Sunday, October 08, 2006

A Palm Beach Story

The world is your oyster and the trashbags are your kids

For the longest time, we thought it was going to be a mall. One of those world beaters, like the Mall of America, something that would turn our little bedroom community into a real travellers' destination, an honest-to-goodness exurb on the map.

So it was with some degree of surprise that we saw one day that the work was done. The parking lot brimmed with cars as far as our binoculars could see. It was no mall. It was a single retail outlet. It was a SuperTarget (pronunciation guide: Soup-er-tar-szzzshz-AY).

Here I have to beg the reader’s indulgence to make a confession. I'd hoped to produce a small contribution to the Webfestschrift organized by Albert Ruesga of White Courtesy Telephone in honor of the Happy Tutor, the presiding spirit of the nest of scurrility and badinage known to the unwashed as Wealth Bondage. I’d been planning to do something political, full of resonant phrases, arch attitude, crackling wit, Berubean irony, all of course laced with various casual instances of captatio benevolentiae, than which no rhetorical device is more needful for effective blogging. (Of course you, genial lecteur, need no servile pointer to some googlefied decantation of this hallowed rhetorical term.)

Alas! I am here to say I will fail the FestchriftarbeitsgabeGeschenkpackungenliederfest; I will be, if not absent to the virtual gathering, somewhat more than faintly unpresent, sort of, shall we say, as though it were, comme on dit, a ghost of a diacritical mark sous rature; the time is short, and much remains to be done to put my earthly affairs in ordnung, as Rene Wellek used to say, with Czech witz, over a stein of Pike's Ale to a gaggle of admiring grad students at the Yale and Quail Club. The tutor surely recalls those days with a fondness equaled only, if at all, by my own.

But enough of that. Since some time ago when I and my family entered SuperTarget until this moment, nothing has been quite the same. If I do not recount my experiences in a manner that comes across as entirely coherent, I take comfort in the assurance that The Tutor will surely understand.

We had little sense of the dimension of the store other than the obvious: it was a large building – so large that it was impossible to gauge where, or when, it ended. I was reminded of a remark of that famous Dallas-Fort Worth worthy, Sallust:
To one familiar with mansions and villas reared aloft on such a scale that they look like so many towns, it is instructive to visit the temples built by our godfearing ancestors.
Anyway, we knew the other entrance wasn’t close when we saw the tollbooth marked “SuperTarget West Entrance: Onramp to SuperHighway.” We opted for the nearer door. After a day or so of aimless meandering, we spotted an emaciated woman heading for a Honda Fit. In our joy to grab her parking space, our Hummer ran over her and her Fit.

The half-mile walk to the peoplemover left us dehydrated under the torrid Florida sun. As soon as we were aboard, red-shirted SuperTarget Team Members sprayed us down with aromatic tubes filled with rose blossoms. Also, we were each given a small photo of I.F. Stone supping with his wife, Esther, at the Waldorf Astoria. Standing in ranks and files, we were carried over a wide moat and into the store.

I will skip our early adventures – they are hazy, and presented the sort of thing any Guest is likely to encounter upon first entering a SuperTarget. I recall the slightly disorienting sense that people were there because they knew that something in the universe had changed – some foundational tumbler had moved, setting in motion arcane forces they could never hope to understand. They moved amid flat-panel TVs as if rehearsing for Christmas shopping. “Today is all about us,” one guest was overheard to say. In the radio section, Sonys and Emersons were tuned to a station that was advertised as doing a live spot elsewhere in the store. We thought it odd that the reception was so poor, until one Team Leader explained that the live feed was over in hardware -- too far for the signal to arrive as anything more than a cracked shadow of itself.

After that, we picked up our pace. I was due for surgery on the following day – an effort to open up some blocked arteries. It wouldn’t be well if we were to be delayed at checkout.

Swiftly we transited the aisles. We figured we’d return for Halloween rubbish – maybe by then there’d be some last minute discounts. We zoomed through men’s apparel, noting that there seemed to be more formal attire than in regular Targets, or even Target Greatlands. Of course every man in Florida needs a few dark suits with the Silas Haslam label. By the time we reached Aisle L.243, we wondered how much more of the store there was. We’d heard there was a grocery, but that was a section we’d not seen. We were looking to find a Team Member to ask when, the next aisle over, about halfway down, we made out the words DOUANE/CUSTOMS. We weren’t asked for passports that day, but were told that in the future, we should always bring them with us, as the Province of Quebec was considering taking a harder line with USians seeking to enter and shop. From that point on, every item was marked in English and French, and priced in US and Canadian dollars.

