Saturday, June 7, 2014

Happy Meal at the Strip Mall

by Drew Martin
Last night I had a dream that I was going to look at an academy for my son, who is going to high school next year. I drove into some remote part of northern New Jersey, and parked my car in a big, almost empty lot next to a cheap, one-story stand-alone building with wrap-around windows, which had the poor architectural sensibility of a stripmall. I walked around the structure to try to find the academy and noticed an oversize jacuzzi inside, which was full of naked couples joyfully jumping up and down. I stopped to look and noticed that the pairings were odd. For every older out-of-shape person was a younger fit counterpart, not unlike a fitness trainer. I went inside and sat down next to the pool of water and watched everyone having a good time, albeit somewhat scripted. When the others noticed that I was not part of the group, I got up and left. Right on my heels was a slinky Korean lady named Jenny. She was trying to be affectionate and intimate. I found her very attractive but was confused by whether or not she was sincere or if this was part of this organization's recruitment. I peeled away and walked along the road trimmed with uninspired woods accented with large glacial rocks.

I walked by a little boarded-up town. There was an aircraft museum with a jet outside, which I thought my son might like, but it was also closed. I saw a frumpy little woman and I inquired about the name of the town. She replied, "A town that has been abandoned." I looked around at a few signs and surmised that this place was called Rybnik, which means fishpond in several Slavic languages, whose countries also used this word for names of towns. I spent the night in a hotel and then at dusk of the following day I returned to the building to see what might be happening. First, I walked by a nearby stripmall. I saw Jenny in front of me, and she stepped into a nail salon and greeted her friends and then left to go to work at the building. She was wearing a long, flowery skirt and a conservative jacket. When she saw me she got embarrassed and ran inside.  I walked over to the building and heard a band of misfits playing music outside a side entrance. The musicians and other locals looked as if they had never left the area. They were mutated and rough around the edges. They only played for a few minutes, like it was the introduction to a late-night TV show, and then they all stopped and looked in the windows.

It was obvious that this was a nightly ritual, and their main source of entertainment. Inside, the jacuzzi pool was still; empty of naked revelers. This evening the space was filled with a wrap-around, informal dinner table full of guests/tourists who looked like they had been bused in from the Midwest. Peppered around them were the paid, soon-to-be-naked employees, but the conversation was being directed by a few old, heavy set men with robust voices, who were kick-starting conversations about football and engaging the tourists. 
It was obvious from the mumblings of the locals that all the prompts were scripted, and that this was just the start of an evening of events that would conclude with the jacuzzi romp.

It was a peculiar dream because it was about a modern culture that needs to have a scripted dinner party and evening events to have a good time. The jacuzzi part of the dream came from something I recently saw - 
Slavoj Žižek's look at the Santa Barbara wine festival romp scene in the movie Seconds with Rock Hudson, in his psychoanalytical look at films - The Pervert's Guide to Ideology.

Click here to see the scene from Seconds.