This was an actual place: the Cherry Hill Mall, drawn for Chain Store Age magazine. You'll see the reality tomorrow or Thursday, unless I get out the banners from the "warban" folder.

More on that tomorrow. Banality and la-dee-da today.

I went to Target, but a different Target, which is identical. I just couldn’t bear going back to Errand Territory again, and this one’s no closer or farther away. I needed a plastic suction hook for the shower to hold a small waterproof bluetooth speaker. Once upon a time, you could be sure they’d have one, but these days? The product lines seem more concentrated, more precise. We have this, but that category of things we have ceded to Home Depot. We used to have those, but it gave the impression we might also have these, so we don’t have that anymore.

While I was there I bought some dog food, because you always want a spare bag slumped in the storage room. Taco powder, because I ran out the other day, and had to use “Crispy Taco” powder. I detected no difference. There was no audible crunch, and if there had been, it would have been drowned out by the noise of the sundered shell. Hmm, what else . . . ah. A wastebasket. I bought one ten years ago from Amazon, and the hinge broke. The new one has a soft-close feature, so you’re not startled by the lid clanging down, if you’re the nervous type.

Which reminds me: I was listening to an old radio drama about an heiress living in a big house with her kind aunt and uncle, and she’s all nervous because she thinks the man in a painting on the wall moves at night. Aunt didn’t want to tell her this, but, well, your mother was insane. It runs in the family. Let’s hope for the best!

The number of tremulous, frantic women in 40s radio dramas who are afraid of hereditary INSANITY is remarkable. And it’s the worst thing, too. A death sentence. You just go . . . INSANE. Of course, it’s always a ruse, and her evil cousin RODNEY or something is unmasked, and she inherits some vast sum like $50,000.

I’m just saying the character in the play would have benefited from a soft-close trash can.

I found some plastic hooks, and was content. Time to go. Paid and left, then got stuck in a dead-end in the parking lot. That's what happens when you try another Target.You're a rube in a foreign country trying to pay for something with the wrong currency. In my defense, it’s an unwise layout. If you try to leave by the street you used to get in, you end up in a lot with no exits to the street, and you have to back up and sit behind someone who did the same thing you did. But . . . but I swear this street was here before! I must be GOING INSANE!

Went home, opened the package of suction cups. They’re remarkable little things, inasmuch as they do not work. Jam one on the tile, pull the lever to tighten it up, falls off. But hey, at least Target had them.

Oh, there was lots more to the day, but bleak unease punctuated with solar-flare contempt isn't a recipe for a merry topper, so we'll wait until tomorrow.










The saddest and most poignant thing I’ve seen in a while wasn’t a fine movie or a documentary about some faraway place where once a year 50 children compete to earn a place in a school in another city, a school that has actual floors and books. It was about a place that’s quite comfortable, more or less. A small city of 14,000 souls, a place that had all the fixings of an Alabama town. It had a mall, and that’s what the documentary was about.

As all the stories about malls begin: it opened with great fanfare! Standard barbell, an anchor on each end, stores strung out between them. Brick planters, sub shops, chains, some local shops. It was where you went to flirt, if you were in high school; where you went to shop for the kids, if you were a parent; where you went to meet Santa, see an exhibition or a concert.

And it is dying. It’s not dead, not yet.

The documentary’s Virgil is a mulleted security guard / maintenance man / factotum to used to have a wild-animal zoo, and is not Joe Exotic. He has an accent that is not British, then is British, then isn’t. There’s a lady who’s been running a flower shop for many years, a jeweler who’s about to leave, the old men in courtyard playing dominos, the young women in the Great Clips. It’s all told with respect and regret.

If you’re in my demographic, it brings you up short and sharp: oh. Those days. Those things. They’re over. The old men in the Vet caps whiling away the twilight days, they came here as young marrieds, or early-middle-aged fellows with a house and a mortgage, maybe not liking the music on the radio anymore, maybe giving the country station more time. Maybe they went there on day one, in 1981. That was half a lifetime ago. Now it's scooters and tanks and Vit-nom baseball caps.

There are so many of these places.

You know me, right? Big advocate for the downtown. But also a mall enthusiast. I like them both; each has their qualities. What happens to a place when both die? What are the third places then? Where is the center?



It’s 1964.

Oh just imagine the existence of these! Sit by the windowsill with a dreamy look, and dream of the day!

Look, there’s a lot of things people have liked that don’t have to be remade in Swanson’s form.

This was Mr. Swanson.

Carl Anton Swanson was born in Karlskrona, Blekinge County, Sweden. He came to the United States in 1896 at the age of 17, arriving with a tag around his neck where it was written "Carl Swanson, Swedish. Send me to Omaha. I speak no English." He then settled in Omaha.


He ran a creamery, expanded into eggs, and did well with military contracts. He died in 1949, one year before TV dinners hit the market, but I’m sure he was aware of them. His sons were running the show by then, and no doubt kept the founder in the loop.

I'd like to think he was awfully proud of them for the idea, and the name.


“Old Fashioned.”

I’m really, really hungry at this moment, so consider that when you hear me admit that yes, I would eat that.

But I’m not this hungry.

This is one dense loaf of technically edible meat. Looks like some sort of synthetic pillow. And gah, those peas; from childhood, a cursed memory rises in the throat.

The spaghetti will be mush, and the sauce will be awful, and the meatballs not as dense as you’d like.

Always with the apples. They're good for you! Everyone loves the apple stuff, because it’s allllll sugar.



Not the most attentive parents you’ll ever meet. Wonder how many pinhole burns the kids got.

You have to admit it is strange to modern eyes to see an ad for Steel. Okay, well, if I’m in the market, I’ll check it out.

Actually, it just made you feel better about Steel in general, so when there was a strike or rumbles about nationalization, you’d be on Steel’s side.

Sounded smart when they came up with the idea. It’s expandable! You can do dozens of these! But somewhere along the line someone had to know this wasn’t turning out. Too late. Anyway, the client liked it. But you don’t know if the client wanted to impress the ad men by agreeing with them.

Write your own rebate check! You’re in control! Sky’s the limit! Totally up to you! Why, write in $1.20! (Note: limit is $1.20)

“If you have all 12 labels, make out the check for $1.20.” Numeracy, perhaps, was not presumed in the target market.

Here are the fine Morell products your family may enjoy:

“Send the front panel only.” The whole thing? You’re going to eat up half your rebate in stamps.

What’s news to me: SNACK. I had no idea they made a Spam Pretender called SNACK. I'm also surprised they didn't call it SNAK.

“Send one inch of winding tape, so it can poke through the envelope, gum up the automatic sorting machines, and scratch the postman.”

You wonder how much stuff sticky with odorous meat juices showed up in the Hormel mailroom.



That will do! Off to enjoy more of Fireball's exploits.

You are enjoying them, right? I actually like them more than Dagwood.





blog comments powered by Disqus