The Mall and its parking lots cover seventy-eight acres in the city of Bloomington, a suburb just south of the Twin Cities. The Mall structure itself encloses about forty-five of those acres. It is as tall as an eight-story building. Its more than 500 retail stores, plus restaurants, food courts, movie theaters, a bank, a clinic, a wedding chapel, and a business school called National American University, occupy the outer part of the enclosed space, extending down long corridors on four levels. The center of the Mall, a space of about seven acres, is open to the skylights in the ceiling far above. There are trees growing from the floor in this central space, and an amusement park, Camp Snoopy, with a roller coaster, a seventy-four-foot-high Ferris wheel, and a log flume ride whose chlorinated water gives the conditioned air the scent of an indoor swimming pool. Here the Mall floor rolls in small rises and dips, perhaps to encourage the illusion that it is earth and not cement painted gray.
The first time I went to the Mall, Tim took me on a quick detour to an obscure corner of Camp Snoopy. He said he had something he really wanted me to see. Set into the gently rolling gray-painted floor, between a shooting gallery and a photo shop where you could get an old-fashioned picture of yourself in old-fashioned clothes, was a historical marker in the shape of home plate. Made of copper or brass, it bore the words "Metropolitan Stadium Home Plate" and the years "1956-1981."
Had he shown me the site of Alice's rabbit hole, I could not have been more pleased. In this mall innocent of history, in the retail environment's eternal present, the plaque in the floor opened a vista to the past like a wide-screen keyhole. Time really did exist, contrary to what the Mall would have us believe. Specifically: Metropolitan Stadium, Minneapolis- St. Paul's venue for big-league baseball and football, once stood where the Mall now stands. From the sixties until the eighties the Minnesota Twins, of the American League, and the Minnesota Vikings, of the National Football Conference, played here. The small space marked by the home-plate plaque once had more than a hundred thousand eyes focused on it (game seven of the 1965 World Series, between the Twins and the Los Angeles Dodgers, drew 50,596 fans). In the early 1980s the Twins and the Vikings moved to a new stadium, and developers tore down Metropolitan Stadium to build the Mall.
A book tour is not a good opportunity to let your mind wander. You have to pay attention, remember salespeople's and interviewers' names, succinctly summarize your book in a "selling" way, and so on. But when I saw the home-plate plaque, I forgot about that for a moment and sat down on a rustic log bench nearby. In the plaque's immediate airspace invisible fastballs, curve balls, and sliders went zipping by. My mind fell into flashback mode, with few hard facts to go on (though later research supplied them). Before the Twins moved here, they were the Washington Senators, a team usually described with the epithet "hapless," as they sat year after year at the bottom of the league. Calvin Griffith, then their owner, once said he moved them to Minnesota because of Minnesota's lack of black people. "You've got good, hardworking white people here," Griffith said, explaining that they were a better audience for baseball. (Griffith's black players objected to his remarks, and he semi-apologized.) In the Twins' first ten years in Minnesota they improved a lot from when they were the Senators, and also led the American League in attendance.