Thursday, February 05, 2004


There’s a strip mall just east of where I live. It’s not huge, not small. Maybe 25 parking spaces out front. It houses a luggage store, a men’s clothing store, a window blinds store, a furniture store, a mobile phone center, and a Crate & Barrel outlet.

I’ve never noticed whether or not the mall has a name, but I have noticed that I don’t hate it. I don’t find it completely visually deadening or energy draining.

Until today, it’s never been apparent to me why that should be, but I think I’ve figured it out.

There are two floors of apartments on top of the Crate & Barrel. You can see that people live there if you look up at the windows. They’ve drawn their shades in variations of up or down. Someone put a vase against one, as if they’d emptied it of flowers and didn’t feel like putting it away.

Because the apartments augment the tedious, regimented design and use of the stores, the mall doesn’t leave its site with only one kind of life. The apartments make sure that, regardless of whether or not the shops are open, real life ticks on within it. Somebody, somewhere might be playing a flute.

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