Sunday Snippet, Mall from Hell by Bill Chance

“Civilized life, you know, is based on a huge number of illusions in which we all collaborate willingly. The trouble is we forget after a while that they are illusions and we are deeply shocked when reality is torn down around us.”

― J.G. Ballard

Toad Corner, Dallas Arboretum

Mall from Hell

He dreams of a shopping mall from hell
At the center, the intersection of walkways
Is a lobotomy kiosk
Crowned with a shiny silver
Ball peen hammer
Youths with untied shoes
Line up in front of the food court
Where the famous
Deep Fried Toad Dicks on toothpicks
Are cooked and served up by
Lolita in a paper hat

Conspicuous Consumption

“I’ve been making a list of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don’t teach you how to walk away from someone you don’t love any longer. They don’t teach you how to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. They don’t teach you what to say to someone who’s dying. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing.”
― Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones

Dallas, Texas


“Manifest plainness,
Embrace simplicity,
Reduce selfishness,
Have few desires.”
― Lao Tzu

Birds on a Sewer Line

Big Lake Park, Plano, Texas

Big Lake Park, Plano, Texas

It was unusually warm this weekend and since I was behind schedule in bicycling miles for the year I decided to give a shot at catching up. After work on Friday I rode the neighborhood trails with my lights.

On Saturday I did one of my favorite rides – after a bike ride to the bank and a few errands I rode to the station and then took my bike on the DART train downtown. By the time we reached the skyscrapers, there were five bicycles on my train car. Me, another woman with a road bike, she looked like she was going for a ride too. There was a young man with gold teeth and a tricked out BMX. Another young guy with a nice full-suspension mountain bike. Plus a homeless-looking fellow with a rusty mess of a bicycle lugging bags of scavenged aluminum cans and a workman that looked like he was on his way to a job on a beat-up department store cruiser.

An interesting and diverse bunch.

I rode my bike from the Plaza of the Americas down to the Arts District and hung out by the Crow museum, getting some tacos from a Food Truck. Then I rode down to Klyde Warren Park to check out the crowds. I bought a Stone IPA from the stand there – it was larger and stronger than I anticipated so I took an hour and a half to sit there and digest the alcohol before I rode my bike. There were a lot of folks hanging out, getting some sun – many walking in the Dallas way of seeing and being seen.

Then I rode home – Downtown through Deep Ellum, Santa Fe Trail to White Rock Lake, around the lake, White Rock Creek trail to the Cottonwood trail. That took me to the High Five where a steep side trail took me to Texas Instruments Boulevard… and I know the way home from there.

A nice day.

Then on Sunday I left the house going in the opposite way – going north. I rode my familiar routes up through Richardson into Plano and across the parking lots of Collin Creek Mall.

Thirty years ago, I remember when the mall was first constructed. It was a big deal. I had just moved to Dallas and we drove up there all the way from Oak Cliff to see what it looked like – this big shiny new shopping mall. It seemed so far north then.

Now the place is a bit haggard and lost in time. Riding a bicycle around a mall like this drives home how uninviting and inhuman a place it is, at least on the outside. It is a destination for cars, not for bicycles, or pedestrians, or even for human beings. No sidewalks, two way stop signs, oddly places concrete walls – all conspire to set the place as a fortress to anything not wrapped in steel and spewing fumes.

No wonder the monstrosities are dying.

So I fought my way across the vast expanse of cracked tarmac parking lot and found the terminus of the Chisholm Trail which follows a creekbed into the heart of Plano’s hike/bike trail system. Once there I spent the day exploring each arm of the system, mostly under enormous power line right of way desolate swaths… not a bad place to ride, all in all.

Of course, I overdid it and by the time I retraced my route back south I was sore and worn out and feeling old. Still, a better afternoon than sitting in front of the tube eating myself sick and watching the last football game of the season.

Oh, and now I’m twelve miles ahead of schedule. I think I’ll take Monday off. This morning, on the way to work, I realized that over the weekend I saw a large part of a large Texas city and never even entered an automobile at all.

