Smiling Faces

The skies were depressingly grey two Saturdays ago, the wind was not gentle, and rain poured down in buckets. In other words, it was real shitty outside. I’m no fan of such conditions — except for ducks, who the f*ck is? — but I was itching to wander the aisles of a local public library, and my aged body was in need of some exercise. So, out the door I went that morning, scrambled to my car and headed off to take care of business.

Success awaited me at destination number one, the library, where I found a book I’ve wanted to read for a long time (A Year In Provence, by Peter Mayle). Next stop, Willow Grove Park, a three-story, enclosed shopping mall in the Philadelphia burbs. It’s located less than a mile from my house. I drove there not to shop but to walk its every corridor. I go for several walks each week, almost always outdoors. But when the weather truly sucks, and an exercise session is in order, I stretch my legs at this indoor mall.

And stretch them I did, for almost an hour, with plenty of bounce in my step and with an episode of The Many Moods Of Ben Vaughn, a music podcast that features a wide range of tunes, playing through my earbuds. There was a pretty good number of people at the mall, some of them youngsters lined up, in the special Christmas section, to have a chat with Santa Claus. A pretty good number, yes, but nothing much out of the ordinary, considering that the Christmas-shopping season was upon us. In fact, a third of the businesses, as I walked past them, had nobody but employees within. Can brick and mortar establishments continue to hang in there, what with the heavy body blows that online shopping delivers to them non-stop? It’s not an upbeat situation.

Being one with artsy leanings, I took a good look at the posters on display in store windows as I strode through the mall. Designed to catch the attention of potential customers, nearly all of them were great. And halfway into my walk it dawned on me that a considerable number of these artworks had something in common. To wit, they featured one or more people with smiling faces. Not just half-grins, mind you, but broad, joyful, glad-to-be-alive smiles. (A sampling of the posters illustrates this article.)

I was down with that. Absolutely. After all, what’s better than being happy and showing it too? Not much. Anyone who spends a meaningful percentage of their waking hours in that state has found a strong path in life.

When I began composing this essay several days after being at the mall, I recalled someone who would have been a natural for a store poster, as he wore a smile almost all the time. He’s the only person I’ve ever known who fits that description. I worked with Ray, for that’s his name, in the 1980s. Everyone liked him. How could you not like a guy who brought bright light to the workplace? Ray never was stressed, never was in a bad mood. Unfailingly helpful and friendly, he was nothing short of amazing.

The posters at the mall, and thinking about Ray, have made me realize that I should start smiling more than I do. I would have nothing to lose by doing so, and possibly a good deal to gain, right? There’s no doubt about it. What’s more, can you imagine how much better the world would be if everyone upped their smiling quotient? We’d be on our way to creating paradise if that ever were to happen.

With that in mind, give a listen to a song I heard at the mall, courtesy of Ben Vaughn’s podcast, if you’re in the market for something that will put a nice big smile on your face. The one tune Ben played that really jumped out at me, it’s by The Penguins, a long-defunct doo wop cum rhythm and blues vocal group. Their biggest claim to fame was Earth Angel, a syrupy ballad that became a smash hit in 1954. You hear Earth Angel to this day. On the flip side of the Earth Angel single, however, was Hey Senorita, a song so cool it’ll make you want to bounce around madly. Thanks. Ben, for airing it. Here it is:

141 thoughts on “Smiling Faces

  1. George December 13, 2022 / 12:32 am

    The world needs more Rays for sure!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Lynette d'Arty-Cross December 13, 2022 / 12:33 am

    I remember a Ray, too. I am amazed at people who are able to hold it all together so well and impart such a sense of wellbeing to others. Such an amazing gift. Thanks for sharing that flipside with us. Cheers.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. johnlmalone December 13, 2022 / 12:41 am

    what an infectiously happy tune; I smiled all the way through it; you did well to find this little tune, Neil; keep on smiling 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. gabychops December 13, 2022 / 12:53 am

    Thank you, Neil, for a wonderful start to my day! Here, is freezing cold and snow, but tapping my toes and smiling warmed me up! You should open a counseling center as every word you wrote had a meaning. Thank you!


    Liked by 1 person

  5. Alyson December 13, 2022 / 3:21 am

    So true about smiling more. We all warm to people who are smiley by nature but forget to do it ourselves. Will try harder.

    What a great song – the B sides were sometimes just as good and often better than the A sides.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 13, 2022 / 3:25 pm

      I think that loads and loads of doo wop and R&B songs from long ago would be popular and sell well if they were transported through time and released today. Hey Senorita is one of them.


