I have a love/hate relationship with the American shopping mall. On one hand, I hate the mall. On the other hand, many of my childhood memories involve the mall. And on the other hand, outside of an airport or a subway, the mall is prime people-watching space. (I bought an extra hand at Williams-Sonoma. It's one of those salad hands. Great for when you want to include three points but only have two hands.)
When you grow up in a town with freezing winters and nothing to do, you spend a lot of your weekends at the mall. An image of my father walking about 50 yards behind us with all of our winter coats and hats and scarves, our shopping bags, our giant lemonade from Hot Sam's Pretzels, and my mom's purse, is forever burned on my mind. The food court, the carousel (did you ever notice that kids have to wave at their parents every time they go around on the carousel? Every time. It's pretty freakin adorable, and also, the only thing you can do on a carousel.) and hide-and-seek in the department stores (I suggest jumping in the middle of circular racks of clothes). And all of this was before cell phones obviously, so every trip to the mall included at least one page over the mall sound system. "Martin Family, your father is waiting with your coats at the information kiosk."
There's been a steady flow of news about the fate of malls because of the economy. Reuters reported today that the second largest mall owner in America just filed for bankruptcy in what would be "one of the biggest real estate failures in U.S. history." That's crazy, and part of the reason I think malls are so gross. All that wasted space and all that sprawl for 35 senior citizens to power-walk around. What do you think will eventually happen to all those malls? Housing? Schools? Greenhouses? Probably Costco. Either that or giant city-size laser tag arenas. Which, when combined with an Orange Julius, might not be so bad.