The first California Mall Report

The Sun Valley Mall, in Concord, California, birthplace of Tom Hanks and Dave Brubeck, is a mall that started out with high hopes. High hopes that sank with the fortunes of the people living around the mall. Today, the Sun Valley Mall is filled with young hispanic men, young asian women, and other archetypical California types pretending to be one or the other of the aforementioned. It is the archetypical mall. Yet, in no way distinctive except for that time, in 1985, when a twin-engine Beechcraft crashed into Macy's roof.

I'm hearing actual California accents. "Oh my god, I hate you, you're so beautiful!" squawked one tiny, tanned girl to her tiny tanned companion. It was the accent people imitate badly in other parts of the country. Had these two girls always spoken this way or had they picked it up from the television like everyone else? The ultimate example of cultivation theory.

The public men's room in the Sun Valley Mall hasn't been cleaned since the mall was built but all the fixtures have been updated with highly sensitive motion sensors. The sink spilled water, the soap dispenser spat pink chemicals, and the paper towel dispenser killed an entire forest of trees every time I so much as flinched. It was an echoing, tile-walled concert.

Adding to the musical score, the man at the sink next to mine was brushing his teeth with that particular sound that can be mistaken for nothing else but. He was very enthusiastic, scrubbing with gusto and then spitting into the sink violently before sucking up handfuls of water from the gushing spigot.

BRUSHbrushBRUSHbrush! puh'TOOIE! SLUUURRP!! Aaaaaahhhh!! over and over again. It was that self satisfied "aaaaaaah" after every slurp of water that made it wonderful.

When he was finished with his dental hygiene, the man began to speak softly to himself as he gazed intently into the restroom mirror. It sounded like he was saying, "wisha-washa-wisha-washa." I decided it was time to leave.

As I left the men's room and made my way toward the exit a woman at a kiosk, with a cell phone held to her ear, glanced at me, looked away, then suddenly looked at me again more closely as if with recognition. She winced and turned, then looked one more time with another wince. Her eyes told me she was a bunny-boiler of the finest kind. A raving looney I would do well to avoid. Her eyes clouded over when she realized she didn't know me after all, but it was apparent that whatever I had reminded her of had given her a heck of a case of acid reflux.

At the EmeryBay Public Market, in Emeryville, the tourist throng was intermixed with a men's baseball team, walking around in their uniforms looking for some supper, still sweaty and pumped from their game. In their tight fitting grey pants and black socks they looked like French dandies from the 18th century, when it was men's legs and calves that were gazed at by women instead of the other way 'round like it is today.

A young sikh boy in bright orange headdress and brilliant yellow jacket passed two whip thin Rastafarian men wearing huge wool caps. The Rasta's were ordering some jerked chicken and the sikh boy was headed for the Chinese restaurant. What is the obsession with hair in so many religions?

At the Bay St. Shopping Center, also in Emeryville, I found two dollar bills laying pretty as you please on the sidewalk. The streets are paved with money in California. And a good thing, too.
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