Roadside zombies tip #2: Leveraging tiny malls

Use malls in tiny towns as a way to guide you through your countryside travels, like stars in the night sky. Perhaps base a whole vacation on the concept.

Don’t start a walking program in a tiny mall. Talk about boring. I don’t think even walking by a Generation Nutrition Center twenty times to reach a mile could keep me entertained.

Should you decide to open a tiny mall, use the name “thunderbird” sparingly, and hopefully you know how to disarm the person next to you.

See Minnesota’s iron range: big pits, small malls



Roadside zombies tip #3: Getting over the local confusion

Think about what businesses are important to your community today versus 20 or 30 years ago. Can you really buy anything that is made in your community or any other communities that you visit?

When you see a mall, visit it, do a pre-national historic register survey and develop a coalition to save the potentially historic mall.

Don’t use bracelets to promote the coalition. In fact, please stop making up these brightly colored rubber bracelets for every cause out there. My wrists and arms are getting full.

See Since when is Bank of America local?



Roadside zombies tip #4: Watching outlet malls on the outs

  • You can still find a few deals at outlet malls. Even if you can’t, to relive the good old days, run into a nicely laid out J. Crew, and in a panicked manner, rummage through stuff and try to grab a random clothing item from another shopper.
  • Get ready to enjoy the reuse of your favorite outlet mall. You may soon find yourself waiting in a long driver license line at one, completely destroying any fond memories you had of the place.
  • For heaven’s sake, don’t get a Snuggie. Blankets and other clothing items have worked well for thousands of years. I am waiting to see someone wear one of these around in public.  

See Out of love for outlet malls, for now



Roadside zombies tip #5: Eliminating the phonebook empire

When one of the many phonebook seasons arrives, work from home and then jump out and surprise the phonebook delivery people they arrive. Or, for people with jobs that really matter, just post a large sign in front of your house that proudly proclaims “Phonebooks not welcome here,” “Leave me alone phonebook people,” or “Caution: attack cat may lazily pounce or run away.”

Set up action-packed tours for current and potential phonebook advertisers to witness the plague of phonebooks that hits my neighborhood each year.

See Eliminating the phonebook plague



Roadside zombies tip #6: Putting an end to fake shutters

In your home, if you can’t explain why something needs to be there, then don’t add it. This reasoning means that you can’t have fake, ill-fitting shutters. In fact, fake, ill-fitting shutters are almost as bad as crown molding. Not only would you be wasting money on something that serves no purpose, you will be subject to much criticism by some crazy design persons.

See A plea to end fake shutters



Roadside zombies tip #7: Observing excessive license plates

To plan your next trip, observe all of the license plates you pass by. Then, to help promote simpler license plates, visit the state with the simplest license plate and tell the tourism office that’s what attracted you to the state.

With all of the crazy license plates out there, join the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association (a real group) and become a connoisseur of license plates. Develop a massive collection and walk people through the entire collection in excruciating detail each time they visit.

See N.C. and Ohio: the license plate debate



Roadside zombies tip #10: Enjoying mall repurposing 

So here’s how to enjoy repurposing to its fullest:

  • Build your mall appearance knowledge base, so you can readily identify “office complexes” that are actually former malls.
  • See if the former mall houses any call centers.
  • Passionately lobby your state government to move its driver license offices into former malls, preferably ones that sell diet coke.
  • Call the Coca-Cola customer service line to complain about a Coke that just wasn’t fizzy enough to truly quench your thirst. Then let me know about your experiences. Colorado is pretty boring some times, well, make that most of the time.

See Oklahoma: a magical land of repurposed malls



Roadside zombies tip #18: Getting the last moments of fun out of undead malls

When you see an undead mall, try to frantically run away and then pretend to get sucked into the clutches of the mall. (If you need help with this, think of the 50,000 zombie movies you’ve seen)

Fight for the historic designation of malls that are approaching 50 years of age. No one probably believes me, but some day people will try and save malls as an artifact of mid- to late-20th century retail architecture.

Visit the Dixie Square Mall if you ever pass even somewhat close to Chicago. I can see Rome in the making right now.

See A tale of two undead malls (Blues Brothers mall included)



Roadside zombies tip #23: Leveraging life-sized farm animal statues

As soon as you see a life-sized farm animal statue:

  • Pull over as soon as humanly possible.
  • Pick out the person(s) most likely to get embarrassed by getting their picture taken next to a farm animal statue.
  • Make them hug the farm animal.
  • Take a picture. Then take another one because you’re not sure if the first one was good enough.
  • Head on your way and keep an eye out for the next farm animal statue.
  • Frame resulting pictures and hang them in a high-visibility area.

See The allure of life-sized farm animal statues



Roadside zombies tip #24: Rock n’ rolling in suburbia

As you drive around, notice the manmade rock formations on homes and buildings, and carefully measure your reaction to them. If you don’t think any rocks look out-of-date, you need to trade in the acid-washed jeans you’re wearing.  

