Saturday, April 4, 2009

Recession? What Recession?

The Big Cat and I snuck out for a quick flick tonight in beautiful downtown Providence. The movie Duplicity with Julia Roberts and Clive Owen was showing at the Providence Place Mall (We always love a good caper flick and she's never dull to watch on screen, is she?). We used to live in Providence before moving out here to the boonies and driving in is always a treat. I lovie, love, love Providence for so many reasons.

On the walk in, we were struck by the sheer numbers of people wandering around who haven't heard of this stupid old scary, nose-diving economy thing. It was no different than any Saturday night two years ago; with self-conscious young girls wandering about in ill-fitting tight jeans, young boys conducting distracted, fractured conversations as they smile excitedly and look around, and young couples bringing their toddlers to movies and giving them free reign on the virtual video rides. Many of them carried actual store bags so they apparently weren't just there for the food court and a movie. I started to think "Gee, maybe I don't need to be hoarding canned goods, dehydrated military rations and automatic weapons." Everything is just fine.

Upon closer inspection however, some things have changed. We went to the automated payment kiosk to validate our parking and heard a familiar sounding synthesized voice:

"Welcome to Providence Place Mall, please insert your ticket." Oh no! It's world renowned physicist and author Stephen J. Hawking! How could things come to this where the pillars of our society are forced into such debased and menial positions? "Please insert card or cash payment now." 

"It's OK, Stephen J. Hawking," I yelled. "You don't need to do lower yourself like this!" There are always high school science jobs that you could apply for!" At least he didn't have to see his clients. They must've had a microphone in there for him to use. As we left the building, I worried that it wasn't well-ventilated enough for him.

As we drove out I was reminded about another worrying sign of the times from a while back. Hobos have apparently taken up residence in our beautiful shopping mecca!

This is a true story! Performance artist (hobo) Michael Townsend and a group of fellow artists snuck into Providence Place mall and built a small studio apartment. The project arose from the artist's desire to explore the phenomenon of the modern American mall and his own relationship with consumer goods. Here's a link to a web site about their project where they "market" the loft as a stylish new living community. They created the 750 foot square space above an empty storage room in the mall parking garage that was accessed through a door in the stairwell. The collective of artists worked together to haul in over two tons of materials to outfit their space.

According to the Providence Journal, "In a feat of derring-do likely to be savored for years by the Providence-area underground-art community, the artists illegally ate, drank, slept, read, held meetings, watched TV and enjoyed games on a Sony Playstation 2 in a palace of American consumerism." They had simple casual furnishings and only the barest necessities, but they apparently had bold improvement plans for the space.

I only just realized tonight that Michael Townsend was the same one who created a moving tribute to the victims of 9/11 in Manhattan. He and a team of fellow artists created silhouettes in painter's tape representing victims of the attack. The figures are laid out across the city to form four hearts when viewed from above.

I'm not sure, but I might have met him when I took the kittens to the TapeArt Artaquarium off of Wickendon Street last spring. It was awesome. They had free Goldfish crackers and they let the kids adorn the walls with colored tape. Where was I going with any of this? I don't know:

Providence is awesome because of its vibrant art community? 
Consumerism as we know it is waning? 
It's probably that Stephen J. Hawking shouldn't feel badly because at least he's not a hobo. And even if he were, that wouldn't be so bad because hobos feed our children crunchy, salty treats.


MuseSwings said...

Perhaps Stevie is a Hobo after all. He appears to be living inside of the ticket machine - just like all those little tiny hobos who live inside of the radio and entertain us. The hobo's feed your kittens salty treats ?....?

Poetikat said...

I think they stole that whole hobo thing off an episode of The OC where Seth and Summer and Marissa and Ryan spend the night in a shopping mall. Either that or Paul Blart: Mall Cop.
As for Stephen Hawking, it must be a copycat - Stephen is giving a seminar at the University of Tbilisi on the irradiatiation of vegetables on Mars.


P.S. I've tagged you. (by the way, how was "Duplicity"? Kev and I were thinking of seeing it too.

CDB said...

Brilliant. We would all be lucky to live in an artists' colony in a parking garage. Are they still there?
Are they accepting applications? Jk.

I love Providence too; we went to a friend's wedding there and stayed in the Biltmore.. then the reception site was the mansion where they filmed "Meet Joe Black." Loved it.

Rachel Cotterill said...

Maybe he noticed that a lot of people *bought* the Brief History Of Time and didn't read it. He's going to print a quote on every parking ticket instead :)

Jeanne said...

Hawking is my hero -- and I think I'd like your artist friend, too!

Anonymous said...

My hubs and I were just saying this last night as we were running wouldn't be able to tell there's a down-economy by looking at the mall and restaurants.

Anna Lefler said...

I bet it was Stephen Hawking.

Just last week Paul Anka took my new driver's license photo down at the DMV. (And, yes, he's still got that hair.)

Strange days indeed.



Ian said...

Nice scenes from a mall in both words and pictures.

Liza said...

Hello from a Rhode Islander! I had no idea about the Providence Place thing, that is crazy! I am in that mall all the time and had never heard about that - weird. I do agree with you that every time I go there it seems really crowded and I am like - "what bad economy?" too. It seems strange, especially since our unemployment is so high here....

Anyway, love your blog and will keep coming back for sure!

Whitney said...

My husband and I went to the mall a couple of days ago, and we talked about the whole "what recession?" thing because it seemed like a shopping day during the holiday season. Less cash flow, less jobs, lower pay, and more credit? I dunno... But we did see a hobo with a back pack sleeping under a bridge in the same day.... Hmmm...

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