I could never afford to buy anything at Ministry of the Interior, but the first summer I came home, I would sit on the storefront ledge at 2 in the morning, smoking a cigarette. I would be fanning myself with my hair, sweaty from dancing, and someone would look above my head at the cool couch, moulded wood desk, or elaborate lighting concept in the window, and try to peer further into the depths of the space. “What is this place?” they would ask, and I would explain it was my boss’s husband’s store, one of the coolest things on the Ossington strip. People were intrigued by the yellow building. The times I was actually inside the auto garage-turned-design boutique, I would stand extremely still, attempting not to knock over one of the many beautiful things, it was so difficult not to touch. It was filled with things you could instantly imagine in a space, your brain spinning out with kaleidoscopic ideas, catapulted by a set of sheets, a knick knack, an impossibly beautiful chair. Ministry of the Interior transcended commerce and elevated objectional lust into the realm of fantasy.
One winter, my boss called me on a Thursday night. “Do you want to go to New York this weekend?” she asked. There were some lamps stranded in Brooklyn somewhere, lamps Jason needed for MOTI’s concept space at IDS. We hurtled across the border in a cube van stinking of gas, pulling over somewhere in Pennsylvania convinced we were both choking on poisonous fumes. Jen maneuvered the giant white Uhaul into Manhattan, and we wandered through Chinatown and Little Italy in the rain, buying tiny gold trinkets in Soho, being warned to watch out for machete gangs as we walked home from the bar in Williamsburg all whilst trying to get work done from a hotel room bed. Eventually, we drove to a stand of warehouses under a bridge, Jen pulling over on the side of the road because She Does The City was crashing. While she talked rapid fire into her cell phone, an older man swayed slowly over to the side of his van, gave me a toothy grin that stretched his salt and pepper cheeks, and peed on the side of the Uhaul. I remember smoking cigarettes on a curb while artists negotiated lamps from the studio, and wandering around Williamsburg buying screenprints and spicy noodles. At the end of the trip, we curled up at my friend Carolyn’s house and watched a movie about a blind horsejumper in her living room, the sound of the subway crashing through the window.
In the history of Ministry of the Interior, this tiny trip to New York is the smallest of sub-chapters, barely a drop in the pail. But to me, it goes a long way to sum up what the store represented. Even to someone who could never hope to own a piece of it, it was a catalyst for the imagination, a slice of the impossibly beautiful on a block of Portuguese hardware stores. Whether in your head, in your space, or in the back of a rattling Uhaul truck, Ministry of the Interior was an inspiration for adventure.
~ Haley Cullingham