Saturday, March 10, 2007

A sprawling city

My part time city has been the Westfield CT Post shopping center. I arrive at this pit stop midway through my morning commute before I catch my third bus of the day.
When I first started my travels to the Milford mall, it was a manageable size. Åt that time, I waited in the lower level at door #6. It was in the hollowed out portion of the parking lot. Outside, there were several white concrete benches and to the side were tall bushes, shrubs and trees that had several birds flying by. Also, the food court in the mall used to be on the upper level and was called the Skyview Cafe. It gave an elevated view to the surroundings and I could see them as I rode on the glass elevator. Beneath was a fountain and shoppers walked around it as they went through the mall.

Then a few years later, the mall underwent an expansion with an increase in the number of stores and restaurants. This led to a sprawl of the mall and there was a wall separating the new wing as the construction workers and contractors diligently worked on it. As the project neared the end of its completion, there were slits made in the wall and I could see the finishing work of the tiles being laid down and the final touches of paint being applied to the walls. At that time, the Skyview Cafe closed down and boarded up with a new food court established in the new wing. Even with the completion of this wing, long standing restaurants such as Knickerbockers and Mrs. Fields cookies are boarded up for establishments to be born. Usually, it takes about 3 to 9 months before something new is conceived and brought to life. It can be a mystery at times as to what the replacement will be before the walls come down. On the temporary walls, nearby stores and restaurants and the mall management advertise their products and services against a white and red background in the theme "always something new".
In this process, Borders, Dicks sporting goods and Target were added along with a 13 screen cineplex. A far cry from the original town hall feeling of a few stores in a shorter distance.
At the entrance is nothing dramatic or grandiose. A good collection of clothing outlets and stores and specialty shops plus the department stores and restaurants. A cross section of society that I can see within a good climate.
Each morning, a swarm of workers in their uniforms of red and black accompanied with the circular logo of the Çonnecticut Post are stationed at each end of the mall. The floor sweepers operate their machines making laps throughout the mall swirling up the dirt and foot steps from the prior days. At times, they leave behind a trace of liquid from their blades. Their machines make a whirring sound that is constant and ryhtmic.
Workers clean each of the tall doors and windows with their pail and squeegies. They even have razor blades to scrape off the accumulated dirt and gum that get stuck to the floor and rugs by the doors. Then there are the shop owners who are behind their enclosed stores getting inventory restocked and organized for the day ahead.
The other morning this week several construction workers were walking in to the police substation being built in a "BYOB" mode. No liquor license has been granted yet for the cops so they had to bring in their own bricks. No excemption could be made for the mall yet I guess.

This city is in constant flux with the birth and death of stores and restaurants. I have seen several leave over the years. Usually, there is no major fanfare when a store goes except for the occassional sales to draw customers in. When the Barnes and Noble left the mall, there were huge discounts of 30 to 50% off the purchase. For this three month sale, I left the mall happy with several large bags of books.

I get to see several of the morning regulars-the power walkers who make it their daily routine to walk throughout the mall in groups. At several of the tables and chairs throughout the mall, I see their jackets that have been laid aside so they can walk freely throughout. Around several of their waists are their sweaters and several wear walkmans and ipods around them as they journey throughout. I occassionally see my friend, Marge, from church. Usually, she meanders later in the morning, but I saw her yesterday. One of the walkers knew where I lived when I mentioned it to him since he delivered gas to the building across the street from me. And I ran into a couple other friends the other day when shopping in which it was good to see them prior to their becoming parents.

The ngithtime crowd is a little different from the morning crowd. There are a lot of teens and youngsters that hang out at the mall then after they get out of school. They too travel in packs but in a less friendly atmosphere. The morning walkers always say hi and how are you doing. But this gang of kids don't always have manners and are off to the food court to get a snack or catch a movie.
One of the regular pit stops for me is Panera Bread for my favorite bagel, the Cinnamon Çrunch with its crusty bits of cinnamon batter clustered heavily on top. This cozy corner of the mall is a comfort to me and it helps to lessen the blow of an exhauting commute as I sit by the fire and enjoy the bagel along with the other patrons as well. Several workers from the Ace ambulance company come in for their morning pick-me-ups.

Never did I think that I would be spending a good portion of my week living in the CT Post mall but luckily never overnight as Tom Hanks did in the movie of the Terminal. Leaving the lit space ship with its neon red and white lights overhead as I await for the GBTA bus to leave for Bridgeport from door #5.

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