Some years ago, in an ill-advised attempt to put the carrot on a longer stick, I moved my base of personal operations from my barside Downtown flat to a quiet countryside condominium deep in Mallville. I still ended drinking just as much, it just made closing time a lot more interesting, like a choose-your-own-adventure book: “to choose to walk the 5 miles home, turn to page 32; to sleep on your office couch, turn to page 35; to spend $13 on a cab, turn to page 41.” But as I spend every weekday, most weeknights, and every weekend living, drinking, eating, shitting and otherwise existing in the downtown core, having something of a detached hideaway does have its advantages. In Mallville, life is simpler, quieter, more sterile. College kids and bums are usually just passing through, the former only stopping their shopping carts to raid the recycling before transiting onward to more exciting turf, the latter roaring by in their cars and trucks en route to Best Buy to buy a new Macbook or to WinCo for cases of Keystone Light. The sound of rallying sorority girls shouting their sisterly slogans outside my bedroom window has been replaced by the throaty cackle of pheasants in the field across the street, a species no less gentle on the eyes but far moreso on the ears. However, what Mallville has to offer in terms of bucolic calmness is offset by what it lacks in personality. After all, its called Mallville for a reason, because there’s the mall. And then there’s the mini-mall. And then there’s the stores that should be in some sort of mall but are instead just out there by themselves, with their very own sprawling parking lot and gigantic glowing sign. It might as well be Vallejo, or Concord, or Rancho Cucamonga. And this grim uniformity is not limited to the commercial world, but is shared by the bland architecture of the housing surrounding these retail juggernauts, which serve as dormitories for the students of American materialism who live therein. The University of Mallville is easy to get into but tough to graduate from. And though I’m living in this fray, I’m something of a conscientious objector, a biased observer if you will. I’m not really part of the problem, but not really part of the solution either, which suits me just fine.
Done Got Shocked: After all, the problem certainly seems to be solving itself. Walking around the heart of Mallville, one can almost see where the high tide of American greed and debauched financial brinksmanship lapped up then sucked back, leaving a multitude of slithering, slimy sea creatures to bake in the sun of harsh reality. Linens N Things, Baja Fresh, Circuit City, Quiznos, just to name a few, all fucked off with little to no fanfare. And then last week the news broke that Gottschalks , the crown jewel of the Mall itself, the patriarch of this crumbling kingdom was getting liquidated, like a sea slug on a hot summer beach. And of course much hemming and hawing ensued. What about the low-paying jobs!? What about the access to cheap foreign-made crappy goods?! What about the look of absolute uniformity with every other crappy suburb?! Whatever will we do!!!! Walking the perimeter of the pheasant field, a sign proclaims “Building Sites Available 2008.” But no one is building. No one is buying. No one is selling. And yet the sun is still shining. The flowers are blooming, life is carrying on, going forward in reverse. Of course it won’t last. The tide always turns and returns and someday, this will all be a Wal-Mart or whatever the Wal-Mart of the future will be. And that’s fine. Que sera, sera. But for now its just dirt and shit and weeds, saved by its own valuelessness. Maybe someday it’ll all be dirt and shit and weeds again and we’ll be right there in it, starting from scratch, eventually just getting to the same damn place all over again. 2012, 20000012, 20000000000012, it’s all the same difference. You’re either falling up or falling down, rats inside the wheel or dharma running and running, every once in awhile getting a drink from the water bottle of knowledge. Someday we’ll all be God or we’ll all be dead. But for now I’m just at the Mall and by God there’s a sale at the Gap.