Rants & Essays

REVIEW: Hot Topic

By Rachel Pollock aka Lady Bathory

Yes, I ventured into the land of Mallville (scream) to patronize the corporate-whore gothstrosity that is a Hot Topic store. I had heard grand & glorious tales both pro & con, but had yet to lay eyes (or VISA) upon the fearsome franchise.

Cusraque, m'self, & my boss Traci intrepidly boarded the Commuter Rail & set out for Suburbia. Tho' we saw no one rolling up a lawn nor a single Parker Posey lookalike, we did see many snow-covered trees, unmarked rundown train stations, & far too many squinty-eyed flappy-lipped chinless yokels. When we arrived in chilly Attleboro--the train stop bore only a small hand-lettered sign reading "BFE"--there was not a soul, cab, or bus to be seen (we'd been told there was a bus that went from the train station to the mall...uhhhh).

As usual, I hadn't worn the most sensible of shoes, so while Cusraque & Traci gamely scrabbled across the icy parking lot towards a lone florist with a light-up OPEN sign, I teetered & defied gravity while creepingly bringing up the rear of our 3-person party. The Nice Lady (tm) in the florist shop gave us directions to the nearest bus stop w/o batting an eye at my violet hair extensions or Traci's facial piercings (never you mind Cusraque in general) & off we set again.

After a short yet long-seeming walk through bone-chilling wind to the bus hovel, we were dismayed to find that it was packed to bursting with boisterous wiggers. We were faced with the choice of a.) freezing our collective ass off while avoiding the booty-bass-boyz, yet letting them sense our fear, or b.) screwing up our courage & risking their taunts in exchange for warmth. We chose b.), & Cusraque--true to form--planted himself squarely in front of the Wigger Leader & said, "So, when's the next bus to the Mall, eh?"

The pre-teen would-be Vanilla Ice blinked twice & informed us it was to come in 12 minutes, so we retired to a corner of the hovel & began to smoke furiously & laugh nervous laughs. The wigger gang began to taunt a retard who was eating a meat pie in the back corner, & he nervously got up & ran away. Several old people came in to the hovel, & we started to feel like a film crew might be lurking somewhere. Finally the bus came.

The bus ride took rather longer than we'd hoped, but eventually we arrived at the big & bountiful Emerald Square Mall of North Attleboro, Massachusetts. We oohed & aahed appropriately, & speculated upon when was the last time we'd each been to a mall. Traci & I smiled with guilty pleasure at the looming prospect of conspicuous consumption...we felt the dirty glee of subs to The Man who secretly kinda like their chains...I felt my VISA get warm in my pocket like an unexpected hard-on... Okay, i'm getting a bit carried away here. Suffice it to say we were glad to get there.

We debarked & ran into the mall; I say 'ran' because after our 2 hours of traveling, each of us had to piss like a 3am drunk. After maniacally seeking out the loo & whizzing to our bladders' content, we struck out for the Hot Topic. Wait, just a bit farther, up here, should be on the right... (cue hautboys!)

After abandoning all hope, we eagerly entered the store, & oh what mass-produced yet inexpensive gothiness did abound! I was amused to note that, as I perused a rack of $40-or-less floorlength skirts, I found myself humming along to a very familiar tune: "Mr. 44" by Electric Hellfire Club. I was quite amused, tho' I also felt sort of like a sell-out turd at the same time.

It was at about this time that the sales staff smelled "Big City Plastic" on us like stink on shit, & 3 saleswomen immediately glommed onto us. Luckily, they were all fairly cool chicks (sporting *real* tattoos & piercings, instead of the Sharpie tattoos & fake noserings I'd expected), easy to talk to, & quite accommodating. Only a smidge of lame upsucking (one woman told me I looked fabulous in this Lip Service monstrosity that would've been cool if it hadn't been patterned by the visually impaired), & no it'ssoawesome!, youshouldbuytwo! pushiness like you find in some chain boutiques.

I was pleased to find brands like Marche Noir & Begotten, issues of _permission_ & _Carpe Noctem_, & jewelry by Axel. I was pretty freaked out to see ostensibly A.G.S-F t-shirts for sale on their t-shirt wall ("We can kick your ass without smearing our eyeliner!").

Snatching garment after garment, I made my way back to the *single* fucking dressing room...yup, big line. I was endearingly amused by the barely pubescent budding freakchicks who gaped openly at my hair ("Who did your hair?" "Kanakelon.") & tried to make idle conversation ("This place is cool, huh?"). One girl's choice of try-ons was definitely informed by I-just-got-boobs-&-want-to-stick-'em-in-plastic motivations. I finally got into the dressing room, only to discover that the lurvely Begotten faux-medieval dress I had picked out was made for either a stick or a sphere; being neither, I had to forego its most expensive purchase, a luck-of-the-draw for which my wallet later thanked me profusely.

My final haul consisted of the following:

1 pr purple woven-stripe fishnets ($5)
1 pr red tights w/black ankhs ($5)
1 pr black tights w/white spiders ($5)
2 holographic mod-cartoon stickers by michael economy ($2 ea)
1 _Goth Talk_ t-shirt ($17)
1 pastel blue pleather tailored jacket with white faux Persian-lamb collar & cuffs ($40)
1 pr black lace ruffled calf-length bloomers ($15)
1 standard-issue Hot Topic coffin purse ($30)

As she rung me up, the saleswoman informed me as to why 2 security guards had begun casing out the place; apparently a delusional looneybird was harassing both customers & staff claiming to be "the current Robert Smith." According to this fellow, Robert Smith died in 1987, & he had been hired to pose as Smith for the subsequent tours, interviews, photo shoots, etc. He was purchasing a Cure t-shirt w/"his" face on it to send his mother, & talking the ears off of anyone who'd make eye contact, & sporting a most sad stab at a Brit accent to boot. Yeah. Whatever.

On the long journey home (which involved missing our 1st train, a verbose cabbie who regaled us w/intimate details about his extended family, & a near-miss almost-collision w/a 70-mph Amtrak train) Traci & I gloated over our spoils & dreamed of a closer store location. Once I was safe w/in the warm lair of my apartment, I unpacked my purchases & took a closer look at my receipt. I'd been charged full price ($80) for the baby blue pleather, which had been marked 50% off! Eek!

I quickly rang up the store & informed them of my predicament. The woman remembered me (wow, what a surprise) & recalled the 50% off status of the jacket...she apologized for having been so caught up in the antics of "Fat Bob II" that she'd neglected to take off the discount. She cheerfully refunded my credit card, making me a happy-go-lucky Hot Topic fan.

My conclusion: a thumbs-up for the North Attleboro division of mass-marketed gothwear. Regardless of one's theoretical ideological objections to the corporate nature of Hot Topic, I loved the store. It was a nice shopping experience, it was cool to find stuff *I* liked in a mall (besides expensive cosmetics, those funny photo-sticker booths, & corn dogs), & boy did it bring a tear to my eye at the thought of my conceivably having had access to something like a Hot Topic back when *I* was a barely pubescent budding freakchick. (sniff) You go, little goth girl, stuck in a shitty suburb...you just go.

Previously published in “Take A Bite #5” by Sexbat World Enterprises, UK. He scooped me by about 12 hours. Damn.