Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Retail Shock Therapy

(This is a continuation of "Poised on the Precipice" that picks up where that post left off. But, if you wanna skip my personal drama, you should start here.)

After some wishy-washy lollygagging, I decided to drive to the Mall of America. (My mom and sister are on vacation in China, so my dad let me borrow one of their two cars.) I like to visit the Mall on a randomly annual basis. I find it oddly comforting, like some kind of dystopian Twin Cities town square where overconsumption and boredom are the lingua francas. I parked in P4 East, a.k.a. Florida, with a picture of a gator to help me remember. (Ironically, I think it worked.) Looking at the triple-decker skyways connecting the huge parking ramp to that side of the window-less Mall reinforced my sense of the place as 1984 come to pass.

I entered through Sears and wandered through a food court. Unfortunately, I wasn't hungry. I really dig some of that food and, usually, the only time I want it is when I drop by the Mall. My visits are probably synchronized with the vicissitudes of my appetite. But this time my stomach wouldn't comply, and I had to keep walking through the indifferently ravenous hordes. A few athletic shoe stores, my old standby, provided a pleasant diversion. They have many of my favorite kinds of comfort-food-for-the-eyes: athletic shoes, jerseys, baseball caps and other sports-related apparel. Anything to do with sports can provide me with comfort under the right conditions. (That's probably why I spent last Thursday through Sunday watching all 40+ hours of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.)

I wanted to see a movie, so I went up to the 4th floor and checked the selection. The only appealing offering was Juno, which I'd already seen. I hemmed and hawed and then bought a ticket for a repeat viewing. There was a wall of arcade games on either side of the long concession stand. I wasn't in the mood to shoot or kick people or drive a big rig though. The only game that appealed to me was Galaga, paired with Ms. PacMan in a "20th Reunion" machine that is now 7 years old. I got past the first alien armada, but not much further. Dan, my best friend in high school, loved Galaga, but I always sucked at video games and generally preferred to avoid the embarrassment of repeated failure.

I walked up the corridor leading to the theaters and marveled at the deserted luxury. (I'm using "luxury" in a more liberal sense than we bourgeoisie have become accustomed to.) The soft, burgundy floor and walls climbed gently to a smaller, lighted and abandoned concession stand. I love those empty suburban oases, like dying malls (esp. the late, great Apache) and bowling alleys on weekday afternoons. I like solitude in a place where it isn't supposed to exist. Or perhaps I've always unconsciously reveled in the failures of capitalism.

I opened the door to my screen and walked through a dark hall to an empty theater. I took a seat almost dead-center. After the previews started I was joined by a few other quiet folks. After the credits I learned they were two middle-aged women sitting in a back corner. Juno was pretty good the second time. I picked up on a few clues I'd missed the first time, but some of the overly clever lingo still eluded me. I did cry a little at the end. Again. When she broke the news of her pregnancy and her dad was super-disappointed, that hit me kinda hard after my telephone conversation last night with my dad. All in all, though, it was a pleasant cinematic experience.

On my way out I stopped in a Foot Locker and the main Lids store (as opposed to the many smaller baseball cap-only branches scattered throughout the Mall) for two last tastes of comfort-eye-candy. I'd like to write about all the other distorted simulations of older, functional societies you can find at the Mall, but it feels like this entry is coming to an end and I think I've written enough for today.

As I drove out of the parking garage via one of the ramps leading to or from the Mall (It's more fun if you imagine it's a water slide!), Modest Mouse's "Float On" came on the Current and I hoped it would be prophetic of a personal recovery for me. Even if it wasn't, it's still a great song that I hadn't heard in a while.

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