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Open and Shuttered
There was a time when the grand hallways and escalators of the Lloyd Center teemed with shoppers. Families crowded into the Food Court, devouring platefuls of mediocre fare. They packed the ice rink. They had meet-ups and hang-outs and bump-intos under the wide, soaring rooftops of this indoor mall.

But most of all, they shopped. They flocked here from all over Portland, surging in and out of thriving retail venues, purchasing many millions of dollars worth of the goods and services offered within this wondrous temple of American consumerism. It was, literally and figuratively, a towering success — a success matched by other giant malls all across the country at the end of the last century.

But that was then. The economy and the culture have since shifted under the foundations of these complexes. Amazon and other online sources, seizing on their tax advantages and the freedom to set up shop anywhere, as long as a freeway was close by, made retailing ultra-convenient. Who wouldn’t want to order a computer, say — of the exact model and specification desired — and have it delivered the very next day? Bye-bye, brick and mortar.

And then came the pandemic. After that blow, it has been either adapt or die. A few of the big ones, like the Mall of America in Minnesota and the American Dream in New Jersey, are still going, but a midsized operation like the Lloyd Center struggled to handle the changes in the world outside. And now it is a zombie mall, still open but decaying from the inside.

The flagship stores have sailed, and all the mall rats have moved on. The Food Court on the third level has gone dark, and the vaulted spaces above it that once seem to speak of the limitless power of in-person commerce are now filled with gray emptiness. A few uncertain shoppers poke their heads into the outlets whose leases have not yet run out, but even though we are only weeks away from Christmas, there is none of the usual holiday hustle and bustle.

Out on the ice rink, a man teaching his daughter to skate has all the space they could need. The teenage elves employed by the mall still gamely smile and pirouette, but their gestures are empty. There can be no holiday joy without the symbol that most represents the season of giving. No, not the baby Jesus…Santa! His altar of Christmas wishes, the beating heart of any healthy mall, is conspicuously absent.

The mall Santa is a sad enough spectacle under the best of circumstances. If he is not there at all, why even bother? Take down the giant bows and tinseled spruce and fir. Give the elves their severance pay, and send them home. Shoo out the hapless merchants and whatever shoppers remain. Christmas is cancelled. The mall is dead.
Yes, voting matters. Polls do not.
~ H, Santa Cruz