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Buying Some Of That

Down in the Mall – Warren Zevon

I’m going to make a holiday shopping list. What to buy, what to buy… I need to get a new jacket. For me. And a new pair of gloves, for the wife (also for me), plus that excellent cutlery set from Kitchen Depot. The wife loves cooking. This’ll keep her there. Hmm… up on the third floor they’ve got this really swell new jewelry store. The daughter’s sixteen now, she’s just starting to get into that stuff. We used to go to that thrift shop down the street, the one with the bargain bins full of old books, cause they had some great used jewelry, but they’re closed down now. We’ll take the escalator.

Warren Zevon, the critically underrated rocker of Werewolves of London fame, is just so, so much more than that novelty song (which he reputedly disliked). This song is a great cut off of ‘Transverse City’, his experimental dystopian concept album, which of itself was a huge financial risk for an artist without significant backing. Despite having one of the sweetest studio lineups for someone as relatively obscure as Zevon (featuring Neil Young, David Gilmour, and Jerry Garcia), it flopped. Hard. The label dropped him just as fast. Not enough money in him.

You know, used to be I could buy a house with this job. A whole-ass house! None of this single-wide trailer business, either. A real house. Two floors, nice whitewashed gables, lots of windows. Maybe a lawn too, for the dog. Have a sprinkler out there for birthday parties. But I rent now. We all rent now. I’ve got us living up above the laundromat. You know, the one next to the parking garage. It’s across from the Guitar Center. You can’t miss it. Same street as that one car dealership, the one with that inflatable tube man out front. He’s always smiling. 

The son wants an iPad. He’s been asking me for one. Apparently, all the second graders have them. He doesn’t want to be the odd kid out. Can you believe that shit? Christ… I’m the only dad who hasn’t been able to afford one yet. And they told me college was a meal ticket.

This whole damn album was prescient. We don’t have malls anymore (not in the way they were in the 80s, not capital M Malls as the institution) but it’s still there. Just digital now. Up and down the escalators, always looking for one more thing at the other end of the complex. All that walking, it’s no wonder they needed food courts. But Zevon got it spot-on. Right on the money. You buy everything you want and then you want more. 

That’s a real nice grill. Look at that. Two racks. That’s what, a dozen burgers at a time? What a deal! I think I can spare the cash. As long as it’s something I’m gonna use… which I will. The Fourth of July party is going to be absolutely insane. I’ve already swung by the fireworks store to stock up. I know it’s November, but you can never buy too early. 

I’ve got the list for the in-laws somewhere in here… there it is. What a crock. They just asked me for socks, like I’m some kind of twelve-year-old schmuck getting gifts for his folks last-minute. They know I’ve got the job, just like they said I wouldn’t. Now quick, we’re about to miss the sale at the Gap. Jeans half-off. I could use a new pair for when I have to fix the roofing at Dad’s place. He can’t do it since his back got bad. 

Zevon was pretty harsh at times. Even here, when he’s disguising it with the cavalcade of shopping. It’s not just your bog-standard “buying too much shit is bad” tirade. He hints at a deeper problem: “We’ll go shopping, babe, it’s something we can stand.” There’s no love in this world. The only dates are the ones where you open up that wallet. People are a subscription service; get rid of them, and you’ll wind up sitting in your living room on late nights with jackshit to do. 

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