Now that was a day I could have exchanged for one that worked better. It began, as most mornings do, with great cursing at coffeemaker. It’s a Cuisinart Coffee on Demand, which puts it leagues head of those coffeemakers that dole out a cup, grudgingly, on their own schedule. I love this thing, because it doesn’t have  carafe. You no longer need stare at the ugly stained carafe, because the ugly stains are kept inside the machine, out of sight. Unfortunately, it leaks; walk away for 20 minutes, come back, and there’s a pool of coffee on the counter. Running down the cupboard. Pooling on the floor. Is there a bright side? Yes. I bought too many Bounty Towel Summer-patterned napkins a few months ago, and the ice-cream cones and flowers are a cruel reminder of the happy times now lost; they also don’t match the Bounty Fall Harvest towels, and we only have a five-week window before we go into the one-two-three sequence of Halloween towels, turkey-themed towels, and red-and-green “Holiday” towels. After that, the Great Unseasonal Void. But that’s still months ahead. No need to panic. At least I’m no predicting an exhaustrion of the Summer Delights patterned napkins in a fortnight; If my wife asks when we’re getting a coffee maker that works, I’ll point to the napkins, and shrug: it’s out of my hands.

After I got Natalie on the bus I attempted to print a 45 page document, forgetting that the new printer (HP PhotoSmart C9382954334a with Color-Match™ Tru-Print Omniscan Express With Meat Juicer) chokes on anything more complex than three pages. Asking it to print 45 pages without incident is like trying to give an elephant a suppository in the form of a Grandfather’s Clock. The printer either runs out of ink or eats paper nine sheets at a time or runs out of paper, which yields an “Error 81” message. I enjoy messages like those, because they tell me I have at least 80 other errors to experience. You can get around the error message by shutting down, which is accomplished by pushing the Power button, waiting three minutes while it attempts to shut down, then removing the power cord.

It was nine AM, and time to get to work. Monday was the 51st anniversary of the opening of Southdale. Since I wasn’t doing last year when they had the all-important 50th, I decided to do something about the 51st. Last year they had cake. This year they did not have cake. Last year there were displays and photos and historical items displayed with pride; this year, nothing.

Fifty-year-old men, take note.

I entered the mall and started shooting – let me rephrase that. I walked into the mall, produced the Flip Video camera (which will soon be retired, since it shows a small grey gauzy dot in the lower right hand corner. Why? I don’t know. Error 81) and was soon welcomed to the modern world by a nice security officer. He directed me to the office, where I was assigned a minder. This was a buzzkill, as you can imagine, so I wasn’t able to shoot as much as I wanted – didn’t want to drag her all over the place, and there’s always that why are you taking a picture of that? Vibe I get all. The. Time. I hate that.

Went home, assembled the video, did a voice over, found some sprightly ancient 1950s shopping ambient music, then uploaded it . . . only to discover that the video host was  having an 81 kind of day as well. Five o’clock arrived, and I celebrated in my accustomed fashion: twenty minutes of sleep.

Anyway, here’s some stuff that didn’t make the video. It’s The Mother of All Malls, the first all-enclosed shopping mall in THE WORLD, in its first few weeks. If you know the place, this will come as a shock – because the area on the ground floor under Kinney’s shoes is where the Apple Store is today. Yes, I know: whoa.






This helpful hostess had a smile you can still read, can’t you?



Random people, unaware they would be distributed globally fifty years later by an interconnected computer network:

This close-up shows a store on the top floor: Jack and Jill’s.

An ancient crumbling newspaper in the Strib files had an ad – too large to fit on the scanner bed, alas:

Reading the newspaper supplement that heralded the opening – two thick ad-choked sections – I was struck by several things. One: this was, obviously, their Mall of America, a giant new place of modern commerce, the likes of which the world had not yet beheld. Two: this was, obviously, not their Mall of America, because they had no frame of reference for such a thing until Southdale opened its doors. Three: the Garden Court interior was open on Sundays. The stores were not. Four: The descriptions, the photos, the ads, the tone of the special supplement – it wasn’t just the optimism, it was the quality of the optimism, the weight of it. So many things were new; so much was happening; so much was possible. Sometimes I think that the 50s was the most revolutionary decade in the century; the sixties were just clean-up.

More about the place, with more photos and links and a quickly-composed video, at

Incidentally, you may have noticed – if you’re paying very close attention – that I wrote “Natalie” instead of “Gnat.” She came into my studio while I was writing, started reading the screen, and gave me a gentle punch in the shoulder. “My name isn’t spelled with a G,” she said. “Change it.”

I knew this day would come. She's on to me.

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