On Tuesday it came to pass that the Girls, being three children under 15, were going to the Mall, that being Fashion Square in Scottsdale. There should be an adult from our group in the general vicinity, so I was tasked with managing the perimeter, somehow. Being the one they could text who would be there in a minute if there was a creep or a problem. On the way to the mall I gathered from conversation and their battle plan that this stay would be five hours. FIVE. FIVE intervals of 60 minutes. In a mall. I don’t know if you’ve been to Fashion Square, but it is primarily arranged to accommodate the female need for adornment, and there is very little in the way of Men’s Things, except for bro-cliches like sneakers and stupid hats, and wealthy-old-dude stuff like the Tommy Bahama shop, where you can buy really expensive and garish shirts that indicate you are likely not only to have seen Jimmy Buffett in concert six times but probably had him on your boat once.

Well, I can go to the bookstore. Siri, where’s Barnes and Noble? Huh: five miles away. Like I’m going to walk there in this heat, in this town. So I walked around the mall as slooooowly as possible, burning off an hour before I went for lunch. I passed one of those kiosks where they call to you and offer something for your skin to make it better, and a lovely young lady with black hair and black glasses did, indeed, call out. I smiled and said I wasn’t in the market, alas. Proceeded on examining all the fonts and slogans (Every store wants you to Laugh and also to Live and best of all Live Laughing, or Laugh and Love, ideas that would never have occurred to you otherwise, although even if they had you would not have completed your laughing-and-living mission because you were not adored in this particular pattern, which is new and adorable and $89.99 but shorts are half off) All the models are looking at the camera with the same old expression of wan vulnerability, if it’s a store aimed at Smart customers with off-beat tastes, or frank hungry glee if it’s a store for clothes to signal sexual availability, or the models are being distracted by something while on a boat or getting off a boat, indicating they are rich and have accomplished nothing besides parlaying their appearance or bloodline in to a medium of exchange.

The food court offerings were rote and uninspiring. Hey, Panda Express! Glop. Hey, Five Guys! Sack of potatoes. I decided to look elsewhere and wandered outside to a restaurant called Sauce, which served pizza. I ordered extra sauce. The pizza had no discernible sauce whatsoever. Meandered elsewhere, found the AT&T store, and thought “this would be an excellent time to adjust the data cap on my plan,” and did so with the help of an immensely cheerful young lady who was like a smart version of “Bubbles” from AbFab. Back to the mall. Back past the Skin Stuff kiosk.

Ah, are you ready now? said the same young woman. Hours after I had last passed.

Sure, I smiled. Why not.

She began by rubbing my hands with some sort of rock crystals and washing them in water.

I can feel the exfoliating action! I said. She said to imagine what it would feel like all over, I would be as smooth as a baby’s bottom. You know, if you’re a parent with any kind of memory, baby’s bottoms have other connotations as well. She showed me the bowl of water, which was not exactly clear. In fact it appeared to be filled with squid ink.

I was reading a newspaper, I said, and pulled out the New York Times from my satchel. (Note: I had wondered where to get a newspaper for lunch, because I didn’t have my iPad, and thought Starbucks would be the place to go. It was. That was the only place in the entire vast retail complex where you could buy the printed word.) I said the stuff was amazing, and how much was it?

“Fifty-nine dollars.”

Ah, see, well, that’s the problem. I’m not going to buy that. I’m sorry but thank you.

What is your name?

“Boris,” I said.

No it is not.

Let me be Boris for this, I said. She said no your name is not Boris. I said it was James.

Alrright James come over here, seet, and let me show you something else. She buffed my pinky and enhanced its cuticle, and while I admired the result I said that shiny nails weren’t really high on my list of things I valued. She asked what I did, and I said I was a writer. Were any of my books translated into her language? I don’t know, what would that be? Hebrew. Ah, I smiled. No, but such a mitzvah it would be if someone should translate them. In this fershlugginer world, though, eh.

Total incomprehension. Oh, right: Yiddish is not Hebrew.

So are you married? I am. Your wife, she would like this here, this -

I’m not going to buy it, I repeated. I have been married 25 years. I know my wife’s regimin. What works for her, she has, and if I come back from the mall and say a beautiful woman held my hand and sold me $60 worth of cosmetics she would laugh.

Okay but for you, James -


For you James, I throw in this. Try this cream. Free. It’s a forty-dollar value.

I’m sorry, I said. I warned you. No.

And then it was over and the light went out and I was dismissed.

I had another two hours in the mall and somehow I managed to avoid that wing entirely, because it would have been awkward. Like we’d actually gone out a few times and it ended poorly.






Oh, the Shuttlecock tale? Less interesting than the ill-starred situation with hand-crystal woman. Daughter and I went to Target, returned the shuttlecocks, then went to REI, which has recreation in its name. Nothing related to racket sports. Kayaks, though, for those what-the-hell impulse purchases. Then the Dollar Store, which did not have them. Then Half Price Books, which we were certain did not have them, and were not disappointed. Then CVS, where I asked the clerk if they had racquetball shuttlecocks. I might as well have said hooversquare bottledorgs.

“I don’t know what that issss,” she keened, but once I described them she re-perked and attained her previous level of perkiness and led us to Seasonal, where they did not have them.

She recommended Wal-Mart, and if there’s any combination of words I loathe, it’s those, but they had them. Daughter and I supped at In-And-Out and drove back in high spirits, a fine jaunt completed.

Did I note she stayed behind in AZ? With her cousins. For a few more days. It’s happened before, so it’s not that strange.

But it’s strange.

Anyway, I’m back. Yesterday I was still in AZ, where it was broiling, and now I’m home to rain and 63 degrees. There have been years we came back to a foot of snow and yea, we laid down our burdens and despaired. On the way back from the airport I was reminded of an editorial in the newspaper last week: Ensure that UBER is more like cabs, or something like that. UBER must be brought up to the standards of cabs, in other words. Well: on the way to the airport in Mpls we took UBER. The driver helped us with our bags on both ends, and I walked away without having to fumble for cards or money. The ride was $15. This time the ride was $32, the driver didn’t know where he was going, let us get our bags out of the cab in the rain, and when it came time to pay he got out an old-style card reader and had me sign a slip on a small flexible address book balanced on my lap. Yes by all means protect the cabs.

The flight was OH WHO CARES you’re right; never mind. But I watched an episode of “Connections,” a show I always loved. James Burke was a hero of mine and something of a role model. I have a backache from the ride, though; my spine was twisted the entire journey because the middle seat was occupied by someone whose dimensions suggested a Thomas Nast cartoon on Boss Tweed. I’m not saying he spilled into my area, but when I put on headphones all the singers were in the right ear.

Full Bleat tomorrow with updates and the like. See you then!



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