Allegheny Center was for losers. The shopping mall on the north side of the cold, gray, soul-destroying Rust-Belt city where I grew up didn’t have a Merry-Go-Round or a Gap or even a Chess King, not a single store that didn’t sell clothes made out of cardboard. For a tween, the only thing worse than being seen shopping with your family was being seen shopping with your family at Allegheny Center. Or at any one of its lowly step-sister malls nearby. And there were several (North Hills Village, Northway Mall, Parkway Center Mall). Allegheny Center happened to be the one closest to our house. In the mall’s defense, there was a pizza parlor on the second level that had the best cherry pop. The pizza was mezza-mezza. But that pop: magnifico.
What can I say: We were Allegheny Center Mall-kinda people. On rare occasions, like Christmas or someone’s birthday, we were Monroeville Mall- or Century III-folk – there were Gaps at both places, if I recall correctly, and I believe that I am. On the rarest of occasions, we were Shadyside- or Sewickley-peeps. “Rarest” because even though I wanted to be as cool as tweenly possible, I knew my place, and among the millionaires and children of millionaires in two of the most affluent neighborhoods in the great Northeast was way above my station. At least at Allegheny Center, our family’s noses could be the ones doing the looking up.
A 14-year resident of Fort Worth now, I often – unintentionally, I swear – categorize people I meet by mall. Is this guy a Ridgmar person? Looks too rough for Hulen Mall, but maybe, based on the hair gel and tatts, he’s a North East-kinda cat. But wait. He speaks fluent Spanish. Has to be La Gran Plaza.