Remembering Places That Don't Exist Anymore

There are a great many places that I remember that simply don't exist anymore. Businesses that have gone out of business, buildings that have been demolished and rebuilt into something not as magical, or simply places that still exist, but I'll never be able to go back to. In any case, these places were special to me at various times of my life, and I want to write down what I remember of them, before I reach a point in my life where I can't remember them at all. I'll try to go over them in reverse order: the most recent lost place to the ones in the most distant past, and I'll try to explain why they were important to me.


My town had a Hastings, but it had gone out of business long before the entire company did. I remember it still being around in 2012, but I didn't remember when exactly it closed. A quick internet search told me that it was early 2013, so I guess that was it. Hastings was the last refuge of the bookworm in this town - the last place where you could just browse through rows and rows of books on the shelves. And because that much paper tends to dampen sound, it was naturally quiet, and I loved that. No matter how noisy it was on the other side of the partition where the video game section was, the book section was always quiet.

The video game section was no less a treasure trove. I remember it carrying sixth and seventh generation games of all three of the major console publishers. They also had a fair amount of collectibles and geeky t-shirts. But this was before the rise of the Pop Vinyl, so collectibles were fairly expensive.

Lastly, there was the DVD section, and while this was definitely my least frequented section, it did have its hidden gems. I made good use of the foreign films section to pad out my Japanese horror movie collection in the wake of the popularity of "The Ring," and "The Grudge." They also had an anime section all to itself, but it was rather small, and almost never had what I was looking for on the shelf. The good news is that I could often order something (with no money upfront) and they would ship it to the store and hold it for me until I could buy it.

And then, one day, Hastings was liquidating all of it's stock: 90% off sale. And just like that, it was gone. The coffee shop, the books, the games, the movies. All of it. Just an empty building. The next thing to go in that building was an awful thrift store. I couldn't even bear to go back in the building. Every time I did, it just reminded me of the shell of itself that it had become. The thrift store would also go out of business in time, and now there's a Planet Fitness going in there. It's still a painful reminder of what was once there.

Hastings was my last refuge during a time of my life when I was at my most vulnerable: right after my divorce. I was living with my grandmother, jobless, broke, and broken. This is where I picked up the games, books, and movies that would be a salve for my soul, until I would - by chance encounter - meet the woman that would become my wife, this time forever.

Nesbitt Hall, and the Library Computer Lab

When I was in college (the first time around), I was in a work-study program where I would watch over the computer lab for a few hours every day, and I would get paid for it to help offset my expenses while I was in school. It was easy work, and I got to basically get paid to hang out on the computers all day. But by far, my favorite time to be a "computer lab assistant" (my fancy-sounding job title) was on the weekends. Then, I was in charge of the computer lab in Nesbitt Hall. I remember the computers running Windows NT; not all of the computers in the school ran Windows - some were on an old UNIX mainframe and were all the old P1 phosphorus monitors (which I took inspiration from to make this site's color scheme). It was never very busy on the weekends, and some days there wouldn't be any people at all. That left me free to take full advantage of the school's T1 connection, which was blazing fast compared to my parent's dial-up internet. I surfed for hours on that connection, mostly delving deep into the links on the Anime Turnpike. I also developed and honed the skills that I needed to hand-code all the many websites that I would manage over the years.

And then I left college. First it was to attend classes at a satellite campus closer to home, and then I eventually dropped out. I learned a lot of things from that time, but a lot of it wasn't related to my major. Mostly it was just learning what I wanted to do with my life, and what I didn't want to do with my life. I've left that college for good; I have no intentions of returning to that particular life path, and that means that even if that computer lab in Nesbitt Hall is still exactly like I remember it - which is unlikely - I'll never be able to see it again.

