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LJI Week 6: Let's go to the mall!

The day they knocked down the Palais
My sister stood and cried
--"Come Dancing," The Kinks

It's a hell of a thing to find out on Facebook first thing on a Monday morning.  I've found out about births, deaths, and my ex getting remarried on Facebook.  This, however, was different.

We didn't have anything like the Palais in the small southwestern Virginia town where I grew up.  What we did have was The Mall, always pronounced with capitals.

And now it is closed.  And on the auction block.  And is likely to be bulldozed for something newer, shinier, and a lot less meaningfull.  At least to me.

Friday nights growing up in Bristol were pretty much the same for everybody.  Up until sixth grade, everyone was at home watching television with the family.  Granted, there were those rare, joyous occasions where someone had a birthday and their mom (it was always mom) was brave enough to host a slumber party, where you got together with a half dozen of your friends...and watched tv at someone else's house.  But the snacks were better.  And, if you were really lucky, there was a brief respite from annoying younger siblings.

Fridays in 7th and 8th grade were "skate and mingle" nights at Skate Fun, sponsored in turn by various youth groups.  Other than determining that you would be grounded for life if you thought twice about going with someone from another church and providing a steady stream of ankle injuries for the local ER, I never got the point.

But if you were very, very good and did your homework and your parents considered you trustworthy, come 9th grade, you got to spend Friday nights at The Mall.

(Okay, if your parents were too busy running an illegal NASCAR betting ring and dealing weed out of the back of the trailer, you got to go, too.  But this is my story, damnit!)

Looking at the pictures on Facebook, I'm surprised at how small it looks.  How dingy.  When we were 14, 15, 16, that was OUR Palais, and we ruled it in stompy boots and black trenchcoats and secondhand smiles.  Granted, it wasn't as cool as the Johnson City Mall the next town over (and fuck them.  They're snobs and preps anyway) or the Knoxville Mall, where you get to go once or twice a year, usually for school clothes or to shop the after Christmas sales and snap up half-price perfume sets at JC Penney's with mom and grandma while grandpa eats his way through the food court.

This place was ours.

Looking through the pictures  the empty storefronts sing with memories.  The Gold Mine, turned into a shoe store....but it will forever be the arcade where I taught boys that girls could play video games and kick their asses.

B.  Daltons.  The only bookstore in town.  The place I spent most of my allowance.  The rest of my raven-clad brethren would stand outside, trying to look cool.  The raven girls would swarm in the shop, snapping up books and magazines.  This is where I discovered Anne Rice wrote "other" books under an assumed name.  One copy purchased because it was a trade paperback, passed around and around with us girls.

We smirked behind their backs, knowing we'd be shoving their hands away because the stories spun in forbidden book were more interesting than the fumblings in the back of the movie place.

The Record Bar.  All black and white checkerboard tile, red neon, and every album you could wish for.  I plowed through the cut out LPs, finding Thompson Twins were more than the top 40 hits I adored.  I met Sinead O'Connor there for the first time, picking up 'The Lion and the Cobra' with shaking fingers and knowing my life was about to change.

I sift through the pictures.  Empty storefronts.  Gapaing maws.  Swallowing a life I had, dark clad and loved.  A moment of solidarity.  Dark warriors and freaks, the lost and the lonely, the broken and the defiant.

There's Parks Belk, the bastion of everything we weren't and could never have.  We run through, scary, ravens and crows, cackling on our way to the elevator.

It is glass and smells like money.  We jump up and down, hoping to hit the sweet spot where the elevator starts to move and you are suspended in air, coats and laces and dyed hair and family left behind.  Suspended.

You run to the Picadilly Cafeteria.  Nine coffees and a piece of cherry pie.  Maybe a cheesecake, too, if someone got paid that week.

The kids who have the five finger discount spill their bounty out of hidden pockets.  I smile weakly, turning down offers.  Finally, I smile a bit and palm a strawberry lipgloss.  A pair of hoop earrings.  I sip my coffee.

