Out With the Old? Not so fast…2018 version.

Yes, it’s a new year, so in with the new…but not without another shout out to some “old” that’s coming with me into 2019.

Big Island Candies
Oh. My. God. Crack in cellophane wrappers. If you are EVER purchasing a lovely giftMika Mints basket to send, or in the mood to treat yourself and your family, look nowhere else. Not a huge sweets person, I can usually sample and leave alone. Not with Big Island Candies. My introduction began with the Mika Chocolates: These soft nibbles feature a dark-chocolate coating on the outside, and on the inside, a smooth, lightly whipped blend of dark and milk chocolate, cream and butter, and finally, a cooling touch of mint flavor. They are all that and more. You won’t find a better chocolate mint.  I next became enslaved by the Milk Chocolate Macadamia Nut Toffee, followed by the Milk and Dark Chocolate Covered Macadamia Nuts.  But no need to stop there…Big Island Candies also has Signature Shortbread cookies,  brownies, and a number of other treats. Don’t take my word for it…experience these treats for yourself. https://www.bigislandcandies.com/

Bissell Powertrak Compact Vacuum
One might imagine I’m a cleaning nut with this addition, but the reverse is true. I like a clean space, but just about anything else can pull my attention away from cleaning.  This little vacuum encourages me back to the task because it’s powerful enough to be effective, so light I don’t mind going up and down stairs with it, and super easy to use and maintain. I bought it for around $60, and it boasts cheery lime green accents! A winner from Bissell.  The Bissell says this little number is no longer available, but it is at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Snatch it up… Bissell Powertrak

Louise Penny
If you have not been introduced to award-winning bestselling author Louise Penny, here are the basics: A Canadian author of mystery novels set in the Canadian province of Quebec centred on the work of francophone Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec.
If there’s one thing I have done my entire life, reading is it. After spending my entire childhood focused on reading, I majored in it in college. Reading remains my biggest joy and Louise Penny is my favorite author. Interesting, because I’m only a sometime mystery reader, but Louise is so much more than a mystery writer. Her revelations regarding character, relationships, philosophy, and psychology set against the haunting backdrop of  snow-covered Canadian woods make her a literary treasure as well as a popular one. She belonged on this list last year; I’m sure she’ll belong on this list next year. https://www.louisepenny.com/

Yes, those little packets of seasonings and ingredients for tasty food fast. Roast turkey is a top favorite meal in my family, particularly in November and December.  My home-made gravy is considered part of the tradition, but what my family didn’t know was that I was relying on a natural seasoning packet that isn’t available anymore. In steps Knorr’s Turkey Gravy packet to save the day, and we’re back in business. In 2019, I plan to increase my supply of Knorr’s helpers to have on hand for a last-minute meal.  https://www.knorr.com/us/en/home.html

Blanket Scarves
Days are cold in winter in New England, and increasing years can bring increasing sensitivity to temperature. A dear friend introduced me to the luxury of blanket scarves when she returned from a trip to Ireland and gave me a royal blue wool scarf/shawl. Perhaps the term blanket scarf wasn’t in use then, and perhaps I’m using the term a bit loosely, as a true blanket scarf is probably more of a square or rectangle that can be used like a small throw, or folded to be used as a scarf.  Whatever the exact dimensions, anyone who gets chilly in winter, or in air conditioning, would benefit from these cozy additions to be worn around the neck, the shoulders, or wrapped around legs and feet. I have three at this point, and decided my mother-in-law needed one for her birthday this year. A MUST for plane travel…

Take good care of yourself in the new year!



Out With the Old? Not so fast…

Yes, it’s a new year, so in with the new…but not without a shout out to some “old” that’s coming with me.

