An Artsy Walk Through The Mall On A Hot-As-Hell Day

It was hot as hell in my area (the suburbs of Philadelphia) on the 30th of June. I’d gone for walks on each of the two previous days, days that weren’t exactly on the mild side temperature-wise either. But June 30 was a different ball game, one of those in which a mere minute in the sun causes sweat to pour from your face and back of your neck like lava from a mountain that is experiencing gastric distress.

However, I, an old guy who for the last year and a half has been very diligent about exercising regularly, was not about to not go for a walk. A walk was totally doable, because I live close to Willow Grove Park, a three-story, air-conditioned indoor shopping mall. Thus, in late morning I headed to the mall, to pound its avenues and corridors in A/C’ed comfort.

I like spending time now and then at Willow Grove Park, even though I rarely buy anything there. Architecturally it looks real good, and I’m always amazed by the copious amounts of eye-catching wares for sale. Plus, I almost always cross paths with some lovely ladies.

And I find Willow Grove Park to be quite an artistic environment, hardly different from art museums. For example, many merchandise displays within the stores are beautiful and creative. Even more so are the graphic artworks — posters and other printed creations — in merchants’ windows and free-standing elsewhere. Ergo, on June 30 I made it my mission, in addition to stretching my legs, to examine the state of affairs of graphic art at the mall.

I was drawn to any number of pieces. They ranged from the minimalistic (the large Sale signs, in flamboyant red, that bordered the H&M clothing store), to the complex and futuristic, qualities belonging to a poster hung within an Aerie shop.

Not surprisingly, many of the works featured human faces and, usually, additional body parts. More often than not, these creations were photography-based, but their painterly counterparts were on display here and there too. In the face/body category, the one that I found myself staring at the most was the group shot of five youngsters. It adorned the Gap Kids store. If everyone got along as well as those individuals do, the world would be pretty close to paradisiacal. And I was entranced by the two girls, their heads as close as canned sardines, aglow in a window of the Primark establishment.

A few hours after I arrived back home I began to mull over my mall experience, and damn if I didn’t feel slighted more than a bit. Shit, I realized that every human pictured at the mall was somewhere between young and the cusp of middle-age. How come someone like me wasn’t on display? I mean, what do companies have against male septuagenarians whose hairlines are receding faster than Greenland’s glaciers and whose faces are peppered with weird f*cking growths that dermatologists probably don’t even have names for? It ain’t right, I tell you! Those in power are going to hear from me!

But before they hear from me, I will bring this narrative to a close. Please don’t be shy about adding your comments. And give a listen, if you’re in the mood, to mall-istic songs that I discovered recently. After all, it’s not every day that you encounter music inspired by shopping malls.

The first recording, Let’s Go To The Mall, is by Robin Sparkles, a stage name once used by Robin Scherbatsky, who is a character in the television series How I Met Your Mother (the series ended in 2014). Cobie Smulders, the actress who played Sparkles/Scherbatsky, provides the lead vocals on this pop music confection. Did you get all of that? Not sure if I did.

In the second tune, The Last Mall, Steely Dan uses a mall metaphorically to comment on humankind’s fate. Such headiness is only to be expected, of course, as the brains behind Steely Dan — Donald Fagen and the late Walter Becker — were not your everyday song-writing team. The Last Mall, sardonic and clothed in the blues, paints an uneasy picture.

80 thoughts on “An Artsy Walk Through The Mall On A Hot-As-Hell Day

  1. johnlmalone July 21, 2021 / 1:28 am

    I know what you mean, Neil; we septuagenarians don’t get much of a look in murally speaking; however when it comes to ads aimed at our age group, there are plenty: ranging from discreet hearing aids to even discreeter products like men’s incontinence pads; you see, Neil, we are not overlooked 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Life...One Big Adventure July 21, 2021 / 1:59 am

    I am hearin’ you about the lack of marketing focused on older folk. We may (and that is a BIG may) no longer look as young as fresh as we once did, but I suspect we are more cashed up and have a larger disposable income than the young things. Surely that should catch the marketer’s attention??