  6. Paddy Tobin December 13, 2022 / 4:13 am

    Neil, I look forward to your reports as they put a smile on my face – all the way across the Atlantic on a cold and miserable morning when I am feeling miserable with a bad cold etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. joylennick December 13, 2022 / 5:28 am

    I always look forward to your posts, Neil. I was tutored by a lovely Mum who, mostly, wore a gentle smile and was a joy to live with. I’ve tried to take her lessons on board. They do work! Happy walking. Cheers. x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 13, 2022 / 3:27 pm

      Your mother was a great role model. I have no doubt that you follow in her footsteps.


  8. swabby429 December 13, 2022 / 6:59 am

    Yes, an authentic smile, not the fake, plastered on type, is a treasure to behold.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. sniderjerry December 13, 2022 / 7:49 am

    Hey there, Neil. Like the tune and the essay. Want to wakeup with a smile on your face, try this idea from the great Phyllis Diller. “Tonight, before you go to bed, stick a coat hangar in your mouth.” Have a great day. Jerry

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Laurie Graves December 13, 2022 / 8:40 am

    Smiling is contagious even across cyberspace via your blog. I was smiling as I read your post. A great way to start the day. Also liked the snappy song.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Deb December 13, 2022 / 9:01 am

    A Year in Provence- great choice. One of but a handful of books I’ve read more than once or twice. I have not entered a mall in years but remember well all those posters too. Thanks for the smiles this morning Neil.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 13, 2022 / 3:31 pm

      Hey, Deb. I like A Year In Provence. I enjoyed another of his books even more: A Dog’s Life.


  12. Debra December 13, 2022 / 9:10 am

    A bonus for smiling: it burns up more calories than frowning. BTW: I loved A Year in Provence. I’m sure you will too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 13, 2022 / 3:33 pm

      Hi. I mentioned to another visitor that I like his book A Dog’s Life more than A Year In Provence. I think that A Dog’s Life is funnier and more charming.


  13. Ann Coleman December 13, 2022 / 10:02 am

    I know you’ll love that book! Anything Peter Mayle writes is good, but his best is “A Dog’s Life.” Trust me on this, and read it if you can!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Robert Parker December 13, 2022 / 10:20 am

    Hi Neil – good idea, to smile more, your body will release neuropeptides, serotonin, endorphins, etc. – – you’ll have a whole magical potion thing goin’ on. I don’t know what any of those chemicals are but my sister, who actually studies neuroscience, tells me it’s real, smiling makes you feel happier.
    How weird is that? Happy as a penguin with a bucket of sardines.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Misti December 13, 2022 / 10:49 am

    Malls simultaneously depress and inspire me, making me remember how much time I spent in them as a kid–and working in one at a teen. I so wish I could walk that mall again, it is now gone. The other mall in town still lives but has been transformed from it’s 80s and 90s self into something bigger. Earth Angel will always remind me of Back to the Future!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 13, 2022 / 3:37 pm

      Hi, Misti. I kind of like having a mall very near to my house. It’s actually been a source of inspiration for my writings. That is, I’ve worked the mall into stories at least six times, I think.


  16. Anabel @ The Glasgow Gallivanter December 13, 2022 / 11:58 am

    When we first moved to Glasgow in the 1980s its marketing slogan was Glasgow’s Miles Better illustrated by Mr Happy, a smiley yellow faced character predating today’s emojis. So it could also be read Glasgow Smiles Better. I liked it! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Fran Johns December 13, 2022 / 12:17 pm

    Thanks for morning smile! Here’s your factoid for the day: My late husband Bud’s first wife Judith Clancy, who died of pancreatic cancer at 56, did the drawings for Year in Provence. Then she did the same for Toujours Provence, as she was dying. When they needed some sheep, Judith was too sick to do them (or maybe she had died by then) so Bud found a drawing she’d done of some friends’ sheep on their N.C. farm & that worked just fine. She was really an extraordinary artist – her oeuvre is now in the Fine Arts Museums of SF – but Peter Mayle was unimpressed. Book illustrators deserve thanks! Bloggers too, so herewith.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 13, 2022 / 3:41 pm

      Hi. That’s an amazing story. I like her illustrations for A Year In Provence. They add a lot.


  18. Donna Cameron December 13, 2022 / 12:36 pm

    What I don’t understand, Neil, is why so many stores choose to fill their window space with posters—however happy and attractive the models may be—rather than with their actual merchandise. It would seem to me that merch gets the customers in the doors. Of course, I haven’t been in a mall for years, and am probably completely out of touch, not to mention I’m no longer the demographic these stores are trying to appeal to. I did like “Hey Senorita”—I’m still rocking in my chair.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 13, 2022 / 3:45 pm

      You make a good point. I’m not sure. Many of the stores in the mall, though, have both merchandise and posters in their windows.


