Thursday, October 07, 2004


My post the other day about making a quick visit to my old hometown reminded Bakerina of one of our local institutions: the Busy Bee Mall.

The Busy Bee was not so much a mall as it was an indoor flea market. It was an assemblage of miscellaneous stalls and concessions that had been crammed into a space vacated by the defunct Mays Department Store. I remember it well. When the kids were little and we'd come up to New York for a visit, we would go there and my mother would buy all kinds of crap for the girls. Clothing, toys, pizza, you name it, you could find it at the Busy Bee.

I used to think that the Bee was the future of American retailing. That is, if Pakistan somehow were to take over the country. Part Asian bazaar, Mid-Eastern souk, and complete shithouse, it was a raucous, marginally organized mess. All it lacked was its own funeral parlor.

But Pakistan didn’t take over, did it? Instead, we have Wal-Mart. I was horrified to see that Wal-Mart is now one of the anchor stores at the nearby Sunrise Mall (the others being Macy’s and Sears). This tells me that the Sunrise Mall, and perhaps the whole town, is now in mid-flush, circling the drain. Oy.

When I drove past that intersection of Unqua Road and Sunrise Highway, I noticed that the ol' Busy Bee is gone now, replaced by a giant economy-sized Kohl's. Time marches on.

But I remember the pre-Bee days, when that spot was occupied by the Mays Department Store - a low-end retailer, kind of on the level of E. J. Korvette (another long-defunct New York chain). I used to hang out there after school and buy - gasp! - vinyl records! Which used to cost about $3.50 each. Still have a load of ’em in the basement. Jeezus, that must mean I’m old.

Before Mays came along, the space where the store and parking lot would eventually sit was occupied by a driving range, a miniature golf course, and the Big Bow-Wow.

Yes, the Big Bow-Wow. Possibly the filthiest hot dog stand on the planet.

At the Big Bow-Wow, the flies used to swarm thickly enough to form a crust on almost anything organic, such as food or people. The tables and benches were appalling, rough wood covered with what seemed to be a centuries-old accumulation of dried ketchup, mustard, meat drippings, unmentionable bodily fluids, hair, and just plain crud. We would sit on these benches, knowing that to get a single splinter would mean a slow, agonizing Death by Horrendous Infection. My folks hated to take us there on account of the extreme filth, but once in a while we would go nevertheless. So the hot dogs must have been really good - otherwise, why risk it?

I’m sure when they razed the place to build Mays, they carted off the debris in biohazard drums and buried it in a lead-lined crypt, deep in the heart of a mountain in Wyoming. It was just that nasty.

Can you imagine if al-Qaeda got their mitts on that stuff?

“WMD’s? We got yer WMD’s right here...Big Bow-Wow residue! Die, infidels!”

But you can recreate the BBW experience for yourself. Get yourself a really old picnic table, nice and weathered so it’s full of splinters. Coat liberally with beef suet, dried ketchup, and old mustard. Next, go get a Nathan’s Famous hot dog.

Now take a crap on the table and eat the hot dog. Memories are made of this!

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