Free the “old” rocks on your house, put them back in their natural habitat and send them back to eternal coolness.

See Rock n’ dated houses



Roadside zombie tip #33: Find weird mid- to low-range hotel/motel bars of your very own

Make sure it isn’t too nice of bar. There is a key indicator of a too-nice bar: no televisions. If you don’t see any televisions, run away!  

Look for random hotels in suburban areas and along major roads and interstates, which ensures a broad mix of ordinarily weird people, which is crucial for people-watching purposes.

Enjoy the blandly named bars and the often times weird 1970s and 1980s architecture that still haunts these places.

Find the place’s signature dish, like great sweet potato fries, an awesome plate of nachos or even free popcorn (for some reason popcorn is the most delicious food item ever when its free).

See Hotel bars: the ultimate random hangout



Roadside zombies tip #34: Pool cool

If you have pool, fill it in.  

If you don’t have a pool, and don’t live in the Houston-Dallas-Upstate New York pool belt, don’t get a pool. It may be tempting, but no one will ever use it after the first month and you will have potential buyers force you to remove it before they get close to buying your house. 

If you still have the urge to install a pool, think about the Poltergeist pool scene. Remember, the mom slides into the unfinished pool (full of real skeletons, by the way) and nearly drowns. You don’t want that to happen to you, do you?

See Upstate N.Y. and other pool meccas



Roadside zombies tip #35: Dealing with Halloween store sightings

At your local abandoned mall, put several notes in the suggestion box suggesting that they use the mall as a haunted house all year-round.

If you see an all-year Christmas shop, go inside and ask where the nearest year-round Halloween/Easter shop is located. You swear that you thought it was nearby.

See Haunting vacant retail stores



Roadside zombie tip #43: Helping suburbs through their identity crises

Be alert for the interesting, and sometimes excessive, ways cities try to identify themselves. Other silly identifiers can include, for example, manhole covers, trash cans, fencing and corporate-looking logos.

If you love these sorts of city identifiers, write your city council and tell them that the sole reason you moved to the community was the lovely highway bridge.

If you don’t like them, write to your city council and tell them the sole reason you’re leaving the city is because you don’t like their bridge work. You found it very unwelcoming and offensive.

Tell all in-identity-crisis-teenagers that dyeing their hair fondly reminds you of cities labeling their manhole covers, and how you can appreciate the similarities as both struggle to find who they are.

See Teenager + suburb identity crises



Roadside zombie tip #45: Enjoying pointless advertising battles

Watch how advertising battles unfold on America’s streets and towns. When plagued by too many billboards and signs, try to find weird patterns among competitors. This will lead to being engrossed with the latest trends in banking billboards, and eagerly awaiting the next brilliant move to take banking advertisements to the next level.

See The latest fashion models: lawyers



Roadside zombies tip #46: Benefitting from roadside trauma

Take a good, hard—but not long (you’re driving, remember?)—look at the stuff along the side of the road. Think about the crazy ways it could have gotten there.

Lobby your state and national representatives to pass legislation to regulate the use of bungee cords and twine in securing anything to a vehicle that is larger than a potato. Request that they develop a creative ad campaign to raise awareness about the situation.

If you are hauling a couch or other furniture that is secured with some twine, make sure the furniture is somewhat flammable just to make it more entertaining for people like me who will witness your furniture fallout.

See Tire shards, flaming sofas: remnants of roadside trauma



Roadside zombies tip #47: Appreciating funky chain restaurants

As you go about your everyday travels, pay attention to the typical features of various chain restaurants. Once you establish what the typical restaurant looks like, you will experience great excitement when you see a funky restaurant that shatters the franchise mold.

Notice how restaurants evolve their style and formats. Restaurants change their format and style to keep up with the times and meet the ever-changing demands of consumers. Fortunately, with the semi-permanence of buildings, it can take a while for restaurants to entirely shed their old image.

See R.I.P. funky McDonalds



Roadside zombies tip #54: Garage reassignment surgery advice

If you undertake a garage reassignment, don’t even bother to hide this fact. Leave the garage door in there. What teenager wouldn’t love a garage door in their room, (hey, they could even sleep with their new car) and it would be easy for parents to hear if the teenager tries to sneak out.

Watch out for violently braking cars in neighborhoods, since the driver is likely snapping away at garage door scars.

Someone build a bowling alley in a reassigned garage and invite me over. Please?

See Garage reassignment surgery



Roadside zombie tip #64: Breaking the gender bathroom divide

When you’re in line waiting for a bathroom when there is another one wide open, just think about other things that are separated by gender for no good reason—and go to the other restroom already!  If you’re a guy, just be prepared to get arrested upon exiting.

When you’re not waiting in line for a restroom, as you travel about, look for gender delineations that make no sense.

