It’s not how I usually operate, but for the last few weeks, I’ve been contemplating the idea of a long poem about malls. A few weeks ago, my Beloved and I were killing time, waiting for the latest “Star Wars” movie to being, in our local mall. Unlike the thriving hubs of commerce we know in Albany and Poughkeepsie, NY, our local Hudson Valley Mall, opened to Octoberfest acclaim in 1982, is now a shell of its former self. The new owners have had possession of the property for over a year, but the only improvements to be seen are new carpet tiles and wallboard in the empty halls. They even skipped the oversized Christmas garlands, although Santa still held court during regular business hours in one of the many empty storefronts.
Both my Beloved and I have firsthand experience with the mall in its heyday. His ex worked at a long defunct kitchen supply store there, and I was an employee of McBooks for three years in the late 1980s. My ex and I made the trip from New Paltz to see the place, while we were still starving students and even after we became starving wage slaves. I remember when the food court was new and full of choices, the same food court that even McDonald’s has given up on and Taco Bell limps along in.
Before this mall, there was my hometown mall, the Walt Whitman Mall in Huntington, Long Island. Even before I drove, I was able to hang out there because of the busses. It was the first mall I was able to explore on my own. I still have my paperback copy of, ironically, “Leaves of Grass,” purchased from a small bookstore that was located on one of the far wings of the mall.
Malls to me mean romance, adventure, responsibility and community. To express all that in an interesting way is the challenge. I have trouble lately believing I have anything left to say, or any interesting take on things to offer. I have forgotten how to ‘trust the process,’ as the writing coaches say. I made the time to take a stab at it this morning, before I left for work. It’s going somewhere. I plan for a few ghosts to appear, if they are willing. Ghosts love abandoned buildings.