Scenes From a Shopping Mall

It was strange. Well, maybe just unexpected. I slowly made my way into the car-jammed parking lot at 2:33 pm the Friday after Thanksgiving, hating myself for choosing to do a story on shopping malls, or America, depending on how you look at it. I was hoping to catch a fight with crazy ladies to prove to the world that this is not cool, but I didn’t.

October 25, 2008.

I. The urbanization of an un-urban (therefore un-cool) generation.

I walk past the hanging outfits, or pieces of such. You know, the collared shirts, the pants with the holes, the sweater that appears to be incredibly short for the length of the sleeves, the want-to-be-bowling-shoes. I walk past, but not without touching that incredibly soft-looking shirt.

I end up at the bookshelf located in the back of the store. It is stocked with books that urban folk would think are cool look cool reading. Sprawled on the floor is a teenage couple, she with Andy Warhol pink hair and he with Barbie blonde. The two laugh and whisper and laugh some more as they turn the pages. Being incredibly curious, I stand behind them pretending to look at the books on the shelf instead of the one in their hands. At the time I thought I was discreet but looking back, I can see I wasn’t. The couple closed the book and walked away holding hands. But before they did, they placed the Handjob Handbook back on the shelf.

While waiting on line to buy Chuck Klosterman’s Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, a low culture manifesto, I overhear a mother argue over the purpose of the item she was buying for her pre-teenage son.

“But it lights up!” the boy says.

Thank God it lights up, otherwise the bowling pin would have been a silly purchase.

Beck is playing as I walk out of Urban Outfitters.

What are you going to do

When those walls are falling down

Falling Down on you.

-Beck, “Wall”

Compilation of research October 2008- December 2008.

II. The writings on the wall.

The following are statements, rhetorical questions, random words, etc. written on fitting room walls. Note: the responses are also by anonymous wall writers.

I’m sorry mom. I’m sorry we can’t all be size 2 like you. I’m sorry I weigh 130 lbs instead of 125. I’m sorry you think I look fat in everything I wear. I’m fuckin sorry.

You’re not alone

Kuwait ©

After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, and so on – have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear – what remains? Nature remains- Walt Whitman

You’re a hipster

C’est commence maintenant

You don’t speak French well, obviously

Christina was here 6.13.08

No one cares

Or Girl without life

November 11, 2008.

III. Of dogs and bears.

I first heard the squeaks of the mice. Then I was able to distinguish the chirps of the birds, the…whatever noise it is guinea pigs make, the barks of dogs, etc. Under normal circumstances, I would purposefully try to deafen myself to the sounds of the caged animals, but for the purpose of this story, I didn’t and entered the Pet Center.

I counted 44 – 44 blue, white and yellow parakeets jumping up and down in all directions in one cage. In another cage, a more subdued atmosphere prevailed as two baby mice fed from their mother as their roommate ran on a wheel. A sign read: MOM AND CHILDREN NOT FOR SALE. THANK YOU. And then there were the cages behind a wall of glass. The whole wall was filled of such cages occupied by dogs, but I could not get myself away from occupant 143817. He was alone. His body jerked up and down as though he had a bad case of the hiccups. 143817 is a Basset Hound: born on July 14, 2008.

“Where is the Basset Hound from?” I asked the fat, young woman with greasy hair.

She pulled out a beat-up black binder and began flipping through the pages of Pedigree Certificates.

“It’s from Missouri,” she finally said.

“I noticed there is a sign that I should buy him because he is 50 percent off. How much is he?”

“One thousand and thirty dollars.”

I guess she didn’t have anything else to say because she closed the binder and began putting it away. So I left.

And entered Build-a-Bear. “Fuck,” I thought, “there are more choices in clothes for stuffed animals than for real people.”

You can choose everything from the profession of your bear to its skin color to the shape and size of its heart. The bear, the bunny, and the moose dressed in winter hats and mittens have the luxury of going ice skating, ice fishing or skiing, depending on which accessory the soon-to-be-mother-or-father-of-a-new-bear chooses.

“During Christmas the line goes out the door,” said an employee of Build-a-Bear.

“Giving homes to animals is a good thing, especially around the holidays,” I said.

November 28, 2008.

IV. Piecing together Black Friday.

While driving home, Stealer’s “Wheel” came on the radio.

Trying to make some sense of it all,

But I can see that it makes no sense at all,

Is it cool to go to sleep on the floor,

Cause I don’t think that I can take anymore

I don’t know if I was physically exhausted from the day, too concentrated on singing along to the song, or too occupied by recalling the scene from Reservoir Dogs, but I could not piece together a larger picture of my day. All I have are notes.

A fucking coat check booth in the center of the mall and kids sitting on the floor resting against each other, like tired newsboys from a Jacob Riis photograph. And the sound of pop corn popping and the smell of butter and cinnamon pretzels and “It’s always Christmas in my heart” is playing as I notice myself in the glass of a store window behind which a man is spraying a woman’s hand with water as a woman talks loudly into her phone to a person who is probably holding the phone away from his/her ear because this woman’s voice is about two octaves too high for a cell phone conversation. A tree is planted in the floor. And moving through the food court is like playing Frogger except it’s real life and I was the frog, dodging and moving and witnessing a woman pushing a baby carriage with lots of bags hanging off both handles. She turns. No baby, only bags. I laugh and walk away, and a pretty girl hands me a scratch-and-win card for Steve Madden, “Everyone is a winner,” and I wish I needed a new pair of shoes, but re-think that wish as I walk past a packed Steve Madden, and then I go to the bathroom. A man pressures his ten-year-old daughter into going into the men’s room because the woman’s line is too long, and he doesn’t want to wait, but the girl wins, and the man waits and I do some more research for the writings on the wall section of this story and find a Bukowski quote about God creating poets but not much poetry, which makes me happy, not that God doesn’t create poetry, but that people read Bukowski. I’m getting tired. I wait in line for a coffee, and a woman, another loud cell phone talker, is complaining to the phone that she is going to be spending her entire break waiting on line for a burger and fries: “It’s ridiculous. They only have two people working register on Black Friday.” Three people are working. Sabrina, the woman who took my order for a cup of coffee, is wearing her name tag upside down and figurines of American’s favorite icons come free with a kids meal.

Kimmy Ruth

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