Random Update and On Malls without People

When I'm a bit tired and stressed, I like to walk around (some) of the local malls. People have asked how I can like malls when I don't like crowded spaces. Well… some malls are "alive" and some are "dead" inside.

Readers know that I do a lot — I have to keep my mind occupied. However, I also get overwhelmed and need a break when I'm tired. I was really tired yesterday.

My wife and I have been painting our house. We signed the closing papers one year ago, April 13, 2012. What I most remember is that our Mimi was in poor health. She passed away three weeks later. Today, we were painting the "kids' room" blue and I thought about how much I loved our kids. Our newest members of the family, Misty and Lucy, were unhappy with the closed door. Lucy managed to chew the corner of a paint drop cloth, tugging at it with her claws under the door.

Tangent: Misty Kitty is sitting with me as I type tonight, and Lucy is on the top of their new cat tree. The girls love high places. I miss Jordan and Mimi, and I am glad we have two new little princesses who each adore us. I tell the girls, they deserve a pretty house.

Yesterday, we painted the front room of the house and touched up the stairwell to the second floor. I knew it would take several hours. By 4 p.m., my wife and I were both exhausted and hungry. When we finish a big day of work, we celebrate with an affordable (cheap) meal.

We drove into Boardman and ate at Golden Corral, a family buffet. We both like the food, but you can never predict the other diners. Sitting behind us were two loud high school girls. They were talking on cell phones to friends about the upcoming proms. I was already tired and sensitive. The loud girls were a bit much for my nerves. I had to sit and drink lemonade slowly, concentrating on "nothing" — it is like meditation. I try to find other sounds, so I stop hearing every word of the loudest people.

I asked my wife if we could walk around the Boardman mall before driving home. Though only 30 to 40 minutes, the drive was going to be through light rain and potentially high winds. I needed to decompress.

Walking helps me relax. Pacing around the house drives me (and my wife) crazy. I've learned that malls are great for walking. When you live in a place without snow or rain, you can walk outside most of the year. I used to walk and cycle in our hometown all year, despite the horrible heat of summer. You cannot do that in Minneapolis during the winter (which seems eight months long) and you definitely cannot sit outside in Western Pennsylvania. It rains a lot here. So, the mall becomes the "outdoors" in bad weather. You can walk, sit and write, and get something to drink.

The Boardman mall is one of those with lots of "dead" spaces. If you really want to see a dead mall, though, the Beaver Valley Mall near our house is only about half filled with retail businesses — and some of those are odd little temporary stores. The Boardman mall has a little wing without any open store. It seems to have had a restaurant or movie theater. The Beaver Valley Mall has a Sears — which is like having a dead wing.

I'll go to the Beaver Valley Mall and sit near the Sears to write. In that wing, there is a huge empty space where a restaurant was, a senior citizens center that occupies five or six former retail spaces, and a county employment office. Obviously, there aren't any shoppers wandering the vast space. I can walk to the food court (which has three empty spaces and six operating) and get a large diet cola if I need it.

In Minnesota, my favorite mall was Southdale Center, the oldest indoor mall in the United States. It has several "dead spaces" where I could sit and work. Yet, it also had an Apple Store and some of the best chain restaurants. It was like two malls: a dead mall and a thriving mall. The "Mervyn's" end was dead (the department store chain is no more) and had several nice places to sit.

Yes, I liked the Mall of America — when I wasn't tired. The trick there was to head to up to the top floors. As you go up from the first floor, the traffic decreases. By the time you wander the third floor, you are circling quiet stores and two food courts. The fourth floor is only on two of the four sides. When we lived there, most of the restaurants were empty on that floor, so you could sit in peace and work. Get hungry? Go down one floor. Want peace? Back to the fourth floor, outside the theaters.

Walking the Boardman mall with my wife, we know where the popular spots are and where the dead spots are. We know the best restrooms (Macy's and Dillard's) and the best place for a treat (Bonnie's Toppings Self-Surf Yogurt). There is a new and used bookstore and my favorite interior decor store (Kirkland's).

When the weather is nicer and our patio installed, maybe I'll sit outside to decompress and write. I'll walk around the neighborhood when it isn't raining this summer.

Malls don't have rain, snow, sub-zero temperatures, or mosquitos. Trust me, that last one is important in the Midwest summers. Some malls also don't have many people. (I know, an empty mall might not remain open, so I hope for "just enough people" for the malls to survive.) Malls do have cold drinks and restrooms — and I can pace when I need to be moving to clear my head.

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