The Milwaukee airport.


I guess everyone should have at least one good flying experience this summer. Mine qualified. Both flights took off and landed on schedule to the minute, and — far more important — didn’t crash. I never fly without considering the possibility of a crash, whereas I only occasionally think of this while driving. Statistics say if one of the two will get me, it’s the car crash, but I stand by my anxieties.

The picture is of an amusing rarity: A used bookstore in an airport. Because I breezed through check-in in about 15 seconds, I had some time to browse. It was wonderful, my platonic ideal of airport book shopping — no stacks of get-rich-now or kill-your-business-rival tomes, no celebrity biographies, no (or at least fewer) Grisham/DaVinci Code schlock bestsellers. Instead, stacks of well-thumbed mass-market paperbacks, all selling for three-four bucks, plus hundreds of other choices in dozens of categories. In other words, something you might actually want to read, and cheap enough that you might be tempted to “set it free” when you’re finished.

(Ms. Lippman has written about setting books free, i.e., leaving them behind in public places, so that someone else might find and enjoy them, perhaps with a note absolving others of guilt for taking them. I’ve never been that evolved; I either clutch the great ones to my bosom or keep the bad ones on the shelf forever to sneer at every time I pass by. Then I complain bitterly that I own too many books and have nowhere to keep them. No one ever accused me of consistency.)

I bought two — “Riding the Rap,” because I’m going through a reread of Elmore Leonard’s mid-’90s Florida period, and “Lonesome Dove,” in mass-market size. The latter was perhaps a mistake; in order to keep this bricklike tome somewhat less bricklike, the type is small and the leading tiny, but I don’t care. I plucked a copy off Deb’s shelf this weekend for my bedtime reading, and became as mired as a Hat Creek heifer in riverbank mud. Of course I’d read it before, probably twice, but I never owned it, perhaps because I feared the riverbank-mud thing. Deb said when she read it the first time she came to the end and paged through the endpapers to the back cover, hoping to find anything that might take the story an inch further. It’s that kind of book. (Although, in the writers-are-human-too tradition, I’m half pleased to report the sequels are said to be simply awful. At least I don’t have to read those.)

After that I wandered the shops, looking for a little something to take home to Kate. I considered a T-shirt, and noted the choices — “Hillary for President 2008,” “Bill Clinton for First Lady,” at two separate stores. Chocolate candies in novelty packaging were widespread, too, labeled “Wisconsin bullshit,” “Minnesota bullshit,” “Badger bullshit” and “Presidential bullshit,” with a little cartoon of Dubya. As a former newspaper columnist who’s pulled many of them straight out her ass, I’m wary of making sweeping pronouncements based on airport shopping, but I’m going to go way out on a limb here and suggest that perhaps the sitting president is a tetch unpopular.

Kate got three windup toys, btw. I love windup toys, especially when they’re monkeys who march around smashing little cymbals together.

The rest of the trip? Sublime. I slept on a futon in Deb’s basement rec room, where I was watched over by my life’s guiding spirit:


This was a wedding present. I recall at one point, at Deb’s reception, looking up to see this surging mass of humanity on the dance floor. Someone was holding Elvis up over his head, like mourners at the Ayatollah Khomeini’s funeral with a picture of the deceased, and he was bobbing along, too. Wish I’d had a camera. This’ll have to do.

I’m also sorry I forgot my camera Saturday night, when we drove to Madison to meet Frank and Cindy for dinner. What a beautiful city. Liberal paradise. (Question for the room: If liberals are so bad at governing, why do we have all the cool cities? Santa Monica, Ann Arbor, Madison, etc. And if conservatives and/or “the market” is so great, why do all the right-wing cities suck so bad? Salt Lake City, Houston, Jacksonville, etc.) A full moon rose over Lake Monona while we watched from the terrace of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed community center there. Turn your back on the moon, and there is the state capitol dome in the middle of the isthmus. Frank and I left Fort Wayne about the same time, for the same reason (job elimination). I’d say he landed better, but we’re both doing OK. Life goes on, and if you’re lucky, the planes leave on time.


I was going to link to Miss Teen South Carolina via YouTube, but I see the clip is now over 2 million views and isn’t loading well, so here’s a cobbled-together Flash workaround that gives you the gist. Poor girl. Someone buy her a map.

