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Mall Rat Reverie 

Where to lunch when good sense abandons you

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I went to the doctor, and I went to the mountain. I looked to the children, and I drank from the fountain. I did all of that crap. But there's only one thing that brings me closer to fine, as the Indigo Girls sang in their 1989 hit, and that's going to the food court at the Santa Rosa Plaza mall for lunch.

From Sbarro's to Subway, the choices are not vast but they are familiar, and it swells my suburban mall-rat heart to wander the fringe of the court and watch the parade of plastic trays, piled with lowbrow chow as their purchasers waddle and whisk by to find a seat. There are many moms on hand, hollering at the children and blowing big coin for back-to-school necessities, and taking a break over a foot-long because, hey, we're already at the mall.

Watch! As a lonely old white man stares at a half-heap of General Tso's from the Panda and wonders if he'll make it to the can in time. Behold! A bucket-slop maintenance man scowls over a pile of non-union fries and contemplates a Trump America. Avast! I bet you'll regret that neck tattoo in a few years. Stop! I tuned out the people and tuned in the options, and was drawn to Charleys Philly Steaks. The namesake spoke to me from the menu board like it already knew me.

And it's true that I, too, am nothing if not a slice of cheap, rueful white American cheese, melted among the red-meat people. The sandwich was innocuous and nondescript and totally in sync with the food court itself, a perfect hideaway for anonymous people watching. That's added value to what is otherwise an $11 lunch rip-off. But, hey, there's a sale on at Sears.

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