No Mall Balls Blues

I went to the mall on Saturday. This may seem like a small adventure to those who frequent these places of commerce, but for me, I might as well have sat at the top of a rocket and felt the breath compressed from my lungs as the thousands of tons of fuel fired up and propelled me out of the atmosphere and on towards the moon. What a rush, and not the fun kind.

Let me explain. I am an introvert. I do not do well in crowds. I have stepped into this mall’s Barnes and Noble on several occasions over the last several years. I have entered Sears, rushed in, found what I needed and rushed back out. But I have not, in a decade or more, come anywhere near actually walking through either of those stores and out into the bustling byway that makes up the heart of any mall.

I made my way first through JCPenney, looking for purses. They had nothing I wanted. I stepped into what seemed like a separate store for Sephora—no actual walls cutting it off from the surrounding Penney’s, but with corners and supporting columns defining the space. Loud music blared from unseen speakers. Clearly a place for young people, I thought. I’m not a young person. What am I doing here? They did, however, carry multiple brands of perfume. Just not my perfume, which has probably slipped into extinction, as all old things do. It likely went quietly, unlike myself. I plan on raging against the night, á la Dylan Thomas.

But not yet. I still stood there transfixed, knowing that there used to be a See’s Candies just across the way from Penney’s. I wanted mint truffles, and theirs are the best. I limped towards the door (my gout was acting up) and out into the Saturday-afternoon-busy court, and the people moving and sitting and walking and talking accosted this poor simple introvert like a tsunami. Mall shopping has not for a long time nor is it now my idea of fun.

But See’s awaited—still present if I could navigate the cross currents of this particular hub of activity. I paused in my pursuit of mint truffles at a cart of cell phone accessories. The woman there asked what kind of cell phone I owned, and before I could protest that I was “only looking,” she’d pulled every cover she had for my brand from the hanger and spread them out to show me. I smiled sweetly, overwhelmed by her generosity and embarrassed that she’d now have to re-place all those covers when I’d had no actual desire to make a purchase.

Finally I made it to See’s. It was half the size I’d remembered it to be. No doubt cutting down on the rent by making room for new lessees for the old mall. And the place was jammed. No mint truffles for me.

I turned to retrace my steps back to Penney’s, stepped through the door, past the Sephora “tent,” and on towards the men’s shop at the end of which stood my goal—the door to sunshine and air. My foot hurt, my back ached, and my soul desired nothing more than freedom from the mass of humanity that frequents all malls on a Saturday.

I doubt I’ll go back any time soon. I may never step into a mall for the remainder of my telescoping-down life. Target is about the limit of my patience with crowds. Won’t even try Wal-Mart. The parking’s impossible. Think I’ll just stick to my blogs and my books, making the occasional foray out into the world to visit with friends. Just not too much, please. We introverts need time alone to re-energize.

Sunset Boulevard (not quite)

I’ve taken a journey.  Haven’t quite returned yet, but I thought I’d drop by with a postcard to explain my extended absence from my blog.

This journey began 50 years ago.  I was 14 at the time. My mother had decided to find the family a new, larger house, something we could still afford on my father’s salary. She figured $20K would be about right. So she perused the ads in the paper and found a realtor to help her, and that realtor found a beautiful Spanish style house up in the hills above our little town to the east of L.A. It was a bit out of our price range–$40K to be precise. But my mother fell in love with it, had to have it, and my father could never say no to my mother, mostly for fear of getting his balls ripped out of their sockets. So…we  bought it, talking the sellers down to $38K.

She was amazing, this house.  I’ve described her previously. Here’s a picture of a painting my father did of her in her heyday.

Painting of Norma

In need of some work, but filled with little amenities you’d never find anyplace else. At the height of my romantic teens I ended up with a balcony Juliet would have envied. All the way to the right of the painting, over the windows to the kitchen and breakfast nook below my bedroom. I was happy there, for a time, but eventually at 20 I moved out to my own life (a story for another time).

Fifty years on, parents both gone for more than three years, and my sister and I finally put the poor rundown lady on the market. We couldn’t take care of her, and she was devolving into the Norma Desmond of residences, just waiting for her close-up, Mr. DeMille.

Selling real estate is a bitch. I suspect purchasing is as well, but I’ve never been there. We ended up with an agent who, thank the fates who brought her to us, guarded our interests like a bulldog. She posted the listing fairly late into a Friday night, and within 15 or 20 minutes, we already had an offer $15K above asking.  It was an as-is, cash-only listing.  We knew no bank would take a chance on Norma’s plumbing or roof, much less everything else that was wrong with her.

By Saturday morning two agents insisted on seeing her that very day. By Saturday afternoon, an impromptu open house had ensued, and my sister (I had to work) was escorting dozens of people through the place, filled with animals and trash and heaven knows what else, and many of them expressed an aching to own her, restore her, love her like we do.

Sunday brought the news that offers had risen to $50K over asking.  Unbelievable. Monday we’d reached $120K over.  Wow.

A series of small complications arose on Monday and the highest offer was rescinded, leaving us with another $105K in excess of asking price, and that’s the one that we chose.  That’s when the rollercoaster of offer, addendum and counter offer ensued, after which we entered escrow.

I’ve decided every time a house goes into escrow, another tree must die.  The paperwork is unending, with faxes heating up telephone wires. Not to mention the amount of gasoline consumed by the real estate agent as she dashes between office and client home to get “just this one last document” signed. Does it really have to be all this tough?

In the meantime, since this was all part of a trust and since I was no longer speaking to the lawyer who’d drawn it up, we had to get an EIN for tax purposes and open a trust account at the bank, then provide a deposit slip (non-existent, hence a letter on letterhead had to make do) for wiring of funds into the account when escrow closed.

But escrow didn’t close. Not when it was supposed to. Took an additional four days to get there.  We even had to put the buyer on notice, a buyer whose wife had apparently wanted the house for some time.  (They had submitted the original offer.)

So my life for the last month or so has been filled with: call the IRS, call the accountant, sign papers for hours and hours, and a plethora of other seemingly meaningless busy work all designed, I believe, to keep me from concentrating on the thing I’ve just retired from my equally meaningless job to work at full-time—writing.

I’m nearly back now. Distributing the funds remains, and I dread working out all that math, but I will.

And in the meantime, our agelessly beautiful, aged Norma Desmond awaits her resurrection. Knowing she will shine for the neighborhood to see and to marvel at was worth everything.  Oh, and the cash helped, a little.