Saturday, September 14, 2020
Astronomers in Cardiff just announced that they found traces of life on Venus in the form of phosphine gas. This is Venus, the planet which Ray Bradbury described as, “the color of rubber and ash, this jungle, from the many years without the sun.” Or was he talking about California?
Because it’s official. We have been warned. Breathing is deleterious to your health. Outside the air is smoky and the afternoon sun a faint red glow. When I parked at the mall this morning I saw a warning about the risk of carbon monoxide. And, of course, to enter the mall I had to put on a mask to avoid inhaling or exhaling a disease.
The mall has been open to shoppers for two weeks this time. They can admit up to 25% capacity, but no one was counting when I today to pick up my new glasses. They were nowhere near 25% capacity in there. Still it was livelier than my last visit two weeks ago. The lights were brighter. There were a few open kiosks. More stores were open, including the two big ones at each end, Macy’s and Nordstrom’s.
I remember how excited we were when the original Mission Viejo Mall opened in 1979 with Robinson’s and Montgomery Ward’s as the anchor stores. Malls were still a novelty to us and this one became a favorite family destination where we could see a movie, buy school supplies, and take the kids to see Santa Claus. By the late nineties it was looking a little shabby, so they put in marble floors and skylights, renamed it The Shops at Mission Viejo, and anchored it with Nordstrom’s and Macy’s. No more movies, book stores, or video games. Now we had Armani’s and Saks Fifth Avenue. All upscale, sleek, and boring.
Here we are, twenty years later. Signs about masks, empty storefronts with signs optimistically announcing that something else would be there soon. Ruby’s, with its fifties theme, looked a little lost in this atmosphere of masks and sanitizer stations. Like a soda shop in those malls they retool for Alzheimer’s patients for a few hours of comfort in a familiar place. How will they recreate our world, I wonder.
The escalator was on today, so I went up to check the food court. Whoops, the Dining Pavilion, as it was renamed in 1999. About half of the food boutiques were open. Fewer than half of the tables were set up, but there was a sign telling about the expanded seating area in the parking lot. Heaven knows, they don’t need the parking places.
I checked out the ladies’ room (the one on the first level is still closed). Every third stall and every third sink was open to keep people distanced. A sign reminding us to wash hand frequently was posted next to the older one that told us to conserve water–another reminder of how sanitation has pre-empted environmental concerns.
Arrows indicated which side of the bridge to walk on, but nobody paid much attention to that. The comfortable arm chairs-cum-charging stations were forbidden and the play place was closed. Z Gallery was empty. Still, the Apple Store was busy enough to have a person or two waiting outside.
For me the few efforts at fall decorating gave a feeling of normality. A reminder that the earth is still in orbit and we will make it through this journey around the sun one more time. I won’t even mind seeing Chrismas decorations up early this year, if it helps.
And if the Venusians drop in, they should feel right at home.
Today’s Notable Headlines
“Astronomers may have found a signature of life on Venus,” MIT News, Sept. 14, 2020. https://news.mit.edu/2020/life-venus-phosphine-0914
“10.10: A new holiday shopping day aims to avoid a void under the tree,” Orange County Register, Sept.14, 2020. https://www.ocregister.com/2020/09/14/10-10-a-new-shopping-holiday-aims-to-avoid-a-void-under-the-tree/
“California wildfires have burned an area almost the size of Connecticut,” CNN, Sept. 14, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/14/us/california-wildfires-monday/index.html
“All in a Summer Day,” Ray Bradbury. First published in the March 1954 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
“An Old Mall Gets a New Identity,” L. A. Times, Sept. 11, 1999. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1999-sep-11-fi-8821-story.html
Why am I doing this?
The coronavirus pandemic will be indelibly written on our memories just as the Great Depression or the Battle of Britain left their mark on past generations. It is my intention to journal the events of these days from three perspectives: as a retired medical technologist, a historian (Ph.D., 2014), and an ordinary person living through an extraordinary crisis.
You are on History’s Edge.