Media Play

I was little when I was first diagnosed with ADHD. It was at a time when the best treatment options for children were ritalin, and a few years latter, adderall. Neither of these drugs did much for me except make me a fairly managable zombie-child, but my parents kept trying to get the dosage dialed in right so that meant regular trips to the neurologist in the big city. And it was on one of these trips that my parents brought me to a magical place that actually carried anime on the shelf: Media Play. Media Play was a lot like Hastings, but without the attached coffee shop. It had books, and movies, and games, and even some toys. But I was super into anime at the time, and this was going to be my only chance to be able to get physical copies. But they were really expensivel, like $30 for a VHS tape that had four episodes, at most (it was usually two). I ended up buying a considerable amount of anime that way, including a complete collection (all 13 VHS tapes) of Neon Genesis: Evangelion. Much to my parent's chagrin, I also managed to sneak and buy a few "adult" anime titles as well. I thought I was being clever, buy my dad figured it out really quickly, and confronted me about it in the car. He didn't make me take them back, but he insisted that I not show them to my little brother or let my mother find out about them. Really awkward conversation, really.

I stopped going to that neurologist when I turned 18, and told everyone that I didn't want to be medicated for my ADHD anymore. That pretty much put an end to going to Media Play on a regular basis. That's also about when I started going to college, so I didn't ever have time to drive myself up there either. The company finally went kaput in 2005, but I think I remember our Media Play going out of business before that. Either way, it's something that's gone that I'll never get back.


I don't remember when Bookland moved into the mall in my town, but I distinctly remember the first thing that I bought there: a tournament pack for Magic: The Gathering, Fourth Edition. I even still have some of the cards from that original pack that I've managed to hold on to for all these years. I also remember the first books that I bought from there; I had been part of my school district's gifted program since I was in grade school, and the teacher in charge of the program had moved up - teaching higher and higher grades - as I had advanced in grades. Now I was in middle school, and she was teaching the "advanced reading class." It was pretty much a think tank with some of the brightest kids in the school system, many of which I had long been associated with because they all came from the same gifted program. My teacher had recommended that I read Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings. I was immediately hooked. She had the first five books, but in order to continue with the second half of the story, I had to go chase them down myself. So, I turned to Bookland. They had a copy of the sixth book, Guardians of the West, on the shelf. The rest they would have to order for me. Eventually, I got the whole collection - even the ones that my favorite teacher already had. When I got to high school, they were my constant companions. Any chance I got, I would read that series over and over. They got me through the social crucible of high school, at a time when describing me as "socially awkward" would have been a massive understatement.

The other thing I remember about Bookland was how they hosted the Pokemon League tournaments when the trading card game first came out. Pokemon was super popular in my town when it first came out, and when the trading card game was released, it seemed like every kid in town had play it. I was a little older than the target demographic, and had been playing Magic: the Gathering for a few years, so this game was a piece of cake for me. I didn't have a massive collection of cards - which the rich kids made sure to remind me of every chance they got - but I more than made up for it with deck building skills and strategy. I remember that I had a grass-type deck with Beedrill as my main workhorse. I would poison everything they would throw at me, and then follow up with Twineedle. I devastated a lot of little kids in those days, which I should probably feel worse about than I do. I earned the boulder and cascade badges from that tournament - little enamel pins - but I've long since lost them. The schools around me eventually banned Pokemon cards, and the popularity of them tanked pretty quick after that. Bookland stopped hosting the tournament because the mall it was located in didn't like having 50-100 kids sitting in the floor in front of the bookstore, so I never got the rest of those badges either.

I don't really remember when Bookland went out of business, but I do remember why; the mall it was located in had long since stopped being relevant in my town. Wal-Mart had opened a supercenter in a much more central location, and in addition to being a one-stop-shop their prices were far cheaper than the mall. The mall, already dilapidated looking, lost most of its foot traffic and most of the stores in the mall would go out of business eventually, including my beloved Bookland.

The Grandslam

When I was a young teenager, the death of Superman was big news. Not just in comic book circles, either. It made the 6 o'clock news, at least on our local stations. The death of a cultural icon was huge, but that wasn't what drew me into comic books. It was my older cousin, who told me one time that we were going to The Grandslam. Now, I had no idea what that was, but he insisted that I come along. He had gotten into Superman comics right after the death of Superman was announced, and had to pick up that week's latest issues. Back then, Superman had four comics published on a staggered schedule, so no matter what week it was, there was a new Superman comic.