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 21, 2021 / 10:10 am

      There probably are more seniors used in ads than we realize. But I’m guessing that seniors are under-represented.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lynette d'Arty-Cross July 21, 2021 / 3:24 am

    I agree that the older demographic should be represented as well! Apparently we don’t spend enough money to justify that, however.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 21, 2021 / 10:12 am

      I was being somewhat facetious. Older folks are used in advertising (I see quite a few over-60s in various magazine ads), but not as much as they should be.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. triciatierney July 21, 2021 / 6:03 am

    Thanks for the reminder of the mall-crawl option on a steamy day. There’s a new one that’s near me now that I’ve been to only twice. I kind of hate them – not much of a shopper. But yes, a nice reprieve from the heat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 21, 2021 / 10:14 am

      A fair number of people regularly go to the mall near my home to get some exercise. Doing that is especially good when it’s real hot or real cold outside.

      Like

  5. swabby429 July 21, 2021 / 6:46 am

    Unless the companies are selling hearing aids or prescription medicine, youthful images move merchandise best. I’ve come to realize that the products that are marketed by images of kids and young adults are mostly products I don’t buy or use anyway. At least you can enjoy a viable, cool indoor mall for your walks. Ours is in its final stages and decrepit–yet still air conditioned.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 21, 2021 / 10:17 am

      An indoor, four-level mall in downtown Philadelphia was totally rebuilt a couple of years ago. Soon after that, the pandemic hit. I hope that mall will be able to hang in there.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. JOYCE HAMILTON July 21, 2021 / 7:48 am

    Great article the photos and songs. Also had to laugh on growths on face.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. librepaley July 21, 2021 / 8:50 am

    You amaze me with the ability to walk through a shopping mall and find points of human interest. I” take a fresh look on the next (rare) occasion I am in one.
    There is so little diversity in advertisements, and I think you’re right to call out age diversity as lacking. You would not think, looking at these, we have ageing (aging) populations.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Helen Devries July 21, 2021 / 8:58 am

    There used to be a great deal of talk about the ‘grey pound’….the money deemed to be at the disposal of pensioners…..but I don’t recall advertising aimed at that sector – unless it was for step in baths, stair lifts and slip on shoes in wide fittings.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. adguru101 July 21, 2021 / 9:39 am

    Very astute. Someone should combine all those age-related products and services into its own mall. “If they build it, we will come!”

    Liked by 1 person

  10. alison41 July 21, 2021 / 10:06 am

    I enjoyed your pix: definitely more artsy than malls in my area of Cape Town.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Ann Coleman July 21, 2021 / 10:21 am

    Trust me, older women aren’t pictured anywhere either! And that’s too bad….there’s a lot of us who are above the age of 50 and we would probably buy more from companies that actually targeted our demographic. And don’t even get me started on women’s clothing stores!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Jacqui Murray July 21, 2021 / 10:31 am

    All the ads! I wonder if when you walk into the store, if the products can live up to the glitz. Interesting photos (as usual).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 21, 2021 / 3:21 pm

      Hi. Not being the most astute shopper, I can’t say for sure. But I tend to think that quite a few of the mall’s stores carry nice stuff.

      Like

  13. Donna Cameron July 21, 2021 / 11:11 am

    Yes, we’ve reached the age of invisibility, and that’s not entirely a bad thing. Didn’t Cobie Smulders go on to join the Avengers movie universe?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 21, 2021 / 3:22 pm

      Afternoon, Donna. I’m going to head over to IMDB to find out. Before I wrote this essay, I’d never heard of her before.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Monkey's Tale July 21, 2021 / 11:38 am

    Thanks for making me laugh. I think Cobi Smulders mall singer was loosely based on Alannis Morrisette who started out as a mall singer in Canada! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Paula B July 21, 2021 / 12:30 pm

    I always appreciate your artful photographs of things to which I would not normally pay a whit of attention.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Paddy Tobin July 21, 2021 / 1:01 pm

    We have had a series of those hot-as-hell days here also but no mall with air-conditioning nearby. Instead we have languished indoors with all windows and doors open in hopes of a relieving breeze to keep us a little cool and that, along with copious consumption of water (yes, we are reduced to drinking water! Who would have thought the day would come!) have kept body and soul together. Now, in the interests of accuracy and of painting a truthful picture, for “hot-as-hell” can be different to different people. Our hottest temperature was 28.2C which equates you your 82.5F, possibly not hot enough for you to take off your winter coats but as near to hell as we ever wish to go. Our national meteorological agency (Met Éireann) issued a hot weather warning for all this week, just something to put it in an Irish connection. The only relief of the day comes with dinner outdoors from seven onwards – and I am in preparation for that at this moment. Stay cool!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 21, 2021 / 3:29 pm

