The Mall of America is… just…horrible.

madhouse Mall of America

madhouse Mall of America

My Dear One suggested we visit. We weren’t in the mood to shop but we were curious about this place that is a destination for visitors from around the world.

Parking was well-nigh impossible. There were lots outside and multilevel structures under cover. Having no idea as to how to get onto upper levels or in any way navigate the maze, a car suddenly pulled out in front of us. We made careful note of where we left the rented red RAV4 and memorized the route taken from car to entrance to precise point at the edge of the Mall.

A kiosk and map weren’t much help and soon we stumbled into the midway, the array of rides and entertainments for which the Mall is famed. I don’t even know how to describe it. Overwhelming, terrifying, dizzying. Nope. Definitely not for us.

It was after noon and we had driven up from Des Moines, so lunch was imperative. The “food court” was a madhouse of takeout. Eventually we found a place offering burgers and a place to sit. The burgers were meh, the seat appreciated.

There are better reasons to visit Minneapolis.

"Minnehaha, Laughing Water"

“Minnehaha, Laughing Water”

Our one full day started in the uncertain sun at Minnehaha Falls where My Dear One was able to conjure a few lines by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

On the shores of Gitche Gumee,
Of the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood Nokomis, the old woman,
Pointing with her finger westward,
O’er the water pointing westward,
To the purple clouds of sunset.

I never did take to the Song of Hiawatha. I am, after all, a child of New England raised on the hoof-pounding cadences of a different poem.

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five:
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry-arch
Of the North-Church-tower, as a signal-light,–
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country-folk to be up and to arm.”

But I do love Evangeline.

This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druid of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voice neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.

This is the forest primeval…

I do digress so.

On that Sunday of the Labor Day weekend, clouds sparred with the sun that finally ducked and took cover. But the cataract foamed over the rocks and foliage not quite yet committed to autumn color quivered in the breeze. A friendly visitor offered to take our picture with our camera—and the picture that resulted is definitely Christmas-card worthy.

Time was ticking by, though, and the Institute of Art awaited. The skies grayed as we drove, rain threatened as we parked.

What a good thing it is that the original McKim, Mead and White design—a model of which is on display—wasn’t actually built. The museum is already a gargantuan space with too much territory for my iffy sense of direction. But probably not enough room for such a collection. We never did see the Asian, African, Native American and antiquities collections. Just ran out of time and strength,

"Paris von Gütersloh" (1918) by Egon Schiele

“Paris von Gütersloh” (1918) by Egon Schiele

In the European and Modern galleries, though, I kept seeing works I know well, that I teach in my classes all the time. Equally large paintings by Bonnard and Vuillard hung on walls opposite each other reminded me why I adore Vuillard and can take or leave Bonnard. I saw, for the first time, Egon Schiele’s last great work, a portrait of Paris von Gütersloh left unfinished in 1918 when the artist fell victim to the flu pandemic. It was just one thing after another as I worked my way through the 20th century.

Minneapolis didn’t want to see us go. It was a dark and stormy night as we braved the rain and winds at 3:30 am to give back the red RAV4 and claim our seats on a plane bound for Baltimore.

How extraordinarily cheery the staff and food vendors all seem to be in the pre-dawn hours.