In the evening everyone went to a movie, but I had a pounding headache that would not profit from a Ben Stiller film in which things blow up or fall down, so I wandered around the mall. It was a “lifestyle center,” which meant it had no roof. These places are touted as the future of retail, if not the present, and I can see why; unlike the enclosed regional mall, they seem to pose less of an investment for the shopper. You go to a mall, you’re committed. You’d better do something there. But a lifestyle center is much more seductive, possibly because the definition between outside and inside is blurred. You don’t really enter it or leave it, and in this sense it seems much more like traditional downtowns. I like them. I feel as though I’m floating through a make-believe world unmoored from history or culture, at least until I make it to the Barnes and Noble, but I like them. This night, however, was cold and wet. Everyone scurried from awning to store – except the Youts, who were too cool to exhibit haste in any form. I waited for my party under an umbrella and watched the Youts, and what an unpleasant batch of rats and tramps they were, too. Really: the girls were all forty pounds of plaster poured into a gallon Ziploc bag and topped with crocheted hats (! In 2006?) and their dates were usually nasty little hatchet-faced characters you’d expect to find coughing up blood in an abandoned Times Square tenement in 1967. Every so often your impression of America coincides exactly with the caricature of its worst critics, and as I looked into the Cold Stone Creamery, watching a dozen people of generous girth staring blankly out the window as they lapped at ice-cream cones the size of the Olympic torch, I felt . . . alone.Read the whole thing here.
One of these things has opened not far from where we live in Pennsylvania. "She Who Must Not Be Named" and I visited it last month. I actually enjoyed the place and plan to return in the Spring. Maybe it's just the novelty, but the outdoor mall experience, sitting in winter chill at a small table or on a bench in a gazebo built around a roaring fire sipping hot cocoa while "She" happily wanders into and out of shops, seems a lot more appealing than trundling through the glassine enclosures of the traditional malls.
Did I just call them "traditional?" Wow! I remember a mall-free world and the opening of the first large strip mall east of Pittsburgh -- the long-departed "Miracle Mile".
I grow old..., I grow old!