As we stroll down life’s highway – actually, we scream along life’s freeway at breakneck speed, I find – we become aware that even if we are essentially the same person (for better or worse) that we’ve always been, there are also changes that transpire.
Take yesterday, for example. Mindful of the fact that it has become infuriatingly close to Christmas (a fact that confounds me a bit, because I also know you can’t get the thing over with until you actually get there), and also mindful of the fact that I have not parted with a cent in terms of getting somebody – i.e. that would be Wendy – anything to mark the day of orgiastic hucksterism, we decided to hit the road and go to the nearest bigger town in order to part with money we were loath to part with in order to get gifts for two people who are nearly impossible to buy for – that would be herself and myself.
So, having toiled hard at our interior decorating the day before, and due to the fact that Wendy had a welcome extra day off, we went off to hit a mall known as Woodgrove (pictured above) about 60 miles south of here. It was there that I noticed the change in me.
There was a time I loved going to malls. I was once like a squealing, panty-wetting 17-year-old girl in them (I’m exaggerating for effect, my smalls stayed dry, but I did like going to the mall, any mall.). By malls, I mean decent malls, not crappy strip malls. I always liked wandering among the cookie-cutter storefronts of shops that are virtually identical whether I’m in the Ala Moana Centre in Honolulu, or the Woodgrove . The creme-de-la-creme is the Burlington Arcade near Bond Street in London. It is the original covered mall, and even the word ‘posh’ is a bit downmarket in terms of the Burlington. There the 17-year-old girls arrive in chauffeured limos. I’ve seen them do just that.
Anyway, traditionally I loved wandering along, looking in windows, going inside to peruse and sometimes even purchase items I absolutely did not need, but bought anyway just to keep the economy moving. If my attendant was a particularly charming and beautiful female I would fall in love with her and inject her into my lame fantasy life. I have sufficient clothing to last a couple of lifetimes, but a fellow always appreciates yet another shirt. Eventually I would grow weary and in need of sustenance. The Food Fair would beckon with just so many transfat laden choices. Sheer heaven. KFC or Mickey-D. How to decide? Coronary in a bun or on a drumstick?
Anyway, yesterday seemed different from times of yore. In truth the transformation has been a long time coming and it has snuck up in small increments over the years, but I think it gained full manifestation yesterday. I went to the mall and realized almost instantly that shopping had lost its charm. It had become vapid; utterly lacking in zest or joie de vivre.
Was it the banal piped Christmas music designed to put me in the ‘spirit’ and having exactly the opposite effect? Was it the crowd of determined looking folk plying the corridors and the shops trying to find ‘stuff’ to give spouses and especially kids, too many of them dressed in such a manner that it seemed to indicate they couldn’t really afford any of this shit, so would end up ‘maxing out’ yet again?
Was it the invasion of disposable item youth-culture shops and the diminishing of emporia to serve tasteful real adults that led me to feel there was little place for me here?
Was it the fact that not only do I not truly ‘need’ anything, but there is also little that I want? Oh, I mean, I do want both peace and brotherhood for all humankind, as well as a Lamborghini, but I doubt that either is actually attainable so I don’t much fret about it?
I’m just not sure what it was. But what I am sure about is that I have clicked over into another mode of life, and I am pleased and have a sense of liberation as a consequence.
I will no longer look to consumerism, but want the remainder of my life to be experiential. No, not with those pretty store clerks (well, maybe a little bit), but with travel, insight, knowledge, and interactions with the people I value so much more than things.