I needed pants. We all need pants. It’s not as if I don’t have pants; I do. But I needed new black jeans. The old ones are a bit loose, because that’s what happens after a year or two, and some weight loss. So, Southdale? No: there’s the Gap, and there’s Macy’s, and that’s it. The Macy’s is depressing and messy and overpriced, and who knows if I land on one of the three days of the year when there’s no sale. The only place I can count on is Old Navy. And the only place for that is the MOA, the Maw, the Mall of America.

On a Saturday, no less! Madness!

Amateurs try to find a parking spot on the lower levels of the ramp. No idea why. Go high, look for the sign: 367 spots available. Look for the green light. Every space has a light, so you look down the row - mostly red, ah, two greens, go, hope you’re not going to fight someone for it.

Take a picture of your parking position for later reference, and proceed.

Beauty is not necessary here, except, well, beauty is always necessary.

I entered on the top level, which is devoted to "entertainment." Some of the establishments are closed until later; some are closed for good. But don't worry - this fully-illuminated piece of corporate iconography assures you that sweet stimulants exist, and can no doubt be had close by. YOU SHOULD WANT ONE.

A few steps in, the floors open up and the scale becomes apparent.

WELCOME TO BRANDTOPIA

There was a Chinese Lunar New Year event in the rotunda.

The area was overrun with lots of kids in identical red-and-yellow costumes, having great fun. I did a show down there once, years ago, when the paper had pivoted to video. It was fun, but mostly what I remember was walking head-first into a metal pole and hearing a BONGGNGNGngngngng sound in my brain.

There are delightful sights, little bits of civilization and style.

The prices were low low low at the Gap, for an unexpected reason: they're closing.

What? The GAP store at the Mall of America is closing? I googled around and learned they have a new retail strategy, which consist of disengaging from traditional malls. In favor of what? Standing on the street corner hawking pants? No, online, strip malls, outlet malls.

I did some mattress shopping. Went to the Purple store. Somehow - and I can't recall how, exactly - the clerk let it be known that she had studied Ancient Civ in college but was working here because the money was better. Ancient Civ, you say? Macedonian? Carthiginian? Sumerian? Mesoamerican? Yes! All of the above! And so we start chattering about ancient vic while I'm trying out various mattresses. My knowledge of pre-Roman civ is scant, but I can vamp. She reminded me of Natalie, but with more energy, and Natalie has a lot of energy.

Next, the Casper store. Half the price and twice the firmness. But as their clerk kept telling me, with a bit of hauteur, firmness is not support. I made that mistake twice in our conversation. I will not make it again.

The Purple store had the beds out in the open, with video screens on the ceiling that showed people falling gently into bed. The Casper store has little tiny rooms that feel like fairy-tale chambers. Better psychological effect, if you ask me. Half the price, which also helps.

Onward around the building.

All these interesting sights, and everyone has their head bent down to the jitter-brain portal in their hands.

   
 

Shoving and fighting and pushing people aside to get to your friends? No!

   

 

 

 

 

 

I was intending to do a different one, a grown-up serial, with no absurd cliffhangers: Jack Holt of the Secret Service! Starring Jack Holt! It was about a gang that kidnapped a Treasury Department engraver. From the looks of the synopses, that was it. Twelve episodes of trying to find the guy, with chatty snappy banter between Holt and a female agent. But the print was bad, and it bored me.

You know what I want from a serial? I want this.

Starring a round-up of nobodies:

Wait a minute -

I seem to remember a serial about a guy who got his powers in a chair . . . no, that was a Batman one. Whew. Well, let’s begin! Some guys are driving a truck down a road, when they’re stopped by the cops for a cargo inspection, as happened all the time.

HATS REMAIN FIRMLY ATTACHED, so we are in good hands here.

The crooks go to the hideout, where they’re fingerprinted. Some grumble. This leads to the most inauspicious villain reveal I think I’ve ever seen:

Well, he does look creepy with that mask. I swear I’ve seen it before in another serial. The Horrible Mr. X? Something like that? No, Mysterious Doctor Satan? Unlovely Professor Dark? We continue, and learn his goals: build an invisible army! He gives his minions new identities, with new trades they’re expected to assume. You’re a lawyer! You’re an electrical engineer! Turns out they’re all Germans who fled to escape tyranny, but they’re here illegally so he can do what he wants with them.

He decloaks, by the way, so there’s no mystery about his identity.

First job: get the combination to a bank! Another truck-inspection related punching:

We see how this great idea works:

That's not going to raise any eyebrows.

Finally we meet the hero, Rip Stonejaw or something. He’s a private dick.

And the Gal Investigator the bank hired, who’s cuke-cool and will take no guff.

She’s way ahead of our hero, and is obviously going to be a hard case about all this. But we like her. In no time they have a lead on the bank robbers, and follow them to a hideout.

Note how the upcoming fight is telegraphed by two instances of Hat Donning:

As is usually the case, our hero wins a 2 on 1, but one guy flees and alerts the Ruler, as they always like to be called.

This thing really isn’t going very well for the Invisible Army gang.

Anyhoo, the Monster uses his light beam to slip up to where the captured hench is cooling his heels.

The Monster plugs the hench by shooting through the window, something I’ve seen in another serial. I am getting massive deja-vu - it’s almost as if these things have repeating elements everyone expects and delights in.

Our heroes go back to the safe house to look for klews, and run into the gang; inefficacious gunplay results, followed by a car chase. As they head into the country, the bad guys up the ante: grenades. And so:

Uh

I think they’re okay

Note: I don't mean to spoil anything, but this is one of the worst serials ever made. We're going to have great sport with it.

   
 
Now two ways to chip in!
 
 
   

That'll do! Some matchbooks await your perusal.

 

 

 
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