The trees are budding. This doesn’t seem right. Maybe because it isn’t. The bushes and shrubs woke up, and one lovely yellow-leafed bush-tree-thing outside the gate unfurled its glory almost overnight. The trees that bestow the sweetest sign of spring - the fragrant white flowers that enchant the breeze for a week at most, then carpet the ground with spring’s mocking reenactment of winter - they’re already working at it. The lilac bush is budding.

Here’s what I don’t know: if it freezes again, do they reset and restart?


I went to Southdale the other day because the lens popped out of my glasses. Not a fun thing to happen while driving. You have to convert instantaneously into the Hathaway Shirt Man. Good thing I keep a spare pair in the glove compartment, but it’s an old prescription -

No REALLY? Most people get a future prescription predicated on the average rate of eyesight deterioration, and put that in the car. Anyway, I wandered around Southdale for an hour while they restrung the filament that holds the lens in place. If you didn’t know better, you’d think the Mother Mall had just given up entirely.






But no; it’s the great overhaul. New stores, paint, old color schemes extirpated, and the big ceremonial useless thing in the middle of the mall ripped out. And a new food court! Let’s look at where the food court used to be. See that sign waaaay up in the distance?



That’s right. At the furthest possible distance from Anywhere. I understand the idea, though - the last renovation in the early 90s replace the Dayton’s store with a new teen / youth-oriented clothing region, concentrating all the ugly popular stuff in one place. The food court, a natural youth destination for consuming fried foods and sugar water, would suck them up to the top and allow them to filter down through the stores, leaving money behind. For some reason it didn’t work, and the food court restaurants winked out one by one. Burger King left. Sbarro was the most recent one to go:



What do people who worked in the mall do for food? Bring lunch or choke down a hot dog that’s been riding the rolllers at Orange Julius, maybe.I have no idea what they’ll do with this space. Top floors on malls are bad enough, since it’s difficult to get people to make their way to the escalator, then stand there for what seems like an eternity while you’re dragged upstairs. To ask them to go up to the third floor is madness.

The entire youth-oriented area seems to have been winnowed out for demographic repositioning. These signs used to have store names.




Or maybe they just can’t find any replacements. I’ll tell you this: it’s never a good sign when a solid middle-class mall has one of these.



That’s right. A fargin’ Dollar Store at Southdale.

The renovation also meant the demolition of this thing:



Pure early 90s, that. I believe the top was painted teal or some variant; the hue's used elsewhere, and will probably go, replaced with something else that looks quite modern and fresh until everyone realizes it’s old and tired. You might recall that I proposed, many years ago, a chain of Target-like stores that had nothing but late-50s / early 60s designs, from the exterior to the style of freezers and shelves to the typography. No one listened, of course. Boo; hoo. But someone thought along similar lines: the new food court will have accents and stylistic touches that recall the original 50s design, and that’s nice. Why, it’s even keen.

Then there’s this:


The rehabbing of the Thing In the Middle meant stripping the columns and jackhammering up the tile. Look at that: could the aggregate be the original floor of Southdale?

As far as I can tell, yes. An old photo from a trip my parents took in ’63:



I’ve other shots that show the same look. Original details are hard to find, but they’re there. I’ll bet this is original. It’s upside down. NOSNHOJ



And now: I will crack my knuckles, take a deep breath, and write the last chapter of Morocco Alley. This will conclude the three-book marathon begun on a ship in the Panama Canal. If you're wondering why I didn't roll the first one out when it was done, well: that would be like installing a keystone before you build the sides of the arch. The story was three books long, and now I know what has to be added to the first one.

The first, by the way, is the most inconsequential of the batch, and has the least impact on the story arc. It's just a fun little mystery.

Pub date: June 15.

There. I said it.

Working Title: "Too Much English."

Any Bleatniks want to guess what it's a reference too? NO FAIR GOOGLING.

"NO FAIR GOOGLING" is the title of the sixth book, by the way.










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