      Hi, Paddy. The day I wrote about was a good deal hotter than 28.2C. We’ve had some real heat this summer, but not as bad as the temps in other parts of the globe. Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy the dinner!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Paddy Tobin July 21, 2021 / 4:11 pm

        I’m at the “when you open another bottle of wine and Mary says she has enough but you determine to continue regardless” stage! The world is a lovely place at this moment.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. viewfromoverthehill July 21, 2021 / 1:04 pm

    We are not accustomed to the heat we had. We’re usually a rain forest, Over 800 people died due to the heat. Most of us don’t have air-conditioning. It was never essential before. I hated it. Take care young man.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 21, 2021 / 3:31 pm

      I’ve seen news coverage of the insane heat that your region has gotten. A terrible situation.

      Like

  18. SandyL July 21, 2021 / 1:30 pm

    Interesting observation about age based advertising in the mall. I haven’t visited a mall for 2 years now (!) so I haven’t noticed. But maybe that’s a sign too — for that kind of shopping I prefer to go online & get what I need. Maybe it’s a sign of maturity that we don’t browse & shop in the malls anymore; or that we’re not as easily influenced by peer based advertising?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 21, 2021 / 3:33 pm

      Hi, Sandy. Online shopping is so popular and so convenient, it’s a wonder that stores are able to stay in business.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Rosaliene Bacchus July 21, 2021 / 2:05 pm

    I haven’t yet ventured out to my favorite local shopping mall. The bright colors of commerce are inviting. If you want to check out displays or photos of older folk, check out the Depend section of the drugstore in the mall 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  20. talebender July 21, 2021 / 2:18 pm

    Haven’t been to a mall of any sort or size in a long time. Thanks for taking me along on this stroll.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Anonymous July 21, 2021 / 3:35 pm

    If I don’t start my neighborhood walk by 7 AM, it doesn’t happen. It’s just too sweaty later. But you’re on to something, Neil. I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of going to malls for “the exercise.” As for Robin Sparkles, that was pretty gagtastic.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. JT Twissel July 21, 2021 / 3:50 pm

    Oh my, I’ve always found malls depressing places probably because I once worked in one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 21, 2021 / 4:37 pm

      I understand. I don’t go to my local mall too often, because I don’t want to get tired of it.

      Like

  23. Anabel @ The Glasgow Gallivanter July 21, 2021 / 6:13 pm

    Two songs about malls, that’s two more than I knew existed! Steely Dan is much more my normal musical taste butt was Robin Sparkles who took me down an Internet rabbit hole. So very 80s! Even though it’s a pastiche.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 21, 2021 / 7:28 pm

      I sometimes go down YouTube rabbit holes too. It’s totally mind-boggling how much content is there. And the quantity expands a lot every single day.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. kegarland July 21, 2021 / 6:17 pm

    “How come someone like me wasn’t on display?”

    I have a lot to say about this Neil! I was just talking to my husband on Saturday about how there needs to be more representation of older people. This came about because his friend, who is around 65 or so, always wears a hat. He said it’s because friend’s head is balding. I suggested that if we saw more people looking like regular people as older people, then maybe this wouldn’t be a thing.

    Love your mall walk ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 21, 2021 / 7:35 pm

      Right. The posters in the stores at my local mall, for example, should portray people of a wide range of ages. Even the Gap Kids store could do it. They could have ads portraying kids with their grandparents.

      Liked by 1 person

      • kegarland July 22, 2021 / 5:03 pm

        Exactly! See how simple that was. They need to pay both of us for some ideas.

        Liked by 1 person

  25. tanjabrittonwriter July 21, 2021 / 6:37 pm

    Maybe there should be a 2021 version of “Let’s Go To The Mall.” I have the impression that the age when most people shopped at malls is over, much to the chagrin of the merchants located there.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. sniderjerry July 21, 2021 / 7:02 pm

    Hey there Neil, The mall where I live is like a ghost town. Take me along on your next adventure, please.
    Jerry

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 21, 2021 / 7:42 pm

      Hi, Jerry. I don’t know how well my local mall is doing. There are vacancies there. But it’s far from being a ghost town. Thanks for adding your thoughts. It’s always great to hear from you.

      Like

  27. Platypus Man July 22, 2021 / 6:21 am

    When you get to a certain age you get air-brushed out of the world of advertising and product promotion, it’s like you don’t exist any more. Funny thing is, they’re always happy to take my money if I offer it (which I rarely do, on account of my being a mean b*st*rd! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Alyson July 22, 2021 / 11:40 am

    Your pictures could have been taken here in my local mall in Scotland – Scary how most of the clothing sold in the Western World is from a handful of stores (and none of them want oldies in their store window pictures!).

