Archive for May, 2015

The Black Hole

Disney’s The Black Hole
Still mostly enjoyable
But man, that ending

The Black Hole

Very minor spoilers for “The Black Hole,” a 36 year old movie ahead.

I made Elly watch “The Black Hole” last night. I’m always curious to get a new viewers take without all the nostalgia like I have for it. She liked it! I think it’s a fairly enjoyable ride. It has a dark, moody, suspenseful sci-fi layer to it (that’s my favorite layer) but also a lot of really bad layers too. Some parts obviously for the kids (it was a Disney movie) and yet the dark layer is strangely at odds with that. Very interesting how it all fits together. There’s certainly some really bad acting, writing and directing, some slapstick, cheesy elements but overall I still enjoy it and see why it held such a special place in my life (aside from just that period in my life and associating it with my cousin). It still feels very grand in a way. The Cygnus is still an impressive, imposing ship. When it first turns all its lights on still feels eye opening. The iconic meteor tearing down the ships vast corridor. A lot of the effects still hold up (mainly the practical one, any CG or lasers look appropriately dated). I love the look, the sets, and especially all the robots. Maximilian, V.I.N.CENT, the sentries, the creepy robed workers.

Then there’s the ending. I won’t write any particular spoilers or anything here, but read no further if you don’t want to read at least general comments about what I think of it.

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Barton Creek Square

The mall successor
Just as many memories
A different era

Revisiting Barton Creek Square Mall

This is really more of an epilogue for Requiem For A Mall. An addendum of sorts. After that little walk down memory lane I decided to revisit Barton Creek Square Mall yesterday. This was the place that took over for Highland Mall as our destination of choice in my later years visiting my late Aunt Trish and my cousin, Casey. the memories contained there are equally as impactful, and in some ways, maybe even more so because they are a little fresher, more recent and represent a later period in my visits that seems a little more clear in its recollection.

Many memories may in fact be blurred by time. When I was texting my cousin during my Highland Mall visit, I could have sworn I remembered right where there was an Aladdin’s Castle arcade, but my cousin thought that was at Barton Creek and on the opposite side. But then he couldn’t remember if maybe he was mixing it up with Goldmine or Barker’s Circus, which he also thought were in Barton on the opposite side. I had totally forgotten those two arcade names and only had memories of an arcade on one side of the entrance. It was all so long ago, who’s to say I’m not jumbling all kinds of details and mixing up malls.

Barton Creek Square definitely transported me once again back in time. I was a older this time but still the place was indelibly linked to Trish and Casey. I once again was amazed at how this place that was once one of my favorite destination now held almost nothing for me. The Apple store is fun. There was still a Spencer’s Gifts but it’s vastly different from the one in my memory. Past me was definitely envious of the huge and awesome Lego store that now exists, and for a moment, present me shouted “I want all those huge, awesome Star Wars Legos! A Death Star! Slave I! Star Destroyer!” I very quickly then realized that I had no use for them. I’ve tried over the years to stop collecting “stuff.” Things I just want that then really have no use and do nothing but collect dust. I knew that these huge Lego creations that I once would have wanted more than anything just had no place in my life any more.

Even the smell was familiar. Just a very clean mall smell that helped transport me right back there. Then I found the movie theater. When I had been at Highland I had a detailed memory of a movie theater but not the 2 screen theater that was apparently in a separate building across the parking lot from the actual mall at Highland. As soon as I saw it, I knew that this was the theater I had been remembering. This was a very important moment for me. Movies have always been a big part of my life and movies with my cousin were a formative part of my youth. For some reason, I specifically remember Disney’s The Black Hole (I still love that theme song), TRON and the original Clash of the Titans. Standing in front of this theater, I could so vividly remember Trish buying tickets and Casey and I eager to get inside and go to some fantastical place. I think we used to love sitting in the front row, though I have no idea why now, or if that’s something else I’m mismembering (my own word that I use often). I wondered if we used to go to a lot of earlier showtimes because I seemed to have this familar feeling of coming out of the movie into the daylight and getting in the car so Trish could drive us home and Casey and I could proceed to play whatever new video game she’d bought us or that we were already playing on this visit.

I specifically have a lot of memories of this Barton Creek Square during the holidays. Shopping around Christmas. All the decorations and the music and just crowds of people. an energy of excitement and being alive. Surprisingly, the Food Court didn’t feel all that familiar, unlike my Highland visit. I smiled at the “signs of the times” such as the charging stations now set up next to chairs and such to rest and charge your device on the multi-ended dongle (which sounds like a lost Dr. Seuss book). There was plenty of familiarity and yet plenty that also rips you back from your time journey to remind you that you are indeed in the present, but I’ll never walk those places without Trish and Casey right there with me.

Today I decided to try going for my run in the mall. Air conditioning and the top floor is carpeted so that’s probably good for the joints. It took about 3.5 laps to run 2.5 miles plus a 5 minute warmup and cool down walk. You know, in case you were wondering. Maybe if I run fast enough, I can go back in time to catch a glimpse of Trish buying two eager boys tickets to a film. Probably not though. I run really slowly.

Highland Mall

Requiem For a Mall

Highland Mall

Highland Mall on closing day.


Like most people, I hadn’t been to Highland Mall in ages. In fact I was surprised to read that it was still operating at all. It always looked closed, but then yesterday I read that it was actually closing for good after 44 years. I knew I had to pay a final visit to what had been Austin’s first indoor shopping mall and a surprisingly poignant catalyst of memories. Judging from comments from friends and all the people there yesterday taking pictures and looking nostalgic, I was far from alone in this feeling.

Highland Mall

Highland Mall

For many, there seemed to be a lot of memories of working there at various points or going there as long time Austin residents. For me, its place in my heart was very specific: It was a place I used to love to go with my late aunt, Trish and my cousin, Casey. I’ve written a lot about them before but let me summarize for the uninitiated: they are two of the single most important people in my past and in the very DNA of who I am today. From when I was a kid on into adulthood, there were very few things I looked forward to as much as my time with them. They would come to College Station for holidays, I would spend school vacations here in Austin, which I found to be a magical wonderland because of it. Trish was like a second mother and Casey was like a little brother. My time with them remains a formative and defining time in my life. Last year, Trish went on to wherever our energy goes when our bodies are done here and Casey has long since pretty much ceased being a part of my life (even before he was married with two kids, which I’m sure is more than a full time job) but I still think about them both many times daily. In addition to Peter Pan Golf, Westgate Lanes bowling, going to movies and staying up all night playing video games, going to the mall was one of our favorite things to do and it started at Highland Mall.

Highland Mall

I think there used to be an arcade here once, long ago.

For whatever reason, we loved going to the mall (something that would definitely change in my adult years), and before Barton Creek came along, Highland Mall was practically Disneyworld for us. Spencer’s Gifts, video game and movie stores, arcades, the food court, toy stores, candy stores, ice cream vendors, movie theaters and many boring things we didn’t care about like clothing stores (until later when I thought parachute pants were the coolest thing ever), it was just this microcosm, this entire world and ecosystem all self-contained like some underground science fiction colony.

As soon as I walked in those doors yesterday, it all came back with startling familiarity like I had been transported in time. Even the music echoing through the mostly empty space through tinny, dated speakers seemed trapped in time, and strangely loud without a bustling mass of bodies soaking up the sound. All music I would have heard back then. I noticed a strange preponderance of ELO during my hours there. And yes, I spent hours there. I walked both levels of the entire mall three, four, maybe five times.
Highland03 I touched the work railings knowing very well they may have been the exact same railings we had all touched so many years ago. Used every single staircase and escalator, retracing the steps of so much past. When we would go there, Trish would often go off to do her thing and leave me and Casey to do ours. I remember we would methodically walk the whole mall to make sure we didn’t miss anything. I remembered and retraced some of the exact routes. I took in this ghost mall that once been so filled with such a din of life almost as if it were a living organism. Now there were only a handful of shops, and 3 vendors still sold food in the food court until the last hours of this last day. Many people snapped photos. I had a brief conversation with a stranger who was there for the same reason as I was, saying good be to an old friend from many years ago. You could just see the look i people’s eyes that they were just there, remembering one last time.

Highland Mall

Highland Mall

I think I tried to leave at least twice and then turned around and went back in for another pass. I actually texted with Casey a little bit, which made me smile to have him there a little bit and read other’s comments on my Facebook page about their memories of the mall. I remembered specific tables where I had sat with Trish and Casey enjoying fast food. I considered getting one last meal there but then decided against partaking of whatever happened to be left at this eleventh hour. At one point I saw an abandoned establishment that piqued my curiosity. I can’t remember the name on it but it was non-descriptive. There were signs to “Pits 9-20” and a note about not crossing the orange line without proper safety equipment but that spectators were welcome and encouraged to ask questions. It seemed like it had been some kind of action/sport type venue, but the real mystery that baffled me was this sign:
sign I still have no idea what this means. It’s like some kind of crazy, paranoid, conspiracy theorist rambling. “That’s how they’re gonna get us, man! The robots can diguise themselves as skateboards, man! They’re all around us and we’re just letting it happen, man!”

I’m not sure exactly why we stopped going there and started going to Barton Creek. I don’t know if it was closer to where Trish and Casey lived, or just perceived as a better, newer mall or what, but it seems that was the trend for most of Austin. Highland Mall fell into decline and for whatever reason, time passed it by. I was glad I’d read about it closing so I got the chance to spend this final day there, with Trish and Casey in my mind and heart. I was glad I got to say my goodbyes. As I laid in bed last night trying to sleep, I thought of the mall, empty and dark, finally “asleep” for good. The building or land may will back as part of Austin Community College, but Highland Mall is no more. No more than the memories so many of us will always carry and the little bits of who we are today that were shaped, formed and altered, even if almost imperceptibly, by our time there and the people who shared it.

Highland Mall

Epilogue: Revisiting Barton Creek Square Mall

Highland Mall

Rest in peace, old friend
Live on in our memories
You were a good mall