Reasons to #STAYWILD in Wildwood

My husband and I are lifelong Seaside loyals, through the good & bad the Heights & the Park have weathered over the decades. However, we recently decided on a spontaneous road trip to Wildwood for the weekend – neither of us had been there since early childhood, so it was like visiting for the first time in most respects. What we discovered on our journey was more than enough to guarantee another visit this summer, and many more after. Here’s our takeaways from our “wild” weekend:

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1. Plentiful & pleasant accommodations

The hotels & motels we saw were mostly well-kept, attractive, and seemingly friendly to both families, singles, & couples looking for a place to stay. You won’t find the sleek, modern amenities of an upscale-resort town, but the unique doo-wop signage, retro outfitted properties give Wildwood a signature appeal.

2. Massive boardwalk with impressive piers & plenty of food/attractions 

Little & big kids alike will revel in the excitement of this shore town’s boardwalk – one of the biggest in the country. Morey’s Piers & the glow of the neons up & down the strand delight by night & there’s no shortage of activities & rides for the daytime. Bring comfortable shoes.

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3. Did I mention food?

You know us Jersey folks are harsh food critics, especially at the shore, where the best junk food in the world can be found. We stayed at the Adventurer, which has a great restaurant that won’t break your bank. I’m originally from Bordentown, so where I live now in Bergen County, cream of chipped beef on toast can be hard to come by. I was thrilled to see it on the menu, our meals came out astonishingly fast & delicious. Our hotel had this great picture book, “Stay Wild,” featuring the dining options, attractions & more. Browsing their pictorials of the restaurants, it was difficult to make a decision because there were so many delicious choices! That alone solidified my decision to return a few times – there’s a lot to try. Ravioli House was my husband’s choice for dinner; they specialize in homemade pastas. I like my red sauce a little sweeter, but you appreciate a mild gravy, stop in. I loved the coffee with Bailey’s & Kahlua, topped with fresh in-house whipped cream so thick you could cut it with a knife. Another highlight was Maui Dog, a local favorite whose signature side, “Salty Balls,” earned them a feature on Food Network. The dog was well-received by my husband, who practically lives off “rippers.” While this dog is more South Jersey/Philly style, it was damn good & we ate out of dog bowls, which was a first for us. And speaking of Philly…

4. Make no mistake, you have entered Philly Country

Where I grew up, while Philly fans were more prominent & the culture influence was predominantly “Philadelphia Style,” you could still find the mixed-in Jets, Giants, Yankees, Mets, & Nets support on cars, in bars, on apparel…and so on. Wildwood makes no bones about it – it’s Philly teams, Philly style food, and Philly culture represented in the people & the places. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you haven’t spent enough time away from South Jersey to notice the difference. The regional dialects from my youth, long since replaced by the NY influenced accents of North Jersey, were music to my ears all weekend.

5. The night is right 

We did some bar-hopping around North Wildwood & had a great time. I got my fire started with The #1 Tavern’s famed “Tully Nut,” which went down way too easy & instantly became a newly-found craving. I’d like to go back for their annual Hat Party sometime. The Angelsea Pub was inviting with great live music (which is saying a lot for someone who usually hates live music at bars). The singer that evening (sorry I can’t remember the name but kinda Elvis-y looking) was outstanding. Echo’s & Keenan’s were our next & last stops, where we found the big crowds, DJs, & lots of energy.

6. A diversion from the commercial

Along with the “Doo-Wop” district, Wildwood offers a look back in time all over the place: retro storefronts & signage, homes & structures that refuse to give way to development, and a resistance to the great homogenization of the country happening today. Please Wildwood, never give in.

7. Beautiful beaches & waterways

Did you know the further south in NJ you travel, the finer the grains of sand are on the beaches? I read that a long time ago, but I found this to be true surveying the landscapes surrounding me. While clean & abundant, be prepared: Wildwood’s shorelines are vast compared to most coastal NJ towns. You’ll be hiking it to reach the water.

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8. Great events year-round

The Mummers, Monster Truck races on the beach, Doh-Dah parade, massive conventions, national tournaments, car shows, exhibits, marketplaces, concerts, family activities, food & drink festivals, sporting events…just to name a few. Wildwood has historically been a leader in entertainment not just in New Jersey, but nationally. Their lineup wipes the floor with most resort towns.

