Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It Wasn't My Mall That Often, But It's Not My Mall Anymore

A stomach ache from an excessive love of pumpkin egg nog (from Mountain Dairy, a division of Inter-American Products in Cincinnati, Ohio, which is crap in making regular egg nog, but they somehow improved the recipe when adding pumpkin flavor) led to sitting in the bathroom for a few minutes and got me thinking about security at the Buena Park Mall, and how you don't really see any security personnel there, but it's implied. You're just vaguely aware. In a previous entry, I pegged the mall as drab and dreary. It has a strong backbone, because clearly the buildings that make up this mall have likely been around for more than my six years in Southern California. It's actually called Buena Park Downtown, but it feels more like a mall, though the antithesis to what you'd expect a mall to be. It's honest to its area. It's owned by Developers Diversified Realty, which began in 1965, and it shows. The company also owns Paseo Colorado in Pasadena, which I also previously mentioned, and it's a whiplash-difference from Buena Park Downtown. Paseo Colorado is airy, and a little smug, with high-end outlets, a movie theater, a Gelson's (the ultimate in supermarket shopping that could make you bankrupt, if you were that reckless), and the feeling that if your brain isn't made up of barely regenerating soap bubbles, then there are parts of it you shouldn't bother with.

Developers Diversified Realty knows its areas. It really knows. Paseo Colorado takes in the atmosphere from what surrounds it, and so does Buena Park Downtown. I just found on the DDR website that the Buena Park Downtown property was acquired in 2004. So it had a previous owner. Here's a better way of putting it: It's the Eeyore of shopping malls. If not for the pinned-on tail, which in this case is such anchor stores as Wal-Mart, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and Kohl's, you get the feeling this mall would kill itself.

Maybe that's a little extreme. I could call it battle-hardened, but what battle? Just the passage of ownership, really. There are some dimly-lit parts in it, and it's not so much a leave-me-alone feeling as a leaving-you-alone feeling. When I enthusiastically perused that liquidation bookstore on my birthday, I wasn't aware of any other part of the mall. I wasn't thinking about Wal-Mart, or the tiny food court, or the store that sells all kinds of work uniforms on the first floor. If you went to Wal-Mart, you wouldn't think of any other part of the mall. Same goes for the work-uniform store.

Ontario Mills is the complete opposite. It's in the round. Pick a point to start at in this mall and you'll end exactly at that point. The Simon Property Group owns it, but I don't think it owned Sawgrass Mills in Sawgrass, Florida when I was growing up in South Florida. There was never that much detail to Sawgrass Mills beyond the huge multi-light metal blimp frame in one of the food courts, and a model airplane flying above on a track in the other food court, the Hurricane Food Court. I don't know what it's like now, haven't known since we left Florida, but I'm sure they put a lot more into it than there was before.

The Simon Property Group also knows its locations, though more subtly than Developers Diversified Realty. You drive through Buena Park, noticing the gloom; you pull into one of the parking lots at Buena Park Downtown, and the feeling continues without interruption. With Ontario Mills, you have to look around a little more, notice many more details. This part of Ontario is where people pass through. They never stay for long. And I'm sure there are those like me and my family who come from other valleys to shop there because our own mall is crap. Or at least we used to. It won't be long before I get to that.

There's a Hooters near Ontario Mills. Right across the street is a Chick-Fil-A, and near that is the fast food pasta chain Fazoli's, which has the best greasy garlic breadsticks. Right across from one of the mall's parking lots is a Hampton Inn, which I'm familiar with from a night's stay in Louisiana when my family and I were moving cross-country from South Florida to Southern California in five days, with two dogs and a bird. As I'm writing this, I'm scrolling through the Louisiana listings on the Hampton website, trying to figure out which Hampton Inn it was, and I think it might have been in Covington. I'm only sure that we unfortunately didn't have time or the ability (because of the pets) for a detour in New Orleans. This was in August 2003, two years before Hurricane Katrina.

Anyway, you gradually get the sense of Ontario Mills being for people who either don't live in the area or don't intend to stay long. I imagine the mall has regulars, but walking inside, it's hard to believe that it would. Not that it looks bad, but over time, there has been less and less reason to go there as often. We used to, years ago, when Steve & Barry's was there, as well as Fozzy's, a great discount bookstore, and Virgin Megastore. I can't find a website for Fozzy's, so I guess it went out of business completely. The Virgin Megastore closed along with many other locations, including Times Square in New York City. Steve & Barry's closed because it crash-dived into debt and it was revealed that the company hadn't paid its suppliers for some time. But Steve & Barry's was great for pop culture t-shirts. I have seven "M*A*S*H" shirts from them, as well as three related to "The Princess Bride" (one with Inigo Montoya, one with Fezzik, and one with Vizzini), one "Cheez-Its" shirt, and a few others I can't remember right now, only that they're stuffed in my closet. I think, if the t-shirts in my closet hold for many years, I may have a collection that rivals Bruce Vilanch's.

