The other day I had a coffee with the son of an actor who father starred in a CB-radio-craze-era TV show about truckers, and we didn’t talk about that at all. Next time, perhaps. He wanted to ask me about old Minneapolis history, and we had a fine time. What I want to talk about is the location: an 80s hotel by the Mall of America.

It’s a Crown Plaza, and no matter how they spiff it up or add cool art, the bones of the place cannot be altered. I entered on the second floor from the parking lot and was hit by my old friend, the soggy mop of swimming pool chlorine. Looked down, saw the pool below - empty. Horrible placement. Everything about it said “no one wants to wear swimming clothes this close to the lobby, or where creeps can look down from above like pervs in Olympus.” Then the hallway leading to all the meeting rooms, where no one ever wants to be and nothing anyone wants to have happen, happen. Ridiculously large staircase to the lobby, so big the lobby seemed like an afterthought.

The exterior was uniform brick, no setbacks, just a big block. What the hell was the idea behind this place? Mall of America shoppers would be content with a place to crash, people who attended a conference would be busy and impressed with its Convenience. It’s in a no-man’s land of hotels, and all the new ones are much more interesting. It’s a big, dead property that feels like it’s nowhere, and in the evening every room is full of people on their own pointing a remote at a screen on the wall. I love hotels. This place made me want to summon the wrecking ball. For the good of all. This was a mistake. We know better. Let us begin again.

At least I got to see an adjacent building, one of the most distinctive office structures in suburbia.


It’s the color. Gold, depends on the light. Architecturally, it’s a nullity, just a stack of rentable floors. But the hue was unique - still is - and ever since it went up in 1973 (with Control Data as a major tenant) it caught the eye of everyone who drove past. The color of a car from the era, the color of the modern world, new and different!

No one ever clad a building like that in town again.

On the second day, nothing. No texts no pictures.

And that’s fine. I’m actually glad, he said with a tight smile. Really - we all have to train ourselves to hear nothing until we hear something. She’s goff, remember. Not gone, but off, but yes, gone - goff. Her mind and her heart are in the new place, as they should be.

I didn’t even worry. I can’t. It’s just what it is, and in a way I’m glad; another day with lots of texts that felt like normal would not have been helpful for anyone. Tomorrow is her first day of school, which might produce a few stressed texts.

Quite a switch, going from checking her location on the “Find my Friends” app when she was an hour late. But I’ve made an effort to stifle and strangle all the old reflexes the last year - trusting is part of it, and also finally shoveling the dirt over ancient anxieties that go back to grade school.

Normal anxieties. They never tell you this, and perhaps it’s not universal, but there are years when you simply do not trust the world. I joked about the legions of invisible pedophile ninjas, but there was always a high note of anxiety in my ears when I went to get her and couldn’t find her. School, church, didn’t matter - I knew she’d be there, but until you lock on target there’s a bit of doubt. Because no one else here, however much they may care for your child due to institutional obligations, has your responsibility and affection.

It takes years to unlearn that.

Second day nothing, I said, but that was two days ago. Here's some stuff that's tricking from the rover on the distant planet. She'll get her own blog up soon - I hope; bought her a domain and hosting for it - but until then, some bits and pieces.

  Daughter sent this: I think the breakfasts have exceeded her lifetime of cereal or eggs on toast. I'll have to get some of thi stuff.

The Host Mom sent this; "Bom Bril! 1001 utilidades!"

I sent back "Somente 1001?"

They liked that. Joshing in the tongue of the land!





Welcome to Flandreau, where the downtown’s been completely revitalized . . . with banners.

An old gas station, no doubt.

Well, this isn’t an auspicious start. Let’s hope for some surprises. Remember, I just snap what seems interesting or notable or depressing, stick ‘em in a folder, and pull them out a year later without any memory of why I went there in the first place.


At least it’s still a going concern, but they really didn’t care whether you knew they’d bricked up a window, did they?

“There’s some excellent rare amontillado sherry behind this door. Follow me."


At least they left a window to let in some sunlight on poor Fortunato.

If you say so


It’s a grocery store, I think. Look on the bright side: No chance of the sunlight spoiling the goods or fading the signs!

G. H. Rilling, 1916:


I’m starting to think they only had one hue of brick available. Not even a hope of matching the originals.

“Good news! I found some darker brick! Finally! Now, who’s got some windows that need bricking?”


"Talk to Johnson over there, he’s looking at doing some pointless, baffling window blinding."

You just imagine the grizzled, lean farmers in overalls silently sipping a cup of coffee on the day they came into town.


“Well, you got a lot of room to work with here. Want the sign by the door?”


“No! Up there, so people have to crane their necks, as if marveling at it all.”


Rustication, ornamental concrete blocks: a classic dark drink-nook that smells of beer and takes you five minutes to adjust your eyes.

Lots of bars in downtown Flandreau. Say, you know what? I think the building used to have large windows for commercial displays. Trust me, I've looked at a lot of old buildings. Just a hunch, but I think I'm on to something.

"Think we might save the facade? Some day it could have historical appeal.”

“What, this junk? Shave it off.”

Ah! An original Ben Franklin sign. Small store, and, I presume, long closed.


Ruthlessly Buckaroo'd, with previous 50s stone from its original Ben Franklin incarnation, I suspect.

Undistinguished commercial structure, but . .


What’s that up there?


Bidne Brown. According to some historical site that values the small details of human history, Mr. Bidne was a tailor; Mr. Brown was a hardware man. Seems they went in on this one together.


You’ll note the Flandreau style for bricking up THE ENTIRE FRONT.


Perhaps the glass let in too much cold air during a long winter?

It’s like a garage door that came down and never went up.


Previously, in Bank Styles:


People approaching at an angle were doubly reassured they’d come to the right place.

No doubt it went bust during the Flax Panic or some such financial cataclysm.


Finally: ahhh.


It’s still open. And that's your ration of Flandreau.

Not a lot, but hey, enough, right? Hope so. Enjoy some motels.


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