Malls evolve through bright and dense niche adaptation or a slow hollowing out. My father and I drove 40 minute to Clackamas Town Center (not at any center) for storefront windows blinking desire. Video Concepts ran Star Wars or Romancing the Stone laserdiscs to crowded coats around large televisions; we shot each other with bulky video cameras; we wrote our names and love letters in BASIC on Ataris or Commodores; we began to imagine uses. Transformers and G.I. Joes waited in plastic across the street in Toys R’ Us. El Con Mall in Tucson, AZ is a shell attached to a movie theater with Target, In-N-Out Burger, Ross Dress for Less, and Home Depot satellites. Kristi and I shop three hours at Tucson Mall without spotting a book or tape/cd shop among innumerable athletic shoe and baseball hat stores, finally urinating off a corridor of southwestern décor. I am too old to slip free pants under pants and instead find good deals. Cell phone kiosks and video game corners encroach on a candle shop flickering wax dragons and mushrooms. Benches fill with tired families. I realize, even hungry and dehydrated, I have not had a panic attack surrounded by erratic toy helicopters, plasma television ads, and stretch baby strollers.
Medieval merchant capitalism concentrated on movable goods rather than land ownership and liquefied not only commodity fetishism and community, but also effective aristocratic struggle. Macroeconomic guild power dominated local and rural craft distribution just as the Dungeon Master guides fighter and thief brotherhoods, hinting the secret power of history, hence coloring chaos and the plague with contemporary, romantic dice throws. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg, suspicious like Job, interrogate the mighty American Dream storm so as to alleviate discomfort just as the X Prize releases NASA from human flight. New economic expansion demands the patient sufferer “Cinch [her] waist like a fighter” while facing credit default, a folklore archived in Bank of America and Chase Bank statements delivered to government owned US Postal mail boxes.
Bastide projects layer museum, lawn, and monument centers to motivate movement to the city’s edge. Contingent threats traffic radial architecture. Yet, no routes appear when teaching denotation and connotation and the noun “ship” slips away from allusion. Likewise, the best business, suburban, and gentrification concepts fluctuate unforeseen property value habitation and abandonment. Portland, OR buys and demolishes Doug’s parent’s house with the carpet I traced like a map to widen the road for Albertsons. I stand there via satellite, but within parameters like a bureaucracy. Traffic lights, crosswalks, turn lanes, and medians sluice traffic from housing developments to shopping plaza, from growth to adjoining growth. Phase two, eliminate buildings to expand the parking lot. Packing trucks replace cows like a magic Melissa language transformation that morphs cellophane into human beings. Few Suntran lines connect Pima Community College to pajama pants in less than an hour.
My mother officially announces “rowboat clap clap” without reference to an oar, Tom Waits, or my kitten Rowboat. Kepler discovers one planet’s chart around two stars described in the literature as a pining Luke Skywalker. Sarah and Keith DIY popcorn popper coffee and baba ganoush in the Tucson, AZ apartment Kristi and I once lived in; their skills will be handy in the second recession when life is but a dream. Mars Direct, Google finds, is implied in NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) plan. SLS must be cost effective and presidential to justify a thing that does not exist. “Everybody row,” Tom Waits sings. “Clap hands.”
X-Files’ Deputy Director Skinner drinks J&B whiskey, which Safeway stocks on the middle shelf; but I hear it is too sweet, so spend my paycheck on Johnnie Walker. The Walker’s classic grey, exclusive age confirming webpage impresses hard work over effect. Game day around the University of Arizona sounds like bottom shelf, or maybe Captain Morgan, but also sophisticated when neighbors practice anti-humanist universalisms, speaking the global language of drunkenness: Whoo! Whoo! Science Friday dissects BarBot popularity. A local bar reopens, featuring UFC fights and other violent acts of large screen television. The old school morning whiskey in coffee practice is romantic, but I cannot commit to the dosage, extension, and pacing experiments. But “let’s drink whiskey” is something I respond to. Matthew likes the clear stuff—like some on the International Space Station—like the half-gallon Gordon’s gin bottle at home. Because a good martini, Shelly instructs, is electric.
Michael Rerick lives and teaches in Portland, OR. Work recently appears at Coconut, Cosmonauts Avenue,H_NGM_N, Indefinite Space, MadHat, Marsh Hawk Review, Ping Pong, and Tarpaulin Sky. He is also the author of In Ways Impossible to Fold, morefrom, The Kingdom of Blizzards, and X-Ray.