Endure I Am Fascinated With the Empty Essay

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I am fascinated with the empty buildings of my childhood -- the ones whose businesses have long since boomed or busted, the ones who have moved to another, grander location, and the ones whom I will never see again. It is the former that intrigue me the most. For seven years after its owners lost its business due, mainly, to the ease of sneaking in without a ticket, the entertainment complex Hollywood Connection stood vacant near the parking lot of the town's most frequented hotspot -- Wal-Mart. In fact, Hollywood Connection had once been a Wal-Mart, the old, crumbling kind of Wal-Mart with no grocery department. I was 12 when the Wal-Mart announced that a new, Super Wal-Mart would be built next door to the old Wal-Mart, and I remember walking through the aisles of the old Wal-Mart, leafing through the bins of discount merchandise that was being sold in order to accommodate the grocery section in the new store. On those last few days it was madness, a hot summer madness, with trucks transferring products from one store to the other and with workers hurriedly dealing with customers, managers, and construction workers. I begged my mother for copies of Seventeen and Teen Bop, and to go to the pool. The day that the store closed, my fascination with empty buildings began, as I remembered being admitted into that particular Wal-Mart, reading magazines and books by the checkout counter, trying on shoes in the back, picking out fabric for the clothes that my mother would make me, buying jeans in the junior's section. I remembered the ease with which I had been admitted to that Wal-Mart, and I realized that I would never again go inside. In my young mind, I was thinking about how we all make our impressions on places, and how there must be ghosts of the impressions left when the places remain.

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The ghosts would not have had much time to sink in, however, as construction on the old Wal-Mart building began the very next day. My pre-teen eyes twinkled with wonder as I watched them add another level to the building, and paint that top level purple. A large sign materialized outside of the building, an intriguing sign in black and white that read, "Hollywood Connection." Soon, there were movie listings beneath that sign. After that was another colorful list, containing the words "Go Karts" and "Lazar Tag." As a young child, I was fascinated. I swallowed my childish eagerness in an attempt to hide from my mother my true, pressing desire to see the place, to go in the instant it was finished and determine what kind of a magical world it would be for me and my friends. I was filled with half anticipation and half worry that my mother would not let me go in once it was finished, that she would deem it unsafe for me, something that had crushed my hopes far too many times before.

As the Hollywood Connection transformed, so did the new Wal-Mart. Completed before the closing of the old store, the Super Wal-Mart seemed to be covered in a kind of gloss, a shiny glaze. It smelled new, and the shiny tiles reflected the faces and feet of the eager shoppers. There was an eye doctor, a McDonalds, and even a nail salon inside the new store, along with an electronics department almost as big as an individual Radio Shack. Like the others, I filed in at the beginning of the school year for new clothes and brand new notebooks. The place smelled like a beginning, like the beginning of a new era, and I suppose, for me, it was a beginning. I was beginning to enter the world of responsibility -- Middle School. I started reading books from the young adult section of the library rather than the children's wing.

But although the new store was certainly fascinating, it was the opening of Hollywood Connection that I remember. The crowds that flocked to the wide set of tinted doors on that day were immeasurable. It turns out that the movie theater was a perfect addition to this indoor amusement park, as parents, mine included, were apt to let their children play in the arcade, use the go-karts, and take turns around the roller skating rink while they watched movies. The first thing anyone would notice when entering Hollywood Connection was the carpet. It was a deep purple, with a pattern of geometric triangles and other shapes that looked like confetti. This carpet covered the main expanse of the building, including the movie theater, and was only not present on the roller skating rink, go-Kart track, and cafe. It was striking, a pattern that I will not forget, perhaps because it was such an incredible shade, or perhaps because I spent so much time sitting on it by the ticket booth, waiting for friends and family. The ticket booth was a circular pod that housed different ticket agents, all protected by the plastic windows, as if they expected violence in the relatively safe town. The agents spoke through microphones and handed patrons tickets through a little silver tray; behind them, colorful, lighted panels advertised tickets for movies and entertainment, as well as their prices. For the most part, the ticket agents were nothing but a barrier to what came after them -- the wristband package.

While the adults and older teenagers generally went up to the ticket booth and came back holding a pair of tickets to a movie, younger teens and children most often bought the wristband package, and were outfitted with little neon wristbands, a different one for each day. The wristband got the wearer into everything -- the go-Karts and bumper boats, the roller skating rink, miniature golf. It was not uncommon to see a roller skating rink full of glowing wristbands in the dark. That was part of the magic of the roller skating rink. Past the ticket booth in the back recesses of the building lay the rink with its locker rooms and skate and blade rental station. A bouncer stood at the entrance, checking wristbands before admitting the skaters -- mostly throngs of younger teenagers. The roller skating rink was bathed in darkness, even on the sunniest of days, as there were no windows in this part of the building, but neon lights and lasers shown down and loud, pop music played. Going a round that rink again and again, hand in hand with friends or an early crush, was magical, producing a sort of trance. Of course, that trance could easily be broken by the start of another song, and skaters would use this opportunity to leave the rink for the skate-in cafe. With it's red and white checkered, tiled floor, the cafe had a fifties theme, and served the most disgusting pizza, shakes, and fried foods in town. But because we could skate in to have a snack, all of my friends and I would patronize it, trying to skate ourselves into a big booth and laughing when we tried to get out to get our food. Something about the cafe is imprinted on my mind, and I can't forget it -- I can't forget laugh and skating and falling in the red and white tiled cafe.

While most of the rest of the establishment went unvisited by my group of pre-teens, who thought themselves too cool for go-Karts and bumper boats, the arcade was another matter. No one needed a ticket to enter the arcade, and the flashing lights and blaring noises were a sort of solitude to me. There, among the arcade games, I could concentrate on my goal -- winning as many tickets as possible in order to get a cheap prize… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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