Heath

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Posts by Heath

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

Middle Earth: Austin

Middle Earth Austin
Mapping places to races
Orcs on Slaughter Lane

Middle Earth: Austin

Elly and I just mapped out Austin as Middle Earth just based on names. Dwarves live on Oltorf. Common Elves on Woodland. High Elves on Riverside. Hobbits on Pleasant Valley. Orcs on Slaughter. Sauron’s fortress in Mordor is in The Domain. The Ents are at Arbor Walk. And there’s a major defensive fortress at Rundberg where the renowned Riders of Rundberg reside. Beware the Balrog in the Mines of Manchaca. Gondor would be The Capitol.

Luke Olajuwan

The Startling Realization That I Don’t Have Many “Friends”

How do you define “friend”? It can mean a lot of different things in different contexts. A conversation with Elly yesterday made me realize that I don’t think I have many friends at all. I have a lot of acquaintances, people I love and care about and who love and care about me. This isn’t any kind of sad sob story or call for validation or anything. It was just an observation that kind of caught me by surprise. I don’t really have many “friends.”

Again, my life is beyond bountiful and filled with amazing people but aside from Elly, there is no one that I talk to or hang out with regularly or frequently. There are very few people that I feel I could easily and comfortably have any kind of deep, open, vulnerable conversation with. I racked my brain thinking of the people in my life that really fit what seemed to be “friend” beyond “acquaintance.” I came up with 5 people and I don’t see or talk to any of them often. They generally have their spouses, families or what not and spend most of their time and energy within the walls of that individual castle.

This is all a strange thing to talk about because I don’t want to discount or lessen the meaning of all the wonderful people in my life or make anyone feel left out or like they mean less to me. That’s not the case. In fact there is an overarching theme in my life of always feeling like I like and value people certain more than is returned and that’s definitely the source of a lot of whatever pain and insecurities I may have. I had an epiphany about a family member who has always meant so much to me and is a part of my DNA and my best memories and it always seemed mutual when we spent time together but I always had to be the one making it happen and over the years I just saw them less and less until I’ve pretty much just accepted that they are not in my life any more and never will be. Almost like a mini death or a living death.

Now another angle of this is that I have never been the best friend in some ways either. I can isolate myself and retreat into my cave and not keep in touch very well. My certain kind of shyness and desire to be unobtrusive and not bother people may come off as aloof, or stand offish. My approach is often too passive which is not always fair to put the onus on everyone else to take the initiative. I find the closest and longest lasting friends are the one who have a similar mindset and are very low maintenance. We can go months without speaking and then pick right back up as if no time has passed. I have no tolerance for guilt trips, or high maintenance people. So I’m sure I have a part in this scenario of “not having friends.” I do not deny any responsibility.

I’m not really looking for answers or anything, it was just something I felt like observing and chronicling. It really took me by surprise because I do feel like my life is full and full of absolutely stunning people but when we really started talking about the details, I was hard pressed to really find anyone who fit the profile we were discussing. I think this is why I enjoy social media so much. It has allowed me to grow and foster many relationships that probably would have faded away without it. The whole social media subject is an entirely different subject though. I am completely pro and for it and don’t believe the whole “it’s bad because people use it as a substitute for real interaction.” I think it’s a handy tool and addition, not a substitution and allows us to actually have discussions and interactions we wouldn’t normally be able to have due to time restraints and life responsibilities. It’s like we are always in touch. A virtual party where we can interact whenever we want or have time.

I don’t really want to get into a social media debate though. I don’t really know how to end this post so here’s a picture I made of Hakeem Olajuwan piloting an X-wing and getting his torpedoes right into the Death Star exhaust port. Nothing but vent!

Luke Olajuwan

Luke Olajuwan

Friends

How to define friend
It can mean different things
Do you have any?

Who’s The Real April Fool?

I despise April Fools’ Day. Seems like I’ve had a lot of discussion about it this year so I thought I’d collect my various thoughts here in one place.

It’s a day when most people seem to think simply lying is somehow witty or funny. A day when I can’t trust anything anyone says or anything I read. Weeeeee! What fun!

It takes no intelligence or wit to lie to someone. If I tell you I’m engaged, or moving to Alaska, or have cancer, or whatever, none of these things are witty or funny and I didn’t really “get one over on you,” I just lied to you and you believed it because, why the hell shouldn’t you? “Haha! You trust me to be truthful! Sucker!”

It’s just annoying. Some people like Thinkgeek, Google and ACL did funny things but they were funny because they weren’t actually trying to “fool” anyone. They were ridiculous humor.

If Google was like “we are introducing free internet and global wifi coverage! APRIL FOOLS!” That would not be funny.

As my friend Lauren said “April fools day is to comedy what St. Patrick’s Day is to Irish culture.” I just see a lot of annoying lies being pawned off as “Haha! I got you! I’m so clever!”

No. No you’re really not. There is no intelligence or wit involved. The only April fools are those who think that simple lies and taking advantage of people’s trust equates to humor, wit or intelligence.

April Fools

You are not funny
You are simply a liar
No brains or wit there

C25K

I have been appalled with the state of my health lately. I can’t seem to kick my food demons or get on any kind of regular exercise regimen. My willpower and discipline seem non-existent but that won’t stop me from continuing to mount the battle. This is the worst shape I have been in since getting my diet under control around 2004 and dropping 60 lbs. About 30 of it is back. I need to get to yoga far more often as well as stopping regulating my fuel (i.e. STOP SHOVELING SO MUCH QUESO AND OTHER CRAP IN MY FOOD HOLE).

So today I started week 1 day 1 of “Couch to 5K.” What’s baffling to me is that I have always hated running. It was always my absolute least favorite form of exercise ever and something I didn’t want to do unless I was being chased by an axe or chainsaw wielding murderer or a zombie, but then again I probably could mosey away from a zombie without anything really resembling “running.”

For some reason I’m feeling myself drawn to this C25K program. Something about it just feels right at this time. Maybe it’s because there’s some weird sadistic part of me that likes to find weaknesses in myself or things that are difficult for me and instead of avoiding them and playing to my strengths, I like to try and overcome them to become a better, more rounded individual or something.

Day 1 felt like just the right amount of challenge for my out of shape blubbery mass. Challenging but not debilitating or discouraging. I imagine that to anyone in better shape than me (which is probably most people), it would have been a piece of cake. Mmm, cake.

Push

Expand your limits
Push past your own comfort zone
Put in the hard work