Feeling nostalgic at the Main Place Mall

Hi again, friends.

I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you there are drafts in WordPress I’ve started and abandoned over the last few months. Ideas that sprouted on my laptop then at some point didn’t feel good enough worth publishing.

But I’m back now and full of new ideas. Ideas that include a personal essay series and more outfit posts but in a bit of a different fashion than before. (Pun sorta intended.)

For years, actually around eight years to be exact, this blog has served as a glorified, happy, filtered online diary. Years of happy-go-lucky blog posts masking teenage struggle under cliche names like “winter blues” and “tips for dealing with stress.” If you want tips on handling stress, I’m not really the person to ask.

Writing those posts always did make me feel better in a sort of sweeping-it-under-the-pretty-rug-kind-of-way. Call it angst, or the fact that the 13-year-old who started this is now 21 (what make it stop) but I’m ready to open up more.

What’s the point of dwelling on negatives? What’s the point of ignoring them completely? I’m tired of the online black hole topic of looking-perfect-on-Instagram. (It’s a visual platform that leaves little room for written explanation!) But I’m less tired of the good old self-exploration essay, one that documents your frozen sliver of time and emotion and one that, of all things, my documented online experience has wholly lacked.

For a long time, I’ve had zero interest in opening up on the internet. But constantly, I seek out essays and chat threads in pursuit of people experiencing the same thing I am, without contributing any of my own stories in return. And what’s a writer doing that for?

So here marks a new era on this blog. One more full of openness and less full of highlight reels. One rife with happy, sad, weird stories. One that aims to better describe the my human experience. So…

Chapter 1

Just when I thought I had Buffalo memorized pretty well, I entered the Main Place Mall.

“Buffalo doesn’t have a downtown mall,” I told Dan.

It pains me to admit that he was right.

I was in a fairly shitty mood before going to that mall. It was one of those days that I just woke up upset. Blaming my birth control, gray weather, looming assignments or all of the above, I had already decided this wasn’t going to be a good day. In retrospect, it wouldn’t have been a bad idea to spend it all in bed. But I got up anyways and Dan and I agreed to meander streets we walk all the time.

We got coffee and food, but it didn’t help my mood. We walked by the water, I still didn’t feel great. But as soon as I set foot in that mall, my trivial problems melted and I was filled with nostalgia for a time I wasn’t even alive during: the 80s.

The orb lights! The sign that says you can’t bring in boom boxes! The hauntingly empty storefronts! The pizzeria straight out of Toy Story! I’m not the first person to reach the conclusion that this mall is a time machine. But if there was ever a time I imagined I could meet Ferris Bueller, it was here.

I love old places. The tackier they are, the better, as far as I’m concerned. As someone who intrinsically values everything “timeless,” there is something so unequivocally carefree about being so in the moment that you design the trendiest “blank” at the time. Like a wonderful puffy neon pink mixed with dark purple pop-art jacket, this mall is a bold dedication to a slice of time that wasn’t one of design’s finest, (or Buffalo’s for that matter), but remains preserved as if it’s stuck inside a snowglobe. It’s like if someone today launched a cactus-themed avocado toast restaurant furnished with marble and rose gold tables, walls colored Millennial pink adorned with Generation Z yellow succulent decals. And for good measure, there are USB charging outlets on every table.

And future generations just let it stay there! In its 2018-preserved splendor.

The sealing moment was when I entered the food court. I scaled these elaborate steps only to see more of the same tacky chairs. But then I turned around and found an entire atrium full of those weird wooden chairs from a while ago and fake plants that no good interior designer would ever approve now and way too much of that super-90s green.

A few kiosks still serve food and the people eating probably found gape-mouthed-me rather annoying, but I was in pure shock.

I felt like I was four years old again, which is approximately the last time places looked like this. Memories of grocery shopping with my dad and impatiently waiting in doctor’s atriums playing on my Gameboy Color flooded back. Nothing looked like this anymore.

At least nothing had quite so many fake flowers. And that green has usually been painted over by a neutral taupe.

I became an insatiable tourist at this nearly abandoned downtown mall, smack dab in the middle of my own city. Armed with my iPhone, I started documenting the place as if I was going to wake up from the dream or be pulled out of the memory lane I was in. We ate crab rangoon from a Chinese kiosk and drank Pepsi out of an old-school paper cup.

My mood lightened up, at least for a bit. And I got new story ideas, which felt good too.

I also left with a strong inclination to watch Home Alone and The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller. And wear my vintage 80s red plaid jacket.

And play Pokemon.

This Must Be The Place — Talking Heads


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