Liquid Fence
If you don’t have gardens, or gardens with animal problems—as in, your yard is their all-day buffet, Liquid Fence Deer and Rabbit Repellent won’t offer much to you. But surrounded by woods, our yard often gives the impression we keep deer for pets, a veritable Disney land. Which we love. They have been known to stand on the side of the driveway and just watch while we pull our car out and close the garage door, and then they get back to grazing. But we don’t love the fact that over the years, our visitors have eaten large amounts of our landscaping. This largely natural product is about the best there is, keeping our graceful friends from munching our hedges with a mixture that includes “putrescent egg solids” and garlic. I get the concentrate, mix it with water, spray it on, keep my plants, and don’t feel bad at all.

Method Cleaning Products
I’ve loved these natural cleaning products for quite some time,  but after recently trying the 4x HE beach sage laundry detergent, I’m an even bigger fan. I love the clean packaging, the cheery colors, and the scents seal the deal.  Some of my favorites:  grapefruit, cucumber, and beach sage, my new bright turquoise laundry detergent. Happy cleaning!

Rose Lilies1-roselily
This is a personally spectacular find. Over the years of our marriage, my husband has enjoyed giving me lilies—plants and cut flowers, both Asiatic and Oriental varieties. He really likes lilies…but I really don’t. The blooms are too architectural, too stark, too unromantic. Until now. Rose lilies are ruffly, light, softly-scented, and have non-staining pollen. These wonders even have their own Facebook page! https://www.facebook.com/Roselilyflowers/  Husband, gift me these ethereal wonders all you want.

Restorative Yoga
Is this a thing?  And where has it been all my adult life? Poses and practice that rely on gravity to create stretching and opening in the muscles and body. Finally, a yoga practice where I don’t end up feeling stiffer, more out of shape, or injured. After 25 minutes, I’m feeling relaxed, youthful, and ready to take on the next several decades!

Good Behavior
Every now and then, I discover a television show that I love so much, I don’t want to talk about it, share it, give an opening to anyone to say a bad word or not love it as much as I do. It’s mine, my secret pleasure. Outlander on Showtime was one such television event. (I can mention it now; it’s hardly a secret.) My 2016 find: TNT’s Good Behavior. I’m addicted. Michelle Dockery. Juan Diego Botto. (And where has he been all my adult life?) Shhhh….


Secrets of the Universe: Unisex Dressing?

secretslogoWhy is it okay for women to wear men’s clothes, but not okay for men to wear women’s clothes? 

I’ve worn men’s clothes for as long as I can remember. I have older brothers, and pulling on their tee-shirt at the beach or their sweatshirt to warm up on an evening was always fine with me. By high school, I was obsessing on when my brother would  hand-me-down his jeans: worn-in Levis to be specific. In my eyes, worn-out guy’s Levi jeans were the ideal wardrobe complement for the men’s construction boots my friends and I were wearing daily, which we paired with lacy fifties-era vintage blouses and Grandma-style button cardigans. Hot we were!

Now we take unisex clothing for granted, yet unisex shopping takes us to fashions designed for men that women also wear. Flannel work shirts, tuxedo shirts and pants, cummerbunds, sleeveless undershirts, always jeans, surf shorts, Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers, combat boots, bomber jackets, and the list goes on…

Levis-501-MonroeWhy doesn’t the unisex pendulum swing the other way? Fashions designed for women that men wear? Guys are making inroads in unisex dressing in the jewelry arena, but that’s about it. Guys wearing ruffles? Eh, not so much in this country. Skirts? No, for the most part, we still think men in skirts is strange. Would you buy a tunic beach cover up for your man? I can’t even conjure this look in my imagination, can you? Men, would you slip on a strappy platform sandal to go with those summer-time shorts? We would think this ridiculous. But why? How fair is that?

And so we come to this week’s Secrets of the Universe question for our panel:  Why is it fine if women wear men’s clothes, but not-so-much if men wear women’s clothes?

B: While I do find this unfair (which is how this landed as a panel question in the first place), I can’t say I’m fantasizing a change. I like wearing men’s clothes. And I like my men wearing men’s clothes, also. But to any men wanting to wear women’s clothes, I support you!

D: Exactly. That is the question. It makes no sense to me. The dominant group will not dress in the subordinate group’s clothing. But the subordinate group can dress in the dominant group’s clothing, and that’s cute. A sexist society.

