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Drips & Dregs: The Mall

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I had an out of body experience the other day at my local mall.


No I didn’t OD on kiosk food or permanently freeze my brain like Thomas from Regular Show by chugging an Orange Julius.  But I did have a moment where I was simultaneously present while also completely bathed in a combination of nostalgia and deja vu.


I have twin daughters who are 13 and I took them to the mall to hang out with their friends. 


Thinking back on it, that was step one to me leaving my body outside of a Footlocker. Because being 13 and going to the mall to do nothing more than hang out at the mall is indelibly burned into my memory banks.


Here was our routine when I would go to the Park City Mall in Lancaster, PA mostly between the years of 1987 and 1993 (junior high through high school).

 

  • Park by the mall entrance between Boscov’s and JC Penny that lead almost directly to Camelot Music. Camelot, despite having nearly the exact same vibe and inventory was deemed by us to be the superior music store to Sam Goody.

  • Leave Camelot and head toward the center of the mall where all the best snack kiosks were including our favorite: Bavarian Pretzel.  Get a soft pretzel. Sit in the center of the mall and hope to run into friends and classmates and make fun of people who walk by (who sometimes were also classmates).

  • Head down the wing of the mall that was anchored by Sears and hit the following stores:

  • Suncoast Video: Peruse used VHS bin for gems that you didn’t want to drop between $39.99 and $99.99 on because yes that’s what movies used to cost.

  • Spencer Gifts (Owned by Octavia Spencer): Maybe buy a poster and think about buying a prank novelty…but probably not.

  • Walden Books: Only to hit the magazine and comic book rack.

  • Sears: Yeah...but only because my buddy Adam was into the tool section.

 

Then we'd turn around and do the same tour in reverse, maybe throwing in a stop at Chess King or Foot Locker.

 

For those of us of a certain age I’m guessing this sounds pretty typical. And you might think that this type of Saturday afternoon or Wednesday night is a thing of the past. But after my experience the other day with my kids, I can assure you that mall life is alive and well.  

 

Here is how one of my daughters recapped their visit to our local mall:

 

  • They asked to be dropped off by the mall entrance between Target and the Cheesecake Factory so they could meet their friends and head straight to the clothing store they wanted to go to first.

  • After some shopping they all hit up Starbucks and got snacks at Wetzel's Pretzels.

  • They stopped into Lululemon and Footlocker and the comic book shop. 

  • They saw other kids they go to school with and chatted with them and made fun of others.

  • And of course they stopped into Spencer’s Gifts. (Who knew that Spencer's would provide some of the strongest connective tissue from Gen X to Gen Alpha?)

 

Not a total one for one but from the teenager perspective this is effectively the same few hours at the mall that I recall from my teenage years. 

 

I arrived early to pick them up so I took a minute to just stroll the mall and this is where I floated out of my body because if you ignore the names of the stores it felt like I was in some sort of a void in time and space. The building, the sounds, the smells…I could have been in 2024 or 1992.  


And the last piece of this whole experience? The people.  

 

Except for an airport, there are few places where the human ecosystem is on display like it is in a mall.  You see everyone. Young people, old people, families, young couples, mall walkers and none of them look like you. More important events in our culture should take place in malls because it’s a perfect cross section of society. Everyone is there.

 

I guess the best conclusion I can come to is that shit don’t change. The names of the stores will come and go, you may have to be ok with a different pretzel place but you can still hit up Spencer’s Gifts

 

The mall remains unchanged.


Drips & Dregs is the weekly column from Rock Fight Founder Colin True.

Sometimes outdoorsy and always outdoor adjacent, check in weekly to see what is on his mind.

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