I Went to the Mall of America and All I Got Was This Lousy Pedicure

Nothing mystical about it.

The 34-day Sister Spit tour got two days off. One was spent in Santa Cruz during a storm so apocalyptic houses were sliding into ravines and farmland became so entirely flooded I mistook it for some pretty lakes. The second day off was spent at the Mall of America. After 30 days in a van, a person needs things. Ali Liebegott needed to get her computer fixed, and I needed a pedicure. My toes were growing gnarled and animalistic, and I have somehow forgotten that cutting your toenails is a thing a person can do themselves. It has become a task on par with teeth cleaning and razoring layers into my hair: I pay a professional.  Plus, who doesn’t want to see the Mall of America? It’s, like, America’s biggest mall! I love malls! The Mystic Mall, pictured above, was my local mall, built in Chelsea, Massachusetts in the 1980s when mall were totally bitchin! It was flung up on a bunch of vacant, weedy lots where a swath of the city had famously burned down in Great Chelsea Fires of the 1970s. There is nothing mystical about the Mystic Mall, it was named after the Mystic River, which doesn’t even flow through Chelsea, to make the whole thing more pathetic. The Mystic Mall was awesome for a while in the early part of the decade, and was deeply formative for me in the realms of fashion and romance. In the Mall, you could be walking around eating a slush and bumming cigarettes off strangers and some boy you’ve never seen before would be like, I like you, want to go out? And he’d be cute so you’d be, Okay, and next thing you know you have a boyfriend and you’re making out by the pay phones hoping that no one who works with your mother is picking up a prescription at Osco Drugs.

This is not the interior of the Mystic Mall – it did not have ramps or plants, but it did have a DEB. Check out the font on the name, I love it. At Deb I got my first ever miniskirt, a red one. I got a newsie hat there too which I thought was cool because only boys wore them, and I got a neon shirt with a paint-splattered neon tie attached to it. Androgyny was so totally yes in the 80s! Another awesome thing to buy at the Mall were Jordache purses.

These were the best things ever. They were only $5 and you hung them across your body so they bounced on your hip and they came in a million different colors. Of course they were made of like, felt coated in something peeley that looked like leather, and the strap was essentially a braid of yarn, so your $5 purse unraveled swiftly, but while they lasted they were so awesome, and at $5 – even I could bum five bucks off my grandmother every now and then. I would kill for one of these right now. Horses with flowing manes are eternal. Anyway, the Mystic Mall fell on hard times, as seen in the photo above. Before totally going kaput it existed briefly as a sort of zombie mall filled with nothing but dollar stores. A mall full of dollar stores! No more Record Man where I bought Van Halen’s 1984 the day it was released. No more Waldenbooks where my sister and her bestie got busted looking at sex books. No kiosk where I got my ears pierced for the first time, no more Richie’s King of Slush where you could get fried dough with ham and cheese tucked inside it to go with your pina colada slush, and no more Mr. Tops, where I was employed for a bit searing iron-on decals and fuzzy letters onto t-shirts.

When I was like eleven years old I bought a Valley Girl handbook at the Waldenbooks and set about learning to be a Valley Girl. Valley Girls seemed so awesome. They looked excellent, had great fashion and the perfect feathered hair my mother would not let me get because ‘You really have to keep up with it.’ But what really made them amazing is that they had their own language, their own accents, their own speed-of-speech. I loved to talk wicked, wicked fast in a goofy, roller coaster cadence, repeating phrases such as Gag me with a spoon! and Grody to the max! with my voice dripping with disgust. I also enjoyed hiccuping, Ohmigod! and sadly still do. I would walk around the Mystic Mall performing Vally Girl realness to the fine losers of my city. I didn’t get beat up. In a place that punishes weirdness with violence, you can sort of protect yourself by being really, really weird. It’s like, if you’re only slightly weird they think you’re trying and failing at being normal and so they want to kill you. But if you so like totally ohmigod weird you are doing your own freaky thing, and then you’re sort of frightening and interesting. Anyway the habitat of the Valley Girl is the Mall, and the habitat of the true, real, original Valley Girl is the Sherman Oaks Galleria, located in the San Fernando Valley, where the Girl comes from. So I could never truly be a Valley Girl, because I didn’t even live in California! Like, duh.

The Galleria was the Mall in the movie Valley Girl, and it played the Ridgemont Mall in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, one of the best Mall-movies ever. Jennifer Jason-Leigh and Phoebe Cates are the most cutely hot food court workers ever in their candy striper uniforms and the red bow ties. Jennifer’s beribboned braidy hairdo is very sweet, too. The Mall: both a container for and corrupter of  teenaged innocence! Other films were shot at the Galleria too, like one of the Terminator films and this totally unknown horror movie starring the most excellent Mary Woronov (writer, painter, survivor of Warhol’s Factory), Chopping Mall.

