America is the original version of modernity. We are the dubbed or subtitled version. America ducks the question of origins; it cultivates no origin or mythical authenticity; it has no past and no founding truth. Having known no primitive accumulation of time, it lives in a perpetual present.
– Baudrillard, America
Pass the time while your mother looks at Easter dresses on sale at Belk by brushing against the silky prints: run your fingers over the lace collars with a slight urge to rip one off. Take a sip of the watery Mountain Dew from lunch at Sbarro: right by the arcade in the Hillcrest Mall food court. Bounce the pink-speckled rubber ball you got for 10¢ out of the drugstore machine a little too hard: watch it hit the corner of the silvery dress rack and fly towards a display of double-laced LA Gear high-tops. You run past the perfume counters in chase and breathe in the Estée Lauder light: overhear talk of a 10 minute makeover. Retrieve the bouncy ball near a mannequin modelling DKNY: blouse buttoned low, pale lips mouthing aspiration. For a minute you cannot find your mother: but there is perfume in the air, grey mannequin eyes, classy sounds emanating from the high department store ceiling, and she is just twenty feet away looking at pastel jackets. You have one more token in your Jams pocket for a video game: who wouldn’t want to play Out Run again in an afternoon, piloting that Testarosa convertible with a blonde in the passenger seat into an orange sherbert sunset? You ask your mother if you can go to the arcade when she is done, just for five minutes: we need to look for some new Bugle Boy pants for you first. You drive home listening to “Higher Love”: you practice ollies in the driveway till dinnertime.
Mnemonic triggers from 1993 (helluva year): desire shaped with discomfort in Shopping Center Morumbi. The many moods of waiting rooms, grille doorways, hotel lobbies, business foyers, plazas, outlet shoppes, 1987: jazzy guitar licks, big snare hits, straight lyrics of love, consumer bliss. You wear Airwalks 540 high-tops with lace-savers as you approach a vortex delineated in purple neon and black leather fringe: the shopping data leaves you flabbergasted yet you remain perfectly relaxed, somewhere in the sun, somewhere beneath glass. A nightmare: you are belted into a 1985 Camaro shooting down the Florida coast and forced to wear a neon green mesh muscle-shirt. You are not allowed to read Time Machine: World War I Flying Ace: there is no time for books in the diamond room. In Brentano’s in The Galleria, you spot a cheap copy of Notes from Underground: but you cannot decide how the glass facade of the office block across the street makes you feel. A breeze and a burst of Lexus exhaust passes over you: was this what the corporate client had in mind when envisioning his ideal techno-business park?
Slippages of forgetting well before buyer’s remorse and the banality of purchase made themselves felt: shiny business always being conducted. Smiles exchanged, “what a hoot,” perms guarding the cash register: children crying for lack of a new Pound Puppy. Ltd. and Inc. soundtracked by sleek synths, rubbery bass, glassy e-pianos with exotic pan mallets: they were luxuriant.
Rehabilitate your memories of the empty malls, noxious colors, smeared plastic: help to smash timbral fascism. You are a fabulous customer, you have class, you know what you want and how to get it: allow yourself to feel the faceless muzak you always secretly loved. All that was made to become obsolete, all that which was discarded from hot pink Trapper Keepers on the last day of school: you will never forget the appeal of summer store oblivion and minivan FM radio. The air conditioning is on high and the candy wagon is fully stocked with gummy worms: put on your new Ocean Pacific t-shirt and dream of boogie-boarding.
Return to the lingerie section of the Walmart in Gaffney: it is the lip-synching contest of 1990. Donny, Charlie, Nick, and you do “Poison” by Bel Biv Devoe: it took a week to work out the dance choreography in Nick’s garage between skate sessions on his homemade jump ramp. You beat out the girl who does “Been Around the World” while dancing with a golden framed photo of her boyfriend: each of you gets a gift certificate for $10. MC Hammer’s Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em tape is your logical choice: Donny goes with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles soundtrack tape. While at the cash register you hear a music so smooth, so motivating: you know this is a major accomplishment, a goal achieved, business potential fulfilled.
Another world of materiality with a southern nostalgia always pastel-tinged: there is no rain, only the brightest sun and the endless promise of new, clean smells for sale.
Checking out the Micro Machines at Roses (where the memories are still plentiful), eyeing the Reebok Pumps at Hamrick’s, playing California Games with Casey while dreaming of skating half-pipes in Hollywood, wearing Vision Street Wear during “10 minutes in heaven” at Tiffany’s house, getting the Bon Jovi New Jersey tape at Camelot Music in Westgate Mall, summer tennis lessons and penny loafers, Charleston palm trees and deck shoes, Natalie wearing jellies, giving Nicole a Mr. Big cassette single for her birthday that she tells you she already has, greasy brick in a baked potato fast-food joint that also serves delicious hot soft pretzels, rollerskating with lasers, entering through the brutalist facade of the Greenville Mall for a 1990 Compuserve and a new friendship bracelet, dinner at the Wendy’s Super Bar, beating Contra over and over, drinking pink lemonade: all soundtracked by the David Sanborn CD on your father’s big Onkyo stereo.
Memory work: modes of indisposability. The plunderphonic sources are far less disposable than previously thought: there is emotion there, tender heart waves taking care of business. Material anchors stills seemingly innocent: a glossiness so particular it can be neither acquired anew nor disposed of once experienced. You hear and accept a peculiar mix of revulsion and desire: this is your memory working hard and playing hard.
You find yourself nostalgic for a time when this 80s-90s nostalgia was less common: things were so much easier in your asocial mnemonic void then. And now you are late to the vaporwave, newly entered into mallsoft, still free falling into dead malls: unable to forget all those trips full of laughter to Waccamaw Pottery Factory Shoppes. Accomplishments in accelerationism perhaps, but the maximum neo-digital perfect corporate magic enterprise remembering prism has not yet been reached: forget it all before it becomes even more played out.