Ah, Maple Ridge.
Found myself wandering through our cultural mecca, Haney Place Mall, earlier today. I had hoped that some store in town might have the much-buzzed, recently released documentary Blackfish on DVD. Or maybe Brian De Palma's Passion. The library hasn't gotten them in. Little Shop of Movies (the one video rental store in Maple Ridge proper, now under new ownership) did not have them; nor did London Drugs. So I figured I would make a cursory look in our newly opened Target, replacing the Zellers at said mall, and while I was at it, do a scan of Target's mall neighbour, Gamer's Choice, which was unlikely to have Blackfish or Passion but might have something else of note. (They're a little game-and-DVD shop run by a bunch of Middle Eastern guys, who now have a few thousand DVDs, ill-sorted, mostly priced at $3.99; occasionally I find a weird gem there, something I'm not looking for but can't resist at a low price, like today's find, Return of Sabata).
Anyhow, Haney Place is this town's Dawn of the Dead mall: it's all senior citizens, gangstas, white trash, and various variations on the suburban bungled and the botched, all of us slouching along, feeling superior to each other, getting in each other's way, scrounging for deals, searching for something (community? fellowship? a home?) that we have bugger all chance of finding, especially since we all mistrust each other. There's probably no single more depressing place to congregate in this town - maybe the high school, maybe the strip club - but all the same, there's seldom a week that goes by without seeing me in it two or three times, picking up groceries, buying my Mom scratch and wins, or just passing through to scan the shelves at Gamer's Choice, seeing the same old movies that were there the week before, and the week before that. Aside from the odd gem I dig out of there, or good deals on groceries at the Thrifty's, almost any unexpected experience I have at Haney Place Mall is bound to be negative, a reminder that there's "nothing but the dead and dying" in my little town. A horrifying whiff of perfume on a blue haired old lady, a glimpse of a fat guy's ass crack as he bends to lift a crate of whatever, the persistent screaming of a baby, the tobacco clouds around the teenagers who cluster in the doorways, or just the sagging, ugly flesh and sour expressions everywhere you look... As I walk through the mall, I try to keep my eyes on the path ahead of me, try not to take in what passes for humanity, unless I'm feeling singularly misanthropic and want to nurture a hate-on. Pretty much anything I *do* notice evokes a wince - an inward one, since I don't want anyone to see my reactions. Never let them know what you're thinking: I wonder how many other fellow mall-shoppers feel exactly the same way?
Today's cause for wincing was musical: hearing Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band's "Against The Wind" over the mall PA. Not that that's the worst song you're likely to hear at a suburban mall, but it was really quite striking, since I can remember that same song - hardly a huge hit, hardly a classic, hardly anything that should have any real longevity or appeal to anyone - playing in town in 1980, when it was released. That was the year before Haney Place Mall opened, as it happens, but no doubt I've heard it over their PA before, god knows how many times. I liked the song when I was aged 12, but only because I didn't know much better - I dug Billy Joel and Styx back then, too. I don't have anything against "Against The Wind" now, either, really - it's as good an example of banal, hopelessly Caucasian, risk-free AM radio musical mediocrity as can be found without involving a member of the Eagles, but it's not in any way actively offensive to me; it's mostly just dull. Still, what's striking is that 33 years since it debuted, that same fucking song is still playing over the speakers at the mall, like it was somehow still relevant, like, of all the music of the world that has ever been made, either before 1980, or since; in spite of the vast explosion of musical awareness brought on by the internet, the bizarre wealth of options at anyone's easy disposal - Bob Seger's "Against The Wind" is somehow the truest expression of what Haney Place Mall is about. It gave me a moment of pause, thinking about the time warp this town seems to be stuck in. What kind of limits would you have to place on human experience, taste, knowledge for someone to not realize somewhere between 1980 and now that there's a wider world of cultural expression than is captured by that Bob Seger song, that there is, in fact, better music to be played? What lobotomized consensus reality would one have to be living in for that song to actually somehow be a thing of comfort and familiarity? What can you say about a town where hearing "Against The Wind" over the PA at the mall counts, in 2013, as a "normal" experience? I mean, at least they could have played "Turn The Page"...
Oh: and Target didn't have Blackfish (or Passion) either.