Sunday, July 19, 2015

Walking through the American dream

So the Goat and I are lying in our conjugal bed listening to the rain outside as it washes out our plans to walk.

"Honey," I say.

"Yes?" he says.

"There is another option."


"We could ...  we could ... ," I stammer, afraid of my own forthcoming words. "We could mall walk."

And there it was. And it had to be gotten through like all the rest of it.


The inscrutable half-head mannequin

The first mall walking discovery was agreeable enough: We were not alone, although we walked a good deal faster than the other mall walkers. After one or two laps, however, things began to deteriorate, starting with sensory overload. Everything is designed to entice you visually (of course), but smell plays a large part as well. One aroma billows out at you after another. Perfume, candy, soap, popcorn, Sbarro, that money-smell they pump out at casinos.

One of several candy banks and a guy

Ubiquitous headless mannequins confront you with escalating creepiness. Some have heads, but no faces. Macy's had some with faces that were wearing lipstick, which moved that entire establishment up three notches on the Humanity Scale.

Apple Store and headless chicks in evening gowns

At about the 35-minute mark, we found ourselves completely disoriented. The more we repeated our laps, the more we wondered where we had seen the giant woman clad in a bra with the smoky gaze. Did we park by this entrance or that last one? How could we not have noticed that plus-size mannequin before?

We walked through a cloud of something that smelled (ahem) organic. "We just walked through someone's fart," I said to the Goat, and at once, my fellow mall walkers were not quite so endearing.

Yes, really

Athletic shoes are now candy colored and the stores that house them are hellish collages of ... stuff. The Goodyear tire store with a mall entrance filled me with unprecedented joy. Home Spa was by far the most depressing business. A couple of bored looking people in smocks sat on dubious looking couches near the storefont until someone poured themselves into one of the massage chairs. It felt like witnessing sexless prostitution. Not sure which was worse, when they had customers or when they didn't.

Flesh-eating vampire display

Music in a mall is oddly downgraded into sound. Not noise, sound. I may have been listening to songs I knew my whole life. If so, I did not recognize them. It all sounded muted and drunk.

Even though we were walking in circles, it felt like a soul-crushing downward spiral. There is not one store designed to appeal to you intellectually. NOT ONE. No book stores. No music store. There was a convenience store and we stepped in to see if they had any print at all. None. Not even a newspaper. Yeah, I know: maybe everyone has a newstand on their phone. Maybe not.

The only two stores that might have had intellectual appeal were Spencer Gifts and Brookstone. SPENCER GIFTS, people.

No newspaper for you!

After about an hour and 10 minutes, I said, "Let's go." Famished, exhausted and vanquished, we repaired to the cafe at the Mustard Seed Market for de-progamming and a bite of lunch. Relief washed over us, as if we'd been released from prison.

Now then, whether or not a person purchased a bottle of Virgin Mojito Shower Gel for $9 at the Body Shop is entirely beside the point.

You're welcome


*  *  *


Kirk said...

I miss the Waldenbooks and B Dalton bookstores of my youth. Purists have criticized both for being inferior to independent bookstores, and they probably were, but I didn't know that when I was 19. I still have books--always paperback--that I bought from both places.

Michael Lawless said...

My wife is very sensitive to perfume. So this would require her to place a handkerchief or scarf over her mouth and nose and we would move very quickly through the entrance to J.C. Penney (Great Northern) toward our goal. Ditto on the exit. And...mannequins are sometimes worse than clowns.

Anonymous said...



DogsDontPurr said... time you go, can you pick me up some of that vampire lipstick and some of that feathery eyebrow stuff?

DogsDontPurr said...

Oh...almost forgot about this. The last time I was at a mall was about 5 years ago. I was working as a personal assistant in LA. One of my "assignments" was to help someone's young neice shop for "new" furniture.
Since I had a background in antiques and bargain hunting, I was given a large budget, and was set loose.
Well. This nearly cost me my job. The neice and I ended up at Beverly Center (the ubiquitous mall of Beverley Hills). Instead of buying furniture, we ended up having a multiple martini lunch and shopping for purses.
Needless to say, the Aunt was not too happy, but we had a blast!
They should serve cocktails in all the malls!
I love LA!

Erin O'Brien said...

There was an eyebrow place, wherein a very large woman wielded a very tiny thread that she mysteriously used to remove facial hair. Very unsettling.

I almost went into the bra store, but then I didn't. What the hell is a tee shirt bra?


twinklysparkles said...

I love your description of your experience. It's disheartening stuff, this American reality.

