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Thread: Goodbye, American Malls

  1. #1
    Tawaci ki a Gnaska ki Osito Polar's Avatar
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    Goodbye, American Malls

    http://www.bloombergview.com/article...lls-of-america

    This popped up on a news site I was reading, and in the article they link to a site I remembered reading once about ten years ago. - www.deadmalls.com.

    I checked here http://www.deadmalls.com/stories.html and noted that it's grown a LOT since then although their web design hasn't kept up with the times.

    There are a bunch of malls on their "dead malls" list where I remember shopping when I was a kid during the 80s and malls were sort of a hot thing culturally. Especially in upstate New York, they were pretty popular because it meant you could go from store to store indoors during the winter when it was freezing cold and windy outside.

    Are there any malls around you where people have done anything interesting with the space?

    In Rochester, there's one called the Village Gate that they've turned into something pretty unique. There are restaurants in it still and small stores, but also small offices where people work, an art gallery and a small concert venue. It's very cool with distinctive decorations and art installations.
    "I don't have psychological problems." --Madrigal

    "When you write about shooting Polemarch in the head, that's more like a first-person view, like you're there looking down the sight of the gun." --Utisz

    David Wong, regarding Chicago
    Six centuries ago, the pre-Colombian natives who settled here named this region with a word which in their language means "the Mouth of Shadow". Later, the Iroquois who showed up and inexplicably slaughtered every man, woman and child renamed it "Seriously, Fuck that Place". When French explorer Jacques Marquette passed through the area he marked his map with a drawing of a brownish blob emerging from between the Devil's buttocks.

  2. #2
    Minister of Love Roger Mexico's Avatar
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    It is interesting as a cultural phenomenon. Growing up in Minnesota, 3-hour van trips to the Mall of America were a common sort of thing to do with church youth groups and the like. It was a destination in and of itself just to go see it. There's a whole theme park in the middle of it (used to be Camp Snoopy--it's something else now, but same general idea). There's more to a mall than just its utilitarian function.

    I'm familiar with their onetime "gee whiz" status from my childhood watching 80's movies where they constantly turned up as one-off settings for no real reason. (Bill and Ted have their coterie of accidentally assembled historical figures, and of course the logical thing to do is take them out to the mall because that's apparently the only thing two mentally challenged teenagers would be able to think of doing in that situation.)

    I do find the idea of abandoned malls interesting--I just find abandoned buildings fascinating in general. (How was this thing built and what was it built to do, and then why did people stop wanting to do that there to the extent that the building was just left empty.)

    I avoid malls because I find them depressing, even when they're still open. Maybe especially when they're still open. In the States they're a physical reminder that the kind of wanton consumerism they symbolize is gradually slipping out of the range of feasibility for more and more people, so they're kind of surreal in a non-whimsical way. The couple of malls I've been to in San Pedro Sula have an even weirder vibe, since basically on one side of the doors you've got a fantasyland out of some 80's teen comedy and the other side is a Third World urban warzone. (And you look at every kid decked out in Hollister or whatever looking nonplussed in the food court and sort of can't help thinking "which drug cartel do your parents work for that you can afford this lifestyle?") And then if the disjunction gets too convincing there's always the squad of army guys wandering around in full battle gear to dispel the illusion.

    My most interesting vibey experience with a mall-type environment, though, has to be the section of the Las Vegas strip I stayed on for a couple of nights once. We had a room at the Mandalay hotel, which is connected to the adjacent Luxor and a few more casino/hotels down the street through a network of tunnels and trains, and the tunnels open out into enclosed complexes of restaurants, stores, theaters, aquariums and God knows what else. Regardless of actual proximity to ground level, the way you can travel for what feels like miles and still be walking on carpeting with air conditioning and artificial light makes it feel like living underground. And of course it's all filled with cheesy overpriced restaurants, cell phone kiosks, and other clusters of flashing lights and loud noises.

    ("Climate controlled enclosure full of flashing lights and loud noises" is pretty much the general image that springs into my mind when anyone says the word "mall."

    It was my first and so far only time in the city, and the one unexpected impression I was left with above all else was the sense that Las Vegas is basically a moon colony. This impression comes from being there in July and thinking "well of course they built these interconnected complexes of climate-controlled pods to handle all of the business tourists are likely to want to get into--who the fuck would want to go outside?" You're in the middle of this wasteland-ass looking desert but hey, here's the self-contained artificial living environment plopped right in the middle of it.

    I remember reading sci-fi stories as a kid where of course the world would be so hopelessly polluted by the year 2000 that everyone would have to live in places like that. Of course, upon reflection, malls in Minnesota are pretty much the same thing in the winter--I just imagine it being the Apocalypse and I've spent weeks straggling across this dead, life-hating landscape only to stumble upon this colony of people who have taken refuge from all that in this immense habitation structure full of video arcades and TGI Fridays.

    I realize that plus zombies is basically the plot from Dawn of the Dead, but I swear I had the idea first.
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    No history, no exposition, no anecdote or argument changes the invariant: we are all human beings, and some humans are idiots.

  3. #3
    Societal egress and ennui Catoptric's Avatar
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    Strip centers are looking just as barren; some places that were built for retail have never had any long-term tenants. It's kind of like those cities constructed in China.

    The problem with an economy is that it's far too dependent on the whim of money trading, and is far too precarious in some areas of development. In China's case, they used building materials such as concrete within the last decade that quadruple the amount of material the US has used since it's founding over two centuries ago.

