Dead in Danville

A few days before New Years 2012, I dragged my gal to the Automotive Museum in Danville, California. It wasn’t so much the vintage Ferrari’s and Maserati’s that lured me as it was the European Model Train exhibit. And, ‘ah’... if only things could be as simple and humanized as those displays of yore, where villages actually contained differentiated individuals, stores, cars and trains, all exhibiting their articulated demarcations of character.

The contrasting realities with 2012 are, however, starkly plain, as soon as one begins to negotiate the labyrinthian parking lots that pave the access to this mall to end all malls. Although there may be bigger, more spectaularized ones, nothing I’ve seen has come close to epitomizing the utter blandness and insipidity of modern American consumer culture than this choreographed testament to spiritual death.

And I do say, if I may, that the manicured Christmas trees, and astounding array of ponds, fountains, ducks and swans adorning the clichéd, non-descript storefronts, all suggested good ol' fashioned goodness, and sanitized cheer. Instead, what I felt what can only be described as a surreal sense of being caught in the midst of a mallsaleum, where the only spontaneity was to be found in the number of quacks per minute or swan-winged spreads one could spot as we traversed the paths leading to one generic, vapid shopfront after another.

I could easily have been convinced that this was a burial ground for some of Danville’s finest, rather than a place to revel in the joys of the Christmas season. It was only upon reaching Starbuck’s that I realized life did exist in this complex of Prozacian wonderlands....well, sort of.

Weary from the trek through the museum and the walk around the mall, looking for signs of sentient life, I found the buzz of America’s most familiar coffee house a bit of a relief. In fact, there appeared to be more definitive human creatures in this one caffeinated spot, celebrating what appeared to be a respite from the inanimate environs of the shopping center, than there appeared to be in the entire mega-market, theatre, and all.

As I sat there, eyes half shut, I could hear the cacophonous chatter of the caff-heads yakking full blast. Yes, this is where the ‘real America’ doth dwell. Even the ubiquitous laptops could not quench the rumble of blabber coming at me in octaphonic surround sound. Despite the ambient racket, certain phrases were quite discernible...mainly beginning with ‘I’ and moving on to ‘want,’ or ‘need,’ with several 'apps,' making their way through the sonic boom of it all.

Sitting and sipping, I started to dwell on the meaning of our afternoon in the afterlife at the mallsaleum. Even the vintage cars and the wondrous model trains with their meticulously detailed landscapes were part of a testament to an expired era. After all, where other than the mallsoleum, should such an exhibit, where deceased automobiles meet archaic hobbies... live and die, as the case may be?

As for the good people of Danville: I have no idea what goes on beyond the borders of the ponds, fountains, and vanilla fantasyland of that mallifilous experience. And I don’t mean to cast aspersions on a population that harbors a hefty percentage of doctors. After all, it is they who keep us alive, though after a trip to the Danville Mallsaleum, one can never be quite sure.

~Marc Twang


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