Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport
Wedding? Ah yes, the reason we went to Minneapolis in the first place. (See Rumpus and Chapter 2.) We did indeed attend the wedding. Under a vivid blue canopy gently painted with just a hint of clouds, a radiantly beautiful bride walked down the aisle on the arm of an adoring and proud father while I, as is my usual way at weddings, reached into my purse for kleenex. It was a lovely ceremony, and Jim and I both enjoyed the opportunity to visit with relatives we seldom see.
Bright and early, very early, the next morning, somewhat bleary eyed, we were off to the airport for a short flight home. As we sat down in a bustling airport food court to eat a quick breakfast, I found myself amazed at the number of other people who were also up and around at this obnoxiously early hour. For a few moments I simply sipped my coffee and watched the flurry of travelers, grateful that the restaurants were actually open so early. Time of day, it seems, is of no consequence in airports. But then, on the other side of the concourse, beyond the sea of luggage-toting passersby, I noticed something striking. A bookstore. Right there in the airport. And I don't mean a newsstand. I mean an honest-to-goodness bookstore. With limited time before we had to get to our gate, I hastily consumed what was left of my breakfast, left my patient husband sitting alone in the food court, and headed over to check out this airport anomaly, Authors Bookstore.
The entrance to this store is impressive in and of itself. Two large, arched doorways are each flanked by grand columns held up by sculpted stacks of giant books. Above these doorways, spotlights dramatically draw attention to even larger sculptural representations of books and newspapers. This is definitely more than just a newsstand. I quickly noticed that Authors is in fact more than just a bookstore. It is two bookstores. One grand archway leads to Authors while the other leads to The Red Balloon, a children's bookstore. I couldn't believe my good fortune.
Of course, I was compelled to visit The Red Balloon first. Coincidentally, a bookstore in the Twin Cities by the same name is on my wish list of stores to visit. I did not have time on this particular trip, but with relatives in the area, I feel confident that I will have other opportunities to travel to Minneapolis. In the meantime, this Red Balloon was a welcome surprise. I would later learn that although the airport store is not actually affiliated with the original Red Balloon, it is licensed to use the name.
While the physical footprint of the store may be small, The Red Balloon offers not only a complete collection of children's titles, but also a selection of toys, games, puppets, and stuffed animals as well as a small table and chairs for the kids. There is even a comfy adult chair where a parent may sit and read to a child during the tedious wait between flights. Pretty impressive for an airport bookstore.
On my way to take a look at the Authors side of the establishment, I stopped for a moment at the main desk situated in between the two stores. On the wall behind the desk is another arresting book sculpture, this one depicting a large open volume with a 3-D cityscape, sort of a giant pop-up book. A large map of the Twin Cities area provides a backdrop. Standing behind this desk was a helpful staff member named Jackie who told me that Authors Bookstore is relatively new. Residing in the most recent addition to the MSP airport, it is less than 10 years old.
The main desk ties the two parts of the store together, and the classic, wood paneled decor I observed in The Red Balloon runs seamlessly into Authors. Here I noticed an equally good selection of titles as well as reading glasses, bookmarks, pens, periodicals and even bottled soft drinks.
Unfortunately, I did have a plane to catch, so my time in Authors was limited. A small crossword puzzle book, a Wall Street Journal, and a Diet Coke were the perfect purchases for this hurried traveler. My whirlwind trip to Minneapolis was much more than I had bargained for. The Red Balloon and Authors Bookstore provided a special surprise ending to a very memorable weekend.