There are places and times in our lives that leave such indelible marks, that the slightest nuance propels us backward into memories and stories that elicit hearty laughter and warm feelings.
One such place for me is The Crib's Evergreen Plaza (for future reference "The Crib" is Chicago). Evergreen Plaza is a mall on the Southwest side and over the years it has been affectionately called "The Plaza" or "EverBlack". Through my domestic travels, I came to learn that there is one such urban mecca in most major cities, i.e., Atlanta's Greenbriar Mall, and LA's Fox Hills.
Word has it the The Plaza's demise is on the horizon. How sad.
My trips to the Plaza began at very young age, and I can remember tagging along behind my parents on trips to Monkey Ward's, Carson Pirie Scott or Buster Brown's. As I got a little older, my girlfriends and I would be dropped off on occasion to the movie theater with stern warnings about strangers and instructions on what time we would be picked up. Once we hit 7th and 8th grades we planned group outings to The Plaza with the neighborhood boys, we were like one big family. We would take the "little kids", hop on the 103 Cottage Grove to the 95th Street Station, transfer buses and head for a day at the mall. We would be 1980's clean too. You could not go to the mall looking any old kinda way. We had to be cute. My girls and I had this crazy obsession with DeBarge back then, and we all took the name of one of our favorite group members. I was Randy. Anyway, we had tee shirts made with these DeBarge-inspired monikers on them, pink or light blue with white lettering, and anytime we met a cutie in the mall, we would give our nickname. It worked well. Apparently, young adolescent boys didn't know any better and thought it was clever.
Our purchases at the mall included the latest 45's, chocolate chip or sugar cookies, egg rolls, Orange Julius, a pair of gym shoes, or some piece of junk jewelry. Oh, and let me not forget our stops at Arby's. Horsey Sauce, yummmm. I think we loved The Plaza because it represented a sense of freedom and independence. In a way, during those weekly trips, we were coming into our own. Our parents were only a pay phone call way if there was ever trouble, but the fact that they trusted us to venture out without their supervision, spoke volumes about our character, and the values they instilled in us. We were never out acting a plum fool.
I saw Purple Rain at this mall! Purple Rain! How big was that???
As time went by, around 18 or 19 years old, I began working at The Plaza. I worked at The Gap for about a week. Hated that. Then I got a job at Spin It Records. Spin It was one of the coolest gigs I ever had. It was great for my social life and I got to listen to music and collect a check. Heaven.
There was always something exciting going on in that mall. Fashion shows, performances, celeb sightings. Wassup Big Daddy Kane!
I also made great friends while working there, we often swapped store discounts. I mentioned egg rolls above, and one of my best friends today is the daughter from the family that laced the 'hood with those delicious egg rolls for years and years. Shout to The Moy Family! Nei ho ma?!?
All in all, if and when EverBlack closes, it will take with it a piece of time that helped shape the lives of a very special generation of young black folks. Thanks for the fun. Sorry to see you go.