isn’t as fancy as the Madonna Inn urinal, but it is the biggest urinal I have seen. It is about the size of the refrigerator in my Chicago apartment. And about as empty. A sign posted above the McUrinal says that “Due to the potential of children drowning” other big urinals were prohibited in the United States.

Now that’s taking a stand.

‘The King was installed in 1913. He was part of the building that housed bunk rooms for Elk members. “The King” has never been removed for more economic wall urinals or Wrigley Field troughs.

Besides the urinal, the maple flooring, fireplace and mantels are all original parts of the theater. “The King” is listed as one of the top 100 urinals in the world, according to “Explore Minnesota Magazine.”

Girls, you don’t know what you’re missing.