On the Exegesis of the Soul Or: Why I Love Beef Stick [The Ryan Dixon Line]...

INTRODUCTION TO THE 2012 EDITION “May I try a free sample?” After speaking those six simple words, the ritual would always be the same: A smiling gray-haired clerk at a Hickory Farms Christmas stand in one of the many Western Pennsylvania malls I visited during my childhood would poke a toothpick into a delicately cut square of meat, hand it to me and the door to paradise would open… I love Hickory Farms Beef Stick. Like that Christmas Eve story Grandpa always told that became longer and more convoluted as the years went on, the time has once again arrived for my ever-growing annual holiday column on Hickory Farms Beef Stick (or, as it’s unfortunately known now, “Summer Sausage”). If George Lucas can give us approximately 18,281 Special Editions of Star Wars, there’s no reason why I can’t write an additional hundred words or so each year, expanding on the joys and sorrows experienced while eating the greatest of the great American foods. (Attention conspiracy theorists: Just because I’ve written and spoken at length about my McRib addiction and am now once more delving into a hagiography of Hickory Farms Beef Stick does not mean that I’m on the American Meat Institute’s payroll. Of course, if anyone from the American Meat Institute is reading this post, I would actually very much like to be on the payroll. Feel free to tweet me up at @ryanbdixon.) And so, dear readers, Fierce and Nerdy is proud to present: ON THE EXEGESIS OF THE SOUL OR: WHY I LOVE BEEF STICK: REVISED and EXPANDED EDITION with a SLIGHTLY NEW, or more accurately, NEWLY REVISED INTRODUCTION (Which You Just Read) and a BRAND NEW (And Very Tragic) EPILOGUE 1: BEEF STICK, LORD OF THE MEMORY PALACE There is...

My Life as a Mall: A Day in the Life [As Told to Ryan Dixon]

A bi-weekly blog featuring the recollections of a soon-to-be demolished super regional mall in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as told to Ryan Dixon. For previous installments, please click HERE They’re boarding me up as I write this. A crew of twenty burly men attach plywood over my doors and windows. The little light that had managed to sneak its way into me through the Pittsburgh gloom has given way to total darkness. Unable to see my funeral preparations outside, I can now just pretend that the sun has yet to rise. I’ll be opening up again in just a few hours. To tell you about a “day in my life” is to reveal my life in a day… It’s Saturday, September 16, 1989. There are no performances scheduled on the center-court stage – Jem and the Holograms Live! won’t arrive for another two weeks – nor are any department stores having major sales. Santa and the Easter Bunny hibernate in their holiday homes and it’s up to the off-season choo-choo train to offer amusement to the tiny ones (the carousel doesn’t arrive until 1991). Even the escalators manage to survive the day without breaking down. A few people fall in love and some fall out of it, too. But mostly, the 19,211 shoppers who will walk through me go about their business, head home and sleep safely into the future that will be September 17, 1989. 7 AM. Big Mike takes one full lap around me. Armed with his infamous black book, nicknamed Bertha, he’s on the lookout for anything out of place — burnt out light fixtures, broken benches, carpet stains — that would prevent me from looking brand new. In a far corner of the third floor (the least looked-after), an ashtray holds a mass...

My Life as a Mall: The Day the Music Died [As Told To Ryan Dixon]

A bi-weekly blog featuring the recollections of a soon-to-be demolished super regional mall in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as told to Ryan Dixon. It’s quiet now. Allegheny Energy has pulled the plug, sending the lights blinking into blindness. The music, which had been going steady for nearly 30 years ends abruptly. “In the name of love. One night in the name of—“ The ever diminishing sound of shoppers over the last few years hadn’t bothered me because there was always the music. Weekdays, weekends and during holiday season extended hours. I’m going to miss Christmas carols the most, I think. Even in the quiet of those long closing hours, when I was often the only one to hear it, the music still played through the entirety of my three levels, 1,290,000 square feet of gross leasable retail space, 180 potential storefronts and five major anchor spaces. (Not to brag, but no Pittsburgh mall had space for five anchors. When I first opened, it was JCPenney, Sears, Kaufmann’s, Horne’s and Gimbles. Haven’t heard of the last three? That’s okay. They’ve been gone, and mostly forgotten, for a long time now.) During the past few years, rumors swirled that DiBarlto Industries had decided to tear only a part of me down and construct some sort of multi-use development. Their concept, from what I could gather, was to fill my missing bits with an assortment of apartments, major retailers and restaurants — the Cheescake Factory and American Apparel were supposedly very interested — and a vast community garden that would hold something called a “farmers market” every weekend. While I had wanted to stay intact, I still prefered amputation to total oblivion. But then the music went away and my true fate became undeniably grave. Now, the parking lot...