    Love the Steely Dan song – Not so sure about the Robin Sparkles one (very early Madonna-esque).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 22, 2021 / 1:15 pm

      It’s terrible that Walter Becker is gone. But Fagen continues to tour under the Steely Dan name.

      Like

  29. cincinnatibabyhead July 22, 2021 / 4:46 pm

    They dont target guys like you Neil because you have everything. I’ll take the Dan “Mall” song. As usual I’ll throw in my 2 cents on the music side. Mojo Nixon/Skid Roper ‘Burn Down The Malls’ is the go to “Mall Song”

    Liked by 1 person

  30. andrewcferguson July 22, 2021 / 4:50 pm

    Great stuff, Neil. We haven’t visited any of the Edinburgh malls yet – generally leave them till the weather’s cold, rather than hot, outside! There’s a new one at the eastern end of Princes Street which has just opened. It features a hotel with an unusual spiral metal-effect roof. Suffice to say it’s divided architectural opinion, the unkinder of its critics dubbing it ‘the Golden Turd.’

    Stay cool in every sense, old-timer!

    Liked by 1 person

  31. selizabryangmailcom July 22, 2021 / 6:23 pm

    You guys may not be targeted much (along with us older women) but I can’t feel THAT bad for you since you guys generally age better–like how can a man have a zillion lines in his face and STILL look pretty good?!–plus, you can father children basically until the day you die.

    How’s that for positivity?! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 22, 2021 / 10:20 pm

      Evening. Thanks for visiting. There are a fair number of people who sometimes get their exercise by walking around the mall I wrote about.

      Like

  32. eden baylee July 23, 2021 / 8:33 am

    Retail therapy is helpful sometimes, and it’s a nice place to cool off.
    Having said this, I haven’t been in a mall in 18 + months due to Covid, and many of them just opened a week ago.
    It’s going to take some time to return. Thanks for the Steely Dan number,
    have a super weekend,
    eden

    Liked by 1 person

  33. D. Wallace Peach July 23, 2021 / 3:30 pm

    I can’t remember the last time I visited a mall. But now I know what I’m going to do if I go – study the displays! It is interesting what’s considered enticing, , isn’t it? Wear this and you’ll be fill-in-the-blank, just like me, right? I imagine you didn’t see any frumpy old ladies modeling orthopedic shoes. Lol. Enjoy your walks, Neil.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 23, 2021 / 5:20 pm

      Greetings. You know, the mall I wrote about is about half a mile from my house. If it wasn’t close at hand, I’d never have visited it. But, surprisingly to me, I’ve gotten to like it.

      Liked by 1 person

  34. Pazlo July 23, 2021 / 3:56 pm

    A fine post Neil, and a great read.
    It’s all young and fun people in mall advertising because they want all the young fun people to hang out there because they are old enough to have jobs (and disposable income) but still ignorant to the brainwashing big-brother of marketing and not old enough to take offense at the triple-the-price stuff you can get for less at Target or Wal-Mart or Herb Phillipson’s Army-Navy store.
    You will find plenty of us (old people) in old peoples’ advertising, primarily focused on pharmaceuticals to keep you perpetually moving, or sometimes incontinence products or easy-to-read cell phones. Since they don’t market these much at the mall, you’ll find these ads on TV, where old people can see them (and hear them with the volume cranked) while sitting in the comfort of their lift-assist recliner.
    In a broader sense, I find the advertising industry to be a breath of fresh air when it comes to promoting a united world. Their industry is always the first to kick social constraints to the curb, and show groups of people enjoying one another and their lives without regard to gender and color. Theirs is an industry that boldly (and without hoopla or fanfare) normalizes gay and lesbian relationships in advertising, shows men doing the laundry and caring for children, women as heads-of-households and breadwinners. Indeed, they should be commended for this component of their “brainwashing” work, and I can only hope they cleave to this altruism until this particular type of “marketing” is supremely successful.

    Take care, old man.

    Paz

    Like

  35. stargazer July 23, 2021 / 5:11 pm

    I haven’t been to a mall or a shop for many years. When I shop (besides from food) it’s online. Ironically, I think most younger people shop online as well, so perhaps malls really do need to change the advertisements to target a more mature audience.

    Like

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