Sunday, July 1, 2012

Crime of the Century

My car is pretty distinctive. It’s a late-1980s, white stripe–tired, Elderly Gentleman Land Yacht. In sky blue.

This instant recognizability makes me feel extra bad about doing stupid things in traffic, because I know I can’t hide. If I cut somebody off on the way to work, then every day on the commute he can see me driving a wide-turn-radius blue sign that says “Remember me? The jerk?”

Of course, dumb driving moves make me feel horrible anyway because there’s almost no way to apologize afterward. Shouting out the window tends to get misinterpreted, oddly enough, and the rest of the world still hasn’t mastered reading my thoughts. I just need a bumper sticker that says “I’m so sorry” and a neon sign to switch on in my rear window.

(SPECIAL NOTE: The aforementioned situations are, naturally, completely hypothetical. I have of course never committed and would never entertain the notion of any irresponsible activity that could jeopardize my own safety or that of others while operating a motor vehicle. Hi, Dad!)

Being really eye-catching also means that my car and I should probably stop hanging around security-patrolled abandoned buildings.

Let me back up for a second and point out, in case you were unaware, that derelict shopping malls are extremely cool. I am not the only one who feels this way, as evidenced by a large and moderately disturbing web community and the delicious term “Dead Mall,” which is coincidentally also the name of my emo poetry collective.

Old things are pretty nifty in general, for that matter. I agree with hipsters on this point, as difficult as it is to admit. Actually, I might be swayed by aspects of hipsterdom were it not for my natural mantle of crippling self-consciousness. For example, I don’t believe that all ironic fashions are necessarily stupid or unappealing—

—it’s just that I know that they are decidedly stupid on me.

My enthusiasm for decaying structures is similarly hobbled by unrelenting fear, this time of trespassing arrests and/or hobo molestation, so personally exploring boarded-up retail carcasses is not in the cards. Thank goodness there’s the internet.

On the other hand, we’ve got a mall in Albuquerque that has been mostly dead for years, and it’s attached to a feral cat wonderland of a long-abandoned hotel. You can drive right up to the perimeter fence and stare at all the places where copper wiring used to be, and it’s beautifully landscaped in broken glass and 1960s parking lot fixtures. 

Recently, though, they actually moved a bulldozer into the site to clear the way for new construction. The last time I needed some kitchen gadgets from one of the three stores still operating out of the mall husk, I suddenly realized that all the fabulous creepiness could disappear at any time and be replaced with something unromantically safe and operational. 

Seizing what could be my last chance, I drove a really slow arc around the hotel and took some nausea-inducing jittery video. After that I pulled into the front parking lot for a few still photos of the desolation. 

Then a mall cop in a golf cart whirred up to tell me not to take pictures. 

I spooked like a first-grader in trouble for talking in the library and slunk home as shamefaced as possible. 

But then I realized that all of my pictures were really cool…

Two weeks later I went by the mall again to see if the bulldozer had moved, and OH WOW THEY PULLED THE OUTSIDE WALLS DOWN AND NOW YOU CAN SEE INSIDE THIS IS THE NEATEST THING EVER! I was busy gawking at the peeled-open hotel when I drove right past the same golf cart guard, who wrote down my license plate number as I made my getaway at a parking lot–mandated 15 mph.

I felt like such a wild hooligan that it made me cackle all the way home.

I haven’t monitored the demolition situation in weeks, and again I’m nervous that all of the enticing decay is about to be replaced with something dull like progress. Also, I’d like to give the security guard another opportunity to get nervous about my intentions. Presumably he has no idea that I am too skittish even to get out of my car, and I really hope that he’s imagining my vast potential for breaking, entering, and wreaking havoc. Part of me is way too excited about the possibility of being suspected by law enforcement. It’s probably the same part that wants to wear tiny hats.


  1. What an excellent post! Unfortunately I am one of those boring people who strives for dull things like progress, so I am cheering the downfall of that sad little mall. But maybe they'll replace it with something cool like a humongous Chuckie Cheese.

    1. I hear there will be an Imax, so that should help a lot.