9. Bonus point: a bodybuilding haunt more than worthy of “legit” status

With all the fun to be had at the shore, a primo facility to keep our bodies regulated & motivated was a cherry on top for me & my husband; we take our gyms seriously. Atlis Gym did not disappoint; they had great equipment that was well-maintained, friendly staff, and an old-school vibe. Loved the outdoor section.

Nice job Wildwood; not too shabby for a “second” first impression. We will be back sooner than later & until then, “Stay Wild” my friends.

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New Jersey: Why Our State’s Food Tastes Better Than Yours

1. Access to Ports

New Jersey is a peninsula state with navigable waters on three sides, giving it incredible access to some of the busiest ports in the nation & the world. Imported foods & ingredients reaching NJ first are advantageous to stores, restaurants, and residents. These items are more likely to be fresh and unadulterated from suppliers before shipment to producers; similarly, the items do not have long distances to travel before consumption. This lends to great variety available within the region, and plenty of people to consume it. While there are definite state & international laws regulating products coming into port, let’s just say it’s good to know someone who works on the docks. You didn’t hear that here though, of course.

2. Tradition

New Jersey is a very familial culture. Generations of families & communities have made food a centerpiece of family life, holidays, entertaining, and faith.

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3. Farms

Let the rest of the country keep on believing the entire state looks like a cogeneration plant; we’ll keep our best-kept secrets to ourselves to enjoy, like the 550,000+ acres of farmland that ensure we live up to our name, “The Garden State.” Accessibility to local produce, dairy, and meats give our food that “Jersey Fresh” goodness.

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4. Demographics

New Jersey is the only state in the US which is entirely classified as “metropolitan,” because of its size and proximity between Philadelphia and New York. One of the most densely populated in the country, it is and has been a state largely affected by immigration. This makes it one of, if not the best, states in the US to find food that is 100% authentic to its origins and in tons of variety & quantity.

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5. Specialty Stores

When you live in NJ, you get spoiled sometimes not realizing that outside of the NJ/metro NY region, the “pork store” is a scarce commodity or a completely foreign/unknown phenomenon. We LOVE our provisions in NJ like a fat kid loves cake. Stores specializing in ethnic imported foods are easy to come by as well.

6. Regional “native” foods

Try and order a Taylor Ham, egg and cheese out of state and see what happens. The Texas Weiner originated in Paterson; you won’t get a better “ripper” once you cross that state line. Jimmy Buff’s & Applegate Farms will complete out-of-state mail orders, proving that you can take a person out of Jersey, but you’ll never take the “Jersey” out of the person. There are endless items you just won’t get anywhere else in the world that make living here uniquely delicious.

7. The Shore

Not only can you feast on a fresh catch of the day from local markets or restaurants thanks to bordering oceans, bays, and rivers – the shore region holds its own title as a food-lover’s paradise. What would summer be without your favorite shore-stand pizza, ice cream, or fried oreos? Does the salt in the air really make food taste better? We think so.

8. The Water

Yes; there have actually been studies conducted investigating the effect of a location’s water chemical makeup and its effect on food. Whether water is hard or soft, its ph balance, and chemical levels present can change dough consistency, taste, and shelf-life. So the reason bagels taste better here is apparently legit.

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9. Demanding & Critical Marketplace

If you want an honest & unabashed review on your food product, ask a New Jerseyan. Even most of us from the more humble neighborhoods have pretty diverse selections of choices in their immediate or surrounding locality. If your pizza tastes like crap, they will say so- typically loud enough for most of the restaurant to hear. Maybe they’ll finish it, maybe not. Then they will go a block over, tell the guy at the counter how bad your pizza tastes (again loud so we all hear) and exactly what seems to be the problem with it, ie: “the the cheese was like plastic & the friggin’ sauce tastes like Prego.” Basically, we have zero tolerance for mediocrity because we are spoiled rotten in quality & quantity from Cape May to Mahwah.

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Moreover, the food industry in New Jersey is serious business. There are magazines, blogs, social media accounts, and an entire industry built around promoting, marketing, and critiquing it. There are huge food & beverage events happening seven days a week, all over the state, all year long.

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In conclusion, all of these conditions can lend to some respectable palettes. You don’t have to take my word for it, but I know about 8 million people who probably have my back on it:)

My Event Fail with Caroline Manzo & What I Learned – For Budding Event Professionals

Back in early 2010, The Real Housewives of New Jersey had a few months before its Season 2 premiere, meanwhile I had been asked to put together a panel of distinguished women from North Jersey for a Women’s History Month panel. By this time in my career, I had several years of event planning under my belt for 3 different NJ institutions of higher ed. Working with celebrity clients was not new to me; in fact, we had just finished hosting Barack Obama the previous semester. Up until this particular event, I had the fortune of large & successful turnouts. Unfortunately, it took a total fail at an event where I invited one of my favorite celebrities (noting that I am not a huge fan of celebrities so this was a big deal) to learn some valuable lessons that would prevent me ever again having to endure the self-inflicted shame that continued to haunt me long after that night.

