Gods Below! I’m in a Star Trek Episode!

I am now sitting at a “coffee house” in the center of the Wyoming Valley Mall, Wilkes-Barre, PA, the Cafe Europa, it’s called.

To be “up the mall” (as it is spoken here) on a Friday, late morning, is to see how little has changed from what I remember, from how it was 20+ years ago when I would frequent the only place around that we kids could expect to just run into other friends. Spontaneity as a good, fun, safe buzz.

Oh, the stores are somewhat different, but the pillar stores remain in place. That Orange Julius at the corner near the Sears, the pizza joint advertising prices per “pie”, and how many “cuts” in a “pie”. Yes, pizzas have always been pies here, and slices are cuts.

And here, every question is asked with a certain timorous quality, shored up at the end with an “er no?”just to cover one’s bases, take less of a risk in offering one’s opinion. “Looks like it’s going to rain today? Er no?” “Goin’ up the mall today? Er no?”

The feet carry me on what seems to be a predesignated course. The store that used to be Pomeroy’s had become The Bon Ton long ago, but after I left, so I had no right to simply turn a corner and expect the men’s department to be in the same place. But it was!

LIttle stoppers like that often make me forget, for moment, when I am. And then A Long December by the Counting Crows plays in the background and I am shaken out of the temporal vertigo.

Ahh, but I do have my backpack with me, a gift for attending the 2001 Apple World-Wide Developer Conference (2002’s WWDC pack was not to my tastes). My trusty iBook is in it, along with my entire anti-boredom arsenal. I go almost nowhere without it. Back when Golds Gym in San Francisco had wireless internet, I even took my iBook there. It is my soul/dream/thought-catcher, and the ether has already claimed too many “brilliant’ fleeting thoughts as it is.

The backpack is the thing that grounds me in the present time. There was no such thing as a PowerBook back then. Not even a Macintosh at all! (perish the thought!) There was no iPod. No books about Cocoa. No Francesca Lia Block writing miracles of fiction, no FireWire cables. No cell phones.

While walking through a Kauffman’s department store, looking in vain for a swimsuit that’s any smaller than tent, that shows even the slightest hint of thigh, it occurred to me that I had my iBook against my back. And that strapped into my WWDC black backpack, I had on a sort of encounter-suit, replete with magnetic boots, breathable atmosphere and able to withstand alien pressures.

I laughed out loud then, garnering stares from retail folks—all straight!—and other customers for the spurious noise.

There are no friends of Dorothy here, by the way, but there are friends of A & F. That seems to have replaced a secret handshake. Oooooh, just wait until all the straight boys who “accidentally” tripped into A & F clothing discover what it all means.

And why am I even here, “up the mall”? Well, my folks are playing in a golf tournament today and I have their car. I’ve been driving around at random, seeing what seeing will bring in terms of memories. It was interesting.

I found myself “up the mall” to look for said swimsuit (Strike 1), and for a Pink Martini CD (two completely separate references within days of one another, to a band I had heretofore never heard of, compels me to buy it) Strike 2—I’ll have to wait until I get to NYC on Tuesday (a daytrip!) to pick it up, I guess.

I’m still not sure if there is a Strike 3 today, yet, though I’m seriously considering nominating the lack of soy milk at Cafe Europa.