Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Monster Loves His Labyrinth

Sunday I went to see the Benjamin Buttons movie at the mall with Kate. She missed little old man-child Benjamin when he evolved into the Brad we know and desire in the movie, so I'm running a photo of him before the transformation. Here you go Katie.

Walking into the Hampshire Mall is always odd to me because I grew up around here and the Mountain Farms Mall was the only mall. Then the Hampshire Mall popped up across the street and the new mall gradually strangled the old mall into the "dead mall," which became its name until the big boxes took over the space and cleaned it all up. For a while it was in rough shape and the weekly Jackson's Flea Market was held in the abandoned carcass. I can still smell the fried mini-donuts that Sandy Jackson, a beautiful cross-eyed classmate of mine from Amherst High, sold from a cart out in the middle of the market. I don't even know if the guts of the old dead mall are still intact, with the bridge and waterwheel and goldfish (right, sans wheel) that were fixtures of my childhood. Courtesy of here are some sad old photos and a bit of the mall history.

I won't bother talking about the movie. Plenty of words about that out in the world of total noise already. After the movie we went to Amherst Coffee next to the Amherst Cinema to "sage" our souls of the mall. I left Kate for a moment to go to Amherst Books before it closed for the day. I go to Amherst so infrequently that I made a promise to myself to buy a book at Amherst Books every time. So I went in to see what would find me.

I've never had more interesting tension with store clerks than at Amherst Books. It's good tension. I always feel there's an awareness of each other from the time I walk in until I leave. It's not always the same person, but it's always a woman, and I'm probably just imagining the whole thing to provide a little romantic intrigue in my imaginary life. She thinks, "Though I am a wispy college English major, this grayish yet vibrant man who just walked in has captivated me with his mysterious ageless intrigue and striped scarf. Perhaps he is a writer, a poet. What will he buy? I'll scribble my phone number on a bookmark and slip it into his book..." kind of thing. Some day....

To the point, it was a banner day. I found a book on the New Poetry table called The Monster Loves His Labyrinth by Charles Simic. I've read Simic's poetry and an autobiography and he's got a great mind and words that always get me excited about thinking and writing and living and talking to others. He's my dad's age, born in 1938 in Yugoslavia, and his earliest memories are of the war. This book is a collection of notebook scribblings. "Aha!" I thought as I leafed through it. "Just like mine! Maybe my notebooks and bar napkins are fine as they are and say all they have to say already. Maybe they aren't parts of a whole but a stack of wholes!" What a glorious idea for a lazy, easily distacted man like myself. I was sure I'd found the book to buy and as if I needed any further convincing, I found a reference to Sylvia Plath and Russell Edson in the same sentence!

Here are some excerpts:

A life of vice starts in the cradle. He loved crawling under the skirts of his big sister's friends. One of them let him stay there until he was an old man.

At the tanning salon on Rt. 9, Regina the Pizza Hut girl lies naked with shades on.

Creaky old bed springs, one man blues band.

Every nation is scared of the truth of what they have done to others.

It seems like little nothings at a glance but the effect on me is tangible. It's also only $14.

Okay, Max H will scold me if I prattle on so that's that. Okay, one more:

I like to hear a happy song played sadly.

I have to turn Simic onto Mark Kozelek, who does that better than anyone.


bz said...

yes! and for a sad song played happy (better than anyone, perhaps) try Loney, Dear

Jim Neill said...

Loney, Dear play the Iron Horse on Thursday 1/29 at 10PM!

Anonymous said...

As far as I know, nothing remains of the old MF Mall. The cinemas and their approaches were preserved for a while after Wal-Mart went in but when the plaza was expanded with Pier One and whatnot it was all torn out. Although the big sign-tree between Jiffy Lube and Burger King may be the original.

Caty said...

I *like* it when you "prattle" on.

Mary E.Carey said...

Thanks for the link to the Dead Malls photos. I was a the mall last night to see "Grand Torino" (funny but really sad in the end)and I see it is going through another transformation. It seems they are installing a classy stone tile floor in the food court now and Arizona Pizza has moved into that space where they used to see low-end furniture and, if I remember, rides on one of those spinning spheres.