See The great gender divide: restrooms



Roadside zombies tip #76: Playing the building reincarnation game

Building reincarnation is alive and well, and can become a game. Here are some loose suggestions to get you started:

  • Develop a keen awareness of the distinct architectural features of at least three to 27 chains. Then keep an eye out for buildings that have been used by one of these chains during the building’s first life.  
  • Challenge your travel companion to guess what a building used to be, but only when you know what it used to be. Once they get it wrong several times, proudly announce what the building was in a past life. Then give them a hard time for not identifying it.
  • Get very excited when you spot and identify a reincarnated building.
  • Get out and take pictures of the reincarnated building and make passersby perplexed as to why you’re taking pictures of such a non-exciting building.
  • Keep an eye out for distinct buildings around you that were, at one point, probably part of the same chain, but you don’t know which chain. Try to figure out their heritage as you are out and about, and by asking friends, family and colleagues (who will think you are crazy, but then get into the game themselves. Someone will know the answer).

 See Walgreens + Pizza Hut: proof of reincarnation



Roadside zombies tip #83: Naming border towns

Go-getters thinking about starting a border town should avoid the pain of naming a city after a state that it isn’t in, but really, really close to, by combining state names. Kanorado or Texarkana are real names of border towns. Other hypothetical names could include:

  • Alabippi
  • West Virginia (a town on the border of Virginia and West Virginia)
  • New Colorariztah (four corners)

These names will help children in your border town avoid future pain when trying to explain where they originated because they will never ever be able to change that. Ever.

See Alabippi: border town names that save kids 



Roadside zombie tip #87: Appreciating the battle to the fill the boxes 

So, you’re wandering around aimlessly and happen upon a retail development that’s on its last leg:

  • Approach cautiously and get the camera ready
  • Nonchalantly wander around snapping photos and taking notes of stores in the area
  • Try to peer in windows of abandoned stores to see how long they’ve been gone, or if someone else is moving in
  • Be prepared to “runaway!” as someone will likely call the cops

See Suburban-retail-ruin love affair



Roadside zombie tip #99: Dealing “free” food at mid-range hotels

1) Holiday Inn Expresses should immediately switch over to these pastries as their trademark breakfast item. It is the way to move beyond the free “hot” breakfast ceiling.

2) For people not working for Holiday Inn Express, think about the weird “free” items or teeny tiny offerings that keep you coming back to a particular establishment. (e.g. free warm cookies at Doubletree Hotels, the free samples at Williams-Sonoma, Whole Foods or Costco)

3) Watch for how these free items change throughout different countries or even regions within the same country.

4) Keep an eye out for the next level of competition in “free” breakfast by mid-range hotels.

See Free breakfast battle: Argentine Holiday Inn may win



Roadside zombies tip #101: Effectively using people traps

What can we learn from these experiences that will make your everyday life more entertaining? Plenty. Here are some things to remember:

1) The Pueblo, Colo. population is attracted to inconvenient forms of metal, but what could be used for a good people trap in your area? In college towns, it could be gross couches or banged up furniture, in New York State, people dug through your garbage for plastic bottles (10 cents per bottle), and in Seattle, it could be broken umbrellas. What is important to people, and the incentives they have to behave a certain way, vary across regions.

2) Think about the crazy things that people who don’t understand people traps leave out on the side of the road. What items did people not want?

3) Finally, if your person trap isn’t working and you are having trouble getting rid of something you left on the side of the road, put a sign on it that says “$25” and it will be gone the next day.

See Pueblo people traps: a lesson in incentives



Roadside zombies tip #123: Appreciating culturally sensitive national chains

When out and about shopping across the country, notice what foods and products they have in some places and not others at national chains. I’ve realized that national chains can’t force people to buy the same products across the United States. They still have to adapt to local cultures, which can make for some delicious adventures.

See culturally sensitive Walmart


Roadside zombies tip #134: Stump art lessons

Sometimes it isn’t so much the art itself that’s interesting, as it is the weird history surrounding the art, and the art’s location/concentration. 

There are always interesting “capital” claims that small towns make, whether for chainsaw carving or elk. In fact, there are actually debates about which city is the elk hunting capital. If you’re looking to start a business, a good idea is to become the regulatory body and repository for “capital claims,” and charge cities to file those names with your company.

See Discovered: Tree stump art capital of the world



Roadside zombies tip #163: Cornell road know-how

Okay, enough sidetracking. So keep an eye out for your favorite prestigious university as you tour your favorite 1950s/1960s neighborhood. Or see if you can get a street named after your favorite university or develop a subdivision with only state school names, just so I can be entertained.

See Cornell Street, Avenue, Road, etc.



Roadside zombies tip #980: Mixing old and new styles

  • People who love to mix old and new: The new styles will eventually become old uncool and will take time to become old cool. Be prepared to wait at least 30 to 40 years. It will be a long-term investment.    
  •  People who haven’t gotten rid of old uncool: If you have a property with architectural features that are 30 to 40 years old and you plan on owning the place at least another 10 years, do not update your features. It will become old cool pretty soon.

See Campaign to save lime green carpet


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