Something that you miss
For good or for bad, your hometown always has a special place in your heart. The sights, sounds, and smells you remember combine to create fully formed memories of growing up. Even though I was never a beach bum, living near the ocean was always a big part of my life. I don’t think I will ever able to move more than 20 miles inland. The Pacific Ocean may be a vast and scary unknown covering half the earth’s surface, but it’s my gigantic security blanket.
Another security blanket that I had to part with long ago was a behemoth of capitalism known as Del Amo Fashion Center. In 1981, it became the largest indoor shopping center in America (a title it has long since given up). Before the Internet eroded the retail dominance of giant malls, you had to physically walk/bus/drive to an actual place to waste time. If you broke down my youth in terms of time spent anywhere, it would be evenly divided between home, school, and Del Amo Mall.
20 years ago, it required an Avengers-like assembly of mall stores to satisfy the retail needs that amazon.com can provide today. Stores like KB Toys would always be there for me to gawk at the wall of Super NES games that I would never be able to buy. At Suncoast Motion Picture Company I would peruse its racks of unapologetically retail priced DVDs as they played movies on the TV screens throughout the store. Sam Goody let me listen to whatever CDs happened to be featured in their bolted-down CD Walkman-cum-music sampling devices. Nirvana’s Nevermind was the sole representative of the entire “Rock” section of CDs.
Del Amo even used to be high tech! Suddenly, during one visit, electronic mall directories were a thing. You could tap through the mall directory on a touchscreen and it would tell you how to get to every store from where you were standing using little isometric maps and an animated footprint trail leading to the store you didn’t need to go to so you could buy the thing you didn’t really need. It was amazing. I thought this certainly was the height of human achievement and that we were downfall of civilization was coming at any time.
Before any of us had a car, my friends and I would bike or take the bus to Del Amo and do one, some, or all of the following:
- Go to Aladdin’s Castle and spend my last five bucks on arcade games back when the hardware in arcade machines was still vastly superior to our home gaming systems (if you are reading this, you probably remember putting a quarter down on the Street Fighter II/Tekken II machine and patiently waited your turn).
- Thumb through the latest Calvin and Hobbes compilation at a Waldenbooks
- Eat horrible chinese food at Wok Inn in the famed “International Food Court”
- Watch a movie at Mann 9 Theaters (OMG 9 SCREENS). I remember watching Independence Day there and almost peeing my pants because I was so excited.
- Play with every useless gadget at Sharper Image
- Walk by Wet Seal and not understand why anyone would want to step foot in that store
- Spend time in Aahs! looking at all the gag gifts and snarky t-shirts I was not cool enough to wear
Del Amo’s last hurrah was probably its appearance in Jackie Brown, where it played a pivotal role and where everyone at school spent even MORE time at Del Amo trying to be an extra in the movie so they could brag about it to everyone. Even by then, in the late 90s, it was in decline and by the time I went off to college, it was in freefall. I have only been there a few times since then, mostly to watch a movie in the new outdoor mall area, which is kind of like a facelift on an aging O.C. housewife, but Simon Malls is throwing down $200 million to renovate the entire complex, so maybe from the ashes a new generation of mallrats will rise. Even if it ends up being $200 million well spent, it will never recapture the pre-Internet magic I experienced in my youth.