city slickers

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Jake Gyllenhaal: The Fresh Air interview

On getting his first role as Billy Crystal’s son in City Slickers when he was 10:

“I remember I went to some sort of party with my parents and Billy Crystal was there and he saw me and he said, “Will he come in and read for this movie I have?” … I guess I must’ve been acting out — if you spent more time with me in real life you’d see I like to act out — and so I was making some fool out of myself. I think I remember what happened — he was leaving and I knew who he was and I picked up a chair from the table and I said, “Here, take this. This is your party favor.” That’s just me. It doesn’t make much sense, but he loved it and he thought it was really funny.”

Logansport Mall of the Dead

The other week, my lady friend took me on the mother of all perfect dates: a day trip to a (nearly) abandoned mall in the middle of a small town in rural Indiana. 

Now, a few things of note before we start this article, the first being that I’ve never had the guts to ever go urban exploring. I honestly don’t know how some people are able to sneak into old, boarded up buildings and take a downright ridiculous amount of beautiful photos before slipping away without getting caught by security. Knowing my luck with cops, they’d all be having a donut party inside the day I decided to sneak in. So as pansy as that makes me sound, I’ve never had the opportunity to explore an abandoned building, despite how much I’ve always wanted to.

Second, the lady friend told me up front that this mall only had a few stores left in it, but I, being the naive city slicker that I am, assumed that “a few” meant anywhere between six or eight. Surely a mall can’t survive with anything less than that, right?

Oh, dear readers, I had no idea.

My jaw actually dropped when I walked inside. The atmosphere of this place was downright bizarre; over hidden speakers, modern Top 40 music was blasting for absolutely no one, while the little remaining decor looked as if it hasn’t been touched since the mid-80s. Large metal gates covered every single window, with the faintest dusty outlines of store logos still somewhat visible overhead. This place was a dead zone, and yet the lights and the music continued to reassure me that it was still somehow open for business.

Almost all of the storefronts were simply sealed up and forgotten about. Kiosks were dusty and neglected. For me, the strangest sights were all of the empty vending machines. Even the ones that weren’t had old, washed out, long expired treats on the inside. I was half tempted to actually buy something from one of these machines and see what kind of time capsule would come out, but picking one that actually worked would’ve been a 50/50 gamble that probably wouldn’t have been worth the 25 cents.

It’s not as if this mall was doomed from the start, either. As we walked through, my lady friend kept giving me a sort of back-in-time tour of the place, pointing out where each store used to be. FYE, Walden Books, the food court, a little independent toy store…she painted a picture of a small-yet-fun mid-90s hang out spot. Alas, something happened, and now there are only a whopping three stores left: JC Penny’s, Dunham’s Sports, and a freaking GMC. Not exactly the hip place to chill during the summer anymore.

What remained of the food court was now hidden in shadows behind the busted fountain. A pair of shoes and some cleaning equipment indicated that there was a maintenance man wandering about who had the misfortune of being tasked to fix a broken fountain in the middle of an abandoned mall. Knowing he was roaming around somewhere in this giant empty wasteland made me feel a bit on edge, like a teenager in a bad slasher movie.

By the way, the fountain and the food court were directly placed in front of the most fascinating part of the entire mall, and the only place that housed even the saddest little spark of life: “The Amazing Space”.

“The Amazing Space” was a tiny little nook smack dab in the middle of the mall that acted as something of an arcade. The multicolored walls and flashing lights must’ve made this the go-to spot for kids back in the day, like a mini Chuck E. Cheese in the middle of a shopping center. 

Lights flashed and arcade cabinets beeped, but literally no one besides the two of us were around for these nostalgic sights and sounds. The radical narrator from Crazy Taxi tempted me over and over to sit down and crash through half of LA, but I decided against it on account of the fact that the seat looked like it had never been clean since its installation. 

Also, anyone else remember those terrifying “swinging clown” vending machines? We had two near my house growing up, and they always scared Little Steve’s Aladdin socks off. Fortunately for us, ol’ Ziggy up there wasn’t even plugged in on that day.

I think the most bizarre find of the day had to be this crane game. Upon first glance, these were cheaper-than-dollar-store-level plushes, with not a single licensed character to be found. However, looking through the right side window revealed one hell of a time capsule. 

Dora the Explorer was probably the most recent addition to this vending machine, because  right next to her were an original talking Taco Bell Chihuahua and an original Pound Puppy!

These three toys were so impossibly out of place within this claw machine that I’m actually beginning to think that the owners of “The Amazing Space” just filled it with whatever they could find in their basements and at various garage sales.

Soon the depressing nostalgia became a bit too much for us, and we decided to leave this ghost mall. But not before stumbling upon the greatest treasure that it had within its crumbling walls:

Surrounded by shadows and loneliness was a single child’s ride based on The Busy World of Richard Scarry. Does anyone else remember this franchise? I was obsessed with it as a toddler, and Lowly Worm was my character of choice. Again, though, Richard Scarry stopped being popular around the late ‘90s, and was practically driven into obscurity by the early 2000s. What was Lowly Worm and his apple car still doing greeting customers into this deserted mall?

I kind of wanted to pick it up and take it home with me. Absolutely no one would’ve bothered to stop me. 

So that was my trip to a practically abandoned shopping center. It was eerie, to say the least, and certainly more than a little depressing. I don’t want to get too political on RFR, but there was a big, shiny Walmart just across the street from this place, its parking lot practically full. If you can think of a better physical analogy to describe the fall of the American Dream, I’m not sure I’d even like to hear it.

Honestly, though, I kind of want to raise a glass to Logansport Mall. Despite literally every single thing going against it, it’s still trying to hang in there for as long as it can, providing nostalgia bloggers in the Midwest with article materials for a few more years.