I walked into the tiniest comic shop that I have ever seen (even to this day). The guy running the place was pretty cool, and would go on to be a pretty good friend of mine (even if he was a lousy businessman and most of his comic shops would eventually fail). On the shelf, in cardboard backed polybags, were four comics with die-cut covers. They each said "Reign of the Supermen" at the top, and each one would go on to detail a "new" Superman - a supposed heir to the fallen hero. I snapped them up, and was immediately engrossed in the saga. For weeks (but I remember it feeling a lot longer) we were kept guessing as to which of these four supermen could be the real deal, and I'll admit that I had my favorite that I was rooting for. Unfortunately, my favorite turned out to be the villain in the story, but a lot of kids were probably fooled like I was. It didn't matter. The story had done its job. I was hooked, not only on the Superman story, but comic books in general. They were cheap back then, most titles being just over a dollar. Easily accessible for kids with only a little spending money.

Eventually, the guy that ran The Grandslam would go back to school, and closed the shop. He came back to town (and left again) several times over the years, and opened several new comic and card shops along the way. But that original, tiny shop, never reopened. It still sits there, abandoned, to this day.

Mega Video

Before Wal-Mart built a supercenter in my town, it had actually built an entire plaza to be situated in. Wal-Mart took up the space on the leftmost side, and other stores would come to occupy the rest of this huge L-shaped plaza. There was a Food Lion, a jewelry store, a Chinese restaurant (which is actually still in business to this day, just in a different location), a Little Caesar's (from back when you could get two pizzas for the price of one), and Mega Video. Mega Video was the best video rental store in town. Not only did they rent movies, but had a huge selection of NES games for rent. It was $3 for three days (two nights), so your best bet was to get there early in the morning as soon as they opened, grab what you wanted, and book it back home so you could get the most out of your money.

The best part about Mega Video was the rewards program. When you rented from them, they would give you back however much you spent in "MegaBucks". Basically, it was Monopoly money that they had printed with their name and logo on it. Thirty MegaBucks got you a free rental, and they didn't care where you got them from either. So my grandparents would give me MegaBucks for my birthday (and my brother as well, for his "unbirthday", and vice-versa), and some popcorn and snacks. We would go to Mega Video, rent a couple of games, and stay up all night playing them on the TV in the den. It was a blast. Oh, how I wish I could get those days back sometimes.

When the Super NES was released, Mega Video would rent you the console too, as well as the games. That was great, because I wouldn't have a Super NES of my own until Christmas of that year, and renting the console got me access to Super NES games over the summer.

Mega Video was also the place where I bought my first video game from. I had gone over to my cousin's best friend's house, and played his copy of Blaster Master for the NES. I remember it being ridiculously hard for me, but I loved how the game played, and the controls were smooth as silk. I had to have my own copy. So I worked out a deal with my dad: I would mow the yard every weekend, and he would pay me $5 for it: a princely sum for a kid my age. But Blaster Master was $30 at Mega Video, so it was going to take me six weeks (seven, because I hadn't figured out how sales tax worked) to pay for it. It could have only lasted seven weeks, but I remember it being a lot longer than that. Actually, I might have spent some of the money along the way, so it might have actually taken me longer. But I eventually saved up the $35, and Blaster Master was mine. It also taught me about hard work and the value of money, which is probably what my dad was aiming for in the first place.

I don't remember when Mega Video went out of business. Probably around the same time that Wal-Mart built the supercenter and moved out of their plaza. I remember a lot of the businesses in that plaza didn't make it. They would eventually demolish the corner of that L-shaped plaza, splitting it into two pieces. A Lowes would go into the spot Wal-Mart once occupied, and other stores would come and go on the other side. But Mega Video would be gone forever.


McDonald's still exists in my town, but the old building was torn down. The old building had the angled brown roof, and brick sides. To get to the front door from the parking lot, you had to walk around the playground, full of metal (sometimes dangerous) playground equipment that looked like characters from McDonaldland. When you walked in the front door, the walls were bright yellow, and the order counter was directly in front of you. After you got your food, the rest of the restaurant was laid out in an L-shape, and when you walked around the bend, at the far end of the row, past the brown benches and the swivel chairs, was a wall to wall mirror that hung over the bench in the very back. It made the rest of the building look absolutely huge, but it was just an optical illusion.