My goal was to bring together a panel of distinguished women from diverse backgrounds and professions who could best convey the lifestyle, challenges, and balance of the contemporary New Jersey woman. My audience was to be primarily students, ideally aspiring young female professionals, and also the rest of the university population. The first 4 women were quickly assembled; I had acquired a healthy list of impressive connections by this time in my career, so that part was a snap. It would be my first year booking this panel & I studied the previous few years’ content and speaker selections. Always a competitor, I wanted my panel to blow away the ones before mine. I needed a big fish.

I was a big fan of RHONJ, not as much for the drama as I was of the actual “housewife” values portrayed in (almost) every woman on the show. I was very inspired by watching the work put into their households, families, and professions/passions – this is what still draws me the most as a viewer through the present. Living within the10-15 mile radius of where the series is filmed, I’m sure like many other NJ women, that adds a little interest by association. Anyway, I quickly thought of Caroline & Dina Manzo as the potential prospects to draw large audiences as I felt their personalities on the show were a great match for the content of this panel.

As most event professionals know, there are typically booking agencies or PR managers to contact when you are trying to land a contract on a celebrity. I really didn’t know where to begin for the Manzo women, especially because the show had only concluded one season, and they weren’t located yet in any of my agent directories. So taking the total risk of seeming over-egregious, presumptuous, & creepy, I Facebook messaged Dina Manzo. I humbly explained that I realized this wasn’t a typical way to initiate a booking, but I was really interested in hosting both she and Caroline, or at least one of them, and the outline/purpose of the event. I cringed and pressed “send.”

A few days later, to my surprise (mostly that the account was in fact, real) Dina replied. She graciously explained although she would not be able to attend, that Caroline might be able to and she gave me her booking contact information. Later that week, Caroline was on board and I was feelin’ pretty damn smug I gotta say. I should have seen the end of my so-far Staples “Easy Button” career luck signaling, but life & God have a funny way of teaching us lessons.

Long story short, I banked on a standing-room only house that evening. What happened instead was a total embarrassment, as I think a total of 30-40 people (and I might be exaggerating just to save my dignity) showed. I went on with the event and even moderated the panel. On a bright note, it was a really excellent program in quality & content and those that did attend expressed amazing feedback. Ok, that’s a win for humanity, but for the event planner & perfectionist in me, it was my worst day ever at work. Actually, still is.

So here’s what I can share with all of you up & coming so-far successful event planners:

1. If your event if this scale doesn’t have enough professional PR, it essentially doesn’t exist.

My biggest mistake and I swear if I had just made a few calls/emails the week before the panel, I would have been gold. I thought I was a big shot and rested on my laurels, thinking that my department’s methods of publicity alone would carry the day. I did do a press release on our official university webpage, sent a campus-wide invite electronically, and had lots of flyers on public boards. I had myself and one grad student handing PR for this event while juggling about 350 other events set to happen that semester. Rookie move & I should have known better.

2. Find the right people to manage your PR: they should be better than you at doing it, or hire someone else.

One of my best strengths in planning an event is vision. However, I know nothing about Photoshop or other graphic design tools. I can see in my mind how I want every detail: the right title to convey the right content, the right taglines, the right visual images/palettes etc. This event needed professionally produced tangible & electronic releases. Mine were the best they could have possibly been using rudimentary tools, but I should have made the call to someone who could have knocked it out of the park & had the rights to do a much bigger release than I could back then. Whether it’s social media, photography, lighting, florals, or whatever- get the best you can for your budget.

3. Never assume, especially when the stakes are high.

I made a lot of assumptions leading up to this event and paid dearly for all of them. Including the aforementioned, I just “knew” in my heart that the news that Caroline Manzo was coming would spread like wildfire once one or two people found out and there’s no WAY someone this well-known, especially from right in our area, wouldn’t sell out. It had absolutely nothing to do with Caroline; it had everything to do with my under-utilization of resources, time, and talent that I should have recruited, and have ever since! Moreover, in general-check, double-check, and sometimes triple check on responsibilities you delegate so you are best prepared, even when event disasters occur.

