Friday, June 24, 2016

All For A Mall

Everyone has their list of the craziest things they've ever done. Remember Felicity? Keri Russell, circa 1998? She changed majors and colleges just so she could skippitydee off to New York to be near her crush. And there was this one time I took a Greyhound bus across half the United States just so I could (well, eventually) see Dean Cain play in a charity basketball game in St. Louis. In my lifetime, I have gone many different places and done many odd things.

But I have never, ever, traveled 1,000 miles (by car, no less) to go to a mall.

A shopping mall.

Where there are stores.

That is, until last week.

The fact of the matter is, I love Canada. There's something about its another-country-ness that fills me with feelings of severe bliss. Writer David J. Litvak recently referred to my condition as "Canadian Envy;" he wrote that this envy is especially rampant in Oregonians, for some reason... of which I am one. "Whenever Oregonians find out that I'm Canadian," he wrote (The Globe and Mail, 25 August 2005) "they look wistfully toward British Columbia with a glazed look in their eyes and express a desire to move to that great blue country to the North of them." This is SO true!

It was my disdain for the Bush administration that first got me seriously thinking pro-Canada, but I've always been partial to the country that gave us Michael J. Fox, Sarah Polley, Caroline Dhavernas, and Anne of Green Gables (and, by default, Jonathan Crombie). Plus they have bears there, bears that roam free. I have this weird thing for bears.

Crossing the border to Canada: GET US OUT OF HERE!

So when I got this chance to go to Canada -- specifically, Alberta -- I took it. I've been to Canada twice before -- to Victoria, B.C., which is a city you approach by ferry and then spend your day wandering around, shopping. Victoria caters to tourists of all shapes and sizes. It's nice and all, but I really didn't feel that my two trips to Victoria had really shown me the true scope of Canada. No... seeing the true scope of Canada -- that would involve driving a thousand miles to visit the world's largest shopping mall.

Edmonton, Alberta -- home of the mall to end ALL malls, the West Edmonton monstrosity. I suppose at this point, I could dig up a tour book and start spouting statistics, or link you to some website that has fun facts such as "The mall is home to 531 stores!" or whatnot, but I won't. Let's just say -- big. Bigger than YOUR local shopping mall (nya nya, etc.) Anyway, I'll just show you some pictures of the West Edmonton Mall and talk about it because let's face it, statistics are boring and pictures are cool.

Okay, so about this mall... it's got the usual mallish shopping establishments. The place may be Canadian, but they have lots of American stores, plus some British ones as well. My favorite being FCUK (French Connection U.K.), with their T-shirts that say "I'd FCUK myself!" Hahaha... or did I just imagine those T-shirts? Oh well. They even have a Build-a-Bear, complete with a stock of Britishy clothes for your stuffed loved one.

Actually, there's a lot of British stuff in Canada, which makes total sense, but whatever. Princess Diana and Prince William merchandise is everywhere. Meanwhile, Harry gets the old ignorical boot, poor kid. PRINCE Harry. Who'd you think I meant, the wizard? Yeah, well... who's more famous? Right -- Potter. So if you are into the wizard known as Harry, you can find the UK covers on all the books and stuff, but not much else. Not that I was... looking for stuff... or anything.

Ah, heaven! I want candy -- and those pez dispensers. This was one of two such stores at this mall, stocked full of jelly bellies and other items of sugary goodness, priced by the kilogram. Which reminds me. Traveling from the U.S. to Canada is a box of wackiness because you have to convert everything all of a sudden. Litres, kilometres, Celcius... like Alice through the rabbit hole, your mind boggles to the extreme. And then it falls out. Oh, and how about that whole CANADIAN MONEY thing? What's that about? And how come they have $2 coins and we don't? And why do they have royalty and prime ministers and stuff? Why do we just get a boring old president? I want a queen and a minister who is prime!

Darn this Canadian envy.

Back to the mall. So you're not into shopping -- no problem. The "lake" area of the complex boasts submarines, bumper boats, a live show tank for seals, a pirate ship, an aquarium, and flamingo and penguin exhibits.

Doug, a female penguin.

With animal shows throughout the day, one always has means of visual entertainment. If you're not an animal person, you can hike upstairs to the IMAX theater, or see a live play starring a Captain Jack Sparrow lookalike. (Because everyone loves a faux Depp... um, yeah!)

You'll also find two miniature golf courses at this mall -- one lit completely with black lights and decorated with neon craziness!

Hungry? They've got an entire section of the mall devoted to Italian cuisine, plus two other food courts.

So it's the dead of winter and you're bored in Alberta -- what to do? How about you visit the indoor water park, complete with a wave pool and speed slides? Not good enough? How about an amusement park?

Dozens of rides to choose from -- and in true carnivalistic spirit, they all cost ten bucks to ride! But no worries -- watching people get flipped upside-down and go zipping along at 90 kilometres per hour is almost as fun as being on the ride yourself.

Well, here's some mall amusement that you don't even have to pay for...! So it's slightly distasteful -- so what? Chalkboards in the bathroom stall! So, like, is this supposed to deter would-be graffiti artists, or is it to prevent people from being bored while... no, nevermind... ew.

Goofy people.

Coffee kiosks, souvenir shops, a Chinese bakery, a post office, a furniture store, card shops, clothing stores, candy stores... this mall has everything but a Hot Topic. It really is a very nice mall.

Is it worth traveling so far to visit? That depends on how much you enjoy any of the things I mentioned above. And the lack of those things in your hometown. Me? I could have probably been satisfied by a trip to our local mall. At least OUR Taco Time has crisp bean burritos, thank you very much (except NOT!), Canada! Yeah, so my Canadian envy ends at the food court. Their KFC's don't have cole slaw or mac & cheese, and their Taco Bells don't have tostadas!

On the bright side, if you have a craving for escargot, it's not hard to come by here.

Ah, Venice Canada! 

This article was originally published on my old website on September 1, 2005.

No comments: