Monday, March 16, 2009

Who Doesn't Love Shopping?!

I went to the mall yesterday- "The Mills" to be exact. M. wanted to pick up a few things that she couldn't get around town, and I figured I'd give her a ride out that way. She still doesn't relish driving on route 28, and I can understand why. We found the "right" entrance after driving more than 1/2 way around the megacomplex. This one-stop consumer architecture is arguably the least lovely design template that I've ever experienced. It's phenomenally bleak, and whenever I find myself going (and it's NEVER on my initiative), I always feel like I'm visiting an alien planet. I had an hour and forty minutes to spend once we got there, and for the first ten it was interesting from a sociological standpoint. Then I started sweating as if I was in a Baptist church.

There is so much wrong about the entire phenomenon that it's difficult to find the proper place to start a list. The name of this particular mall is insultingly ironic. Nothing you can buy at any of the stores was made in the region. As far as I know there were never any mills where this monstrosity is located. There's no industry involved. It's Henry Miller's Air Conditioned Nightmare run amok sixty years after the publication of that literary travelogue. No matter how the planners try to structure the experience, it can never have anything to do with community. At "The Mills" they break down the retail into "neighborhoods", as if the polished floors were modeled after the city itself. But they even fuck that up- the numbers didn't seem to me to go in order... or perhaps I had already started hallucinated by the time I began to pay attention.

All I really wanted was a belt. My pants have all developed an inconvenient propensity to fall off my hips when I walk, which is problematic in most of my routine circumstances. After 45 minutes I found somewhere to make the purchase. Then I just walked around the uni-level square that I guess is meant to evoke an attitude of stupor-induced impulsive desire. I made a point to find the stores that best represent the state of our society. My pick is Flag World, where you can buy several different versions of "Old Glory". It's a bit shocking that it's still in business seven-and-a-half years after 9-11. I don't know if they are intentionally manufactured to attain material obsolescence every year or two, but it would seem that anyone in the market for a flag has already made the plunge.

I decided I wanted to indulge in nostalgia, and searched for an Orange Julius. Instead I settled for a "fruit smoothie" that had very little in it other than sugar and dairy substitute. I suppose that's not much different from my original target, but it wasn't very Juli-icious. I should have just bought Starbucks. As if to underscore my essential feeling of dislocation, I couldn't even find a drug store to buy cigarettes. I'm usually prepared, but I didn't anticipate going to the mall this afternoon. I thought I might stop at the fancy smoke shop to buy some Gauloises, but the lady at the counter (who spoke with a European accent, for fuck's sake) didn't even know what I was talking about. And I wasn't going to pay $6.50 for Camels.

The toy store was kind of cool. I'll admit that. I found a box of oil crayons for about $5. There was also a men's clothing store that had a tempting purple velvet smoking jacket at a huge markdown, but I resisted my urge to buy indiscriminately. I can only hope I don't have dreams about it that force me to come back later on this week. Still the vast majority of product at The Mills is stuff that I can't ever imagine wanting. Maybe I'll start making bank and shop at the Amish furniture store (inconveniently closed on Sundays). Or perhaps I'll get brain damage in an accident and lose my aesthetic sense, and start coveting some Thomas Kinkade paintings. Who knows? I could even develop a taste for plastic fruit smoothies. I might even feel more American.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny stuff, Dave Barry with an attitude.

8:47 PM  

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