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As according to my proclivity for discovering something new and instantly incorporating it into my rut, I am back here at the coffee shop from which I wrote the last entry. Now it’s full, with people at every table, laptops open. One fellow is conducting a variety of domestic matters on his cell phone at the usual clueless volume.Like anybody cares that he has to pick up a frickin’ Bob the Builder cake at Sam’s Club. I have to go jam a biscotti in his mouth. Be right back.

Well, he took it like a man. Interesting note: all the PC laptop users are overweight. There are three Mac users, all thin and wearing black. Amend that: another PC user joined the group. Tall, thin, with that former-psycho-killer look – Travis Bickle after lots of meds. Forty-gallon lawn & leaf trashbags full.

This particular location, he said, casting around for something to write about, is soaked with history. Drenched! The stripmall to the north hails from the 60s, but has been overhauled a number of times, and the site is a handy guide to the odd diffuse trends of suburban architecture -

Oh hell, this means I have to go out to the car and get my camera. Well. Be right back. And I’m hungry, too. Good thing I broke that biscotti off at the hilt. While I’m away, enjoy these links!

WTH? I understand the underlying idea – wow, I was so confused it felt like my head exploded – but, well, WTH? Isn’t this just a rather . . . inelegant metaphor for what happened?

Brian responds to my Ising-dissing. He makes good points.

It’s the Dread Dormammu after the flames went out.

Back. Ah, Minneapolis! Where you can leave your laptop at the coffee shop while you get your camera from your car. Anyway, this is a first-ring burb that rose up around Southdale, the nation’s first enclosed shopping mall. The strip mall across the lot originally had that atomic-age appearance I love so much, but of course it was mauled by every subsequent decade, reformed according to whatever stunted idea infected the second-tier architectural firms of the era. Across the street, for example, there's a wretched office tower from the high point of the Age of White Shite; it has all the highlights of the genre, from the bright painted concrete, the accentuated mass on top, the big faux colonnade. It cannot be remodeled; it can only be demolished, and the site strewn with asbestos. (The architectural equivalent of sowing the land with salt.) If I could call down flaming rocks from the skies to bring it low, I would. It bothers me. It's the end of the sixties / start of the 70s incarnate. It looks like the building where Gene Rayburn would get a prostate exam.

I can’t believe I forgot to mention what once sat where this coffee shop now resides. This was the home of a Midwest Federal branch. Their symbol was a Green Tree – its limbs and leaves would shelter you against financial rain, I guess. The suburban branches were shaped like trees – each was green, round, low, with an inner glass core as the trunk and wider overhanging circle as the leaves and branches. If you know what I mean. All glass, which suggested that you were on your own if you experienced financial hail. They were all put to varying uses after the bank flamed out in the 80s; the one that sat here was the last to go, I believe. The site now has a jewelry store, a coffee store, and a cellphone store.

Because God knows we’re short on those.

I suppose that the architecture of this strip mall will be devalued and lost some day, and that’ll be a pity. It’s nice enough. It demonstrates the recent vogue for varying rooflines, pretending that each store is somehow a discrete entity in this faux street. Better than the dull overhanging roofs and ubiquitous backlit canopies of the 80s and 90s - a style that characterized the aforementioned stripmall, which is now being upgraded to resemble this bauble-bean-phone node. But it’s not new. It’s just a new way of pretending it’s old. The Green Tree banks were new; they were kitsch, sure, but they were local icons, and everyone knew that those stylized glass tree-things were banks.

There’s a Pier One in the strip mall. I went there last Saturday. On the way in I noted a store next door: EQ Life. When I was checking out I asked the clerk what the store was all about. She shrugged: I dunno.

You dunno? I wanted to say. How incurious to have to be not to wonder what that gigantic new store next door is up to? What if they’ve perfected a ray that makes your brains run out your ears, and any second now they will drill through the walls, stick in these spooky little electrodes that would make this high-pitched sound, like eeeeEEEEE which would be the last thing you heard before you fell, uncomprehending, to the floor? Then come the mincing machines! Little skittery things that run along the floor digesting organic matter! What if that’s what they’re up to?

But I didn’t. The fellow working behind the counter elbowed into the conversation, such as it was, and said that EQ Life was a combination spa, health-food store, book store, fitness supply store, etc.

“I’ve never heard of it,” I said.

“It’s from Best Buy,” he said.

“Oh, then it’s probably a prototype store for a new retail concept," I said.

“It’s exactly a prototype store for a new retail concept,” he said.

Fine. Mystery solved. But I’m trying to recall what the EQ space used to be. And I can’t. I thought it was the Pier One, but it’s still there, and no smaller. It’s almost as if the EQ store has expanded space itself somehow, fitting its giant prototype concept into a small space by warping the fabric of existence. Super-strings are probably involved. Also mind-wiping beams for the workmen. Ah! That’s it. The clerk at Pier One got in the way of a mind-wiper. They’ll get around to the other fellow tonight. I should head over and see if he remembers anything from Saturday.

If not, I’m taking this candle back. Yes, I burned half of it, but it smells like someone rubbed basil in a camel’s groin. They were upfront about the basil part, but not a word on the label about the dromedary odor.

Pictures of the various buildings discussed in this entry are here in bandwidth-choking large versions.


New Joe, as usual. I wrote this one at night instead of banging it out in the afternoon. Different? Can't tell. In case you missed anything, I'm recounting the Columbus weekend, and once again the matches that come up in alphabetical order are almost spooky. Yesterday she said she went to art school. I open the folder, and this is what I see.