P: American men are afraid homosexuality is catching. They don’t want to sleep on pink sheets, let alone wear feminine clothes.

R: Ball gowns are designed to highlight certain areas men just don’t have. Metrosexuals are wearing more feminine fashion. Men wear pink. Ruffles just aren’t in right now!

Does this mean that when women completely obliterate those glass ceilings, we will come home from the office to be welcomed by darling men wearing our embroidered ruffly-edged pink silk robes?  Hmmm, this panel author needs to cogitate on that one…


Celebrate Fashion Week's Plus-Size Fashion Show? Oh, puh-lease…

Am I the only one having a real problem with all the fanfare about “plus-size” fashion shows?

Like the fashion industry has really gotten it together on this issue, and we can all be thankful, now that they’ve expanded from only  zeros and twos to shows where the models may be wearing a size 12, and designated them “plus.”  Wow. A SIZE 12!  The fashion industry has designated size 12 a plus size. Oh, can’t we all rest easy now.

I’m sure any of our daughters who happen to be on the taller side and/or the athletic/muscular side and a healthy weight by anyone’s standards, will be really empowered to process this new piece of info. So in addition to knowing they they could never get their body into the regular glamorous runway model sizes even if they cut themselves in half, now they can also bask in the glow of knowing that that their size 12 jeans designate them as “plus.”  Too heavy.  Overweight.  Basically, fat. 

Really, I’m pretty annoyed about it myself. I’m over 5’8″ and I don’t wear a 12 right now, but I have at different points in my life, and as I move on up in the decades, I may again. I don’t want to consider myself “plus” because of it! Because size 12 for A WHOLE LOT OF WOMEN is not fat! It’s not even overweight. And we all know, no matter how the industry wants to try and spin this great new entrance into fashion week, the plus size fashion show, being designated a “plus” size is not any kind of plus at all. Why is it so incredibly difficult for our culture to develop some kind of healthy perspective on women’s weights?!

And actually, no, I’m not the only one noticing the flaws in this newest innovation. Robin Givhan, fashion editor at The Washington Post, has noticed, too according to this excerpt posted on the NPR site: 
One criticism of plus-size models: They’re about a size 12. While that isn’t tiny, it’s smaller than the average American size, which is a size 14. “There is a real disconnect between what the fashion industry considers to be a plus-size model and what the average person considers to be plus size,” Givhan, said, adding that a woman going into a department store won’t be sized out of the most fashionable clothes until she reaches size 16.

Come on, fashion people. This is getting old.


About Shoes, and Abundance

On my To Do list for today was:
sink — figure out why my bathroom sink drain is completely clogged;
mice — check the traps in the attic for mouse corpses;
carpet — work on the dog’s spit-up carpet stain on the basement stair landing, again. So no surprise, at least for starters, I skipped those gems, and went straight to
shoes: get those that don’t fit out of your closet. I had high motivation for this task. I love shoes. But with pairs numbering in the dozens, buying more seemed excessive. I needed to lower my numbers so I could comfortably buy more.

Minutes out of bed (who needs food when there are shoes), I trip into my closet. Last night, I mentally pinpointed where to start–the pointy blue suede shoes I’ve had for decades and haven’t worn for years. I can attest that feet really do spread with age. My feet were already wide.  Now they’re headed toward flipper territory. Shoes I got years ago, especially if snug then, are like sausage casings now, especially pointy-toe versions, not my best cut. So I figured I could start out with a bang — easy out, my blue suede shoes. Standing on my barefoot tipi-toes, I manage to knock them out of their stack on the top shelf. Shoebox in hand, I turn to head out and try them on, only to find myself tripping out of my closet for real. My ankle rolls, the kind of intense turn you remember because it only happens once or twice in your life. I clunk to the floor hard on my knees as the pain runs up the side of my leg.  I crawl out of the closet, shoe box still in hand, scrambling over to my night table for my first aid of choice, homeopathic arnica, Traumeel and some expedient massaging.