4. Trusting others to help (as long as they are the right people to trust) is critical.

In New Jersey, we come out of the womb suspicious; we are a worldly street-smart breed for such a small place on earth. I find that like me, most event professionals don’t like giving up control over details. In this case especially, that quality burned me. Since, I’ve learned to hire smarter, what questions to ask to recruit & delegate more intelligently, qualities of people I DON’T want on my team, and what I should and more importantly, should NOT be doing. Present day, I have 5 professionals & nearly 50 undergrad staff members. There’s no reason jobs should not be successfully unless I’m not directing correctly. Do what you’re good at, be willing to recruit and find allstars at your weaker points, or what you simply don’t have the appropriate time to do, and make sh*t happen!

5. Don’t freak out if the unplanned happens; never let your guests see you sweat.

At least I maintained the ability to move forward in the face of extreme disappointment that evening and act the same way I would have if the place was packed. This has always carried me in stressful situations in life; if you watch the show, one of the greats at this quality is Albert Manzo, Caroline’s husband & owner of the Brownstone in Paterson. People that work with me know that even if sh*t’s hitting the fan behind the scenes at an event, showing any weakness publicly to our guests is unacceptable. Make the experience exemplary for an audience, no matter what the size.

6. Never stop dreaming big, even when failures happen.

Reality is, I’m sure Caroline Manzo never even gave this night a second thought after it happened; she has much bigger things happening in her life. Maybe she was slightly disappointed at best, but getting to speak with her that evening, I can say she is one of the most “real” reality stars, celebrities, personalities…whatever you wish to call her. She came across to me to be very genuine, a loving mother & wife, and she gave her best as well as I did to a small but appreciative audience. Even though I feel like I blew it in front of someone I would have liked to impress, I don’t regret the experience and valuable lessons learned from it.

Last year, I hosted over 2,500 events, meetings, trips, and other engagements with a staff that I can trust while maximizing the best resources available for a 0% failure rate. I’ve also released a smartphone App all about New Jersey Trivia, called “Jersey Pop,” and started writing this blog. So Caroline, if you’re reading this, thank you again for coming and for motivating me to make each event better than the last. Read your book, loved it, and all the best to you and your family.

One Funeral & Four Restaurants: Americana Diner, Anthony’s Pizza, Mastoris, & Under the Moon Cafe (East Windsor & Bordentown)

This Halloween weekend was spent on the road, as I left my home in Passaic County to relocate to my hometown, Bordentown, for a family funeral.

Bordentown is a wonderful little town, in a unique geographical position that places it right along the Delaware River, but smack dab in the middle of NY vs. Philadelphia-influenced NJ culture. At sports bars, you can find just as many Giants & Jets decorations as you will Eagles; you can tune in to both Philly and NY based television & radio stations. While there are many natives of the town still left, with generations of family born & raised, there is a recent influx of residents from both the north, south, and yes- that elusive “central” Jersey of folklore & mythology that have given this town a flavorful vibe, while maintaining its historical charms.

My first stop for Friday night dinner was at Americana Diner, in East Windsor. Like many New Jerseyans, I have patronized this diner for decades. However, it’s been a few years since I’ve visited and I noticed some changes. While the interior remains the same since their last major renovation (probably close to the new millennium, if I’m not mistaken), the menu has changed quite dramatically. While I appreciate that the ownership has taken the direction of a culinary manager, who clearly is qualified based on her bio on the website, I know I can’t be alone in missing the old menu. The new Americana menu is much more scaled-down, offering more of a restaurant or café-style selection vs. a traditional diner. Appetizers, salads, soups, sides, and entrees all fit on one side of a page. I was looking forward to my big fat diner menu; I’m all about being progressive but keeping the name “Americana” now in this case seems ironic. Gone is all the standard diner fare that made them famous; left is a lofty menu that sadly, I felt was frankly overpriced and ambitious for their market. Maybe I’m underestimating their “new” market – as I stated, I’ve been out of that area for a while. I know there probably are plenty of people happy with the change; the place was as packed as ever, so they must be doing something right. I guess I was just let down as I was all geared-up for the large selection & portions of the past as I drove down the Turnpike, making a pit-stop at this old favorite of mine. Maybe it was an “off” night, but I hope next time, if I’m paying higher-end prices at a diner, that the food quality matches the price.

