Monday, September 3, 2012

Destination: IKEA



Yesterday, Sunday 2 September 2012 (we can't believe it's September), my daughter Elissa and I took a road trip to Canton, Michigan, to visit Laura Kline, our favorite Russian language and literature professor and Elissa’s dear friend since high school days at Maumee Valley in Toledo, Ohio.  Laura, a great cook, prepared a super lunch: Russian potato salad, chicken salad, platters of cheese, salami and fresh tomatoes, and hearty, wholesome, gluton-free bread and crackers, topped off with a sweet peach cobbler. What a feast! "Healthy, too," we all agreed.  It reminded me of meals with my Ukrainian host moms and friends.

We had a wonderful far-ranging discussion, about politics, books and films; I learned more about Laura’s growing up, her experiences, and her decision to study Russian (she went to Georgetown in Washington, DC), a love affair she developed when her high school class went on a trip to Russia.  Laura is brilliant and funny, a quick thinker, analytic, open and tolerant, well-read, with a special interest in cookbooks, compassionate and beautiful.   I admire her devotion to literature and teaching, to her daughter and to Russian culture, and I was happy she shared some of her plans for the not-too-distant future when her daughter will be graduating from high school and going to college.

After our hearty, healthy lunch, we went for our planned adventure to IKEA, not far from where Laura lives, in the center of the Ann Arbor and Detroit markets, which are huge. IKEA stores always seem to be in country-like places, near far-suburban malls and college towns, but no matter where they are, they are popular shopping and even tourist destinations.  "The car lot can accommodate 1,000 cars and is always full," Laura said.  That was certainly the case this Sunday afternoon.  Actually, it’s the same with other IKEAs I’ve been to: a brand that’s a tourism destination, as well as a shopping destination for people within driving distance of a store,  which could be 80 miles or more.   

Like every IKEA (there are some 350 stores in 40 countries), IKEA Canton is a huge warehouse full of fantastically designed furniture, home d├ęcor, unique items for walls, floors,and ceilings, tons of model “rooms” with creative and colorful decorations and decorative features. "Welcome to a World of Ideas," its catalog tells us. Every item, from furniture to chairs and bookcases, is available in a box, ready to take home and assemble (no easy trick for some of us!).  

IKEA means modern Swedish or Nordic design, functional and sturdy, stylish but inexpensive.  I think that’s why it is also an international favorite. We heard languages from around the world and saw people from many different countries browsing and buying.  Some moms and dads were buying whole rooms of furniture for their new college freshmen. IKEA has it all.  Laura and Elissa thought many items were cheaper than those at Target’s, or Walmart’s, also popular stores for college freshman but maybe without the “modern” panache.  

So we walked through and around every department. We walked for miles.  We didn’t buy much, but we took note of the things we’d like to buy on our next trip. We have the catalog, which I’m pouring through now.  Elissa and I are looking  forward to our next road trip to Laura and IKEA in Canton, Michigan.   Who knows, we might even end up at an IKEA abroad one day.  
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