I don’t like being slowed down by physical ailments. I’m annoyed at this tick in my schedule. My first day home in over a week and I want to get stuff done. I am not, however, immune to the irony of what just happened. I fell in my closet because there were so many pairs of unboxed shoes cluttering the floor, I couldn’t find a flat space to put my foot down. Okay, universe, I get it.

But how many shoes are too many? When does abundance become overabundance? Women with around 500 pairs of Christian Louboutin shoes think they are among Christian’s biggest clients, according to a recent article in Vanity Fair. According to Christian, not so. Danielle Steel has 6000 pairs of his shoes. She is a big client. Clearly, abundance is a relative term. But I think we humans are wired to like abundance, and fighting this tendency is probably counterproductive. Abundance makes us feel wealthy, privileged, rich, prosperous, glamorous, lucky, chosen, special.

Abundance isn’t about being sensible. Abundance encompasses letting go and living it up. But I do think we can be smart, even classy, in our abundance. Abundance across the board–cars, jewelry, properties, partners, clothes, gadgets? Crass, boring, and indiscriminate. Choose your battles? I say, choose your abundance. For me, it’s shoes.

And I think each of us finds our own point where abundance becomes overabundance. No one is going to be able to tell us where it is if we don’t see it. Six thousand anything sounds like a lot to me. But when I’m in Danielle Steel’s shoes, having made as much money on romance fiction as she has, maybe that number will be just right. I can’t convince my son that six pairs of the same style of Van’s sneakers is overabundance. But then, hey, I don’t have much of a leg to stand on when it comes to talking about too many shoes. (Figuratively and literally at the moment.) I do know that for some people, one pair of shoes is abundance.

I think one pair of Christian Louboutin’s, at several hundred dollars a pop, would be overabundance for me right now. My new Coach sneakers, purchased on sale at the Saks Fifth Avenue outlet store with my Off Fifth discount card for $59.99, make me feel plenty snazzy. I’m not in it for the price or the brand. For me, the kick is going to the closet and finding the perfect look, the perfect pair of shoes for what I’m wearing. And right now, in this season of graduations and weddings, I’m coming up short. I want more shoes. But I want to enjoy my abundance of shoes, not feel hoardy and overindulgent. So as soon as my ankle’s up to speed, I’ll be back in my closet sorting through, and hopefully sorting out. Because perhaps the one great thing about overabundance is the chance to pass something along in the hopes that my overabundance can become someone else’s abundance.


Special for Women? Not Always…

Marketers figured out decades ago that women tend to make many major household purchasing decisions, so they started marketing to them.  Now we have a plethora of products aimed not only toward women (witness the new VW Beetle) but specifically designed for women.  If you’re a woman, maybe you’re thinking it’s about time someone said vive la différence.  Our bodies are different, so let’s have some specificity.  A women-only gym has machines set for people closer to 5’ than 6’, weights closer to ten pounds than fifty.  Women don’t process alcohol (or calories, it seems) as efficiently as men, so give us light beer.  We need more calcium and iron, so put more of those in our vitamins, thanks. 

Here’s a little secret, though.  A lot of those women’s-only products cost us a lot of extra money, and since we’re still only getting paid $.75 on the dollar for what men get paid, we can ill afford to get ripped off thanks to some marketing genius.  For instance, I recently needed some multivitamins.  At the grocery store I noticed a new “Women’s Multi” version, same size bottle, next to the regular multivitamins I usually buy.  “With iron and calcium” it said on the front of the bottle.  Great!  I picked up a bottle of each and flipped them over to compare the nutrition labels.  There were only two ingredient differences, neither of them dramatic.  Instead of 100% of my daily folic acid, I’d be getting 150%.  Instead of 16% of my calcium, 25%.  And iron?  The same in either capsule.  But the price difference?  The women’s multivitamin was $9.99 for 90, the regular multi, $10.99 for 130.  The perfectly adequate regular multivitamins were 28% cheaper!  So what are we paying for?  We’re paying for the fact that the label says “women” on it somewhere.  The same goes for shampoo, shaving cream, soap, and I’m sure you could name a bunch of other products if you thought about it. What we’re paying for is our lack of knowledge.  Knowledge is power.  Let’s start using it.


