Flowers in California

Flowers in California

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Maybe Not Such an Ugly Little Strip Mall After All

I went with my husband to buy spices today.  I stayed outside in the truck because I have nothing to contribute to spice-buying decisions.  For most of the time waiting, I looked at and played on my phone.  Yes, I needed a toy to keep me occupied.

The spice store is situated in a strip mall that might win the prize for "Ugliest Strip Mall in the World" (Now that would be a competition!  I have seen some strong contenders.)  There is nothing physically appealing about the building and some of the stores seem almost to make an effort to be ugly.  I don't think there are empty stores though and things keep humming along, year after ugly year.

Despite my intense concentration on my phone, I noticed some things as I sat there today.  For one thing, and this was difficult to ignore, there was very loud music coming from somewhere.  It was difficult to pinpoint where until a door opened and I realized it was coming from a church that is in the mall.  Someone from the church came outside to talk on his phone and the music became even louder.  Soon a woman came outside with two small children.  Maybe the music had become too much for them or maybe they had become too much for the music.  (I take my hat off to these kids if they had been too disruptive in that environment.  It was very loud.)  Regardless, within this building which I consider ugly, an active, enthusiastic church was functioning.  It didn't sound like the parishioners were troubled by the appearance of their place of worship.  They had created beauty within it.

I also noticed a beautiful sunflower picture hanging in a store window.  A scrapbooking store has opened and I guess the owners are trying to make it look somewhat nice.  I know that some scrapbookers really love their craft and hope that they too can look past the appearance of the mall.  As rent cannot be high in that place, low prices might make it easier to do that.  I hope it does well.

I wondered, as I looked at the sunflower picture in the context of the whole setting, if it did make things nicer.  It is only one picture.  Amidst the ghastly signs in store windows and the aging stores themselves, it looked out of place.  Maybe, though, it's a small sign of things to come.  Maybe one day, there will be more beauty at that mall.  Maybe it doesn't matter as long as the rents stay low.

Despite the fact that it's nice to be and shop and do anything in nice surroundings, I wonder how much difference it makes.  I started reading a book yesterday called "The Architecture of Happiness."  I haven't gotten far yet but, as one would expect, it's about how the architecture of buildings can affect happiness.  I doubt it would advocate ugly strip malls for the promotion of well-being.  If the parishioners of the church, and the shoppers and vendors in the mall are pleased with how things are going, though, I don't think there is a problem with this little shopping centre.  It serves a variety of purposes and it seems to do fine.  It's got a fun bowling alley too.

While this little structure won't win any architectural awards for beauty, perhaps it should win some for its function and simplicity.  You can accomplish a number of things there, including buying spices.  And I did really well playing a game on my phone.  I suppose that's not really related to the mall but I was excited.


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