What happened was, we needed to visit the Apple Store on Saturday and in Vancouver that means the big glitzy Pacific Centre at the heart of heartless flavorless Downtown.

Because we have the immense good fortune to inhabit a tightly-packed neighborhood where the main streets are full of stores mostly not part of chains, I almost never need go malling.

An upscale mall, when you don’t often visit, seems an expensively-squalid snarl of bright madness. The over-lit stores pulse urban beats discordantly into the over-lit not-a-hall, not-a-street, well whatever you call the privately-owned rectilinearly bounded space between the boutiques, crowded on a good day, achingly vacant otherwise.

In the stores are items of clothing mostly; the names on the labels and sometimes the stores are those of famous Italians. The prices are stupid, and the reason they’re stupid is to pay the ugly rent for the ugly space. I’ve enough belief in the workings of markets that I try to cut this busy pseudobazaar some slack; but I notice that few seem happy while they shop.

The Apple store is a madhouse and our kids love it. I tended them with the store’s help while Lauren negotiated with the hip and helpful iSalesDude. Our 9-year-old settled on the hip iBallChair by the iMac and started poking at a iGame he’d never seen in that dopey open-minded way that always works for 9-year-olds. Our 2½-year-old can’t manage games but there was another iMac running Dr. Seuss’ Alphabet, with music: “Ichabod is itchy. So am I.”

Lauren’s purchase required 45 minutes worth of upgrading in the back room so we thought we’d upgrade the boy’s shoes too; they’re in a sad state. But the mall doesn’t want to sell to children—no fashion sense, after all—and as failed shoppers we were glad to slump wearily in a coffee shop, and wait.

It’d been probably only ninety minutes elapsed in mallspace and malltime when we fled downtown. As I aimed the Honda toward our own messy unregulated ’hood the radio happened on an Irish woman’s voice slow and rich in front of many strings. Now, there are excuses: stress at home and work and also I’m a bit sleep-starved. Still, it’s weird when your eyes won’t stop filling with tears because you’re driving away from a mall.



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Dave (Jan 29 2009, at 05:22)

I love this post. No answers, just an experience nicely related. I feel it way over here.

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From: John Cowan (Jan 29 2009, at 07:31)

Rent has nothing to do with markets: it's just monopolistic.

I posted this here before: "The widow is gathering nettles for her children's dinner; a perfumed seigneur, delicately lounging in the Oeil de Boeuf, hath an alchemy whereby he will extract from her the third nettle and call it rent." --Thomas Carlyle, _The French Revolution_

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From: Derek K. Miller (Jan 29 2009, at 10:55)

Malls aren't so bad when you're familiar with them and know where to go to get what you want. At least the trend has moved somewhat away from the vibe in the '70s, when many of them were designed to be dark and confusing so you'd wander around lost and maybe buy more stuff. (Some are still like that, but I think it's less intentional.)

We live a 10-minute walk from B.C.'s largest mall at Metrotown, so we're very familiar with it. Still, when it's busy, we call it "The Mal" (pronounced the French way). If you don't know the place like we do, it can be overwhelming. We must have the "know the place vibe," since people often ask us for directions there, and we can usually provide them.

For kids' shoes, I'll recommend Payless Shoe Source, or Sears. Sears has good guarantees on most kids' stuff: if it wears out before they outgrow it, Sears will replace it free. Of course, you know kids. That almost never happens. The Children's Place at Metrotown is also good for clothes.

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From: Manfred (Jan 29 2009, at 12:00)

Now that's poetic. Thanks.

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From: Stuart (Jan 29 2009, at 12:12)

Heartless and flavorless? Say it ain't so! As someone who is currently living outside Cleveland, Ohio (recently selected as one of America's least desireable locations to live) I have always thought of Vancouver as being a fantastic beacon of awesome perched on Canada's (relatively) balmy Pacific shores. A San Francisco of the north. I've never been there though so... is it really heartless and flavorless or is that just a tiny part of downtown?

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From: Tony Fisk (Jan 29 2009, at 14:30)

I always look at the vast acreage of carspace associated with the average urban mall and think 'Hmmm... all the convenience of shopping in the one place!?'

For Pratchett's take, read 'Reaper Man'!

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From: Matthew Laird (Jan 29 2009, at 16:08)

Tim, I'm sorry but you're one of the only people I know who'd consider that dark, sub-terrainian dungeon known as Pacific Centre "glitzy". :)

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From: Ryan Cousineau (Jan 30 2009, at 12:04)

This fragment amused me, but I think you're describing the particular failings of Pacific Centre Mall much more than you're describing malls in general.

You know, the mall nearest my house has stained-glass skylights and a semi-secret outdoor sculpture garden.

Maybe the lesson here is to get your Apple upgrades at the UBC Computer Store.

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From: Geoff (Jan 30 2009, at 13:43)

flavorless forsooth ! Surely you mean flavourless along with labour, centre etc. Last time I looked, and as your recent weather proves, Lotus Land was still in Canada.

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