Be Warned: This song is not safe for work. But I like it.
Welcome to The Wilds, which grew up around the stockyards, across the street from the glue factory which smelled sometimes in the summer and people in the neighborhood complained and complained but for years it happened. It totally fit that the smell of slaughtered animals would be replaced years after it's closing with the smells of processing parts, sticky cartilage and tanned leather. It totally made sense that the Super KMart was the anchor of that shopping plaza, dropped down in the middle of it.
One day, Buddy and I went to the Big Lots on the other side of the plaza. Maybe you don't know what Big Lots is, but you know the kind of store it is. The overstock store. The overflow of weird junk people buy in hordes, despite not knowing why or when or how. Buddy was really into Big Lots for a minute. I was extremely doubtful, but there was a time when we called each other to do things like buy bed sheets, and that's what he wanted to do that day. This was when we had different jobs, jobs whose schedules changed week to week, hourly to hourly, and the weeks when we found we had the same days off were great, like little holidays.
So we did what we always did that morning, drink a little, smoke a little, watch an episode of AbFab. I was late to his house, because I am always late. Then he drove, and we went to Big Lots. Luckily I did not have money with me, because I'm sure I would have spent 30 dollars in the first five minutes. Weird ornate lamps with birds on them, concrete statuettes of frogs and sundials and neon colored glass ware. Oh, the bathroom rugs! And curtains in thin little plastic packets! This is why dorm rooms are always so ugly, because apparently some of us have no taste when overcome with shocked enthusiasm.
But the one thing we both really wanted, immediately and for years after, was a dark wooden carved Chinese screen. You know, like one of those standing ones, that girls change behind and people put in their room to, I don't know, make the space smaller for no apparent reason. But it was awesome. It wasn't ugly at all, not even a little. It was delicate and solid at the same time, with just the right amount of design. It was 80 dollars, which even our juvenile minds knew was a really good deal. We stood there trying to figure out who would buy it for like 15 minutes, we even talked about buying it together, because at that time we were talking about being roomies, though thank god we figured out that would be a bad idea before it actually happened. Best friends shouldn't live together if they are really alike.
So neither of us bought it. And a few weeks later, after paydays, we went back to see if the screens were still there. They weren't. They were long gone.
To make ourselves feel better, we stocked up on tea light holders and fake flowers. I think Buddy may have bought a desk too? Or a chair? I never went back to Big Lots, least not for a while. I just knew they would never have anything like that screen. And if they didn't, I was just setting myself up for disappointment. But a few years ago, The Ex took me to one because he was looking for an emergency shirt or something, and still even then, I looked to see. They didn't.
I have a vague memory of buying a car battery at that Kmart. They had a carousel in front of the store entrance, one of those tiny metal ones that small kids beg to ride, and one of those rocket ships. It was a terrible Kmart, those rides were easily the best part.
So when we went to look at this building next to it, it didn't surprise me really that it was closed. But it was a really horrible sad feeling, parking in this empty lot, with the large stretch of boarded up Kmart in front of me. I'm way more nostalgic about that neighborhood than I like to be, because honestly, being sentimental about that area sucks. You are just going to have your heart broken again and again, even for things you don't care about, like the Payless you went to once, just once. And then oh my god, when we left and drove up Denison and that steel truss bridge, the tiny short cute one, had been torn down and replace with a shaky stretch of beige painted concrete? With the roller skating rink right there, in your line of sight? It's inexplicably bad. I hate it. The feeling. Not the neighborhood. You can't hate a place you grew up.
There was a fire in the building adjacent to this a while ago, and the glass panes were melted in their frames. But all the rolls of carpet in this one survived untouched. Carpet and chairs everywhere. Way more colorful than we were used to. Almost like being in one of the abandoned schools. But definitely not childish.
And why were there this beautiful colored pieces in the shattered glass block? And why were the walls painted in teal stripes? Why were the murder rooms, tucked away in corners, with locks and nothing else, all painted in bright primary colors?
This was like the movie set where the gang of misfit failed artists/stoners/hanger on girls/unloved white trash boys with good hearts all hung out. Escaping from their blue collar homes with tired cranky moms and dads. Until they all died in the fire, suffocating on the smells of the dirtiest industries, maybe hanging out in the alley ways, maybe moving out to Parma, maybe getting someone pregnant and getting married, getting a trucking job. Maybe getting a job at Big Lots, hoping to get tenure some day and benefits. But most likely not. Buying the cheap Easter baskets that came premade and wrapped in green and pink cellophane for their kids, to take to Grandma's house down the street. I used to be so jealous of those baskets, they looked so big, when my own mother would make our own with Malleys and kites and Easter bonnets, which looking back were so much better.