Redefining Convenience

Champions Cup tennis was coming to Boston and I wanted to see it.  So did most of my tennis team, my parents, and my son.  My tennis team wanted to see the first match, which guaranteed us Bjorn Borg on the court.  My parents and son wanted to see the Championship Final, no matter who was playing.  I volunteered to get tickets for both events.  To get tickets for the Final, I had to use Ticketmaster.  I went online, selected the event and the price range per ticket, and Ticketmaster chose the seating location.  If you don’t like the location, you can try again, but you’ll get the same tickets.  Oh, and they’re going to tack on a $9.35 convenience fee and a $2 processing fee.  To each ticket.  I didn’t like the location so I decided to take an extra step and call instead.  This way I could talk to a human.  Wrong!  I got an automated voice menu with the same procedure:  when do you want to go, how much do you want to spend, here are your tickets.  If you don’t like them you can reject them, go through the entire selection process again, and get offered the same tickets.  If you reject them twice, you are notified that if you reject the third offer you will be disconnected.  I hoped the third time I would be offered different tickets.  I wasn’t.  I was disconnected.  Back online to take what I could get, unhappy with the seat location and the price.  Thanks, Ticketmaster!

A week later I had a final headcount for my teammates and went online again to order more tickets.  I was prepared for the lousy experience and obnoxious fees, but this time I needed 11 tickets, and Ticketmaster has a limit of 8 per transaction.  And if you go in again to order more they’ll cancel everything, even the order you already placed.  I understand this is to thwart scalpers, but an alternative suggestion would have been helpful.  Luckily I had received a brochure in the mail and I noticed a number to call for Group Discounts of 10 or more.  Good thing I wasn’t ordering 9 tickets!  I spoke to Sarah, a real human.  She was friendly, helpful, and thorough.  She called me back when I had questions.  She told me how to view the seating chart online so I could pick the seat location before buying the tickets.  I didn’t have to pay the $9.35 processing fee because I offered to pick them up at the box office and she said that was fine but she would be happy to mail them.

To sum up:  Box Office:  real human, participated in selection process, positive experience.  Ticketmaster:  no human interaction, no options, no fun.  And I got to pay Ticketmaster a total of $36 in “convenience” fees.  I guess it’s convenient for them to charge customers for nothing.


Now Let Us Praise….Alpaca

Sometimes something unexpectedly good comes along in life…achance discovery…something that has been around for ages…that changeseverything for the better. That’s how it is with me and alpaca.  I have a new enjoyment of crisp fall weatherwith my black and camel ruana (aka cape) made of alpaca – so cozy, such lovelydrape.  Thanks to alpaca, my attitude andappreciation of cold weather is so much different than it was. A winter walk isso pleasant with an alpaca layer under my coat that will keep me warm but notsuffocate or overheat. Freezing temperatures inside the rink?  Alpaca keeps the body temperature just right,without getting too bulked out.  Alightweight cardigan takes the chill off while sitting at the keyboard.  And it looks good.


Once a true luxury item (prized by Inca rulers), alpaca ismore affordable and more accessible than ever, and green (alpaca live lightlyon the land).  It’s used more and more inblends with other fabrics.  Even some ofthe higher end, “wearable art” sweaters from Peru trickle down eventually to TJMaxx and Marshall’s, where they might sell for less than thirty dollars by theend of the season.  The best garments areprobably still made in South America, (Millma in Bolivia),or a number of places in Peru.These are not cheap, and deservedly so. Well constructed, lasting, and oftenincorporating ethnic designs not only of Native and Hispanic culture, butcultures from other parts of the world. Or modern, or fanciful.  In anycase, pieces that are nice to touch, functional in terms of comfort and warmth,not mass produced, and of natural origins. What more can you ask?