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Saturday’s lunch needed to be simple and brief, as we had a lot to accomplish before an early evening church service. Therefore, we stopped in at Anthony’s Pizza in Bordentown, a classic pizza “joint,” that remains in a comfy time-machine vacuum of sorts circa late 70s-early 80s. Locals know the owner, Anthony, who has a penchant for Elvis, Cadillacs, and the local women (bordering on the creepy side, but he seems harmless enough to take your kids there). Anthony is getting up there in age & as of late, I’ve noticed some new help at the restaurant. Seemingly, the pizza is not as I remember as a kid & I suspect that Anthony has suffered the effects of the economy & his age and has been forced to cut some corners. Just on the principle of tradition alone, I will continue to stop in from time to time when I’m in town, but it’s clear that Anthony’s is on its way to possibly closing up shop and ending an era. Sadly, many neighbors of the same stretch of highways 206 &130 that saw a heyday in the 70s-80s (Papp’s Bowling, most recently for example) have done the same.

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After the services, I hosted a repass dinner at Mastoris of Bordentown. Mastoris is pretty well-known statewide, as it lies at close proximity to routes 195, 130, 206, and 295. Similarly, it’s about equidistant to exits 7 and 7A off the NJ Turnpike. A large facility, it is typically full of local & commuting patrons, along with large bus groups or catered events. Mastoris is another Bordentown dinosaur that has a lot riding on expectations of its past performance. Fortunately for them, their portions and quality still deliver. Their famous cheese & cinnamon breads are the centerpiece of a full on-site bakery, which gives the place a very welcoming appeal as soon as you walk inside and see everything on display before the numerous dining rooms. I like reading the Mastoris family restaurant story on their placemats and the efforts to create an “experience” is still a formula that works. I’ve heard rumors that their current site will close and they will move operations to their new Allstarz Sports Bar; I’m hoping this is not the case unless they are willing to invest in a serious renovation to recreate their current model that can still meet the demands of a modern world. Allstarz is a cavernous, contemporary sports bar that offers a completely different atmosphere than classic Mastoris. As I can say for now is “say it ain’t so” Mastoris. I’d love to see a renovation of the current facility instead of a move that could jeopardize the brand.

Mastori bread

Sunday brunch brought about a pleasant discovery in Under the Moon Café in Bordentown City. This small, yet distinct venue offers Argentinean-inspired dishes & to die-for desserts. I was immediately moved by the attention to decorative & interior design. The core elements of the café are rustic, and there is something interesting to look at on every table and wall. I get the impression that a lot of trips to antique dealers and second-hand shops were made with joyful finds that make this place special. The menu is as creative and intentional as the atmosphere. This location was definitely a much needed pick-me-up after an emotionally draining weekend. In fact, I left feeling inspired to write again – so I did. I will definitely be sampling more of Under the Moon in the future.

Under the Moon

Jersey Pop Trivia Game Officially Launched for Apple devices

imageimageWe are so pleased to announce that after 4 years in the making, Jersey Pop, a trivia game with over 450 multiple choice questions about the pop culture, places, people, history, food, culture & oddities of our beloved Garden State has now been released for Apple devices. Just search under “jersey pop” in the iTunes App Store to find us! The game also features options to “tweet” during random “Let’s Discuss” questions. You may also skip Twitter sharing if you want to move on to the next multiple choice question.

We’d like you to know that occasionally, you might find a question that has been outdated, as many of the  original questions were written in 2007. We understand and ask for your patience as we work out those questions before the next release. For example, we know Olga’s Diner has since closed, and our beloved James Gandolfini has passed away. We have faith however, if you REALLY know your NJ trivia, you’ll figure out the right answers anyway. We welcome your feedback at our “about” option within the app.

Many NJ business owners might be pleasantly surprised to find themselves in a question already. As a small company ourselves, we fully support NJ commerce and encourage interested parties to contact us at the “about” option if you would like to get involved or be featured in our game.

Similarly, we appreciate your support through tweets: find us at @Jersey_Pop on Twitter. Use hashtags #NJPOP & # JerseyPop to build a mutually beneficial following!

Finally, if there are topics you want discussed here, on the game, or on Twitter through the Jersey Pop brand, please let us know! We created this game literally “for the people, by the people.” Thank you New Jersey!

Garden State Plaza Mall Shooting: a Symptom of the NJ Mall Sickness

As if there already aren’t enough reasons to hate going to the mall, a tragic shooting incident at the Garden State Plaza solidifies exactly why I avoid the places if at all humanly possible. In light of this event, which I do want to stress I take very seriously, I feel compelled to rant about why malls, particularly NJ ones, have me pretty disgusted right now.

