Mall culture has been in rapid decline since “Clueless” era shopping sprees were in fashion. That hasn’t stopped me from finding a home away from home, an escape away from reality and a place to feed the buying fever. Malls can be fantastic places.
That Time We Played Mall Madness
A Jacksonville native once told me The Avenues Mall wasn’t the greatest place, that it had its hay day, but go to Town center for shopping. She’s not wrong if you want to drive from store to store, battle an enormous parking lot and hit up some bougie spots. But the Avenues has enough to keep me pretty entertained. It has the basics: Forever 21 for me to get lost in and not leave broke from, Francesca’s to check out novelty sentimental items and sparkling things, Charlotte Russe to peruse discount glam heels and everything else that’s pretty much extra.
This week Irma tore through Jacksonville. Day 2 without power meant my roommate and I were in dire need of air conditioning and maybe a little entertainment. We put on our sneakers, grabbed our purses and a snack and headed out. First mission: find coffee. We got some chik-fil-a breakfast with coffee, biscuits and fried chicken and chowed down in the mall parking lot. Then we began our attack.
Our Afternoon Amusement Park
We decided the mall was like an amusement park and we wanted to go on all the rides. AKA, whatever was open. We’d already gone by the chick-fil-a ride, so it was time to see what else was there. We browsed DVDs and comic book paraphernalia at FYE. I saw Reece’s peanut butter cups the size of small hands. We eyed rockstar band shirts at Hot Topic. Then eventually felt the magnetic pull of Forever 21.
We went in with #goals. And knowing we’d be going on “mall rides,” we put a cap on our spending at the beginning. $100 max for this hurricane refuge. We found baseball caps printed with “1984,” the year we were both born and HAD to buy them. We found sparkly keds for under $15 and couldn’t argue with that. I got 2 shirts, 1 dress, curlers and one of those oh-so-popular jumpsuits. Def hit the shopping high. Irene, my roommate disappeared somewhere between leggings and colored blouses. We regrouped in the dressing room, and finally she had to drag me off of this ride before I did more damage to my not-so-full savings account.
Hot Food, Retro Styles and Relaxation
It was time for another ride. This was the pizza ride. The savory smells of Sbarro had wafted toward us as soon as we entered the mall. Hot meals were something we couldn’t make at home, so the fresh baked items were extra alluring. We split a slice of pepperoni, making room for other rides later.
Then we explored Subculture to check out the retro styles, classy glam, steampunk vibes and vintage looks with modern prices. Irene plans to return after the next paycheck. Our feet were a little sore and the day was still young so we decided to go on the massage ride. We chose a double feature: a 15-minute foot massage and 15-minute chair massage: equalling a 30-minute escape from all things mundane.
Very relaxed, happy and dizzy with the pampering, we wandered out into the glow of the mall halls and headed toward the puppy store. The tiny little creatures slept or pranced at us. The place had an overwhelming stench so we made this visit brief.
To the Mattresses
We considered a painting or ceramic art adventure, but decided to save that for another trip to the mall. We headed to Dillards (or Macy’s – I’m not really sure) to have some department store fun and get ideas for our new apartment’s decor. We smelled exotic Chanel perfumes. We touched overpriced fashion bags. We drifted towards the men’s section and reminisced about shopping for the men in our lives. Then we escalated to the second floor to look at home goods.
As we touched all the comforters, quilts and soft blankets, the bedroom section spoke to us. We paused to lay on the fancily made beds and tried to see how long it would take an associate to make us leave. We were politely told to keep our feet off the bed, though nothing was mentioned of our testing the mattresses for an extra few minutes.
We visited a few more spots. We skipped out on the nail ride, the new hair ride, the tattoo ride and the handful of stores that remained closed for the day. Our final purchase was a sweet note to end things on: Cinnabon bites with rich icing.
Life without electricity can be brighter than you’d expect.