On Sunday, the Americana was packed. But what was remarkable was that the stores themselves weren't crowded. Instead, everyone was outside, sitting on the grass, hanging out by the fountain, or watching their kids on the playground. And while there were plenty of people eating on the Cheesecake Factory's outside patio, there was a conspicuous lack of shopping bags.
It seemed like everyone had gone to the mall ... to sit outside on the grass.
I'm not exactly sure why no one was shopping on Sunday. It could be because of the recession, or because the Americana mostly features upscale expensive shops like Barney's and Kate Spade. But I can tell you why people flock to the Americana all the same. It's because there's a paucity of public parks in LA. With a few exceptions, such as Griffith Park or MacArthur Park, there are relatively few neighborhood parks in Los Angeles where you can sprawl on the lawn and read a book or throw a ball around with a friend.
Now I know, I know. Lawns aren't eco-friendly in a drought-prone area like LA. But the truth is, people like grass and trees, and a village green is much more eco-friendly than everyone having their own backyard lawn. And especially in a place like Los Angeles, where it's sunny all the time, people need more spaces where they can enjoy the outdoors.
Unfortunately, land is also expensive, and so instead of getting more parks, we end up with outdoor malls. Contrast this with Prague, where I went two summers ago. Prague is famous for its old buildings of course, but it is also justifiably famous for its parks and gardens. And there are parks EVERYWHERE. And if you turn into a random alleyway, chances are good you will land up in some public garden.
I read once that one of the reasons the Czech are so outdoorsy is because when the Communist Regime controlled the media, people headed outdoors because it was the only place to escape the government.
But even those of us in messy capitalist democracies need to escape outside now and then. We all need time to lean against a tree, or to teach our child how to throw a frisbee. It would be nice if we could have more parks, but until then, people are going to make do.
And so people will probably continue to visit the Americana and not shop. Because LA didn't REALLY need another mall, but we desperately needed that patch of green.