Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Mall, after a Long Absence

So, yesterday being my day off, I headed on up to La Crosse. Got a few pairs of jeans at Farm & Fleet. Then I drifted over to the mall.

And it was weird.

Being in the mall, I mean. Because you see I haven't been to the mall in, I don't know, could be a couple of years now. I just don't frequent places like that.

When I first walked into the mall, it was almost physically disorienting to be in this large, enclosed space with all these people walking around. I felt like a tribesman who had been plucked up out of the heart of the Amazon jungle, and set down in the middle of Times Square.

So many people walking around... living way out in the country as I do, I'm just not used to seeing so many people at once, certainly not so many strangers all at once.

And shops and shops and shops and shops... I couldn't even figure out what some of the shops were selling. Stylish and expensive, whatever it was.

Seeing as it was noon, I headed over to the food court. Stood in line to order some Chinese food. I like Chinese food, don't often have an opportunity to get it. Ended up getting fried rice, Mongolian beef, and orange chicken, plus an egg roll and a gigantic glass bottle of green tea "with ginseng" or somesuch funky additives. Huge amount of food, that was my meal for the rest of the day right there.

Wandering around some more. There were some new cars out on display in the mall, Mazda, silver-grey. Looked a lot like my brother's car.

I discovered that somehow in the vast interim since my last visit, Barnes & Noble had set up shop at the mall. Wandered around in Barnes & Noble.

I sometimes wonder who buys, much less reads, all the books that are sitting out in these large chain bookstores. So very many more books published and for sale today than there were 30 or 40 years ago. And today's world is so much less literate, so much less book-oriented, than that world of 30 or 40 years past. Who reads all these books?

For that matter, I was puzzled by how the books I saw on the shelves seemed to be designed according to a different template than I'd expect would appeal to most readers. Just judging the books by their covers, so many of them were so, so postmodern, ironic, cynical, detached, nudge and a wink, dismissive, countercultural, and did I say postmodern? Visual tics in cover design: overuse of cartoons, overuse of Elizabethan women, overuse of goths, overuse of Rachel Ray.

I did find a couple of books by Jack Kerouac that I didn't already have, The Book of Haikus and The Book of Sketches. I guess the Kerouac literary estate is mining their archives for all they're worth, releasing unpublished material in lucrative dribs and drabs 40 years after Kerouac's death. But never let it be said that I passed up a book by or about Kerouac unbought; and The Book of Sketches, in particular, does look worthwhile.

Over to six bookcases of game books. Two whole bookcases full of Poker books; how did that happen?! I mean, when did Poker become that popular? (Oh, that's right, Poker is on TV now.) One bookcase full of Chess books, that I can understand. Eh, a newly published book on Mah Jongg by Tom Sloper, I bought it, I've seen Sloper's posts over on rec.games.mahjong. Then... half a shelf of books on the game of Go, but I've got 'em all already. One book on Chinese Chess, already got it. And not a single book on Shogi alias Japanese Chess: figures.

So I came away from the unfamiliar world of the mall with a solid meal of Chinese food, and three books to add to my library. Weird. I just can't get over how weird a place like the mall seems when you haven't been to the mall in a couple of years. I gotta get out more.

3 Comments:

Blogger Grand Moff Trojan said...

Paul,
I live in Southern California, and I haven't been in a mall since December 24th, and that was only to get my darling wife a gift for Christmas that I forgot to get earlier at a non-mall area. I see no real reason for them...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007 7:25:00 PM  
Blogger Paul Burgess said...

Yeah, malls are peculiar places. All the more obviously so, when you set foot in one for the first time in a long, long while.

Though that Chinese food was good... there is a Chinese restaurant or two down my way, I've got to stop by more often.

Saturday, July 21, 2007 4:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Lucy said...

Even as someone who regularly goes to the mall (about every six weeks now), they've gotten weird lately.

What really annoys me is that every store is selling the same thing. Literally. If I'm looking for a shirt, I can go to each of the three anchor stores and find EXACTLY the same selection even though they're owned by different companies. IF I'm in the mood and feeling a little ... subversive ... I'll arrange to visit a friend a few hours away in a DIFFERENT distributor zone, and see a totally different selection at "her" mall.

Not to mention the "candle" stores! WHO needs a whole store of candles?!? Those creep me out. I can't shake the idea that they're fronts for organized crime, some bizarre way to launder money. Because its insane to think they can sell enough votives to be profitable! Its just ... odd.

Still, all that craziness aside, how did you manage to get away with only three books? I stopped by BN on my way home from the airport last week, the very morning they started their "dot" sale. Where bunches of books go down to two dollars on sale. Its a good thing I drove the truck ... I can home with six cases of books. Yes. Six BIG boxes of books hauled to the truck by a really helpful stockboy :)

Lots of them were for the kids for the "home school library". Never can have too many of those. How can I expect them to read if they don't have great books!?! Several were Christmas presents, some were birthday presents, some were just treats for me.

I think you showed amazing restraint at only three books. Of course, personally, I've been known to work in a bookstore to get the discount :)

(Glad you had a lovely day :)

Saturday, July 21, 2007 9:42:00 PM  

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