By Joan Chang
Dear Pacific Mall,
Hi, how are you? I was thinking about all the times we spent together and how great they were. Those glorious late 90’s, early to mid 2000 years, when I was still in high school and you were brand new.
I remember when Market Village was the only game in the area, as far as Chinese malls went. Sure, it had and still has a decent food court, Chinese bakery, grocery store and your basic Chinese retail offerings; book store, clothing stores, candy shops and stationery stores offering everything from Keroppi pens to Badtz Maru pillows.
But then you opened your doors, and it was a whole new world. All the latest fashions from Hong Kong. Wellness shops with floor-to-ceiling selections of ginseng and royal jelly. A food court featuring handmade noodles and beef rolls.
Let’s face it, if there’s one thing my people like to do, it’s eat.
There was also that upstairs arcade where many a teenager honed their “Dance Dance Revolution” skills.
Car accessories stores for all those Honda Civic drivers. Bubble tea shops galore. The snack shops that had every cracker, cookie and candy in the brightest possible plastic wrapping. I couldn’t get enough.
I got my first real haircut at one of your salons. I say real, because my mother was responsible for cutting my hair until I turned 19. Worse, there were times I would cut my own hair. Going to the salon for the first time made me feel like an adult. Thanks to you, I was getting advice from a professional instead of unadvisedly hacking away at my bangs in the bathroom mirror.
I can’t tell you how many weekends I wiled away, drinking a strawberry black milk bubble tea from an abnormally thick straw, navigating the warren-like configuration of your booths with my sister or a friend.
Your glass-cased booths were, and still are, mind boggling to navigate, but all the more reason to loiter slowly.
You did always have a dark side though. You did attract a lot of bootlegged items: purses, shoes, and especially DVDs. It was because of you that so many were able to watch new movie releases without ever going to the theatre. You were always notorious for the bootleg films, so much so that whenever a non-Asian person was spotted at the mall, you knew they were packing cash to pick up a slightly blurry copy of “Gladiator” or “The Matrix”. Even though it got you in deep trouble with the RCMP, we still loved you for the bad boy rebelliousness of it.
And we do need to talk about your parking lot, which has been the site of some of the longest parking spot standoffs I’ve ever seen. Yours rivals Yorkdale’s in terms of action on the weekends. Like, seriously, there has got to be a better way.
But maybe you were just too popular, and like all the popular kids, everyone wanted a piece of you. I can’t blame you for that. In January, as the Lunar New Year rolled around, you got all dressed up for the Year of the Ram, and you looked amazing.
I went to hang out with you recently and was impressed with the status you’ve managed to maintain as a mall of record. It’s been a decade since we were really close, but you don’t seem to have changed much and I’m glad. Although I’ve had many salon cuts over the years, and switched from bubble tea to just plain tea as my drink of choice, there’s still a place in my heart for you. Hanging with you means that I can always relive those heady days of my suburban youth.
Joan Chang died suddenly the week of June 8. We at the Ethnic Aisle are very sad to have lost such a smart, stylish and supportive friend.