Friday, June 13, 2008

If you're not from St. Louis and you read this blog I feel compelled to tell you something about the setting. Locals, including myself, are generally provincial in their love of this city of parks, free concerts, good art, and great food. The main downside to the Lou is the weather; or, more specifically, the seasons. There are only two seasons in St. Louis: winter, which I consider mild having grown up in Wisconsin, and summer, which is as hot and humid as you might imagine the most sweltering tropical jungle to be - temperatures in the hundreds plus one-hundred percent humidity. You might as well be swimming at the equator. Fall lasts a week and spring might be ten days. This year spring was replaced by a monsoon, which has actually continued into summer. We went from ten degrees bellow average temperatures to ten degrees above average overnight.

I mention all this to explain why Elliot and I have begun walking the malls. As per my robot post, I've had enough of hanging out at home with the kid. I love the kid. I love the home. But cabin fever is cabin fever. Unfortunately, St. Louis is no place to be outside in during the summer months. Yesterday we walked the length and breadth of Crestwood Plaza (not a "mall" but a "plaza", not to be confused with a "center"). If you're looking for signs of an economic downturn, look no further than that facility. Only half of the available store space is currently in use. Entrance after entrance displayed the wares of some store that was open at some other location in the mall - display courtesy of such and such - black curtains of economic doom supplied by mall.

To counter my sense of foreboding about the retail economy, we went to the Galleria today. When it comes to opulence, the Galleria (not an, but the) is a mall that could give the hanging gardens of Babylon a run for their money. My high school economics teacher held up the Galleria as a historic example of the shift from palaces for producers, in castles and cathedrals, to palaces for the consumer. Marble marble everywhere and Gouda cheese to cut - assorted knives fourth floor in home wares. To my surprise, here too were there curtained causeways, though only a few. I had fresh rolled spicy tuna sushi in the food court while the Japanese food sellers cooed to Elliot in Chinese. (The Galleria sells surface).

Still, the Disney store was having a run on its widgets with only two days left until closure. I nearly bought Elliot a King Louie doll for two bucks (I want to be a man, man-cub), but the line of bargain shoppers was too long. That's the thing about downturns - you have closeout specials on fantasy when the reality is that most mall walkers, like Elliot and I, are there more for the free AC and exercise then for stuffed chotchkies of insignificance. I suppose we like to look at the price tags and marvel that people in some other economy than ours are willing to spend what they do. Had I bought it there, I could have spent my entire stimulus package check on a single patio umbrella. I was going to stop at Goodwill on the way home to do some browsing around things I can actually afford, but the E man had had enough - and as a matter of fact he is still sleeping off all the wonders of the day. I make significantly more than the median income in the country. If most people make less than I do, I have no idea how any of those stores remain open.


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