This is something I like to do once a year while the Christmas decorations are still up. Just have a leisurely stroll through one of America’s many ostentatious monuments to our own prosperity and the material abundance it has produced, on which we all eagerly gorge.
I’m not knocking it. It’s like comfort food for the senses. The jolly music, the in your face decorations. Everything kinda radiates Christmas particles that get all over you, deep inside of every orifice and pore. It brought to mind that out of the happy, warm, safe subset of memories I made as a child, a disturbingly large amount of them were consumer related.
Getting Christmas happy meal toys at McDonalds, and a seasonal mint shake when I was a wee kiddo. Playing The Rocketeer on NES by a roaring fire, Christmas tree just a few feet away, lights twinkling in my peripheral vision. The smell of Rice Krispies Treats cooking in the oven.
It’s that good, solid, safe mental space that indulging in the overdeveloped economic infrastructure of the United States takes me back to. Even as I scold myself for it, just because I hear from so many talking heads that I should, I see no harm in unqualified appreciation of decadence from time to time.
It’s impressive we’ve come so far as a species that families can come to giant indoor towns, basically, where their children can ice skate all year round. Where everybody in the family can find something they enjoy. Nothing terribly mentally stimulating about any of it, but I don’t take that sort of hard won prosperity for granted.
I have a good idea of what went into building it. All the frivolous novelties and tasty treats we take for granted are the fruits that were fought and died for, in the hopes that future generations could live so comfortably, so carefree.
My mind wandered as it tends to after a potent dose, and I wondered why nobody has made a mall themed dungeon crawler yet. Where you have to ascend floor by floor up to the top of the biggest mall in the world, locating key items from specific stores you can give to mall goths, food court fatties and the disheveled old man that seems to hang out in every mall in the country just listening to music on a 1990s Walkman. Each will then let you ascend to the next level, in your quest for the perfect soft pretzel or something, I don’t know. I’ve drawn this joke out for too long.
Something I didn’t account for when I visited was that my usual attire and eyewear is unusual/distracting to many people. I had to assure many people who stopped to ask about my sunglasses that they don’t do anything special and are in fact just a piece of shaped plastic.
Two fellows in particular took an intense interest in me, again because of my eyewear and heated jacket. One of them followed me for a while, gawking at me as if spooked. He rode the escalator in front of me, but facing back directly at me, still gawking.
“You’re setting off all my alarms, dressed like that” he said. “I know what you’re up to. Don’t think I can’t see what you’re doing. I’ve been aware of your people’s activities for a long time now.” Playing along, I hushed him, looked around as though nervous and said something like “It’s not time yet, the preparations are incomplete.”
He seemed pleased enough by it. I guess sometimes what people really want is someone to humor their fantasies. The second guy who for some reason couldn’t get over the sight of a stranger dressed unusually asked repeatedly if he could try on my glasses, because “I know you gotta be able to see all kinds of secret shit in there.”
I refused, explaining “I can’t. Then you’d see everything.” I think I might just buy a bunch of these shades so when randos fixated on mine, I can give them a pair of their own to take home. Little kids especially were prone to walk by, hand in hand with their parents, staring gormlessly at me.
I have grown so accustomed to my attire that for me, it feels normal. I forget people will be like this but it’s fun to play to their expectations. Anyways, while overlooking the ice rink from the second floor with my arms crossed as if judging a skating competition, an old man approached.
“What are you thinking about?” Pooping, I answered honestly. He didn’t laugh. “Well, I mean, what do you think of all the nice holiday decoration? The people skating and so forth?” I replied that I felt indifferent towards it. He asked if that meant I didn’t care.
So I proceeded to describe what distinguishes indifference from apathy, with apathy being the lack of enough motivational energy to assign value whereas indifference is assigning absolutely equal value to two options such that neither one is preferable over the other in your eyes.
He kinda looked at me like I’d just told him I receive secret messages from Martians or some shit, then ambled off with his walker, perhaps in search of somebody less baked. At various points, just for the comfort and isolation, I returned to my car.
It was parked in front of the only working charging station out of four on the parking structure’s topmost level. This let me keep the heater, fans and so on running for my comfort while continuing to increase the battery’s charge percentage. I only meant to dip into Breath of the Wild for a moment.
A moment! Really! But it sucked me all the way in, and that little glowing rectangle became my reality for several hours. It felt really safe, cozy and cloistered in there as the electric car charging spaces were far from the others, so I didn’t get interrupted or looked at while chilling in there.
I next played some Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon’s Trap and was outraged by the sneak attacks from behind that the blue ghosts are so fond of pulling on you in the cave section. In such a tender, sensitive state I have never felt so betrayed. Fuck you, blue ghosts I said. I know where you live. In this videogame.
It’s really charming and still a solid game surprisingly. It lets you switch between modern and original 8 bit graphics and music at any time during gameplay, something I wish all retro remasters included. I find myself keeping it in the 8-bit mode. After I got over some of the garish color choices I found myself tickled by how derfy the lion man’s face looks, the running animation and all the other little touches that the game’s original artists put so much work into.
Returning inside, I got something to drink from a vending machine and an acceptable mall tier gyro. They used steakums instead of having the vertical rotisserie to shave strips of lamb off of like any place that sells a proper gyro. I’d have downed a Soylent instead if I had one to spare.
The overhead skylights made me imagine that malls are architecturally similar to what large colonies on Mars will be like, in terms of the experience of inhabiting and navigating their interiors. Inspirational but also troubling, as it suggested this is what humans feel an agreeable substrate looks like.
It’s what we convert the natural world into so that it will be predictable and safe. So we need not fear inclement weather or large predators. The manmade equivalent of a forest, which used to include everything on its own that our ancestors could ever want or need.
We are gradually turning into a species which has no natural habitat. Which will no longer be adapted to the naturally occurring environment of Earth but instead to the environment inside of manmade habitats, simply because when we finally expand offworld in a meaningful way, that will necessarily be how a majority of humans live their lives.
Anyway that’s the sort of thing I get up to on the rare occasion that I pry myself away from VR or writing to go out and immerse myself in humanity. Which I am constitutionally disinclined to do, but because I realize that, I push myself to go and do it. To build up a tolerance for large crowds, and confront myself with the humanity in myself that I share with the people from all walks of life who come to such places.
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