Living in Passaic county and working right of Rt. 4 near Paramus, I deal with the malls every day, even though I hardly go inside them. Merging onto 4 from the Parkway every day, I’m confronted with all of the following:

Horribly uncoordinated and unskilled merging
Minivan driving that a goldfish could outsmart
People cutting me off like they’re driving blindfolded
Drivers performing a dead stop at a yield nearly killing everyone near them when all they have to do is drive forward
Not to mention the people who wait until the last minute to merge onto Rt 17, only a nosehair away from the mall ramp
It’s a real day starter!

Second, just to grab lunch in town during lunch is a chore in itself because of the volume on Rt 4. Where are the majority of these people going though? Shopping of course! Recession my ass; just look in the lots of the Plaza, Riverside Square, Bergen Town Center, or even the more lightly utilized Paramus Park at any time during their operational hours. Friggin places are filled to the rafters!

If you dare to actually enter the parking lot, be prepared to fight for a spot, not figuratively, literally. I know more than 5 people personally that have been in confrontations with idiots actually willing to physically fight for a good spot at the mall! What is that? I make sure I park all the way at the edge of the lot, the furthest away from people as possible. I like knowing my car won’t be scratched by your thoughtless rush to get inside and spend your paycheck you cashed one minute after it was in your greedy little hands. Last about the parking, are we really that lazy that we will wait a good ten, twenty minutes for a “close” spot? I’ll be in and out with the item I came for while your dumb ass will still be waiting for that awesome spot. Thanks!

As we unfortunately were reminded a little more publicly yesterday, safety has become a real concern at the malls in NJ. I won’t re-state the obvious about what I’m sure most of you read about the shooting, but muggings and assaults happen ALL THE TIME at our malls and it’s nothing newsworthy. My friend was mugged in the parking deck at Garden State Plaza last year with her children in the car. They were there to take pictures with Santa. Just terrible. Hold onto your bags, wallets, and look over your shoulder every five seconds. Real relaxing.

Finally, my biggest rant: the mindless shuffling and aimless consumption. This weekend, at a mall I won’t call out because the only reason I went there is for sneakers that no one else within a radius of 30 miles carried- they happened to have one pair left. So I will say that in special, rare cases, this is what a mall is helpful for.

However, after I parked in my usual position about a mile away and gasp, WALKED a little distance to get inside, I saw mobs upon mobs of people coming at me from all directions. Just getting from Sears to the main mall, there must have been 400 people in the pedestrian byways. If Sears is that packed (sorry Sears, you’re an American Classic but also like the Caldor of the mall) imagine the sight to behold once I reached the massive main wings. Thousands of people, most of them slowly shuffling, totally oblivious to anyone else trying to pass (like me and maybe 5 other people with an actual shopping item in mind) with a zombie-like look on their faces like the air was filtered with Xanax. Staring in windows in a trance, stopping at every single one with total indecision and utter intoxication of wanting to consume whatever was being sold: status, sex, food, fulfillment, among other manufactured dreams that for most of us, will never actually come to pass.

It was November 1st and I was waiting to check out with my sneakers at the register. Faintly I can hear a song about Santa playing on the public address. This really started pushing me over the edge; I guess the old after Thanksgiving rule has been retired like most other American values today. Who gets to decide that? I guess it’s been working though based on the amount of shopping I see going on. Nothing like a little subconscious mind control to get you in the holiday spirit.

Most shameful and what will ensure I do not return to the mall and shop small local stores or online was the treatment of an elderly war veteran, who was greeting people at the threshold of the main wings and Sears. Just the way people stared at him with annoyance or just simply ignored him made me feel like I didn’t know whether to cry or lash out in anger. I was the only person I noticed out of at least 50 ahead and behind me that acknowledged his presence. I asked if I could shake his hand and thank him for his sacrifice. He happily obliged and I felt as if I might be the only person out of thousands that day that might hold this man’s hands, look into his eyes, and show some gratitude, reverence, and respect. If that were my father or grandfather, I’d really want to hurt someone if I had to witness someone I loved, who was willing to give the ultimate sacrifice be treated so disrespectfully so we could shove pretzels in our fat mouths, blow through cash on shit no one needs, and push and shove each other like cattle in the mall.

So if you dare go to the mall this holiday season, be careful. Also, try a little reflection on what you’re actually doing there and how you treat others there with you and outside the mall. Remember the true meaning of the holiday season and pray for people who lash out because they have reached their limit, like the young man yesterday at the Plaza.