Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Morning in Elmhurst: Black Friday Shopping at the Queens Center Mall

Around 8 a.m., four hours after the stores opened for Black Friday shopping early-bird specials, we arrived via the G, E and M trains at Woodhaven Boulevard and Queens Boulevard to brave the crowds at the Queens Center mall.

From the outside, everything looked peaceful

from the middle island as we carefully crossed the Boulevard of Death,

but this was the most crowded, hectic Black Friday we remember. The economy must be getting better, or else people finally can't put off buying stuff they need anymore.

Almost everywhere we went in the Queens Center, there were crowds. Many with shopping bags. Some with lots of shopping bags.

Teens seemed to dominate the crowds. Teens with money.

By far, the most crowded stores we saw were the teen-oriented American Eagle and Aeropostale, which had a humongous line just to be allowed to enter the store.

The Guess store was doing a big business. Since our dad was guest's Florida and Puerto Rico menswear sales rep through most of the 90s, often making a six-figure income on his commissions, we feel somewhat loyal to them, and the Bugle Boy and Sasson labels he represented in the 80s.

Pink was very pink and very crowded,

and H & M, which had some incredibly good bargains, had such a long for the cashiers that we passed up some wonderful cheap clothes we liked. We always heard our garmento family members describe stores that we saw today as "mobbed." "Mobbed" meant money.

This Black Friday looked as if a lot more people were spending money than they did in 2008 at the Triangle Junction and Atlantic Terminal malls or in 2009 at Kings Plaza.

A line of about thirty Newtown High School students stood on Queens Boulevard as we left the mall. Like students at Brooklyn's John Dewey and Sheepshead Bay High Schools and others, they were protesting the threatened (scheduled?) of Newtown.

They told us there'd be an 11 a.m. rally at the nearby Newtown High School Field. So many Brooklyn and Queens high schools that our friends and relatives went to have closed since we returned to the city four years ago. We have a good friend who went to Newtown in the late 60s, so we wish them luck.

Speaking of back in the day, this is the way we remember the Queens Center mall from the 1970s.

It opened in September 1973,

three years after Kings Plaza (just a few blocks from our house), and we spent a surprising amount of time here for a Brooklyn boy.

But by then we had our own car, a brand-new dark gold Mercury Comet, and even with the Arab oil embargo, we loved to drive. Queens was a nice easy escape, so we came here often. Although we'd worked at Alexander's in Kings Plaza in the fall of '74 (another recession year), our favorite department store, A&S, was here,

and one of our favorite restaurants, Cooky's.

And Ohrbach's had been a good customer for the men's slacks manufactured by our grandfather and father at the family business, Art Pants Company, which would go under in that '74-'75 recession after being in business for over fifty years.

In Spring in Brooklyn, the fourth of the sixth volumes of The Brooklyn Diaries: 1969-1980, we record one day, for example, when we got out of a funk partly by coming to the Queens Center and hanging out and shopping. We were 23 then, in our first year of the MFA program in creative writing at Brooklyn College, had finished our coursework and just turned in our thesis for our MA in English at Richmond College, and were teaching our first college class ever at Long Island University's downtown Brooklyn campus:

Wednesday, April 30, 1975

Agony, however painful, always ends. It was that way with my depression of yesterday.

It was that way with the long, tortuous war in Vietnam, which ended yesterday.

Big Minh, the third president of South Vietnam in a week, surrendered unconditionally to the Communists, and U.S. Marines got the last of our countrymen out of Saigon. Today the Viet Cong is in complete control and Saigon has been renamed Ho Chi Minh City.

Getting back to my depression, it ended without warning. I forced myself to take a drive over to the Queens Center because I could not bring myself to go to the Fiction Workshop.

In Ohrbach’s and in A&S, I looked at men’s clothes, just feeling the fabrics and looking at the beautiful shirts and pants. Most of them were beyond my means, but I did find a lovely black knit shirt reduced for clearance to $2.99 and I bought it.

Suddenly I realized that the tight mass somewhere in my gut had disappeared. I had supper at home and went to LIU, where I filled my class in on what we’d be doing for the next three weeks.

I was a bit dull last night, but just the fact of getting up in front of fifteen people, most of whom are older than me, and being a teacher was good enough for me to feel somewhat triumphant.

Libby called me when I got home. She’s going on a canoeing trip this weekend and asked if I could type up a paper for her. She offered to pay me, but that isn’t necessary – anything to feel useful.

Steve called, too. He’s been busy working on an Architecture paper and “partying” at Le Jardin and Hollywood and other places like that.

I slept poorly, anxious about teaching again tomorrow (but I only have five more classes left) and filled with sexual tension with nowhere to go. I really need to make love twice a night. All this garbage about being asexual and sublimating is just that: garbage.

I need to release myself physically more. That cropped up in a long letter I received from Professor Ebel this morning. He wrote it on Sunday, after finishing my stories.

He says he plans to give me Honors for the thesis, providing Prof. Leibowitz agrees. Henry writes that he likes my writing, “which ranges from brilliantly inventive to no lower than a high plod.”

Today we were grateful to hang out at the Queens Center more than 35 years after that day. And we were grateful to plod back to Williamsburg and write about it.

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