Alapaca has such a romantic history, not least because italmost disappeared from the planet.  Itwas only the efforts of a few Inca survivors who herded alpaca to the highermountain regions to save them from destruction from the Conquistodors, whopreferred sheep. The indigenous population kept the animals and the weavingalive, but relatively unrecognized, until late in the industrial revolution, inpart because it took a long time to develop the technology to weave the alpaca fiber.  Slowly, as ethnic culture became moreappealing in the sixties and seventies, alpaca hats, gloves, scarves caught onwith the hippie set, and then more into main stream. At the same time, Americanfarmers started keeping alpacas, appreciating their docile nature as well asthe high quality of the fibers.  Perhapsnot yet an explosion, but more people are discovering alpaca as an alternativeto wool, more lightweight, and not itchy – really perfect for layering, and forindoor spaces that are kept reasonably warm in cold winter months.


Plus the beauty.  Iremember perusing a Peruvian Connection catalog at one point, taken with thebeauty of the clothing, especially the alpaca sweaters and coats: the textures,the patterns, the colors, so substantial. The prices, however, were more than I would pay.  Then, one day, I saw a friend of mine frombook group wearing a colorful alpaca cardigan – so lovely. I had a chance totouch it and see it up close, and I was taken. So, through EBay I began my search for affordable alpaca, and in time, Ihad a selection of four or five pieces that I have worn and relished.  One in soft cream with delicate embroidery.  Another with a fuzzy texture, a SouthwestIndian pattern in black, rust and turquoise. A third that features the animal designs of the Nazca Plain. And myruana! 


I’ve never been one to love clothes – I use them untilthey’re worn, or else pass them on – but I’m fond, very fond, of myalpaca. 


Thrift Shop Fever

“Our Lady of the Cape”, “The Sea Captains Thrift Shop”, “The Emerald House”, “High Hopes” “The Rainbow’s End”, “The Second Coming”: the thrift shops of Cape Cod have charming ,evocative, sometimes humorous names. There is even a brochure available, “Touring the Thrift Shops of Cape Cod,” updated and expanded in 2009 – a banner year for the thrift shop business. On the occasion of a 50% sale, or fill a bag for$3.00 sale, the parking lots can get crowded, elbows bumping as patrons make their way through the racks.  For the last few years, when my sister Sheila and her family come to visit us in Falmouth, a few trips to the area thrift shops are always in order.  This year, like others, we stopped in Falmouth, Mashpee and Centerville to find our treasurers, and once more, were not disappointed: used hardcovers for my sister, an Armenian ceramic plate made in Jerusalem for me. The Cape offers some special things, clothing, décor, housewares, much of it with nautical designs. The items come from the usual places – churches, hospitals –but also from the down-sizers, the wealthy second-homers, or sometimes the year-rounders cleaning house or looking for extra cash in spare times.  

 My sister is new to the game: she looks through the clothing, but particularly likes frames, tins, prints, old jewelry, things shecan use for her card-making and scrap-booking projects. Her twelve-year old daughter, Jessie, joins us to find that unique hat or tee shirt that no one else will have, or to collect materials for some of her art projects – a colander that can be turned into a turtle, for example. Last year she spent a few days with artist Susan Beardsley, maker of marvelous creations from scrap materials– sometimes, literally from the dump – what is called “found art”, discovering the joy of reusing and recycling old stuff.         

Me, I’m an old timer at this enterprise. My older sister, Maura, and I, were denizens of thrift shops for many, many years during college and then after.  Some of my most precious garments were thrift shop finds – a cream colored, beaded cardigan, a fringed red “flapper dress” perfect for a Halloween costume.  For a while, I was content with Marshalls/TJ/Maxx – the prices were almost as good, and the same excitement of hit or miss.  Then, it was all the same, and a lot of it was not good quality. I sought out our local thrift shop “Wearovers”that is stuffed to the rafters with good quality, well-designed clothes, JJill and LlBean, Talbots, etc. a few years old, but in good condition. And, more to the point, better fitting, in many cases, especially the pants – the newer style hipsters, while I can wear them, I don’t care to — makes me feel that I’m trying to hide my age. Now, I stop regularly, and I’ll go there first, if I’m looking for a pair of navy pants, or gray shorts, or a periwinkle sweater.  There is, for me, a kind of nostalgia,for the time when I could not afford a nice dress or coat at a department store; it just wasn’t possible. But at the thrift shop, there was always hope.