Time passed. I gave no further thought to my surgery. We began to develop a sense of the scope of the enterprise as, over the following days, we came upon small enclaves of human beings who had given up the idea of ever leaving SuperTarget. Loosely joined small groups watched ball, listened to Ipods, or gave birth. No one seemed upset, really. When asked, they offered vague, unfocused ideas about where they were from, or how long they’d been in SuperTarget. One man told us he’d found out that this store alone employed more Team Members than are employed by the governments of the states it traversed. Officials in Georgia, Tennessee and West Virginia had motions before their legislatures which would declare those states to be departments within SuperTarget. If passed, all public activity would cease, and citizens who were unwilling or unqualified to be Guests or Team Members would either have to relocate to another state, or be barcoded to be put on Clearance.

We grew weak. Our shopping cart -- we'd chosen one in the Dumpster style, in fond memory of the Tutor -- was piled ever higher, and grew heavy. We rolled past entire neighborhoods now where Canadian Mobsters – all Tony Randall lookalikes – controlled access to the wares. Guests had to pay protection just to make it safely through the aisles. We could see SWAT teams staging pantomime raids in Lingerie and Pets. The smell of reefer wafted through Infants. Unsavory short men with long cigars tried to sell us seats to some bloggers' conference featuring Jon Husband taking place in Shoes. Lights began to dim and blink in Jewelry. Armed with interpreters and megaphones, police departments debated jurisdiction. Large peoplemovers piled high with shackled Guests sped down mega-aisles into the vanishing distance.

I stepped on a scale in Housewares, and discovered that I had lost 50 pounds – beating BMO by a bunch without even trying. One of the children ran off with a Lumberjack from Saskatoon. Paratroopers beat a man to death in Linens. I pass over many things in silence.

Only this morning were we able to find a peoplemover with room sufficient for what remained of our family. It took us and our Dumpster-sized cart to a check-out where we barely had enough funds left in our Net Worth Account to consume that which our Guesting had Guested us to, uh, Guest. I should mention that by this time, I was pretty damned near unrecognizeable. With the weight loss, the French elan, and a passion for clothes that bore the face of my soul, in fact, I looked like this (click image to enlarge):

Had I not had to use my card, they'd never have nabbed us. They discovered that we were wanted in Florida on charges of abandoning a car, a doublewide, a dog, a pickup, a blog, and yes, they’d even found evidence to charge me with reckless abandonment of a certain Webfestschrift. I wasn’t surprised. It had only been a matter of time. Not that it much mattered. We were tired, sick, emaciated, grizzled, and bankrupt. It was over for us, we'd never see Florida, or the Tutor, again. Look Homeward, Angel. We turned and headed back for Aisle P.2534: Gift Registries and Funerary Offerings for the Consumed. Under the circumstances, it was the least we could do.


Blogger Michael said...

I would like to extend an invitation to you to join in on a collective blogging section of our upcoming winter issue of Reconstruction. The issue is the “Theories/Practices of Blogging.” In addition to the special section of posts on blogging there will be about a dozen essays on blogging.

The deadline is October 27th.

Our intent in this section of the issue will be to collect a wide range of bloggers and link up to their statements in regards to why they blog (something many of us are asked) and any statement they have on the theories/practices of blogging.

If you already have a post on this you can feel free to use it, or, if you are interested, you can submit a new one.

We will link to each statement from the issue at our site, with the intent of creating a hyperlinked list of statements on blogging that can serve as an introduction to blogging (or an expansion of knowledge for those already blogging).

If you are interested please contact me at mdbento @

10/09/2006 11:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks thivai - I'll email you - tom

10/09/2006 8:22 PM  
Blogger Jon Husband said...

When la famille are tired of SuperTargét, there's always West Edmonton Mall (The World's Largest Shopping and Entertainment Centre) left to wander in and check out. I believe there's even a blogging section now.

I also understand there are now direct flights from the mall's roof top to Palm Beach, Palm Springs, Honolulu and Madison Avenue ... and they will even take your US greenbacks at par.

10/10/2006 10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every mall could use a board of directors like this.

10/10/2006 1:13 PM  

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