Oct 6, 2023

Quibbles & Bits: Of Malls and Pests

…in which we explore the deaths of shopping centers and houseflies

By Ed Goldman

MALLS TO GO BEFORE I SLEEP—We’ve been learning that shopping centers all over this great country of ours are losing valuation, cratering and starting to resemble the only ghost towns with still-operating tattoo kiosks.

“Seven years after their valuations peaked, America’s malls are on the ropes,” according to the Wall Street Journal indicating “the country’s older and lower-end malls have seen their values plummet by more than 70% in some cases, with many defaulting on their debts.” The crisis started about five years ago when a bunch of major department stores—like Sears, JC Penney and Macy’s—started closing up shop.

There was, of course, an expert who put all of this in perspective: Vince Tibone, head of U.S. retail and industrial research for the real-estate research firm Green Street. He opined, for this is the only word that’ll do, “You start losing department stores, that causes sales and traffic at the center to decline. Then more tenants leave.” And they say there are no men of vision left.

SNAGGING FLIES—The other night I tried one of those homeopathic cures for ridding my kitchen of houseflies. I put a little sugar into a shallow container of water. Just before retiring for the night, I spied a little dark speck in the dish, lifted it out and realized I had somehow murdered a caper.

Suicide has been ruled out. I know how the caper got into the dish. I had made a semi-elaborate pasta meal, which included capers, and apparently when I poured it into a bowl, one of the little darlings escaped over the side and plopped into my flytrap.

Edgy Cartoon

Swat’s happenin’?

I also bought a combo mosquito/housefly terminator, which looked like a pickleball racquet except for the steel mesh. It was designed, I felt sure, to make the last moments of a mosquito’s or housefly’s life dreadfully uncomfortable—as though you were torturing them and expected them to confess to espionage. 

This provided me with valuable torquing practice, however, and I’m proud to report that in the first hour I had it I killed three houseflies, a martini glass and a small casserole dish I didn’t see hiding under a folded newspaper on the countertop.

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An unexpected benefit was that sweeping up glass shards provided a pretty good cardio workout, especially since I did it without shoes on, which added a little hoppity-hopping to the exercise.

Another thought that occurred to me was to run around the living room and kitchen with a can of bug spray while chuckling maniacally. Ultimately, I decided this would have been bad for both the global and inhouse environments—the former for the obvious aerosol damage to the ozone layer, the latter because it would have left my kitchen smelling like a greasy spoon diner whose tables have just been spritzed to ensure that the germs and vermin would need to wear face masks for at least an hour.

The next morning I was stunned to find a deceased fly in my little water/sugar deathtrap. But equally stunned to see another housefly hovering above and circling the bowl. Are houseflies smart enough to not venture into a venue where their comrades have fallen? Or are they merely curious. 

Or—and this is the theory I’m really endorsing—was the surviving fly giggling to itself about the fate of its colleague? This would blow to pieces the conjecture that humans are the only species capable of raising their eyebrows ironically. 

A drawback, I’ll admit, is that I have no idea if houseflies even have eyebrows to raise. I’ll have to get back to you.

Don’t forget! A new Goldman State Podcast drops every Friday!


Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).