There was a time when I could make five bucks last an entire day at the Del Amo Mall. No lie, $5.00 and I would be entertained, fed and happy. Steve Berg and I would walk the short distance to the mall from my house and we would go straight to the pinball machines in the arcade (Aladdin’s Castle), and with some skill, precision and quite a bit of luck, would make our quarters last.

These of course were the days when it cost only twenty five cents for a game of pinball, and you’d get five balls per game. Steve was always much better at the games we favored, but I could certainly hold my own, and whether we actually managed to secure a score that would get us a free game, or “match” and get a lucky free game, we always played more games than we actually paid for.

After a few hours our stomachs would begin growling, so we’d make our way to Perry’s Pizza for the special: Two slices of pepperoni, a salad and drink for $2.50 (remember, this was a long time ago). The toughest decision to make about Perry’s was whether we should go to the actual countertop location on the other side of the mall or to the Perry’s cart at the top of the escalator. Bottom line was that it was cheap and it was good. After we were done eating we’d return for another few hours of pinball, buzzing from the soda and covered in pizza grease.

So to quickly summarize our trips to the Del Amo Mall from a lifetime ago: We walked, dropped five bucks, played a lot of quality pinball and ate like kings.

Tonight I returned to the Del Amo Mall for the last time ever.

For those not familiar with the mall, it resides in Torrance California, has been around for a long time and undergone numerous renovations over the years. Most recently it received a mega facelift, with some glamor stores being added and the place just looks absolutely fantastic, as they have made the place an indoor outdoor behemoth that is quite a sight to behold. I do wish the latest attempt to make the shopping mall relevant in this age of online shopping to be a success and certainly hope that it gives a much needed jolt to the local economy, but I’m afraid that they won’t be seeing any of my money.

Today Emily had the pleasure of participating in quite a creative birthday bash for one of her friends, and it took place at the Del Amo Mall. It was something like a scavenger hunt and a chance for the girls to dare each other to do crazy things like try on clothes that didn’t fit or match and see if they could get the clerk to tell them that they looked fabulous. It was great fun for all the girls and they had a great time, followed by some yummy eats at Johnny Rockets.

My sole responsibility was to pick up Emily after the party, and here’s where me and the Del Amo Mall will agree to part ways.

Time it took me to drive from our house to the mall: 8 minutes.

Time it took me to secure a parking spot: 37 minutes.

Thirty five years ago I could walk to the mall in less than 20 minutes and spend a delightful day at the mall for five bucks. Today it took me 45 minutes to pick up my daughter from the same mall.

Okay, in the interest of full disclosure I am rounding the corner towards 50 and I’m getting quite cantankerous these days, but the epic meltdown that I suffered in the Del Amo Mall parking lot tonight had very little to do with my advancing age and everything to do with over-development of a once great suburb, a seriously bad parking lot design and people who seem to have forgotten the basic skills required to park automobiles. I pride myself in being calm, cool and collected these days. I no longer punch trees and throw things in frustration, but I was literally screaming in my car tonight. Screaming. What made it worse was the fact that Trevor was in the backseat, but he didn’t seem to mind. In fact, once we did finally park I apologized for “Daddy having a meltdown,” and he simply said that “It was funny.”

I called Samantha in the midst of my parking crisis and just let her have it. I screamed and threatened and made some sort of promises about the fact that “I wouldn’t even come back here if the Nordstrom family gave me their store” or something like that. I was going absolutely bonkers. All kinds of crazy.

As I mentioned, we did ultimately park, I did retrieve my daughter and now we’re safely ensconced in our cozy home and I’d really prefer to be a shut-in for the balance of my dwindling days. As soon as we walked through the door Trevor ran into our room and proudly proclaimed to Samantha; “Daddy had a meltdown!” I know I have to go back out eventually, but I won’t be returning to the Del Amo Mall. Ever.

I will not, shall not return to the Del Amo Mall.

I don’t care how large or how small.

I shall not, will not ever go back.

For if I do I’ll have a heart attack.