The Art of the Mall, Part I

A journey through Northgate.

IT'S HARD TO DESCRIBE SOME OF LIFE'S MORE UNUSUAL TREASURES. Could you properly articulate the glories of a Flowbee, the home hair-cutting vacuum? Or George Foreman's Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine? Sometimes a product simply speaks for itself, and when it does—as it always does at the As Seen On TV store—it's wise to listen: "Introducing Potty Putter. The toilet time golf game that lets you practice your putting while going to the bathroom. Sure, it sounds funny, but for the golfer that just can't get enough of the game, it's the perfect item! Offers extra practice time with every trip to the bathroom!" Comes complete with a handy sign reading "Do Not Disturb: Golf Game in Progress." As Seen On TV store, 440-9244, $24.99.

REMEMBER WHEN YOU USED TO EAT REGULARLY AT THE FOOD COURT? Remember when the choices available to you were overwhelming? Remember when Orange Julius seemed like a taste sensation? Well, remember again. In fact, remember for the rest of the day after the Chicago Dog: a wiener piled high with mustard, sweet relish, diced onions, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, a banana pepper, and a dill pickle spear. Pair with a classic Orange Julius that's been topped off with a mood nutrifier ("an uplifting blend that promotes emotional balance while calming the nerves"). A shake with Saint-John's-wort and Chinese knotweed? Cucumbers on a hot dog? Mmmmm, Mom, can I, please? Orange Julius, drink with nutrifier $3.54; Chicago Dog $2.72.

WELL, IT'S GOTTA BE BETTER THAN THAT DAMN LITTLE PLASTIC CASTLE THEY USUALLY GET: Fish—and, in this case, frogs— cavort beneath greenery in the fairly surreal Bettaquariums. Of all the unique offerings dotting the center aisle of the mall, this is a highlight; you just don't find this kind of stuff downtown. Most of the vases feature a betta fish that feeds on the roots of a plant and the available algae, all the while helping to maintain its host. It's sort of a beautifully co-dependent arrangement—the cool, lovely fish takes what it needs from its environment, and the plant doesn't seem to mind as long as the fish keeps it looking good. Sort of like Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise in the good old days. WildFish, 852-7772, $25-$100.

YOU CAN GET ANYTHING IN GOLD, BABY. Forget big, gaudy rings and bracelets and necklaces; they're so yesterday. Keep it simple. Express your deepest feelings with a small pendant from the heart. Think of the holiday joy that will spread across your loved one's face when she's greeted with the 14K sentiment, "I (heart) Sonics." Imagine the pride when you share with her exactly how you feel. Sure, you could easily get a T-shirt that conveys the same thing (this is the mall, after all), yet jewelry says so much more if the price is right. Diamonds may be forever, but nothing says "World's Best Mom" like yellow gold, kids. Ben Bridge Jeweler, 363-7227, $30-$40.

GOD, IT'S GOOD TO KNOW THAT OLD GLORY IS EVERYWHERE. It's a good bet that there are more flags in Northgate and the surrounding area than there are Christmas trees and Range Rovers. Be a part of it this season. Betsy Ross is beaming proudly somewhere—don't let her down. In these troubled times, we all need to remember just where we come from, and it wouldn't hurt if your luggage knew it, too. Tag your baggage with stars and stripes luggage labels (which double here as charming ornaments). When you're traveling abroad, don't you want everyone to know you're an American? We thought so. Bergman Luggage, 365-5775, $1.99.

THE ULTIMATE WATER MASSAGE IS THE ULTIMATE MALL EXPERIENCE: something you'd only do when you realize you can't act above it because you just ate at Orange Julius, fer chrissakes. It looks like an iron lung that's been modified to work like a mini-car wash. And, you know, it feels kinda good. You hop in wearing all your clothes (minus shoes) and the thing closes over you, insulating your body with a plastic (rubber?) sheet that keeps the water from actually getting you wet. You get headphones with New Age-y accompaniment, and, after you've had the pressure adjusted to your liking, you're allowed to control when and where the roaming jets of water pause on your body. You'll want to keep that steady stream goosing your privates, but you won't because you've got some Shoreline yokels gawking at your backside. Vexing. Ultimate Water Massage, 364-1879, seven-minute massage $10, 12 minutes for $15, 20 minutes for $20.

NORDSTROM. Making Spirits Bright. And families headless.

THE REMAINS OF THE DAY. Prepare to feel as though your soul has left the stadium. And took a Chicago Dog with it.

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