I remember having my eighth birthday there, and I remember it vividly because my grandfather had died only three days before. I remember the adults talking about it, saying that "he wouldn't have wanted us to cancel the party." I still remember when I heard the news about grandpa. I was too little to really understand yet. It was my first experience with death. I remember being told that he had died, and all I could think was, "So, he won't be able to come to my birthday party?" I remember having fun at the party, but I also remember a pall hanging over the adults, like they couldn't really let go and have fun. I didn't understand at the time what was going on; I would have to learn later what it all meant.

I remember playing in the McDonald's playground. There was a spiral slide, topped with Captain Crook (who I never learned who was, since the character had fallen by the wayside by the time I was born), swings featuring the Hamburgler, a merry-go-round that had spots for three kids, these three things that you could ride and rock on giant springs that featured the Fry Kids, and the Officer Big Mac climber. The day I realized I was a big kid was the day that I got stuck in that climber. I never even got a chance to go all the way to the top. I was too afraid of heights (still am).

I don't remember when they tore down the old building, and put up a new modern looking one just next to where the old one stood, but I remember looking at it and thinking, "I hate how this looks." It had none of the charm of the old building, and it felt very cold (and though I didn't know it at the time, very corporate). Something very precious was lost when they tore that building down. I think it was the magic of the place.

Grandma's House, and the Empty Lot Next Door

I didn't know why at the time, but my cousins and my aunt lived with my grandmother when I was little, and going over to her house was always a treat, because there were always kids right around my age to play with. There were four grand-kids in my family. I was the second oldest. We would play with He-Man figures and Barbies (because of the only girl cousin), and Transformers, and run around like little maniacs in the backyard and in the empty field next door. It wasn't entirely empty, though; There was an enormous willow tree there, and it provided plenty of shade on hot summer days. I remember chasing fireflies in that field during the summer. I remember thinking that there must be millions of fireflies. They twinkled like stars that you could just reach out and touch, catching them and putting them into a jar with holes punched in the lid.

I remember that once the house was hit by lightning. It hit a tree in the backyard, arced over and blew a basketball sized hole in the roof of Grandpa's old workshop, found the wiring there, and traveled to the main house blowing siding off of the walls of the carport as it went. Once it hit the fuse box (it was an old house that still had fuses) it blew all of the fuses out of the boxes like they were bullets. Of course, I wasn't there to witness all this firsthand. This was just what was pieced together after the fact. Insurance paid for everything to get fixed, and Grandma, my aunt, and my cousins all got to stay in a hotel (Or was it a motel? I forget.) until it was all fixed up, which I thought was pretty cool at the time.

For reasons that I won't go into here, that house was lost to me, and the rest of the family. I wish I could remember when it was, but I do remember having to pack up all the stuff in that house, and take it out to the moving truck parked on the road. I thought that was the worst day of my life. I had no idea how wrong I would be. A few years later, someone cut down that old willow tree, and built a house in that lot. I still miss that old tree. Grandma's house is forever lost to me. It probably doesn't even look the same on the inside. An entire era of my childhood, gone.

The House I Grew Up In

And finally, there's the house that I grew up in, the foundation of everything that I would become. I lived in the same house from my earliest memories, all the way up to my first marriage. I remember when they changed the address when the new 911 system came into town, because the name of my street and the street perpendicular to it were too similar sounding. I always resented that it was my street that had to change names. I remember endless adventures that I had playing outside in the stand of pine trees that made up the border between our house and the properties beside and behind us. I remember mowing that lawn countless times. I remember the summer when my dad cut all those pine trees down to make room for a bigger workshop (that he wouldn't be able to build for another 20 or so years) and having to drag all those cut branches around to the front of the house and to the street. And I remember thinking that the $200 that he paid my brother and I for that job was not nearly enough once we actually started doing the job as it sounded when he first approached us about doing it.

My parents still own that house, but because of various life choices I made that they didn't agree with, I'll probably never see the inside of that house until they both pass. We're basically not even on speaking terms anymore. They helped my ex-wife take custody of my son, even fronting her the money for a lawyer to do so. I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to forgive them for that. When they pass, the house is probably going to pass into the hands of my younger brother. It's probably for the best, since it's probably the only way he's ever going to be able to own a house of his own. I'll never be able to go back to that house, and even if I do, things will never be the same for me. Just a house now, filled with echoes of a past long gone.