Remember the other day when I posted a sob story? I know, all my stories are of the sob genre, but specifically the post about how fucking cold it’s been here in Pittsburgh. Well, Saturday was still fucking cold.
I started the day with several walking workouts on YouTube since it’s just been too much to walk around the neighborhood in this weather (my Mexican taco cart boyfriend has probably forgotten me by now, ugh). And then I watched Goblin – it has taken me nearly a year to get through this drama because IT IS SO FUCKING SAD. It makes me ugly-cry so hard, it’s repulsive. Even more than This Is Us. But it is so, so, so good.
And then Henry made me this bubbling ramyun for lunch because HAVE I MENTIONED IT’S GODDAMN COLD OUT? Every year I swear that I won’t be that person who complains about the weather or points out the obvious but man, I will just never be OK with winter. Sorry all you winter stans.
After lunch, Henry had to go to the eye doctor and originally I was just going to stay home. But then I remembered that the eye place is very close to Century III Mall, and since Chooch and I haven’t been able to get in our nightly walks, I thought it would be fun to pose as elderly mall walkers. Because, if you’re from this area you already know — there ain’t much else to do at the near-defunct Century III Mall.
Henry dropped us off and I was shocked to see that since I was last there (less than a year ago), nearly every store had closed. I’m not being hyperbolic here, either. We walked through almost an entire wing before we finally came across something that was open — freaking Things Remembered, ugh that store is so lame.
One of my friends posted a few months ago that Italian Village Pizza, the last remaining joint in the food court, had closed. Chooch and I walked over to that side of the mall and it was actually really cold, obvious that it wasn’t even being heated anymore. And my favorite wing of the mall is now entirely off-limits: the steps and escalators are all blocked off.
I know I’m a super sentimental person, but I was shocked at how much this hurt. There was a pet store down there that my friend Rachael worked at and I would visit her there in high school. And then off to the right down there was Champ’s, where I would buy all of my Champion and Starter hoodies and coats (I was a yo-girl and dressed almost exclusively in JNCO & Karl Kani jeans and college sports sweatshirts, lol — I really liked Michigan for some reason?!). When I was in 9th grade, I befriended the cutest salesguy in that joint — Will. Ugh, he was so dreamy, and like probably in college. I remember my friends Jameelah & Erika also really liked him and would get so mad because he paid the most attention to me, and after I started dating my “first love” Justin, Will would always tell me that he wasn’t good enough for me. We used to talk on the phone sometimes too (my mom WAS NOT A FAN OF THIS) but I realized later that he probably just liked me as a little sister and truly did look out for me, which was pretty awesome now that I’m old enough to see it for what it was.
I tried to regale Chooch with some of my memories, like how the dark, cobblestoned portion of the bottom floor had a shop called the Pittsburgh Store and it’s where I would get all of my stickers. “I collected stickers and had like 87 sticker books,” I told Chooch.
“Of course you did,” he sighed.
And how there was a Dairy Queen back there too, where Keri and I would always stop for refreshments on one of our ritual Friday night mall lurks. (I would always get the tropical flavored one.) And how one time we were accused of shoplifting at the Claire’s in the now-closed wing of the mall, and of course we proved that we didn’t do it but I couldn’t get the bitch manager to apologize so Keri’s mom called the mall and flipped her shit on them.
There was actually only one time in my whole life that I shoplifted, and it was when I was like 4 or 5 years ago. My mom and I were in some kitchen store on the second floor of that mall and I walked out with two magnets made out of peanut shells, and then felt so terrible when I realized what I did that I cried all night and never did that again.
But honestly, I practically lived at that mall from 7th to 10th grade. In 8th grade, I’d get dropped off every Friday night with the hopes of seeing SCOTT DAMBAUGH, who I was desperately crushing on. Even Henry knows the Dambaugh lore.
To be honest, that mall started going downhill back in the 90s when it was first sold and renovated. It was “modernized,” which basically just means they took out all of the cool parts, like the stage area that was outside of Kaufmann’s (Richard Simmons performed there once!). And the smaller third floor area was pretty much just left to die, and that has always pained me because that’s where my favorite music shop was (Waves — I bought what feels like a million dollars-worth of cassingles from that place), where my friend Liz and I “accidentally” lost the French foreign exchange student who was staying with my family during the summer of ’92, and where the best arcade was (the mall had two back then). It was also where one of my first memories originates, it’s super unclear, but I remember my Pappap and me walking around the mall a lot when I was really young, like pre-school age. And there was a…OK bear with me because I just tried to tell Henry this story and he looked at me with question marks undulating around his furry brows. How to even start this. There was a department store on that side of the mall – I thought it was Gimbles but Henry was all THAT WAS ON THE SIDE WHERE THE MEXICAN RESTAURANT IS NOW. Maybe it was Hornes then? It doesn’t matter. All that matters was that on the wall outside of it, next to the entrance, there were buttons. I never knew what they were for, but it was like a ritual for me to push them every time. And the one was brown so I would pretend that every time I pushed it, coffee was being made.