When I used to massage people at the Akron Jewish Center (I think I did this for a couple of years or more, at least 1988 until 1990, oh crap I wish I could truly remember), mall walking had taken hold and many of the 50-75 year-old women I massaged partook regularly, with or without their spouses, in groups, in pairs...I remember the rare occasion that I'd be in a mall and there'd still be some stragglers. The new trend of new tennis shoes, the fast pace, my utter shock and disbelief: really? REALLY? I sort of got it--no weather to contend with, the illusion of safety from who--strangers? dangerous people?

What mall were you in? It seems I have no notion of NE Ohio geography any more, because I believe Hubby and I used to frequent whatever mall these photos are from. Nothing is familiar except the tire store. That was a funny disconnect and unique to Akron. It was a depressing mall then and seems to have gotten even more depressing based on your photos and description.

I cannot believe the fake "living room." It's a horror.

No printed material? This is the dumbing down of America and must be what people want. Or have we simply forgotten what used to be? My 60-something neighbor just admitted to me that he likes Fox News. What is happening?

Now the malls are turning into those sterilized fake outdoor "towns," the first of which I experienced in Beechwood, OH. Also one in Florida....the vision is so cynical and horrific, what used to be America's downtown or neighborhood now sterilized and packaged for the middle class or hopeful-middle class.

Oh crap, I'm ranting.

I hope you can muster the courage to stay home next time or to don the kind of outdoor gear that New Englanders are so fond of--not bought in malls exactly, but it takes a lot of wealth to shop in locally-owned or somewhat local chains.

Perhaps it's a myth that life used to be simpler, but maybe it was. Maybe it was, Erin.

twinklysparkles said...

Bra shopping is the worst, ever, no matter if your boobs are large, medium, or small, young or old.

I do almost all of my clothes shopping at TJ Maxx and Marshall's which are not far from me. Thankfully, the closest real mall is a half hour away. But I'd be lost if I didn't have the TJ Maxx and Marshall's. Who am I kidding?

Loving the new "I'm not a robot" box. It's so dang easy. Why couldn't that happen before? Can't robots check boxes, too?

So many questions.

Erin O'Brien said...

This was Summit Mall. I never thought the experience would be so alarming. The poor Goat had to endure my endless commentary on the strangeness of the experience. Yeah, yeah.

As for bra shopping, I miss the days when you'd go into the Foundations Department at May Company and a matronly woman with a measuring tape would fit you whilst getting in a little pat here and there.

I AM NOT A ROBOT, indeed.

Bill said...

Two things. 1. I never go to malls. 2. It is really good to see Twinks back on the Owners Manual.

twinklysparkles said...

Well, shucks, Bill, I'm not really sure I'm back. Lingering about at times, I suppose. It's nice to be noticed though. Thanks.

Erin, yup, it was Summit Mall that we used to frequent. I did used to like malls to be honest, sort of fun and scary at the same time, and I did buy lots of clothes from the Gap back in the day.

Is Summit Mall actually close to where you live? It seems it would be far from you. If you think that's a terrible mall, Chapel Hill, which was closer to us in Kent, was even worse. Hard to believe, but true. It's in Tallmadge. scary and tragic.

I also miss the bra fittings. All of us of a certain vintage have that memory and pine for those women with their measuring tapes. We'd have to bend forward a bit to let the boobs fall properly. Something like that. Such a rite of passage. Our daughters are really missing out.

We do have a local lingerie shop which does traditional bra fittings. I'm waiting until I can afford a "real" bra to get a fitting. The bras are super pricey. My boobs have gone through some terrible shrinkage. Bandwidth gets wider and wider, boobs smaller and smaller. As a teenager and 20-something, I had great boobs, I was slightly famous for them, but after my early 30s, they began to decline. Now, disappearing AND sagging. It's so unfair! Down a whole cup size!

Glad I don't need a mall to shop any more. Glad to be free from that window into a culture in decline.


DogsDontPurr said...

Yes, the "bend over and jiggle!" The first time I heard that coming from the dressing room next to me, I thought I would die trying to stifle my giggles. But yeah, now I truly want/need one of those ladies of yore.

Yeah, I too have been mystified by the "T-shirt bra." Is it a bra made of t-shirts or a bra specifically for wearing under t-shirts? Dunno.
but I have noticed that it is hard to find a bra that doesn't have those rock hard "padded" cups. What...are we trying to deflect bullets with these things? I am not a big fan of the bra.

Anonymous said...

Hello Ms Erin--

Is that 'tee-shirt' or t-shaped?


Anonymous said...


Didn't derf use Summit Mall as a location in his Dahmer book?


Bill said...

Any room at Kulis for Cecil?