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.