I started to remember this when I was an older kid, and when I brought it up to my Pappap he was like, “Bitch you cray” and when I started hanging out at the mall later in life with friends, I actively tried to find those buttons and no one ever knew what the hell I was talking about.
Also, the third floor used to have this super cute It’a A Small World-esque Christmas display AND NO ONE REMEMBERS THAT EITHER. Please, dear god, if you’re from Pittsburgh and have any clue what I’m going on about, PLEASE COMMENT AND VALIDATE ME.
Oh man, I just now had a recollection of buying Billy Ocean’s greatest hits for myself at Waves, and as the cashier rang me up, I turned to my friend Christy and shouted, “SUSIE IS REALLY GOING TO LIKE THIS CD” because I didn’t want the guy to know it was for me, and it’s hilarious to me that I even once cared about what someone would think about my musical persuasions!
Or going to National Record Mart when I was in third grade because I wanted to buy the T’Pau record but all I knew was that I liked the song “Heart & Soul.” When the clerk asked me who the artist was, all I could say was, “I don’t know. She looks like Tracey Ullman.” OMG AND GOING TO KAUFMANN’S TO BUY CONCERT TICKETS!
UGH AND POGS!!!!!!
Other memories I have of the mall are, pre-vegetarianism, skulking around Hickory Farms for the free kielbasi samples; eating at Alby’s Big Boy as a kid and falling into the dark hole of penpalling thanks to the penpal section of the kids menu (I WAS EVEN FEATURED ONCE!!!!!); getting all of my film developed, with doubles!, at Ritz Camera; meeting some of the Penguins at an event there after they won their first Stanley Cup (Phil Bourque and Peter Taglianetti were definitely two of them, but I’d have to find my old pictures to remember who else was there); playing the Simpsons arcade game with my brother Ryan; GETTING THE WORST HAIR CUT OF MY LIFE AT SOME SALON THAT’S NOT THERE ANYMORE THANKS MOM; Taco Tina’s.
I’ve still been going to that mall a handful of times a year, because it still has Hot Topic and Journeys. But now Journeys is gone too! I hope that my Dance Gavin Dance friend Sam got to relocate to a different Journeys. :(
On this particular afternoon, it was pretty much just me, Chooch, some elderly people, and a kid pretending to be a zombie. Chooch wanted new shoes and that was a struggle considering 90% of the stores are closed and JC Penney is the only department store left. But we eventually found a cool pair of red ADIDAS at Champs (in a new location). And they were majorly on sale too because the mall was sold to UPMC and all the remaining stores are just waiting for their leases to run out, I guess. I mean, even Spencer’s is gone. Does a mall even exist without a Spencer’s?
Inexplicably, what the mall DOES have is a beautiful double-decker carousel that’s managed to last for several years now. Chooch and I naturally wanted to ride it but my credit card wasn’t swiping properly so the ride operator graciously let us ride for free!
“ARE WE GOING UPSTAIRS?!” I cried, and of course Chooch answered yes so we clobbered up the steps and picked our animals.
The ride operator waved to us every time we rotated past her, and I waved back the first few times but then just pretended like I didn’t notice after that because it was getting to be too much.
After this, we went to Penney’s, because we still hadn’t reached 10,000 steps (we got Chooch a Fitbit for Christmas and he and I are “healthy” competitors). I was about to try on some slutty jeans when Henry texted and said, “Don’t buy anything.”
Um, OK, control freak.
“Especially not stupid, overpriced red shoes.”
I showed Chooch and we both looked at each other like, “WHAT HOW WHY.” I figured he probably got a text notification that I purchased something from Champs because ever since we had our account hacked several years ago, Henry gets notified for every last purchase just in case.
“Or merry-go-round rides.”
OK, for sure I figured he probably just saw our picture on Instagram, but I wasn’t sure how he knew that we bought red shoes. Then he asked where we were and after I said “Penneys” he appeared behind us LIKE A FUCKING CREEPER. Turns out, he had been in the mall for a minute because he had to go to the Verizon store, and on his way there, he walked past us just as we were getting on the carousel. He even mimicked me saying, “ARE WE GOING UPSTAIRS?!” Lol! I was like, “OMG were you so proud to know us?!” and he said no, that he hung his head in shame and hurried past us before we saw him.
Henry said the first thing he noticed was that Chooch was wearing brand new bright red shoes hahaha.
So that took up pretty much the whole afternoon.
I spent some time in the evening making some new Kpop cards, and then later we had family KpopX night! THIS IS MY FAVORITE NIGHT! HENRY DOESN’T EVEN TRY!
We finished the night by watching an old Running Man episode featuring IU, so I had my tea in an IU cup. It was a good day. I mean, it was cold as fuck. But it was good.