Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Stranger in a Strange Land

There were no heads on these or any of the other mannekins I saw at the mall yesterday. They used to have heads, hair, and fashionably hostile expressions on their faces. I wonder when headless mannekins became the new standard? Especially weird with the binoculars, eh?

I went to the Pentagon City shopping mall yesterday because I had to go to the Apple store to check out new computers. My beloved old G4 ibook, which still works perfectly, is so out of synch with contemporary standards of computing that I realize I have to buy a new macbook - or be left in the dust.

It's hard to say what was most harrowing about the experience: contemplating spending that much money all in one fell swoop, the idea of becoming unplugged from the internets (God forbid!), or the bizarre nature of shopping malls, maybe particularly the Pentagon City mall.

What I remember best about Don Delillo's great book White Noise was his description of the shopping mall - all the echoing voices and battling store musaks, the chrome and glass and mirrors reflecting multiple versions of the people, and the way the protagonist in the story feels like king of the universe, sending his children out to shop. Because I so rarely go to any shopping mall, whenever I have to, the experience hits me hard. I couldn't help but think of Mr. Delillo's brilliant description yesterday. He was dead on.

The idea of a 'Pentagon City' is strange, isn't it? A shopping mall named for the military hub of the U.S. is even weirder - at least to me. The Metro journey to the mall takes me past the Pentagon subway stop, a place of dense, heavy vibes that is full of billboard ads for computers that can be dropped from planes or hit by bombs without breaking. Is that a good thing? I've seen big, colorful ads boasting about the virtuosity of war planes and other weapons of mass destruction, too. The billboard I saw yesterday from the window of the train featured a desert landscape. The headline was, "They're gone before you even know they're a threat." The Metro train took off before I could make out the company logo so I have no idea what they were selling. Unnerving, though, don't you think?

After checking out all the computers, I've decided to order one through the internet. The macbook will be shipped directly to the house on Tennessee Avenue which will save me from paying the outrageous sales tax and also guarantees I do not have to return to Pentagon City Mall anytime soon. Thank God!!

The Spirit of Justice in front of the Rayburn Building. I'm glad she has a head!


Unknown said...

The mannequin picture may not say it all, but it says a lot of it. What a weird experience--glad you don't have to go back to Pentagon City--yikes!

NanU said...

You are so courageous to go out in all that. Do they have Pentagon-prices at Pentagon City?
The headless mannekins are kind of cool. For a moment I liked them better than mean scowly mannekins. Then I thought about the wholesale removal of humanity from the picture, and couldn't decide. Why are we so rarely encouraged to smile these days?

ellen abbott said...

I'm totally with you on the whole sticker shock of Macs. We looked around christmas but it took us another month to actually make the purchase.

Your trip through Pentagon land reminds me of the cartoon with the lone soldier standing on a field surrounded by death and destruction, a big grin on his face. "I think I won." he says.

Reya Mellicker said...

Pentagon City mall is so huge you can buy things at Pentagon prices just because you have too much money and have been suckered into thinking you need designer devices ... or you can buy hideous cheap stuff made by teenagers in Vietnam (or somewhere else where they underpay and overwork).

I didn't even mention "the food court." Now THAT is really scary!

The Bug said...

Dr. M & I have been to that mall a few times. It's easy when you're a visitor because it's right on the Metro. I enjoyed the layout (as malls go), but I am SO not a shopper. I go to a mall maybe once a year. Did you know that they have PEOPLE at malls? Really! And I get overwhelmed at the "buy buy buy" message. It's just too much.

Susan Carpenter Sims said...

We don't have a mall here in Taos, so it's been a while since I've had that experience. I occasionally get the urge to drive to Santa Fe for it, but it usually passes fairly quickly.

Ooh, White Noise - that brings back memories! I read that back as part of a very interesting and passionate graduate level English class: "Cross-Cultural Encounters in American Literature." It was my first encounter with deconstructionism, and therefore a certain brand of futility.

bobbybegood1 said...

I happend to like malls. We have a very nice one close to where I live. The headless mannequins, hmmmmm? What's the message? If I ponder that one too long, scary.
But, I too, prefer headless to the unattractive expressions. And, food courts, please, be careful!! Heaven only knows what creepy crawlers lurk there. Cheers Reya!!

Linda Sue said...

Your day at the mall gives me a headache...can't do malls,we have a faux mall here in out little town, full of all of the god awful stuff available to mankind! Rejects from other sucky malls, made in china - threads hanging, plastic fabric,seams that don't quite meet...statues of resin, truly an assault on the senses. I save so much money! You are probably more of a high techie sort- I still have to hand crank my computer...

Mrsupole said...

I think the headless mannequins are a way to save money, because you do not have to rent a head and wigs and could also be a fashion statement of you seeing yourself instead of a mannequin. I guess as long as the clothes fit then that is all that matters.

Glad you found a computer through the internet and do not have to go through a third party, but the best thing is that you saved money. Go out and splurge and have a really nice dinner with a friend. That should be fun.

God bless.

Delwyn said...

Hi Reya

you will not be disappointed...I am sitting in front of my new cordless, smooth and sexy little macbook that is so simple to operate and so fasssssssssst on wireless it is a dream...
Son#1 bought it in the apple shop in Hnl but at home in Au he bought his online.

Happy mac days

Steve Reed said...

I can certainly identify! Shopping malls are my least favorite places -- big, echoey, cold, crowded. (There used to be a good Border's at Pentagon City, though, I must admit -- not sure if it's still there.) Thank goodness neither of us has to go to the mall anytime soon! :)

Steve Reed said...

How old is your G4, by the way? I got mine in early 2006 and it's showing its age...

Tess Kincaid said...

I very rarely go into a mall, either, and when I do, it is the most surreal experience. But, I think the binoculars with the headless mannequins are spooky cool!

Reya Mellicker said...

Handcranking your computer? That's funny!

Bobby I believe that variety is the spice of life. If you like the mall, then you go girl! I'm shopping-averse in every way possible, so the mall experience really pushes me over to the dark side.

I would NEVER
eat anything from a food court. YUCK!!

Anonymous said...

Malls are too weird for me.
They make my head spin and make me feel inadequate. I'm sure your new computer will make you very happy indeed.
However, the Apple Store is quite another thing.
I love it and I love my "AIR" computer. I now love my I-phone a bit since it has a game on it that I like.
I had a run in with one of the "Apple Geniuses" the other day -- too much eye rolling at my stupidity.
R. said I should have said "WEll, if I knew that already, you'd be out of a job....."
usually they are very sweet as well as techy.

more snow headed in this direction I fear

lots of love

Ronda Laveen said...

Not a fan of the mall either. I usually only go at Christmas and then I remember why I don't...and ours is tiny compared to yours.

The mannequin with the binouculars kinda reminds me of E.T.

I just had to buy a new computer so we could take the other new computer in for repairs and would be down for a week. The Wonder Hubby needs it for his EBay biz. I do like my new laptop though. Just had to get over parting with the dinero.

Reya Mellicker said...

It only hurts for a minute ... paying for the computer. After that, with a mac, it's always just fun.

Elizabeth, my "personal shopper" dude at the Apple store was super cool. Wore one of those little Fedoras, had nice facial hair. Cute! I felt like I was in an art film.

Nancy said...

I agree with the weirdness of advertising Pentagon "toys." And the one with the desert landscape gives me the shivers.

I really dislike malls. I will go to any extreme to avoid a mall. It reminds me of the malls in Dubai - blocks of high end stores with very few people. Walls and walls of reflective mirrors and glass. Monuments to excess.

We have a few of those here. When we lived in Minneapolis everyone asked if we enjoyed the Mall of America. Ummm not really. The new rides were kind of fun when my daughter came to visit, otherwise we went to the mall only when necessary.

I love my MacBook, speaking of consumerism.

Reya Mellicker said...

Monuments to excess. Indeed!

Macbook it is. As soon as I work up the nerve to do it.

Rosaria Williams said...

Is this a new fashion in big cities? Crazy! Is it some sort of metaphor?

steven said...

i did a trip just like this to the eaton centre in toronto. a massive mega-mall filled with shopping people. selling people. buying people. posing people. not very pretty or handsome - people or mall. i enter a mall once a year . . .at most! i like little shops. if what i need or wish for isn't available in a little store then i order it online. weird huh? every mac i've owned came from a handful of clicks on its predecssor's keyboard!!!! enjoy the journey reya! the new macbook is a sweet piece!!! steven

Reya Mellicker said...

Steven: not weird to me!

And Rosaria, yeah, some kind of bizarre metaphor, eh?

Kerry said...

In November I went to a mall with my son, who noticed that the mannequins had nipples, but no heads. I wrote a post about it (s'okay-- nobody has to go back looking for it, just sayin')

So, to me, I am happy to see the binoculars; they suggest that the heads are beginning to return, just a little. A good sign.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

can't stand malls - i have a terrific sense of direction, except if you plunk me down inside a shopping mall - then it is like my brain does go all white noise like!

wonderful illustrations - perfect for the post! (of course)

Karen said...

I feel like an alien when I go to the mall... so I typically stay away. I can't help but think "all this STUFF! Why do we need all this STUFF?!?"

I'm glad you're going to resolve your computer issues. I'm getting some more memory soon to prolong those kinds of decisions. :)

I like the "toxic airborne event" from White Noise... weird and familiar as well.

Reya Mellicker said...

Yes, the toxic airborne event! Yeah.

And YES Karen I always look at all the stuff and wonder why why why?? It's kind of repulsive.