“Show me a mall, and I’m happy.”

Julia Roberts

I am, like, so into my community. I vote local, shop local and love my neighbors, both of them Republicans. I should get a star for that. And I’m excited to announce that I have fallen in love with my purple bags, the ones I have to buy and put out on the curb each week. I guess I won’t be passionate about it when it’s all covered with snow and ice.

Still I must admit that I derive a bit of artistic excitement, and an almost sensual pleasure, watching it sit down there in the rain, all purply and wet and bloated with the residuum of my heart healthy meals. Even garbage can have beauty, someone once said. Woodrow Wilson, I think.

Yet after a while I cannot suppress the urge to travel, to see a different vista, excitement and adventure. That’s when I go to the mall. Yes, I love the mall. I have always loved malls, not to shop, I have enough of everything and I’m grateful, but I go to enjoy the character and atmosphere, the sounds and smells, the hustle and bustle, glitter and gaiety, especially at Christmas, that I find sadly lacking here in my little village on the Kennebec.

True, there is much to admire here, the calm, quiet and peace, the rustle of autumn leaves, the wind in the trees and silence of evening, the warm glow of the big Sony screen when the red facade of Netflix comes on.


But even that grows stale after a bit, and my ancient urban soul yearns for a little clamor, for a visit to an exotic location. One definition of the word is “attractive or striking, colorful and out of the ordinary.”

I think that fits. And so I persuade she, who resists such urges, to take me to the Maine Mall in South Portland.

I admit the place is a far cry from my old haunts, the Beverly Center in Los Angeles or the fabulous Glendale Galleria just out of town.

The City of Beverly Hills itself is a virtual out-of-doors mall. At one time on the exclusive and fashionable Rodeo Drive in the heart of the tiny city, some shops blew puffs of perfume into the passing crowds to lure shoppers in, the way some Chinese cafes in Hong Kong blow scents from their kitchens into the streets to lure diners.

We can’t match that here. Everything in Beverly Hills is fabulous, and too much fabulous is like too much white fudge or marshmallow topping.

Then again, in the malls of Los Angeles, everyone is gorgeous, bright-eyed with sparkling perfect teeth, flat stomachs and thighs, perfect haircuts and clean underwear.


Yes. It’s required to be perfect in Hollywood. The waiters, the shop clerks, delivery people, car salesmen and garbage collectors are gorgeous. Yes, those two guys who ride on the back of trucks through the alleys of Hollywood, picking up the perfectly white garbage bags from sparkling clean green trash cans in Brentwood and Beverly Hills are gorgeous, handsome and sparkling. BECAUSE THEY’RE ALL ACTORS!

Everyone in Los Angeles is an actor, the girl who does your nails and hair, the bus drivers and cabbies, yoga instructors. The homeless guy who hits you up for a buck is probably an out-of-work actor.

I have even known priests who were hired by producers right out of the chapel because they looked “so much like real priests.”

A real Santa Monica priest and I had the same agent at one time. He used to kid that his parish was Our Lady of Malibu Beach. True story. That’s LA, honey.

In my South Portland mall, there is none of that fakery. It may be a little short on statuesque blondes, its parking lot void of white Rolls Royces and monogrammed Mercedes, but it has that particular charm of a city comfortable in its own skin, with real non-actors. And most importantly, it has the FOOD COURT.

I love the food court. She, who after driving an hour and a half, prefers a more palatable fare, but strangely enough for me, the food court isn’t about food. I can’t eat half of the junk food they offer. It’s about the different smells, the passing parade of ethnicity we don’t get enough of here in our tiny bedroom community.

At Christmas, pilgrims from the far corners of the world arrive. Muslims bringing their kiddies to see Santa, the lovely garbed Somalian women who clean the tables, wonderful teenagers of all sizes and shapes in Saturday garb, with hair dyed in colors not seen in our universe.

So outside there are no palm trees, no hot winds blowing up from Mexico, no parrots in the trees, but no matter what happens, even if the economy tanks and all the shops fold, we’ll always have the food court. Hooray!

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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