Killing Time at Crossroads

The city of Bellevue is awash with shopping opportunities. For starters, there's the ritzy Bellevue Square Mall where famous fashion designers have their own boutiques, where you can buy jewelry from stores bearing famous names like Tiffany, Sak's, and Movado. And in addition to the hundreds of other stores there are the obligatory anchors, Macy's and Nordstrom's. This mall now connects via a skyway to a new "vertical living" environment that features shopping and theatres on the ground floor, an expansive high-class hotel on the next 8 or so floors, and condominium apartments on the upper 15 floors or so. Most of the apartments have views of either Puget Sound and Seattle or the Cascades and fetch over $1,000,000 each.

That is where you go if you're looking to buy something special.

If your're waiting for a receiver hitch to be installed on you car and don't want to walk too far in the rain, you head to Bellevue's Crossroads Mall. This particular mall isn't so much a shopping mall as it is a neighborhood gathering place. There are precious few stores that you would ever buy something from in this mall. Instead, there's a small stage for near-nightly music performances, there's a small City Hall branch, a library, a very expansive newstand, and the greatest food court ever. Not only is there a traditional fountain-style diner counter serving up American classics, but also a restaurant for every ethnicity you can think: Japanese, Mexican, Greek, Russian, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, and Italian. Add to that a hot dog stand and a barbecue place and you've got exactly what I said -- the greatest food court ever. And scattered throughout the mall are hundreds of tables and chairs beckoning visitors to take a load off and stay a while.

As you move past the food court towards the grocery store (the other anchor is an Old Navy) you come across a giant life-size chess set and a dozen or so gaming tables. I've never not seen at least 15 people standing around that chess set and there are always many more sitting and playing various tabletop games. Whether it be Magic the Gathering, Chess, Checkers, or any of the other board and card games people play. And the people playing these games and conversing are as diverse as the food options. It's not uncommon to see a couple of teenagers mixed in amongst the senior citizens, mixed in with middle-aged men and women of various ethnicities. The Crossroads Mall is very much a stew.

But aside from the wonderful food and the grand sense of community is Half-Price Books. Half-Price Books is a no-frills bookshop that sells both new material bought at wholesale and also tons of older, lightly-used product. The store is relatively large -- not quite as big as a full Barnes & Noble, but it packs much more into its tight space. In addition to the books are music, movies, and software. I don't make it over to this store as often as I'd like, but I do enjoy rummaging through their PC games assortment to find some B-list titles on the cheap. Yesterday was no exception.

Although my main goal was to find some tourist-friendly history books on Budapest and Austria to read in preparation for our river cruise on the Danube in June, I also wanted to find a book chonicling the history of the Pacific Northwest. I don't like not knowing the history of a place I'll likely call home far into the future but aside from the heavily-marketed "Lewis and Clark" story, I don't know much about this place at all. But I'm going to thanks to finding a copy of "Land of Giants: The Drive to the Pacific Northwest 1750-1950" byt David Lavender. This 460+ page hardcover tome comes complete with a number of maps and was only $9.98. I already started learning about this place's discovery while reading the first 7 pages over a cup of coffee.

With this heavy book in hand, I also wandered over to the PC software area and found a copy of American McGee's Scrapland for $6.00 and also Robin Hood: Legend of Sherwood for $5.00. I played the demos of these games some 1 to 2 years ago and thought both of them to be enjoyable, but not necessarily memorable. And certainly not worth $30 or more. But five bucks? Hell yeah!

And with that, my trip to the community mall came to an end. My cell phone rang while I was browsing through a copy of "Nature Photographer" at the newstand and my receiver hitch was installed and my new bike rack was in place. Time to walk back across the street and head home.

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