The memories shift from then and now.

I touch the screen for the final slide on the show, the offer of selling those days to the highest bidder.


The day they knocked down the Palais
Part of my childhood died, just died

--"Come Dancing"  The Kinks




bristol mall

Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
seaivy
Jan. 22nd, 2016 04:43 pm (UTC)
thank you

a walk down memory lane - not my childhood but i recognized it
mac_arthur_park
Jan. 22nd, 2016 06:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
odosonata
Jan. 22nd, 2016 08:36 pm (UTC)
Wow. This brought back so many similar memories. My "The Mall" is still standing but I can never go back there. Beautifully done. <3
halfshellvenus
Jan. 22nd, 2016 11:17 pm (UTC)
Not my childhood either, but SUCH vivid memories. Including record stores and LPs, and what it means to browse and discover.

I can see why it feels like the destruction of that mall is almost a negation of who you were back then-- you and your friends, finding your way and finding yourselves in that final phase of childhood.
blue_eye
Jan. 23rd, 2016 05:54 am (UTC)
Ah!

The Mall.

Not my mall, but it doesn't matter -- could have been anyway.

And my skating place was Skate Odyssey.They knocked that down a long time ago, but The Mall is still there. Can't believe it was over 35 years ago. Seems like yesterday.
communitybee
Jan. 23rd, 2016 02:24 pm (UTC)
Excellent piece!!!
rayaso
Jan. 23rd, 2016 04:08 pm (UTC)
I really liked how you framed this with the Kinks. Also not my childhood, but I really enjoyed this. These mall reminiscences are making me feel old!
murielle
Jan. 24th, 2016 08:26 am (UTC)
This was lovely and nostalgic and full of recollections of similar experiences.

It is sad when the shrines of our youth are demolished.

Good read!
leni_ba
Jan. 24th, 2016 06:19 pm (UTC)
How lovely, and such nice memories! No, the pictures never look as good as we remember them. tks for sharing!
fodschwazzle
Jan. 24th, 2016 08:16 pm (UTC)
I liked my mall as well. It seems like malls either got obliterated or they deteriorated. Now I live within a block of one but never go to it because so many good stores have been lost in the shuffle over time. Great piece.
roina_arwen
Jan. 24th, 2016 10:59 pm (UTC)
Sweet memories of older times. :)
sinnamongirl
Jan. 25th, 2016 03:48 am (UTC)
What lovely nostalgia! Thank you for sharing :)
prog_schlock
Jan. 25th, 2016 09:05 pm (UTC)
Like other readers, this sounds very familiar to me. Isn't it funny - the malls replaced other things (I remember when the mall was built in our area, everyone was upset about losing the fair grounds it replaced) but now the malls are the nostalgic locations. When I go into my childhood mall (which is in no danger of losing at the moment), what blows me away is how few of the stores I frequented are still around. Le sigh.

Thompson Twins! Rarities! You are my kind of person. Here's a favorite:

watching_ships
Jan. 25th, 2016 09:14 pm (UTC)
This is so identifiable. I grew up in the country, so I didn't have a mall at my disposal most of the time, but I did have places and I know how much they can mean. Loved reading this.
oxymoron67
Jan. 25th, 2016 11:24 pm (UTC)
Great job! One of the malls where I spent time as a teen has been completely torn down. It's strange going out there.
inteus_mika
Jan. 26th, 2016 12:05 am (UTC)
Lovely tribute to the suburban Americana of days gone by. This wasn't my life, but I feel the nostalgia in your sentiment. Thanks for sharing.
majesticarky
Jan. 26th, 2016 12:17 am (UTC)
Nostalgic and poignant. Always sad to see how mall culture is dying in a lot of the world. Makes me wonder what teens do these days in suburbam areas if malls are being shut down... probably getting into more trouble!
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )