Last pictures from the Southland. There may be some commentary with these.
Note that this is the only place I was chased out of for taking pictures. "Can't do that. Not since 9/11," the guard told me in a voice that reached for stern but was more perpelexed.
Who'd want to take places in a mall on its last legs?
So, fun story. I used to work at the Laguna Hills Mall. And while I don't have time to write up a full cultural history/exploration of the place, like my online acquaintance Matthew Newton did (and it's good. You should go get it) I'll speak to it just a bit here.
When I grew up in suburban Orange County of the seventies, there were two malls nearby. One in Mission Viejo, the newer of the two, one over in Laguna Hills, which always felt like it anchored the entire ersatz community. I only say ersatz as the place was built only just before I was born, much less had moved in. Permanence was a slippery thing. And even if things weren't settled or permanent, there was the mall. As a semi-social young dude, I spent a lot of time there. Not much was asked of you, even if you didn't have money to spent, which I didn't often, aside from a couple bucks to burn up at the arcade there. Which I ended up working at, but that's in 1987, after arcades had exploded then subsided. Hell, there'd been two video game booms in the years 1980-1987. It was probably more miraculous that the arcade stuck around than not.
It was there until the early 90s when I moved down to San Diego, but wasn't there the first time I'd returned in the early 2010s. And it's long gone now. As is the mall in all but name.
Oh sure, there's reassurances that Change is Here, and that your favorite merchants were going to be open while construction was underway. Reader, I'm here to tell you that such was a well-intentioned lie. Macy's ain't changing its logo, so the name only comes down when it's packing up and leaving. Sure. The JC Penney's is still there. But who knows how long that's gonna last?
I know. Everything changes and most everything dies within your lifetime. It's one thing to be told that and another to walk through the body of the thing as it grabs onto the bed frame and refuses to let the grim reaper haul it away. I'm not even sure there was dignity in it, or anything more than desperation.
Spend a little time around me and you'll figure out pretty fast that used bookstores are about my favorite place on earth, at least in terms of things that humans make. Never know what you're going to find, what surprises await, defiant of fashion or the passage of time. There was a bookstore in this mall, and I couldn't be in it for more than five minutes due to the cloying futility and resignation. Uncountable and barely-sorted, it should have been a treasure trove and instead it was all I could to not run out screaming.
I maintained. I abided. I did not lose my cool.
But I'm in no hurry to go back. Even if the mall survives, transformed into an Irvine Spectrum-esque carnival of delights, it's gone. It's long gone.