I don't know how or why, but I am granted early access to the newly constructed IKEA that looms like a giant blue LEGO brick over the intersection of Vandeventer Blvd. and Forest Park Ave.
Lacking press credentials or proper attire for an invitation-only event, I nonetheless join an assembly of local gadflies streaming single-file through the sliding glass doors. Almost everyone is holding a paper coffee cup and an iPhone, the latter extended up and outward for the purposes of panoramas or selfies. A few jackasses snap away with full-size iPads clutched in their outstretched hands. I resolve myself to focus on acquiring a plate of toast with lingonberry jam and then getting the hell out of this place as quickly as possible.
The stream of interneters becomes a trickle and then a drop as the devoted break off from the store's angular pathway and seek closer looks at coffee tables with lots of vowels in their names.
I wander like a domesticated cat confronting the outdoors for the first time, my blank face concealing a rapid churn of reactions; puzzlement, delight, terror all fighting internally for emotional dominance. By the time I've made it to the kitchen section I've started to hope that my ligonberry jam is laced with death.
I decide to abandon my pursuit of breakfast and skip the cafe entirely. My pace quickens as I weave through the textile and lighting departments and soon I cross the threshold from the showroom to the warehouse, exhaling a deep, desperate breath before beginning that most satisfying trot toward the exit doors.
Outside, I lean up against the store's big, blue exterior wall and spot the mayor standing a few feet away. I watch him, because that's what you do when you see the mayor, and eventually I catch his eye.
"I'm so proud," he says, and I can tell he means it.
I want to ask him if he really believes this store will be the harbinger of progress for the city, or if he's concerned that this behemoth will devour business from smaller, locally owned stores. I want to ask him if he knows how to pronounce "Tofteryd."
But I just nod and say, "It's a big place."
The mayor continues to beam. "I'm so proud."
Photo: Samantha Marx (https://www.flickr.com/photos/spam/5086790234)