My Suburban Vacation

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I am a New Yorker. A true New Yorker – born and raised in the city (well, born in Manhattan, raised in Queens, which are all part of New York City proper, so I guess it’s just semantics). And every chance I had as a high schooler, I would hop on a bus or a subway, and eventually into my rusted old white 1978 Toyota Corolla (that I’d bought for $50 bucks) to cruise into my beloved Manhattan at a maximum of 55 miles per hour – beyond which the car would start to shake. I went away to college, but came right back to the city to live in a tiny studio apartment with a roommate, which was all I could afford, but was so adament about living in Manhattan that I preferred living in a shoe box with a roommate over living in my own fully furnished basement at my parents’ nice big comfortable home out in Queens. Then a job offer (and, who am I kidding, a man) swept me out to the west coast – San Franciso, to be exact - but after about three and half years, back to NYC I returned. All this to say that I’m so much of a New Yorker that, despite how close it is, crossing the Hudson River to go to New Jersey is something I agressively avoid. There is a series of reasons why I am not a huge fan of the place - not the least of which is the weekly trips I would take with my parents from Queens over two bridges and hours of traffic to get there to visit family and friends, but whatever the reason, it’s not my favorite thing to do. And I’m not a New York snob, really! Well, maybe I am a little, but there’s just something about New Jersey…

So imagine my dismay when I had to spend five days straight in the Garden State this past week. I decided to put my 2 year old daughter in a highly lauded one-week summer day camp that happened to be located in New Jersey, so I took a week off from work to make it happen. (I know, what was I thinking?) And each day involved waking up early, getting us all ready, hopping in the car and heading out of the city to drop her off, and then literally having to find things to do IN NEW JERSEY for about 6 hours before picking her up and heading back home. (Driving back home in the morning would have been suicide, given the rush hour traffic heading into the city, so I had no choice). So, inevitably, I found myself in the one place that all suburban Americans find themselves when they have free time on their hands: the mall.

I spent a good amount of time last week at not one, but two malls – or “mawls” as the locals call them, and it was beyond amusing listening to the hard core New Jersey accents and observing the countless stay-at-home-moms strolling around with their kids, heading into the various mall-eclusive shops that I find to be an interesting phenomenon. While I did get some solid shopping hours in, I definitely reached my quota for the month – rather, year – of suburban mall time.  And fortunately I did manage to take a few road trips that were close enough to accomplish in the short 5-6 hour window that I had each day.

So with all my time spent in malls, I was of course reminded of some films in which malls were the backdrop to many memorable scenes… let’s recap them here, shall we?

This movie must come up around the People’s Choice offices more than anywhere else in the world, but it’s got some pretty memorable mall scenes, or so I’ve heard, since I haven’t actually seen the movie myself (to my colleagues’ shock and horror). The movie is Mean Girls. And apparently Lindsay Lohan and crew spent quite a good amount of time at the mall - one of the scenes involves her actually picturing the people around the water fountain (a staple in any good mall) as animals convened around a watering hole. Sounds oddly intriguing, and while probably not the best part of the film, it’s undoubtedly the only time in the history of film that a scene like that has ever taken place! I know, I know, I clearly need to watch the movie.

Then there is Clueless. Another classic that probably comes up in this blog more times than any other film. The most notable scene – besides all the shopping ones - is the one where Ty is held upsidedown off the ledge and is saved by Christian; arming her with a “near death” experience which she cleverly milks among her high school peers to work her way up the social ladder, eventually surpassing Cher as the most popular girl in the school.

On to one of my favorites: Juno. I bet you can’t think of the mall scene off the top of your head, but it’s when Juno runs into Jennifer Garner’s character - who is set to adopt Juno’s baby – and lets her feel him/her kick. Garner delivers an incredibly believable performance of a prospective adoptive mom trying to connect with her future child in any way she can, and the look on her face when she actually feels the baby kick encompasses so much joy, hope and awe all rolled into one –  it brings tears to my eyes every time!

And last but not least, there is Mallrats. The whole film takes place in a mall (in none other than New Jersey!) so it’s hard to pinpoint a single notable scene. To be honest, it’s hard to believe that Kevin Smith shot a whole film in a mall and somehow managed to create a funny movie about college boy shenanigans that kept me engaged for an hour and a half. And I’m not the only one considering the film did develop quite the cult following. While you’d think that would have been the end of all mall movies, there have been several made since then, so he must have been onto something… and I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of them.

So voice your choice in today’s featured poll and tell us which of these movies with memorable suburban mall scenes is your favorite?

Clueless
Juno

Mallrats
Mean Girls

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