December 6th, 2004

At The Mall
or Hickory Vin

You’re not gonna get anything meaningful out of this, so if you’re looking for something meaningful, go on ahead and look somewhere else. Or, you know, stop surfing fucking blogs and go volunteer to help the needy somewhere or something. And my god, man, stop complaining to me about how your life has no meaning. Did I tell you to sit around reading this stuff? No. No, I most assuredly did not. Quite the opposite, in fact.

If you’re not looking for something meaningful, then good. I’m glad we’ve found each other. Keep reading. I’ll try to kill as much of your time as possible.

So this is a story — actually it isn’t a story at all; it’s mostly just a bunch of random bullshit — that starts with a trip to Target. But that’s only because I had to go to Target this afternoon. Not for anything important. Just stuff. But the stuff I needed was a Target, so there I went. And I needed a good bit of stuff, too, so the getting it and the standing in line with it and the paying for it part of my trip took a good while, which meant I had to pick up lunch at the Hampshire Mall (which is where the Target where all my stuff was at was at), because there simply wasn’t time left for going anywhere else. And, you know, because sometimes horrible mall Chinese has a pretty strong appeal (though don’t ask me what that is; I ate chicken wings today that were so poorly an incompletely plucked it left me to wonder whether the poor bird had actually been slaughtered properly or simply rent wing from wing on its way into the deep fryer).

All of this crap you’ve now waded through, by the way, is just a hideously overextended mechanism for explaining what it was that set me walking through the Hampshire Mall (which, I suppose I should explain, on the off chance you’re not a resident of the beautiful Pioneer Valley, is one of these lame little malls that should have died a quiet little death 10 years ago but is still going, and, except for Target and the movie theaters — and maybe Ground Round if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t know Ground Round stopped mattering when they stopped giving you peanut shells to throw on the floor — is just getting sadder and sadder all the time), which is when I had the following two utterly meaningless thoughts.

Pointless thought for the day, number one: Is a Hickory Farms gift basket anything more than a way to say, “Not only can I not begin to give half a shit about you, but I’m fairly resentful of the fact that, for whatever reason, I’ve found myself in a situation in which I’m obliged to buy you a gift”? Hickory fucking Farms? There’s still such a thing as Hickory Farms? I’m quite certain that I know no one who has ever either given or received a Hickory Farms gift basket — or if I do, they’re not saying anything about it, most likely because, a) it’s enough to have been forced to deliver that message, and they can see no need to relive the experience; or b) it’s enough to have felt the heartache of receiving such a message, and there’s no need to relive the experience. How on earth does Hickory Farms stay in business? Who’s eating all that summer sausage?

Pointless thought for the day, number two: So you know how every year you walk past the booth at some mall or another where they’re selling the poorly painted, framed portraits of various celebrities, pseudo-celebrities and assorted fictional characters (the one that caught my eye as I walked past today was a portrait of Vin Diesel) and you think (or say to whomever you’re shopping with), “Who buys that shit?” And you never know the answer because you never see anyone buying that shit and you’ve never walked into anybody’s home and seen a portrait of Vin Diesel or the cast of The Sopranos hanging above the mantel. And you don’t really even think about the answer because it’s really just a rhetorical question, because you’re really just thinking (or saying to whomever) that clearly no one would ever buy that shit. But you know what occurred to me today? There’s an actual answer to that question. There has to be. Know how I know? Because I’ve been asking that question every year at this time for probably 20 years, and no business keeps running for 20 years if no one ever buys the shit it’s trying to sell (just ask Adam Smith). And the thing that really baffles me is that this means there’s someone out there other than Vin Diesel’s mother (who, I’m gonna go ahead and assume, already has all the poorly painted portraits of her son holding some impossible pistol that she could ever want — I mean, Mrs. Diesel must be proud of her boy, but at some point it just becomes ridiculous) who wants, who believes he or she has some use for, a poorly painted, framed portrait of Vin Diesel. And so the very real questions now become, a) who is this person? b) how many of this person are there? (because, you know, once you’ve got your Vin Diesel portrait, you’re probably all set and I’m guessing these guys have done a nice business in portraits of the Rock — should I capitalize the T in the? — and C. Thomas Howell — I don’t know why I picked C. Thomas Howell just then, but you’re in this deep already, so you might as well stick it out with me, right?) and c) Is this person (are these people) familiar with Mr. Diesel’s work? Because … I don’t know … I saw Pitch Black when it came out and that was pretty much all I needed. I mean, the fact that Pitch Black is an absolutely awful fucking movie isn’t entirely (or even disproportionately) Vin Diesel’s fault — this film wouldn’t have been good with Marlon Brando in the role of Riddick (though it would have been pretty fucking funny), but that doesn’t really let Vin off the hook, does it? Or to the extent that it does, OK, I gave Vin a second chance. I did. Not on purpose or anything (though maybe it should have been on purpose because you really can’t tell from one role whether someone’s bad — look at Jim Varney, for example; he stunk as Virgil Simms on Fernwood 2Night but then turned it all around with his masterful portrayal of … ah, shit, never mind), but really just because of cable television, which is evil for a good number of reasons, the biggest of which is that it forces me (and when I say forces I mean … well, forces, which I would think would be fairly plain) to watch really bad movies, like, say xXs, a, yes, Vin Diesel vehicle which is something to do with spying and such (it’s not that I didn’t get it, just that it was late and the movie was mercifully forgettable). The point, anyway, is that I know Vin Diesel isn’t at all good at what he does. Not even a little bit. So say you liked Vin Diesel for some reason (maybe you just like the cut of his jib, which would be odd, but, you know, to each his own), but then you went out and saw one or two of his movies, wouldn’t you then stop liking him? Or at least come to some understanding of the fact that its a bit embarrassing to have poorly painted, framed portrait of him hanging up somewhere? You might think so, as I did, but as it turns out, for some reason, for someone, somewhere, you’d be wrong. Just wrong.

Of course, I suppose there’s one other explanation: Maybe all the Vin Diesel portraits (except for the ones Vin’s mom buys) are purchased as gifts. Maybe it’s the thing you give to the person who gave you the Hickory Farms gift basket.

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