LOLBikinis: Everything I know about surfing I learned from Kem Nunn, but one thing I know is that female surfers rarely wear jangling chains, upper-arm bracelets and bikinis that could be stripped off by a medium-size wave when they’re out shooting curls. But then, they’re not Elle Macpherson, either. Do you think she might have been expecting photographers?

Soccer mom tidbit: Emily Yoffe speaks for us all.

And that’s it. Glad to be back from the good land.

Posted at 9:18 am in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' |

13 responses to “The Milwaukee airport.”

  1. Dorothy said on August 27, 2007 at 9:55 am

    This is so strange – you mention Ms. Lippman setting books free, and just this morning I read about a website at one of my flickr contacts’ pages. is the site. Does it make me selfish not to want to do this? I’d rather lend books to friends or my mom or siblings than leave it for strangers. But I love having a good library at home. It makes me feel rich looking at my accumulated volumes. It’s a nice idea, though. Sort of like Where’s George?.com

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  2. Colleen said on August 27, 2007 at 10:15 am

    I think a used bookstore is a FABULOUS idea for an airport!

    Have to say, if you can find a decent fare from FW, flying from here is great…last time the security guy had to stop reading his paper to check us through. Wish there were more direct flights, and that so many current flights didn’t go through ORD, which I am CERTAIN is a circle of hell that would make Dante proud.

    Elle is wearing more jewelry to go surfing than I did to get married…..

    Now. Off to read why Charlotte Church is hiding away from the world…….

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  3. LA mary said on August 27, 2007 at 10:25 am

    My ex used to distribute my books to strangers. Not intentionally. He just used to forget them in hotel rooms and planes.

    Larry McMurtry books can leave you wanting more. Also itching to get back to the book when things like work and child care tear you away.

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  4. Michael said on August 27, 2007 at 10:26 am

    Why do you torture me like this? As a former cheesehead, who used the Mitchell Field many times, I loved that store (it has been there in one form or another since the early 80’s at least).

    My favorite part, which may not still endure, was the after hours, honor system set up. After closing, the staff would wheel many carts of books up against the cage like curtain that secured the premises. A box was mounted on the door frame to deposit the $1 to $4 dollar’s per book. I always wondered what their success rate with that was, but assume, in Wisconsin it was very good.

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  5. Connie said on August 27, 2007 at 11:50 am

    Ah, Lonesome Dove, in my opinion one of the truly great novels of my librarian years. I always remember the young man who worked summers for my husband bringing it back to the library. He set it on the return counter and said to me “This is the best book I ever read, Help me find another one just like it.” We wish.

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  6. WP Denver said on August 27, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    Add to the cool-cities list: Boulder.
    Add to the other list: Colorado Springs.

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  7. nancy said on August 27, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    Excellent examples, WP.

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  8. LA mary said on August 27, 2007 at 1:19 pm

    I think Charlotte is hiding from the world because she knows we’ve seen that photo of her in the horrible black and orange swimsuit.

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  9. Dorothy said on August 27, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    I forgot to say I heard the replay of Miss South Carolina debacle on the radio on my way to work this morning. That girl needs to get the hell out of beauty pageants and get her ass back in the classroom. Starting with first grade!

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  10. Joe Kobiela said on August 27, 2007 at 4:09 pm

    In the world of aviation, I always find it amusing that most big company’s require their top management people to fly in seperate airplanes, this theory is to prevent the company from loosing their top people altogether in a plane crash. So we fly 2 planes for the same company to the same airport and guess what happens when we get there? Anyone class?? That’s right they get out of the 2-planes and into 1-CAR.
    If you want to save the hassle of flying the airlines I say go with a charter. You name the time and place, we don’t make you disrobe, and we never have a line. as far as cost goes, you might be surprised what 4 people can fly for vs the airlines walk up or less than 60 day pre pay fare.
    living the dream.

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  11. a different Connie said on August 27, 2007 at 6:27 pm

    The other notable thing about that used bookstore at the Milwaukee airport is the perpetually rudeness of its proprietor.

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  12. harry near indy said on August 27, 2007 at 6:32 pm

    original colleen, i agree with you — that is a good idea.

    and nancy, the $3 to $4 you’d pay for a book there is about the cost of a magazine you’d buy at the airport. and i bet the book would be the better read and a lot cheaper per word.

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  13. basset said on August 28, 2007 at 6:56 am

    was just about to mention Bookcrossing myself and there it is.

    been through that airport bookstore several times myself. for the complete Milwaukee experience you need to fly Midwest, they give you a hot chocolate-chip cookie on the way.

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