Archive for the ‘The suburbs’ Category

Mon 12 Oct 2009 10:00 am   //   Posted in: The suburbs

A breach of parking lot etiquette

Last month some friends and I rented a car and drove upstate to the outlet mall.

They have a parking lot up there that’s bigger than many small towns. We arrived early and found a parking spot close to the stores. A few times during the day, I carried our shopping bags back to the car, put them in the trunk, and went back to shopping. Every time, cars would slowly tail me as I walked through the lot, anticipating that I would leave and free up a choice parking space.

I didn’t feel much empathy for these drivers. There was abundant parking elsewhere in the lot. And for people who actually need close parking spaces, there are designated ADA spots. Being followed was creepy. I’m used to the city, where interactions between pedestrians and drivers are inadvisable, since they sometimes turn south. At the mall, I avoided eye contact with the drivers and tried to act invisible.

That was a poor strategy. On one trip to the car, as soon as a driver realized I wasn’t leaving, he lost his shit and beeped the horn. A nearby pedestrian scolded me: “You should have told him you weren’t leaving!” I threw my hands in the air. “I’ve been doing this all day!” I said, exasperated. “He doesn’t know that!” the other pedestrian shot back.

Clearly, I was a stranger to these parts. In the outlet mall parking lot, people live by a code, and I had broken it.

Wed 9 Sep 2009 7:37 am   //   Posted in: Labeling, The suburbs, Transit

Dumb sign


I’m sure there’s a sensible reason for this sign to exist. But the hell if I can figure it out. Aren’t most places not bus stops?

(Spotted on an unremarkable street corner somewhere around Ridgefield Park, during a bike ride exploring the New Jersey suburbs Monday.)

Wed 11 Mar 2009 2:00 pm   //   Posted in: Failure, In the news, The suburbs

They’re calling it Xanadu? Seriously?

Everyone’s favorite feature story right now is Meadowlands Xanadu.

Here’s the outline: During the worst economic environment in half a century, a developer is about to open a $2.2 billion shopping mall in northern New Jersey. Insert quotes from area residents who think the building looks silly and retail economists who are sure it will be a business failure. For color, mention the chocolate waterfall, ferris wheel, indoor ski slope and proximity to the New Jersey Turnpike.

For examples, see Time, Business Week, The New York Times, etc.

I agree with the conventional wisdom on this: Wrong idea, wrong location, wrong year. Even if they finish the rail link connecting Xanadu to Manhattan, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which New Yorkers would flock to a shopping mall. That leaves people from Jersey, who already have more malls than they need, or tourists, who will gaze down on Xanadu as their planes land at Newark Airport, and then go somewhere cooler.

This place does hold promise for one group of people, however: Urban explorers, who some day in the future may delight in traipsing across the ruins of this abandoned complex.

Mon 4 Aug 2008 8:29 am   //   Posted in: The suburbs

High school reunion

My high school class is having its 11-year reunion next month.

You might be thinking: “Wow, you must have a pretty enthusiastic high school class if they have a reunion every year!” You’d be wrong. This is our first reunion. Nobody organized a 10-year reunion. So this year, somebody stepped and decided to make up for this lapse.

You might be thinking: “Wow, your generation is characterized by a unwillingness to face adulthood, a lack of leadership and a breakdown of initiative.” You’d be right… But only in this one very specific case! And, you know, somebody’s trying to make up for it!

Tue 22 Apr 2008 11:00 am   //   Posted in: Food & drink, Planet earth, The suburbs

Earth Day every day, every few years

For as long as I can remember, kind of like the cycle of cicadas, there are occasional random years when everybody gets in to ecology. New ideas emerge each time. Each time we hope for the bad ideas to go away (water-saving shower heads?) but for the good ideas to stick (like curbside recycling). But what about the good ideas that somehow got forgotten?

Think back before texting, before satellite radio, before Purell, when we were riding around in minivans, playing Duck Hunt, watching Police Academy movies. This was before carbon offsets, before hybrid cars, before An Inconvenient Truth. But a different brand of conservation was in fashion. The suburban tradition of the balloon launch was scrapped out of concern for the birds. We celebrated Earth Day in school assemblies. I remember businesses actually showing an environmental conscience. Supermarkets collected garbage bags for recycling and McDonald’s had recycling bins in its restaurants for paper and styrofoam.

In our town, convenience stores sold insulated plastic mugs for coffee. If you bought one and kept reusing it, you got a discount each time you bought coffee at the store. My mom, who was mainly a tea drinker, had one in the car. So did every other mom I knew. This was a sensible idea and eliminated disposable coffee cups.

Today, this idea has been completely forgotten. Why? Blame Starbucks. Now if you drive up to a Starbucks, you drive away with a hot drink in a paper cup with a plastic lid and a cardboard sleeve, all disposable. The flow at an espresso bar doesn’t allow a customer to hand the barista a reusable cup and have it handed back filled with coffee. It would gum up the works. Plus it would seem so… down-market! And as goes Starbucks, so goes Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, 7-Eleven, the supermarket, everywhere.

Coffee cups are a needless waste. Lately, Starbucks seems good at solving problems. They should solve this one.

Mon 31 Mar 2008 12:00 pm   //   Posted in: Mixes, Music, The suburbs

Top 10 underrated 90s songs

Friday night, 1994. Somewhere in the Baltimore suburbs, a 14-year-old kid is lying on his back in the dark, listening to WHFS’s “Top 11 at 11” on his Sanyo walkman.

Inspired by Sheena Beaston, here are my top 10 most underrated songs of the 90s. For no particular reason, I’ve limited my choices to modern rock songs.

Listen to the whole playlist at Muxtape (this link will not work forever).

* * *

10. The Men – Church Of Logic, Sin, & Love (1992)
Anybody remember The Men? I love the lyric about Kennedy in Life magazine.

9. R.E.M. – Strange Currencies (1994)
Michael Stipe channeling Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone.” This was from R.E.M.’s Monster CD.

8. Drugstore – El Presidente (1998)
That’s Thom Yorke from Radiohead on vocals. I got this song on a CMJ sampler, but it was on Drugstore’s White Magic for Lovers CD, apparently.

7. Son Volt – Windfall (1995)
I didn’t discover this song until I went through an alt-country phase in college. From the Trace CD.

6. Oasis – Don’t Look Back In Anger (1995)
From What’s the Story Morning Glory? I once heard a guy playing this song in the subway and it sounded great.

5. Midnight Oil – Blue Sky Mine (1990)
The better of Midnight Oil’s two radio hits. (The other was “Beds Are Burning.”) From Blue Sky Mining.

4. Local H – All the Kids Are Right (1998)
A band apologizes to its fans for a poor concert. It’s an anti-rock song! From the CD Pack Up the Cats.

3. Superdrag – Sucked Out (1996)
Great hook. “Look at me, I can write a melody, but I can’t expect a soul to care.” From Regretfully Yours.

2. Elastica – Car Song (1995)
Elastica songs were so short, they were often the only thing that fit at the end of a mix tape.

1. Freedy Johnston – Bad Reputation (1994)
Listen to Freedy Johnston’s sublime self-confidence: “Don’t you think I’ve heard the talk? Nobody’s gonna tell me who to love.” From This Perfect World.