FALLING SKIES (s3e7): The Pickett Line (On The Road Again)

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“The Road Not Taken” is a popular theme in film, TV, and literature. Even in real life, we wonder what would have happened if we had turned left instead of right. We look at an accident that just occurred and wonder if that would have been us had we arrived a minute sooner. We allow someone ahead of us in a lottery line and then wonder if that gave away the winning ticket.

Even deeper, we may wonder what our life would be like if we had made a different life choices in love, school, or employment. These “what ifs” of alternate scenarios can never truly be proven but by imagining what could have been, we actually help ourselves recognize who we have actually become and possibly work out that which is troubling us.

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Such was the case with last weeks’ FALLING SKIES. For the first time in a while, the Masons were able to be the Masons, not the 2nd Mass version but a family unit. No, they didn’t go back to school or play in the yard or go to the mall, but they did have to act as one unit again. And with this return to a focus on family, you can also see them return to the roles each had earlier in the series: Tom, protecting his brood, Ben feeling a bit like an outcast, nervous with the responsibility his “power” brings him, Hal becoming the older brother again to Matt and Matt seeming to bring revert to little bro status and follow the family.

However, the last three seasons have made that past family relationship go through some changes. Tom is now filled with self-doubt about the path he chose for himself and his family when the aliens attacked. Ben still has the alien traces on his back and is fighting the inner struggle between trading enhanced strength for a normalcy of asthma, weakness, but a life beyond 20. And Matt is growing up and there is no way to reverse that. The same desire to help, to participate exists in Matt, but with the knowledge and determination he has had to develop over the last couple of years.

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With Anne and Alexis still missing and held by Skitters, Tom and his family left Charleston to try to rescue them. On the way, Ben and Tom happen upon an injured rebel skitter who warns them about an alien squad that is tracking them. The mission turns into more than a search and rescue when they are ambushed by another family that has been surviving in the woods of Georgia seemingly off the radar of the aliens.

The Picketts set up a central theme for this episode, an alternate universe version of what might have been if the Masons chose to run, not fight. This theme is a staple of film and TV, in films such as IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE and SLIDING DOORS. What if you had made one different choice that led to an entirely different life? You tend to think first of how it would affect you, but then you have to look at how it may have exponentially affected everyone you have ever come in contact with. Much of the time, these “what if” thoughts have come from moments of great stress.

wonderful297228-1020-a In IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, George Bailey starts to crack under the pressure of being essentially a nice guy that is pushed to the limit as responsibilities to family, friends, and the town of Bedford Falls start to squeeze all humanity out of him. He gets the chance to see just what life would have been like had he never been born. How that absence drives everyone’s life going forward is obviously conjecture but it does show that things would change outward, not just for you.


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Blowing The Dust Off (Part 1)

69th Street (Easy Street) Shopping District from top of the Hill. Not sure of the year, but look's 50's 60's

Planning for things to blog about that can both cover my new journeys yet entertain readers, I always drift back to what I have seen and learned over the years. This also helps me get a handle on how things change and use this to learn how to personally adapt and change, not for change sake, but for personal growth going forward.

Such is the case when I look back at where I used to shop and visit. This is the first part of what I hope will be both a bit nostalgic for all of us, as well as hopefully encourage everyone and every local business how to keep their identity and their vitality.

Everyone lives somewhere. Everyone grew up somewhere. For those of us who are approaching ancient ages, we remember a time when the main shopping/eating/gathering places were right there. We did much of our consumer activities in the neighborhood.

Even going to the movies, they were neighborhood theaters, and even stranger, had one or two screens in a huge auditorium. As a boy growing up in the Overbrook section of Philly, our go-to shopping districts that were close to home included (besides the relics of corner food and drug stores) 63rd Street, the 69th Street shopping district, the Haverford Ave shopping area, and Ardmore, home of Suburban Square.

