When I was around 16-18 years old, there was a time when I was really into hanging out at the mall. I went there pretty much every single weekend, it was my favorite place to be. That’s where I made a lot of awesome alternative styled friends, and defined myself in large part. But there was a lesser known time before that, an earlier time in my life, when I had a similar bout of mall fever.
I was probably around 12, smack dab in the middle of middle school. My favorite show was Inuyasha, even though I couldn’t even stay awake to watch the new episodes half the time. I’d be waiting on the couch late at night, and fall asleep just a few minutes before the airing, only to wake up an hour or two later and realize I missed it. I would get sooo frustrated.
Anyway, back then the mall was a lot different. They still had my favorite shops, Toonmania, Games Workshop, and that one anime store downstairs. Back then I spent most of my time with Conor and Will, and we tore that mall up. We would always make a traditional stop at the candy store, and each get one of those jawbreakers, bigger than a fist. They were chalky and sweet, and we’d always keep them in the bag, so our hands wouldn’t get sticky. When they were small enough to fit in our mouth, we’d suck on them for a while, and then spit them back into the bag when we got bored.
Toonmania was the greatest. They had that wall of airsoft guns, (which, at the time were the greatest thing a kid our age could have), for us to gawk at. We’d always point out which ones were our favorite, noting that we were “definitely going to get something like that next week or something.” This was back when Naruto first came to the US, and we loved it. They had these Naruto ninja headbands, let me tell you what. I was the first one to get one and wear it to middle school one day. Within two weeks, everyone who was anyone had one, that shit spread like wildfire. This was before kids were dumbasses and couldn’t be trusted with real weapons, so they actually stocked these boxes of Naruto-themed metal shuriken and kunai knives, which were awesome as fuck. Each pack came with one shuriken and one knife, and we each bought a pack for a flat $20. That was the best $20 I ever spent, I got so many hours of enjoyment playing with those things. I used to experiment too, I would tie little strings through the center of the shuriken or the kunai handle, and make my own improvised weapons. I loved that place.
In the little downstairs anime/DVD store, there was so much cool shit. We would look on the back of all the anime DVDs, and read through all the mangas to see what was the next coolest thing for us. Conor found this fox hat on the floor and decided to buy it. Apparently, it was supposed to be wrapped up so he got it for half price, and Will and I made fun of him for buying an already-opened used hat. We always loved to try all of the foreign snacks, each new thing was an adventure. One of our favorites was the Japanese melon sodas. Not only did they taste awesome and new, they had a crazy way to open them too. There was no twist on twist off cap, there was a marble on the top that you had to push through the hole to open it, that was the funnest part. We would joke that the Japanese are so smart, they even solve puzzles just to open their drinks.
Then there was Games Workshop, the nerdiest place I’d ever been. We’d always laughed at the people who played it, but we thought all the figures looked pretty cool, especially the life sized Space Marine out front, (who I originally though was a Starcraft marine). One time we were looking around in there, when one of the staff asked if we wanted to learn how to play. We both said “no,” but for some reason he took that as “yes!” so he said “great! come over here and I’ll show you!” He then set Conor up as some Tyranids, and me up as some Space Marines. Then he took us step by step through how to massacre each other. It looked like I had the upper hand at first, but when one of Conor’s guys finally reached mine, all of my guys died in one turn.
Don’t even get me started on the catacombs (also known as the service hallways). We used to play hide and seek, with the entire mall as the boundaries. Will showed us how to navigate those hidden white tunnels, through the doors that look like emergency exits but really aren’t. Those were so crazy, it was like a scene out of Mirror’s Edge. Sometimes we’d find interesting things on the ground too, like what looked to be a homeless person’s camp. We’d always be amazed when we came out somewhere new back into the main part of the mall. I remember how nervous I was going down the elevator labeled “to compactor” but I went down anyway and ended up on the bottom floor.
One time I remember getting some Inuyasha playing cards, and then staying up all night with Conor in a secret bed-fort we made, playing a game we made up, similar to war but with hands of 7 cards and a bunch of crazy rules. The ultimate trump card I remember was Inuyasha-Eyes-Ultimate-Dragon, which made fun of the Yu-gi-oh card Blue Eyes White Dragon. It was formed when a player had three aces (which had pictures of Inuyasha on them), and combined them together.