So, like, a long time ago when I was but a teen, I was a big fan of Star Trek. Like, really big fan. I’d sit in front of the TV every Saturday night at 6pm to watch “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” I’d write stories featuring the Enterprise crew. I even went to Star Trek Conventions.
Yes, I did. See, I had this friend named Russell, and Russell’s dad was one of very few – three, I think – people to write (or, in his case, co-write) a spec-script and sell it to Paramount. That script was “Tin Man” (and he also did one of many re-writes on the episode “First Contact”). As you might imagine, Russell’s dad was quite the Star Trek fan, and it rubbed off on his wife, his son, and his daughters. Anyway, there was an annual Star Trek convention held in the northern part of Maryland every year called “Shore Leave”, and it was held at a place called the Marriot’s Hunt Valley Inn.
If you drive north on I-83 from Baltimore, you can see the Hunt Valley Marriot on your right as you approach Exit 19. It is a big, sprawling building with a dark red roof and black framed windows stuck in its brick walls. The hotel itself was great for kids – during the conventions, we’d run through the long, winding hallways pretending we were on ‘away missions’, either completing imaginary tasks, or looking for the occasional ‘guest star': one night, we stumbled (almost literaly) across a very surprised looking George Takei.
And yeah, y’know, I could tell you about the horde of Klingons who trampled us screaming, “Where is our soap!” or getting to shake hands with DeForest Kelley, or getting to go backstage and to private receptions … but, really, this isn’t what I’m going on about at all.
There was a Saturday tradition: lunch at the foodcourt of the Hunt Valley Mall, located right across Shawan Road. Even thirteen years ago, it was pretty clear the mall’s deathblow had been dealt. When I moved into this area five years ago, the mall still remained, three quarters of its stores closed. A Walmart and a Hoytts movie theater were constructed to try to reverse the damage the relatively new Towson Town Center had done – but it was too late.
Back then, every year when we came to Shore Leave (the Baileys and me, all of us spent our nights sprawled around the hotel rooms on beds, chairs – I think I even spent one night on the bathroom floor!) we would take note of the further closures that had struck the mall. It was most obvious on the food court. It was on the second level, just to the left of where now a Dick’s Sporting Goods is. There was a burger place, a pizza place, a fry place, a taco place. One by one, they continued to vanish.
The mall finally closed about two years ago. The doors were locked for good, and with the exception of Sears at the far end, the structure was demolished. They’re building something new where the mall used to be – trying to copy the success of Avenue at White Marsh, I guess.
The building frames are up. So it’s pretty damn crazy. I have thoughts on overdevelopment, and like, seriously, improve Shawan and York Roads, you assmunchers! On the other hand, it’d be nice to have a Barnes & Noble closer than Towson.
On the other hand, yet another bit of my childhood, long gone before I realized.