  19. snakesinthegrass2014 December 13, 2022 / 12:59 pm

    Ooh, you’ve introduced me to a new song. I’m not familiar with it or the Penguins, such is my ignorance for many of the doo wop groups. Thanks for sharing it… and the stories, of course. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Jacqui Murray December 13, 2022 / 1:08 pm

    A lot of us in our dotage walk the malls, never shopping, exercising. I wonder if that is enough to keep them open. I too have wondered how they make it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 13, 2022 / 3:49 pm

      Hello, Jacqui. I think that malls weren’t doing all that great pre-Covid. And Covid, of course, made things much worse for them.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. talebender December 13, 2022 / 2:52 pm

    If you were walking to ‘Little Senorita’, you for sure had a bounce in your step! Have a happy, smile-filled Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Anonymous December 13, 2022 / 3:31 pm

    Love your photos and song! I remember Earth Angel. 😁😁😁😁 keep smiling!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Rosaliene Bacchus December 13, 2022 / 3:35 pm

    The indoor mall, especially in bad weather, is the ideal place to stretch one’s legs. Shoppers and happy smiling posters do make a difference in uplifting our mood 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 13, 2022 / 4:43 pm

      I expect to take walks in the mall at least a couple of times over the next few months. Walking there is a lot more comfortable than walking outside when the temps are in the 20s or 30s.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Paula B December 13, 2022 / 6:08 pm

    I love the idea of smiling more often. I often try it on walks when passing other people and rare is the walker who doesn’t smile back. They can’t help themselves!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. tanjabrittonwriter December 13, 2022 / 8:00 pm

    I remember a saying from a calendar leaf from a long time ago: “The shortest distance between two people is a smile.” Your post is a good reminder to smile more and frown less. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  26. shoreacres December 13, 2022 / 8:08 pm

    I well remember “Earth Angel,” but I’d never heard the B side. It’s a great tune for dishwashing as well as for walking! I’m a smiler, and always have been. What I like best is the reaction of people I smile at — sometimes astonishment, sometimes bemusement, but almost always a smile in return. It’s especially fun to smile at elderly people in the grocery store, and greet them, too. Just now I’ll often say Merry Christmas, but at other times of the year other things will do: a compliment on a sweater, a reference to the pretty weather, and so on.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 13, 2022 / 11:23 pm

      Hi. You’ve got an excellent approach to life. People appreciate it when, unexpectedly, they are greeted warmly.

      Liked by 1 person

  27. Joni December 13, 2022 / 8:36 pm

    I loved A Year in Provence…..he had a whole series of Provence books, and I’ve read them all, including the last one published just before he died in 2018, 25 Years in Provence. But but the first one was just laugh out loud funny, esp. his tales about renovating.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 13, 2022 / 11:29 pm

      I’ve read about half the book so far. I liked the sequences about trying to move the stone table into their patio area. It was a struggle!

      Liked by 1 person

  28. Dave December 14, 2022 / 8:08 am

    Perfect discovery for the holiday season, Neil. It’s refreshing to read about the smiles when modeling for retail has trended toward serious expressions for a long time now. I envy those whose natural expression is a smile because I have to work a little to get mine on display. Thanks for the reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 14, 2022 / 9:50 am

      Thanks for adding your thoughts, Dave. What you wrote is a pretty good description of me too: “I envy those whose natural expression is a smile because I have to work a little to get mine on display.”

      Liked by 1 person

  29. Helen Devries December 14, 2022 / 3:57 pm

    Good luck with ‘A Year in Provence’! Cousins gave it to Leo when he moved to France and it had the same effect on him as Frances Mayes’ ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ did on me. Rich people throwing money about and living on the surface of a place. Fran John’s post was all too indicative of Mayles’ character…..
    From another era I’ve always liked Lady Fortescue’s books on her life in Provence
    Your mall looks a lot more interesting than the mammoth one just outside San Jose…it is just crying out for happy, smiling people – and not just on the posters!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 14, 2022 / 5:14 pm

      Evening, Helen. I got home from the supermarket a little while ago. There wasn’t much eye contact between customers, and few if any smiling faces. I guess that openness and smiling among strangers doesn’t come naturally to most people, including me.


  30. D. Wallace Peach December 15, 2022 / 1:01 pm

    That song would have had me dancing through the mall as well as smiling, Neil. I love your idea of upping our smiling quotient. It’s free and easy, and I’ll bet it gets some great results. A wonderful way to change the world. Have a lovely Christmas and new year full of reasons to smile. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 15, 2022 / 2:59 pm

      I really believe that smiling more helps make things better. It releases tension, for one thing. And makes the world a somewhat happier place. Take care. See ya!

