Adventures on THE Missoula Escalator


it’s a staircase.

it’s an elevator.

no…it’s BOTH!

and for most of us growing up, it was a free ‘thrill’ ride at our local department store or mall.

although some of us may have been a bit freaked out the first time we rode one…

Buddy the Elf is skeptical about escalators.


there is just something inherently fun about riding an escalator.

and no one knows and celebrates this universal truth more than my son, Ian.

Ian loves ANYTHING that has to do with MOTION. planes, trains, and automobiles, as well as buses, trucks, monorails, subways, streetcars, cable cars, carousels, roller coasters, helicopters and elevators are all a magical source of fascination and inspiration for him.

but he holds a special place in his heart for escalators.

no matter where he has traveled, he always gravitates towards them…

Ian, on the other hand, loves them.


…at Horton Plaza in San Diego…

The Tustin market escalator.

…at the Marketplace in Tustin…

Ian on the San Francisco Center escalator.

…on the CURVED ones at San Francisco Shopping Centre…

Ian on Rome's metro escalator.

…on the Metro in Rome…

Ian on London's O2 escalator.

…at the O2 in London…

Ian on the Harrod's escalator.

…at Harrod’s in London…

Ian on a forbidden escalator.

…even sneaking onto the ones for STAFF ONLY ;)…

because for most of us, riding an escalator is an easy and ordinary way to get from one level of a structure to another.

but for Ian, it is an extraordinary means to an amazing adventure.

Another escalator adventure


everywhere we had lived prior to moving to Missoula, there was always fairly easy access to escalators. as in PLURAL.

so imagine our shock and surprise when we moved here seven years ago, to a city with a population just under 70,000 (and a county just over 100,000), and discovered that while there was a Macy’s downtown, as well as multiple malls and shopping centres, there was one escalator in the entire town.

ONE escalator.

not at Macy’s (the old Mercantile building that once housed it has elevators and stairs).

not at Target or any of the other ‘big box’ stores.

not in the Southgate Mall ‘area proper’ (in the walkway areas between the stores).

in a corner store in the mall – an ‘extension’ to the main Herberger’s department store – stands a small little escalator linking the main floor with a ‘loft’ level above.

i understand that when the escalator had it’s ‘grand opening’ several years ago, there was a ribbon cutting and t-shirts sold proclaiming ‘I Rode THE Escalator at Herberger’s!’

at first, Ian could NOT get his mind around this fact. in his experience, when you go to the mall or the store, there are always MULTIPLE escalators to ride. how could he possibly be satisfied with just ONE?

but sure enough, from the first time Ian discovered our scrawny little slice of escalatorial ‘heaven’ here, no trip to the mall is complete without a full ride up and down.

because for him, it’s one of many moments in his life where the seemingly ordinary is actually transcendently extraordinary.

where the mundane is mystical and magical.

where a transporter of the exhausted becomes a transformer for the exhilarated.

where not only the body, but the spirit and imagination is literally and figuratively ESCALATED, exalted to new heights of perspective and possibility.

today, the weather outside my window (cloudy, windy, rainy) mirrors the weather inside my heart. un- and under-employment, and the constant search for what could be ‘next’ in my life, leave me consistently in a present rhythm of life that so often feels ordinary, mundane, exasperating, and exhausting.

but thanks to Ian, and to one of the quintessential little quirks of this funky little town that i love, i know exactly how to best respond to those blustery storms, without and within.

i’m going to the mall.

not to shop.

not to eat.

but to RIDE.

THE escalator.

with my mysterious and magical boy.

and watch him celebrate the experience in exuberance.

and join him in the extraordinary celebration of another ‘ordinary’ moment.

and allow that rickety little transporter to transform my vision.

and LIFT my spirits.

and ESCALATE my awareness beyond my anger and shame regarding the past, and my anxiety and uncertainty about the future.

and EMBRACE it all in the transcendent gift of the eternal NOW, the present moment, the life i’ve been given to live in gratitude and love with each beat of my heart, each breath of my being.

and ENJOY the ride.

Ian on Missoula's one and only escalator at Herberger's.


my mystical, magical boy in his element…

And he inspired Dad to take a ride, too.


…inspiring dear old dad yet again to enjoy the RIDE… 🙂


To see more of Brian’s writing, check out the Brian Marsh main page here at Make it Missoula. And for even more, check out his personal blog, Apocalypso Now.


i’m a wanderer and a wonderer. a pastor who isn’t sure he’d attend church if he wasn’t pastoring one (and currently, i’m not), living with my unique and special family (my wife, Kirsten, and sons, Ian and Trevor) in a unique and beautiful place (Missoula, Montana). restless and lazy, usually amazed, always in process, i’m continually surprised and usually delighted at discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary, the ‘sacred’ in the ‘secular’, the shafts of light that sneak into the shrouds of darkness. i drum decently, surf poorly, love multicultural food, music, and community, and living in the ‘Zoo.