I never warmed to the Valencia Town Center Mall in this valley. It's good for the movies at Edwards Valencia 12 once in a great while, but I think I lost interest in it after the bookstore closed, after I happily took part in their 70% off closing sale. When I am there, I go to Hot Topic to see what pop culture t-shirts they have, but that's all I can find to do. There are other clothing stores, but it gets very boring very quickly.

Those many years ago, I liked knowing that all my interests lay in one mall. I looked forward to going to Ontario Mills. I'm not one for going out often, but I was always ready when it was suggested. It's appropriate anyway that we don't go there now. Because of likely pending trips to Las Vegas to see about a new house once my dad's hired by whomever will hire him to teach business education, he and mom are keeping close watch on the mileage on the PT Cruiser and we definitely don't go as far as Ontario anymore. It's funny, though. It feels like everything is closing up. I don't have a regular interest in Mountasia or Six Flags Magic Mountain anymore. I can't think of anything I'd want to do at the mall. The only thing regular in this valley is the Valencia library, which I go to every Sunday for book returns and pick-ups. Last Saturday, we went to Woodland Hills to Fry's, so I could look for new headphones (found them and "The Pajama Game" on DVD), Best Buy, PetSmart, HomeGoods, Henry's Farmer's Market, and Jerry's Deli. A typical Saturday full of errands and eats, but we had to go outside the valley to find what we needed. The Santa Clarita Valley has never had a great deal of anything to offer, and yet I hear from my dad about people who live in this valley who have never left this valley, not even for the day. I can't understand how they manage that, but apparently they do.

About two or three weeks ago, my sister wanted the final issue of Gourmet magazine. We couldn't find it at a Wal-Mart in Palmdale (as if they cook like that in Palmdale), so we went to Valencia Cigars & News. It's a sizable, impressive indoor newsstand, stocked with every possible interest humanity could have. Civil War magazines, photography magazines, international magazines, gossip magazines, and of course, porn, in print and on DVD. There's a separate section for that with a sign on one of the swinging double doors that says, "If you spend more than 5 minutes looking, we'd appreciate a purchase." Meridith found the final issue, and I found The Atlantic Fiction 2009 special issue. It seized me because of a piece in there by Southern writer Jill McCorkle. The cover price was $5.99, but the guy at the counter keyed in $3.99. If he thought the "5" was a "3", bless him. I would have paid $5.99 anyway, but a discount on top of potential pleasure is always nice.

I haven't been back to the newsstand since, but I think often of all the magazines in there, all the parts of the world from which they come, amused by those Civil War magazines being stocked for someone. I don't think they'd be stocked otherwise. I'm continually amused by that because a drive around this valley, or at least one that lasts six years, a visit to many places around this valley, and you can't imagine anyone interested in history beyond their most recent happenings.

That newsstand is also symbolic of me looking outward. The Atlantic in general comes from Maryland. I spotted a few publications entirely in French. I think every day about Las Vegas, about the history I've yet to study and want to, about where I haven't been yet on the Strip and off, about where my place might be in that vast desert landscape. Years before, I wasn't thinking about Florida or any other state beyond those locations I saw in the independent films I reviewed (the truly independent ones, without distribution deals of any kind). I was trying to get used to the Santa Clarita Valley, trying to live in it as strongly as I could while my mom objected every day to living here, while she and dad fought terribly in barbed words about living here, about how he just moved us here without any consideration to what we wanted, about how much she hated every square inch of it, about, about, about. Is the newsstand also a sign that we will eventually depart? Eventually. I figured it out about a week ago during the night. With the exception of an almost immediate move to Sunrise, Florida soon after I was born, we've lived in Casselberry, Coral Springs, Pembroke Pines (all Florida), and the Santa Clarita Valley for 5-6 years each. I'd like to reach 10 years somewhere.

I think when you fully live somewhere, when you're aware of everything around you, when you know exactly what intersections are the worst at certain times of the day, when you find some pleasures in various things in your area, you belong. For me, it's been more about awareness than love of a place. I was aware of nearly every part of this valley, I knew where the places essential to my life were, I knew the intersections. But that was more like a crescendo as the third, fourth and fifth year came and went. Now it's faded. I've never felt like I belonged here, but I've appreciated the daily resources. I could not live anywhere without a steady supply of library books.

The newsstand and the library. That's all I really care about in this valley now. There's Ralph's, there's Trader Joe's, there's the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Carl Boyer Drive, there's Von's occasionally, but those are to be expected. Cereal, bread, deli, bottled water, fruit, vegetables, frozen dinners, meat, it's an errand. If those cover letters and resumes my dad sent out bring something hopeful to us, then this will be a proper transition to Las Vegas. To begin to care greatly about a future home (I already do, but I suspect not to the degree that one would from actually being there), you have to power down from what you currently know. With this, and the coming rains in winter (which I like more than the Santa Ana winds, though I don't mind those if there's rain included), it will be a transition calmer than when we thought we would move. During those times, I think we would have been leaving abruptly, without a good chunk of time to properly look for somewhere to live. Another apartment was considered. I think we'll do well now in getting there if this next year turns out to be the year.

No comments:

Post a Comment