    Most malls are relics of commerce. There will be a point in time when the luxury of driving around and "shopping" will be largely forgotten.

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    tableau vivant MoneyJungle's Avatar
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    Sacramento is converting its semi-barren downtown mall into a basketball arena. Kings'll be NBA champs in no time.

    Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?

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    libertine librarian sandwitch's Avatar
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    An empty mall in Austin is being converted into a new branch for the community college. I consider that a cultural victory.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Mexico
    I'm familiar with their onetime "gee whiz" status from my childhood watching 80's movies where they constantly turned up as one-off settings for no real reason. (Bill and Ted have their coterie of accidentally assembled historical figures, and of course the logical thing to do is take them out to the mall because that's apparently the only thing two mentally challenged teenagers would be able to think of doing in that situation.)
    I remember in the early to mid 90s, malls were still totally rad. By the time I became an actual teenager, it seemed sort of passe. I doubt I was cool to have the final word on this. The trend I think had already been to become "indie" (I didn't encounter the word "hipster" until college). If I had friends in high school, they were "indie" kids. But I never heard the other kids talk about going to malls, either.

    Malls were something that were part of the cultural atmosphere of that subset of Generation Y I would call the MTV generation. I think there is a correlation between shopping malls and MTV having programs that weren't reality shows. By the time I entered the age where I would have been in the sweet spot for MTV, MTV still showed music videos, but the musicians being shown were of lower quality than the grunge artists of the early 90s (I don't really remember the 80's and mostly think of it as being exclusively New Wave, which I'm sure it wasn't). Sexy but chaste (supposedly) pop stars from the Bible Belt and nu-metal dominated. (This is part of why the whole hipster scene really came about, IMO.) The MTV generation still watched MTV religiously, and the younger siblings of the MTV generation begged for them to turn it off. Or we went along with it out of insecurity before deciding in retrospect that the music was kind of shitty. When we got to high school MTV was no longer the unqualified arbiter of what it meant to be a teenager, or whatever the fuck it meant.

    (Or maybe this is really just about my sister and I being very different people.)

    Also, 95% of the movie Time Cop, despite the characters having access to a time machine and being able to go anywhere (or .. anywhen), takes place inside a mall. At least, it seemed that way to me from the bits of it I caught on TV.

    Malls might be the drive-in theaters of the 80's and 90's.

    Also, this thread makes me think of the creepy abandoned mall from the Tim and Eric movie.


    Last edited by msg_v2; 07-04-2014 at 04:26 AM.

  7. #7
    chaotic neutral shitpost jigglypuff's Avatar
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    there's a huge one around here that still seems pretty happenin with the kids. that parking lot is what hell looks/feels like. recently i've only gone there cuz i had gift cards for CPK and a sweater to return at abercrombie (a gift i didn't want).

  8. #8
    Senior Member Senseye's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Catoptric View Post
    Most malls are relics of commerce. There will be a point in time when the luxury of driving around and "shopping" will be largely forgotten.
    I mostly agree with this. I would replace the term "luxury" with "pain in the ass" (of driving around and shopping).

    I guess online shopping and big box stores are the new trend. Grocery stores maybe being the exception (although the mega stores want your grocery business too).

  9. #9
    凸(ಠ_ರೃ )凸 stuck's Avatar
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    My first encounter with a dead mall was in 1992. It was an anomaly: we were living in a booming area of the country, hearing about new malls opening up every few months. This place had a movie theater as an anchor, but the rest was uninhabited. It left a really profound effect on my psyche, I even dreamt about it. I thought it was one of the most sublimely romantic places I'd ever seen. Shortly after that I saw the movie Dawn Of The Dead, which solidified this feeling.

    Abandoned stuff is always cool, but recently abandoned stuff is the best. The daily habits of people are not too distant from your own, and it's a profound reminder of your own mortality.

    I feel the same way about my yahoo email.

  10. #10
    Tawaci ki a Gnaska ki Osito Polar's Avatar
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    Yeah, abandoned buildings are fascinating to me. So are buildings which have been re-purposed, but where you can still see evidence of previous uses. I wish this sort of thing was more common in California, it's something I miss about living in New York or New England.

    I wish the mall near us would just be converted into a community center or an extension of a community college. That would be such a better use of the huge building they have which is mostly vacant.

    Dead malls are interesting to me in the same way western ghost towns are. They captivate the theater of your imagination with visions of the people who used to be there and your ideas of what they used to do. But the ghost malls are from the more recent past. The one near me started shutting down shortly after 9/11 so they still have all those masturbatory patriotic signs up. Similarly much of the signage makes it sound like the stores closed a short time ago and a new tenant is on the way but they've obviously been mothballed for a decade or more.
    "I don't have psychological problems." --Madrigal

    "When you write about shooting Polemarch in the head, that's more like a first-person view, like you're there looking down the sight of the gun." --Utisz

    David Wong, regarding Chicago
    Six centuries ago, the pre-Colombian natives who settled here named this region with a word which in their language means "the Mouth of Shadow". Later, the Iroquois who showed up and inexplicably slaughtered every man, woman and child renamed it "Seriously, Fuck that Place". When French explorer Jacques Marquette passed through the area he marked his map with a drawing of a brownish blob emerging from between the Devil's buttocks.

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