The Ghost of Christmas Crass

If I stand atop the pile of Christmas catalogs I've been receiving since July, I can almost look eye-to-eye with the non-Dickens ghost of Christmas Crass. This grotesque goblin is growing stronger, uglier and more omnipresent every day. I'm not sure how to stop it, but I'm pretty sure I know where it lives.You want to meditate, go to Tibet. You want to feel holy, go to the Vatican. If you want to see the shrine of capitalism; take a dip in the Lourdes of lucre; the magnetic north of the credit card society, go to the Mall of America. Located a scant $2 cab ride from the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, this recreational shopping arena of the '90s sits ironically where the Minnesota Vikings football stadium used to be. Apparently, parking for 50,000 people was the first criteria for such a mall.I was there about three weeks ago during the "off season." Like walking into an empty stadium or onto a beach on a rainy day, it was haunted with space waiting to be filled. There isn't much you can say about it other than it is "more." Like seeing the world's largest plastic Holstein or house made of gum wrappers, the most frequent question that comes to your mind is "why."The Mall of America is way beyond "more" It is, in fact, "too much" in the same way Bette Midler use to be too much and the way Anna Nicole Smith is too much. It is Eden turned on its head, not a garden with a single temptation, but a massive arboretum of temptations with little promise of redemption. It is every catalog you've ever received in the mail come to life. It is enough to make Fidel Castro sell Cuba to Donald Trump.Not exactly a crystal palace of architecture, the Mall of America is really just several malls stacked on top of each other with an amusement part thrown into the middle where the food court usually is. I f you spend more than an hour there you quickly find that although there is a lot more than any place else, most of the stores are the same ones you'd see in any five miles of suburban sprawl. The only difference is that you get your senses bombarded all at once rather than having the stores separated by those annoying parks, schools and apartment complexes.Scarier than all of that is the fact that, according to statistics compiled by the National Park Service, the Mall of America is the most visited destination for U.S. Travelers. Scarier still, It attracts more visitors annually than Disney World, Graceland and the Grand Canyon combined. Such a people deserve to be haunted for eternity by the ghost of Christmas crass.

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