Mary Woronov is so handsome and beautiful and used to be a model in her youth, before she fell in with the infamous Mole People on the periphery of the Factory scene and got super hooked on speed. But all through her life she has been in really weird, interesting B movies. I owe us all a longer post on her and her style! Here she is in a floral orange jumpsuit (!) and a sneer.

Here is the Mall of America, located in Bloomington, Minnesota, right outside Minneapolis. It’s divided into many wings, some of them apparently classy with like a Chanel and Chloe boutique. I was hoping to be around aspirational shops full of things I can’t afford, but instead I was around depressing shops full of things I can totally afford but don’t want, except that if you spend too much time in a mall you’re like . . . I guess that’s okay . . . No, it’s not . . . Well it’s sort of a basic . . . . It’s only $7.99 . . . I guess I’ll buy it, AKA The Ross Dress For Less Syndrome. Nordstrom’s Rack at the MoA was super sad with nary a designer find to get all sweaty and excited about, the whole reason to go to such a place. Sephora is the same Sephora as everyplace else in the whole entire world, even Poland. The Bloomingdale’s doesn’t carry Diane von Furstenberg. It was like the entire mall was the dullest Macy’s located somewhere in an Oregon suburb.

The indoor amusement park is totally cool except I didn’t want to go to an amusement park. I wanted to go to a mall. About to be overtaken by deep ennui, I was saved by a Betsey Johnson prom fashion show!!!!

It is only partly my fault and the fault of my camera that these photos you’re about to see suck so hard. These girls need runway lessons! They went by so fast I couldn’t get a shot! This girl was my fave. She was cute and walked with an awkward stomp like she was trying to prove to a bunch of boys that girls can play football, too. If she was on Top Model I would be tuning in each Wednesday to cheer her on.

Listen, Betsey Johnson looks like a crazy clown and her clothes are like Ed Hardy for girls. But I love her poofy prom dresses. I just love them! I always have, and I’ve always wanted one, and now that I’ve been liberated by Loretta Lynn to wear poofy, froofy, frothy dresses well into my golden years, perhaps I will get myself one.

That’s my fave on the far left. Can’t you see how cool and tough she is, just standing there in her pink cupcake dress? I hope someone discovers her! After the show I roamed around looking for interesting shoppers, but guess what? Like no one is interesting at the Mall of America. Well, hardly anyone.

Nerd Alert

I love these nerds! So cute! You know they have big exciting futures ahead of them. They’re going to get the fuck out of Minnesota and go to art school somewhere and have an awesome Fuck You retrospective at the Walker in like thirty years. The girl had a Kiss Army patch on her arm. Mall ratz!

Suburban Cowboy

This guy was a Western Wonderland, hanging out on a bench while his lady watched some sort of martial arts demonstration happening a floor below. Nice hat, great bolo tie, and I appreciated how he posed chewing on his sunglasses like a weed he plucked from the prairie.

Oh no my flight is boarding and I didn’t get to tell you about the worst mani-pedi ever! It involved my manicurist mumbling, “You don’t like me,” resentfully, because I wouldn’t let her paint horrible little flowers on my fingernails. Au revoir!

About Michelle Tea

I chanted "I am a fashion magnet" in the shower and subsequently found a Gianni Versace - era Versace skirt at Buffalo Exchange for $17. Once I got a beyond-my-means Fendi purse for free and sat staring at it, crying. Also cried at Olivier Theyskens' last show for Nina Ricci in Paris. Other things that make me cry: a good lip synch; my emotions. I have stolen two Jeremy Scott swag items from two Jeremy Scott events I was not quite invited to. Sometimes I want to age into Patti Smith, sometimes Baby Jane Hudson. I frequently dream I am in a magic thrift store where I can have whatever I want. I regret not buying the Alexander Wang purse when it was half price at Barney's. Like a delusional guy at a strip club, I feel special when the people who work at Barney's remember me. Having a Leo rising gives me big hair and a need for attention. My favorite designers right now are Alexander Wang, Philip Lim, Proenza Schouler, Vivienne Westwood, Viktor Rolf, Rick Owens, Rodarte, Helmut Lang and Surface to Air. I was once shamed by an employee of a high-end department store for pronouncing 'Rodarte' incorrectly.

4 comments

  1. michelle

    the weirdness uncanny valley! makes sense to me.

  2. Hayley

    I totally forgot about those Jordache purses! More early 80’s retrospectives!!!

  3. I grew up in Southern California, but the concept of the Valley Girl was as iconic and fun and completely theoretical as if I’d grown up on the other side of the country. My friends and I would do Valley Girl voices, not even knowing that we were more or less imitating ourselves. It wasn’t until well into adulthood that I realized the mythical Valley was the San Fernando Valley ten miles away.

  4. HK

    Another person from the coast shitting the midwest. When will it ever grow old?

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