 It’s clear to me that recreational shopping is important fora lot of people, and that some people are truly addicted to shopping for the high – of the find, or the great bargain, or just seeing some new possibility for themselves, their look.  That, of course, is the appeal of Walmart, or Christmas Tree Shop, and they have their place. But for the unexpected, for the satisfaction of using and reusing something of value, and for the pleasure of thinking who might have chosen this item and lived with it, there’s no place like the thrift shop.


It's All Happening…at the Mall

“Mom, we have to get a birthday present for tomorrow.” Dreaded words.  Yes, we are once again shopping last minute (because there are no invitations; our sons’ social events are arranged by Facebook, text message or word-of-mouth, parents last to know).  But also, like it or not, this means a trip to the mall, the land of Pac Sun, Lids, Abercrombie & Fitch, Game Stop, or Customer Service for a generic gift card. 

 I’m not a mall shopper; OK, I’m not much of a shopper, period.  But I have mall issues: the parking, the lighting, walking the hard surfaces for long hurts my back.  I’m not prone to headaches, but I sometimes get them at the mall.  The choices are overwhelming, the displays too commercial, lack of service, long lines and artificial shortages (can you say Wii?)  I see there is some upside – a warm place to walk on cold days, somewhere to meet friends – perhaps, at best, Hemingway’s, (somewhat) clean, well-lighted place.”

 My main objection is that there are too many people in pursuit of unnecessary objects.  There are no basics like groceries, medicine, or shelter.  Even clothing can be bought at other places, for the same or better prices.  The mannequins are blank and soulless, wearing clothes that are always new and clean, while the rest of us look like slobs in our worn jeans and winter jackets. Not only that, so many of the current fashions don’t seem to suit the shape or style of mere humans. The shoppers don’t appear happy and relaxed; either strained or on a mission.  If shopping is a compulsion or addiction, the high doesn’t appear to last very long.

 I worry that if Martians appeared on Earth and chose to light down at the mall, they would form a misleading and undignified impression of us humans, scurrying about like mice, in random patterns, seeking pointless goods.  If they studied us, what would they make of the restless, seemingly illogical movements?  Would they find us irrational, trying to fill a hunger that cannot be satisfied by the activity we are embarked upon, and in some cases, makes us more depressed, and apt to feel dissatisfied with ourselves –leading to a trip to the food court for pizza to make ourselves feel better? 

 But then, ah, the food court!  When I despair of the mall, I’m strangely cheered by the thought of the food court.  The wide open spaces, with stalls all around – how like a bazaar from the old world.  Loud, echoing conversations, and tantalizing smells – samples of exotic and ethnic cuisine, at very inexpensive prices. Families, children, teens, sales clerks and workers from the neighboring companies – nurses, fund managers, computer engineers, all dropping in for a quick bite at the food court.  In our own Burlington Mall, there is a veritable United Nations of eaters gathered in this one, low-brow, democratic arena.  There is the table of guys from Sun Microsystems: Chinese, Indian, African and townie, all out for lunch on a nice spring day. A woman chatters to her girlfriend in Spanish, as she feeds bread to the baby in the stroller.  The old Chinese couple is having pizza today, and the vegetarian co-eds are eating Indian food. Peaceful, it is not, a lively buzz of conversations in many different languages fills the air, and the little ones, after they’ve eaten, like to run around. But mostly, at the end, the people gather their plates and cups and dump them in the trash.  A need has been satisfied.  People of many races and creeds have sat together and apart in this one great dining room.  Here is utopia, at the food court. Welcome, Martians.