      Liked by 1 person

      • D. Wallace Peach December 15, 2022 / 3:18 pm

        I think smiling also releases seratonin and dopamine and endorphins into our systems. A natural high. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  31. equinoxio21 December 15, 2022 / 8:40 pm

    Thanks for the post and the Penguins. I don’t think I’d heard that song before. Nice. i was probably too young. Born in ’53. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

      • equinoxio21 December 16, 2022 / 1:59 pm

        The 50’s were an explosion of talent. That’s when Rock&Roll jumped to life, after Be-Bop, Booggie woogie and the crooners. The Platters were very big in the 50’s. (And many others)

        Liked by 1 person

  32. annieasksyou December 16, 2022 / 5:45 pm

    Hi, Neil. As you note, smiles ease tension: they’re known to reduce anxiety, even to extend life. So your smiling faces are a therapeutic post for us all as we enter the stressful holiday season and move toward what we all hope will be a more peaceful New Year. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 16, 2022 / 10:45 pm

      Let’s hope that 2023 will be much more peaceful, world-wide, than 2022 has been.


  33. viewfromoverthehill December 16, 2022 / 7:26 pm

    You’re right on with this post. Smiles can travel all around the world and come right back to you. Happy Holidays to you and yours. Enjoy each day. Cheers, Muriel

    Liked by 1 person

  34. alhenry December 16, 2022 / 10:34 pm

    You raise the question: “Can brick and mortar establishments continue to hang in there, what with the heavy body blows that online shopping delivers to them non-stop?”

    Ed and I had the same experience two days ago when we made our annual trip to the mall to do a little holiday shopping and enjoy an Uno pizza. Last year, the mall was packed–apparently, people were still enthralled with the “new” opp to get out of the house after the worst of The Plague. This year? Fairly empty and a full THIRD of the stores (all major chains) had CLOSED. Nothing had replaced them. One would have thought that COVID would have taught us the emotional value of going out in our communities and mingling with others, but apparently not.

    Anyway, I say YES to the always smiling. It’s important to be hopeful, joyful, and full of interest in your fellow human beings. Great post, Neil.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 17, 2022 / 7:27 am

      I hope I’m wrong. But just about the only stores that seem busy these days are food-related businesses: supermarkets and restaurants, etc. On a happier note: A very happy upcoming new year to you and Ed. See ya!

      Liked by 1 person

  35. Lisa at Micro of the Macro December 17, 2022 / 12:26 pm

    Such a great subject matter to bring to our attention, Neil. Anytime of year, but especially during the holidays. Hoping your holidays shine with smiles from loved ones & strangers alike! 🌞

    Liked by 1 person

  36. andrewcferguson December 17, 2022 / 1:23 pm

    We Scots are not, as a nation, seen as particularly smiley people. PG Wodehouse said “It is never difficult to distinguish between with a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.” And sometimes we don’t even need a grievance!

    Nevertheless, your article has inspired me to smile at people as I pass them in the street. I usually try to, but am sometimes put off by the thousand yard stares I get in response. It is such a pleasure to get a smile in return.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. selizabryangmailcom December 17, 2022 / 2:12 pm

    Sadly, I don’t think I remember The Penguins. The song sounds somewhat familiar though. Very bouncy. Earth Angel, of course, I’m familiar with, because of Back to the Future.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 17, 2022 / 10:31 pm

      Hi, Stacey. I read that Hey Senorita was the original A side of the single, and Earth Angel was the B side. But a radio station or two started playing Earth Angel, ignoring Hey Senorita, and Earth Angel caught on and became a big hit.

      Liked by 1 person

  38. selizabryangmailcom December 18, 2022 / 2:39 am

    Aww. That’s kinda sad, tho…

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Michele Anderson December 18, 2022 / 7:26 pm

    That song alone has to put a smile on our faces, and more pep in our step. Thank you, Neil.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 18, 2022 / 11:27 pm

      Hello there. This recording is almost 70 years old. But it has a fresh feel to it.


  40. December 19, 2022 / 6:23 am

    The gray skies are a Debbie Downer in our area too. They often bring snow at this time of the year, so that’s doubly annoying for exercising outside. That’s so nice that you have a mall close enough so that driving there doesn’t take longer than the time spent walking.
    I wonder that too about the brick-and-mortar stores. I wonder if the personal shoppers at the online stores have a bounce in their step when they’re pulling the orders while wondering “who in the h*ll would buy this item?” I do feel compelled to buy something when I do go to a store or a mall, as if we shoppers don’t buy there, the alternative is the online world where we can’t be together sharing smiles.
    You’re right, Hey Senorita is a catchy beat!! I’ll remember it as I venture to the treadmill where I’ll get exercise this week since below 0 temps aren’t my favorite to walk in!

    Liked by 1 person

  41. Linda Pearce Griffin December 19, 2022 / 11:02 am

    Hey Senorita AND your blog made me smile! I’ve known a few Rays in my time. They make the world a better place. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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