Father’s Day at the Mall Food Court

I’m not a big fan of holidays. Especially the manufactured holidays, like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Earth Day, or any of the others that arise not out of ancient pagan fertility rites but more modern constructions of the retail-industrial complex designed to make people go out and buy stupid presents – spend their hard-earned cash on superfluous consumer tripe rather than save it so it can be eventually lost in bad investments – like it should.

Now, I’m not complaining about my gifts, mind you. I may be stubborn, but I’m not stupid. Candy gave me a very nice pen – I’ll take some photographs in a few days. Still, I didn’t really want to celebrate – fight the lunch crowds – and said I’d eat some leftover beans instead.

But Lee was hungry so we went out to eat anyway. When asked where I wanted to go, I replied, “The food court at the mall.”

OK, I live in a Texas Suburb. Those of you a long way away probably are now thinking of big slabs of grilling beef and people wearing boots and ten-gallon hats. Those of you a little closer are thinking about typical American Mall fare – like what?… Cinabon, Steak Escape, Orange Julius (are these still around?) Dog on a Stick? – Jeez, I have no idea what a mall has in its food court anymore.

At any rate, that’s not what I’m talking about. This may be a boring Texas Big City Suburb, but the world is a much more diverse place than you think it is. My neighborhood mall is the Saigon Mall, a Vietnamese-Oriented complex constructed upon the carcass of an extinct Target, and its Food Court is a place of strange and wondrous sustenance.

Food Court Entrance to the Saigon Mall

Food Court Entrance to the Saigon Mall

My only disappointment is that the self-serve frozen yogurt place is gone. I’m going to have to find another place for my Durian ice cream fix now. Candy has a Cuisinart Ice-Cream maker… maybe I could make my…. no, better not. Durian preparation is probably something best left up to professionals.

We walked around a bit and examined the various purveyors of various cuisines – Lee was close to getting a pound of boiled crustaceans from the Crawfish Hut, Candy looked at a new stand that promised “Real Thai Cooking”, and I considered some Pho – but we eventually decided on sandwiches from Lee’s – an always reliable and delicious choice.

When ordering sandwiches, I tend to get the #1 combo – no matter what is in it. They have decided to put this at the top of their menu and they know better than I.

 My Sandwich - #1 combo with Thai Iced Tea.

My Sandwich - #1 combo with Thai Iced Tea.

My sandwich was not as blurry as this picture suggests. The fresh cilantro and other herbs along with the crunchy fresh-made baguettes really set these apart from the usual boring sub fare. There was some sort of very hot pepper hiding inside somewhere, I needed another tea. You can see the Boba in my tea – it was very good, though I have no idea what was in it.

After we had our sandwiches, we went down to the Boba Tea/Smoothie place. We always love this spot. Lee and I love Boba but Candy says she “doesn’t want any of those little snot-balls” in her beverage, which I can’t really argue with. The place used to be called Teahouse, but it has a new logo – “I (heart) Boba” – though the menu seems pretty much the same. The menu consists of a list of pretty much every substance on earth – thrown into a blender with either tea, ice, or some sort of “cream” mixture. I felt like coconut, which was number 114, and the list went on from there for a long way. Then you can get Boba, or Gummy Bears, or anything else, really, dumped in for extra amusement. I felt like some “snot-balls” today, so I had Boba.

Candy and Lee at the Smoothie Place

Candy and Lee at the Smoothie Place

Candy and Lee enjoying their smoothies.

Lunch Menu

Lunch Menu

Here’s the giant lunch menu outside one of the several restaurants in the Saigon Mall. I don’t want to sound like some ignorant American Redneck, but my honest reaction to this is, “What the hell is this stuff?” I see some shrimp arranged in a nice, attractive circle, but it surrounds some strange looking brownish sauce with white flecks – it looks like it might be too spicy, even for me. One dish is labeled “Salmon or Yellowtail” which is reassuring, but nothing in the picture next to it resembles fish in any way.

I hate the feeling when you order something at random and the waiter’s eyes get big and that concerned look crosses their face. They will shake their head from side to side, and say, “Oh, you don’t want to order that.” Sometimes I’ll stubbornly push ahead and insist, eagerly waiting until the plate of something arrives and is set down in front of me.

You know, those waiters are always right. I should listen more often.

Oh, I stumbled across this… Here’s something you should NEVER, EVER do in a mall food court.