Phily Inquirer Article On Suburban Square Ardmore

Suburban Square is considered to be the first shopping center/mall in American, built in 1928. The “mall” aspect can be attributed to being among the first to add a major anchor store, STRAWBRIDGE AND CLOTHIER in 1930. It was built as an outdoor center, with streets running throughout and landscaped areas to walk and to relax. Many of the stores and a theater were local enterprises that thrived on a unique merchandising scheme or on a connection to the area.

Suburban Square was one of two distinct shopping districts in Ardmore, the other running the length of Lancaster Ave, with its own shops. There were separated by the Pennsylvania Railroads Paoli Line.

This post was triggered by an article that ran a couple of weeks ago in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the current plans for Suburban Square, a $1.5 million revitalization project. Right now, a good bit of it is vacant or being remodeled. What struck me as I read the article was that the article is saying that they want to be a “lifestyle center”, yet will not include a theater. The center used to house THE SUBURBAN THEATER which has housed the farmers market for so many years. Neighborhood theaters used to be common. They had a movie house flavor, sticky seats, a limited snack bar selection but also lots of friends and good films. They were usually right next door (not separated by a parking lot) from a number of stores and restaurants/diners that people would stop at before or after the film.

This is the City Line Center Theater, built in 1949 on City Line near Haverford Ave in the Overbrook Park section of Philly. The center is still there, but the theater is now a TJ Maxx. Also, there are no supermarkets left in this center. Next to it, for those who remember, is a SUN RAY DRUGSTORE. I spent some great times here. Judging by the marquee, I would assume that this is about 1967 or 71, when they re-issued GONE WITH THE WIND.

Of course, those neighborhood theaters are NOW few and far between, replaced by the sterile multiplexes. In addition, the style of localness of many stores have changed or disappeared. For example. In Suburban Square, their local merchants were replaced by more regional and national “brand name” chains and boutiques. Yep, even those either become too numerous or simply too cute for their own good.

Many of the stores that are closed in Suburban Square are chain stores like Talbots and Coach. All high end retailers and most not unique to the center, but represented elsewhere in the Southeastern PA region. In fact, one person interviewed mentions another Talbots in Malvern, where she shops at.

So you have a once unique attraction that could boast individualism and attractiveness in its store selection now trying to shed the move to high end chain retailers and create a “lifestyle” experience. The problem for them is that this “lifestyle” experience already exists out in the 5 county area, in many towns and villages. Suburban Square has a “Ruby’s”, a California chain that attempts to mimic exactly the kind of restaurants and diners that used to exist right there. Instead of a local original, we now get a mass-marketed copy.

What Suburban Square is trying to do is to stop competing against a behemoth like the King Of Prussia Mall and instead turn back time to become what once was, an attractive neighborhood area, albeit one that can attract from a larger area with the prospect of style, comfort, and individuality that a mall simply cannot do. You walk a mall, you stroll these areas.

Suburban Square is trying to manufacture a town square, similar to what has been built in Exton, PA.

What does this have to do with me? A lot, in theory. As I deal with my Interstitial Lung Disease and with the restrictions and changes that I have to face, I get to deal with the same issues in my personal life. What worked once has changed or is not working now. What I accomplished once now may be old news and I need to find a way to grab some of those headlines back. However, you can’t just do what you did before or simply tweek it thinking that it will all return to normal.

The same goes for towns and cities just like Ardmore and Suburban Square. Many of you living in the suburbs and in thriving Philly neighborhoods will know what I mean. They are trying to compete against the behemoths by finding a lifestyle solution instead of a head to head “can you top this” expansion and over expansion. However, that solution still keeps a strong link to the local style and history.

Many of these revivals are centered on creating a social reason for people to return again and again to a favorite area, and a favorite experience. For me, you can add a productive and successful future.

Coming in a few days, some thoughts on how to make everything old new again but not stopping at just trying to blow off the dust…

A Previous Memories post…

Pulmonary Rehab: Rattling Around In My Head Memories

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eric Pilgrim Gardens

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family drive in

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