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Opinion

Bookstore hunt leaves two friends mystified

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March 24, 2011

Tater and I were racing towards the “Cultural Studies” section of bookstores, but I got there first. Alas, there were no secrets hidden in the books. Tater and I were on adventure I call “The Secret Hunt”. This quest is a full action-mode scavenger hunt where we look for loose-leaf secrets in Postsecret books. The master plan was to scour 14 independent and chain bookstores across the Twin Cities.

Postsecret is an art project run by Frank Warren that encourages people to send him anonymous secrets on postcards to his home in Germantown, MD. He receives thousands of secrets each week and posts them on postsecret.com. Subsequently, he has published collections of these secrets into five themed books, being the source of our reward.

Having faithfully checked his blog every Sunday for the past several years, I learned that people also leave extra secrets in these Postsecret books. A quest was born: The Secret Hunt. Done deal, I didn’t question the desire, but I would need some assistance. Tater, my good friend, was both willing and just as curious to join this quest.

Before we could leave her apartment one Saturday in October 2010, the adventure became somber because Tater’s mother called with devastating news that the family dog had just died. She belied her emotions behind a stoic smile that didn’t show her grief as she assured her mother everything was okay.

“Maybe another day” I said. She confirmed she still wanted to sojourn on with the hunt. “Besides” she said, “I made a promise and I keep my promises.”

The sun bounced off my aviators as we rolled down Highway 35, making our way to the first leg of the Hunt to the Border’s bookstore in Woodbury. A couple days prior, I scouted a Barnes and Noble to get a lay of the bookstore. Dewey Decimal System, no. “Cultural studies” and “Art”, yes. We didn’t find any secrets at Border’s. I didn’t seriously think we would find any loose-leaf secrets on our first attempt, that kind of luck would set a bad precedent and make us spoiled. The next stop: the Barnes and Noble on the other side of Woodbury. Before we stepped foot in the bookstore, Tater challenged me to a game. The game was called Secret Hunt Race Competition. A point would be awarded to the person who found the Postsecret books first. Now it was on!

Once we push through the wooden double doors, we power walked through the stacks like adult-children. We were criss-crossing, stumbling over, and eyeballing each other through the shelves as we quickly scanned the titles like Google search. I got the first point: Christopher 1-Tater 0. The Hunt was becoming more then finding secrets. After glossing over the Postsecret books, there were no secrets hidden. Next stop: Common Good Books in St. Paul. The brick building, on Western Avenue, housed several stores and a jade fountain pool with brass railings from the 1920’s. The Common Good Books had flotsam and jetsam of floating shelves that hugged walls which didn’t help with searching. Yet, I found the first Postsecret book: Christopher 2-Tater 0. There were only two Postsecret books, with zero extra secrets. We began to question the nature of the Hunt and pondered if we should leave our own secrets. I said I would wait until the last store, but the last store would come sooner then later. Even though we had found no secrets, I was still optimistically enthusiastic by repeating “just one secret.”

We found no extraneous secrets in the Red Balloon Bookshop on Grand Avenue (Tater point), another Border’s (Tater point), and Micawber’s Books (no point awarded). Christopher 2-Tater 2. Eight more bookstores left.

We rolled into Minneapolis and parked four blocks away, paying fifty cents for 20 minutes. Now we had a real reason to hurry up as we jogged all the way to the Barnes and Noble on Nicollet. There were two levels in this bookstore, so we scoured the bottom half and ran parallel up the stairs and took a right. We power walked through the stacks glancing at each other between the shelves. We spotted the Cultural Studies section at the same time and we ran towards our goal, but she touched the Postsecret book first seconds before I. We both took a “Postsecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives” at the same time, opening the books in tandem, they fell open to a dollar bill in each. We looked at each other with gapping faces and flipped our dollars over to find no secret. Twin secrets, but what was the       meaning?

This was the time we realized that the dollar bill was where we were to put our own secret. Tater immediately wrote down her secret. It was not my place to ask what her secret was, but someone else would find out. I pocketed the dollar and said I would leave my secret at the last bookstore, but that Barnes and
Noble would be our last bookstore. I confused my directions in Minneapolis and finally found driving awareness in Columbia Heights. We scrapped the rest of the bookstores.

What did we learn? In the end, I took the meaning of the dollar as a reward from the unknown stranger and Tater left her secret for another unknown stranger. Tater won The Secret Hunt Race Competition: Christopher 2-Tater 3.

Christopher Pagels is an alumnus of UW-River Falls.