I miss K-Mart. There was a whole school of humor devoted to K-Mart jokes back in the day. Now I just feel sorry for them. Sorry for the bankruptcy thing, and the Martha Stewart deal. I feel bad that the convenience of the K-Mart convenience store has been usurped by Wal-Mart and any number of Internet retail outlets. As a child, K-Mart was a revelation. There were aisles and aisles of items for sale at what seemed to be absurdly low prices. How did I know that the prices were ridiculously low? K-Mart told me.
Back in those days, if you wandered through the store long enough, a disembodied voice would alert you to savings throughout the store - and if you were patient and vigilant, there might be a blue light special. It was several years before I actually saw the blue light. I only heard of its coming, and I was never able to find it before the momentary flurry of cost-cutting came to an end. Then the blue light moved on. When I was finally fortunate enough to come across the actual blue light, I was surprised at how elemental it was: a box on wheels with a three foot pole rising up out of it. An K-Mart employee would push the box out onto the floor where the special was taking place. Then they would turn the flashing light on as the blue light special was announced overhead. The first time I saw the flashing blue light was in the lighting aisle. There was a special on desk lamps. I wondered if there might be blue lights for sale there.
Another appeal of K-Mart was the K-Mart Grill. The food was every bit as suspect as most of the merchandise, but the thing that made it enticing to us kids was the self-serve soda fountain. For twenty-five cents, you could buy a large cup with ice, and then you could fill it up with any soda (well, any of the four that they had). But filling your cup with just one flavor was wussy. One quarter Pepsi, one quarter Seven-Up, one quarter Dr. Pepper, and one quarter whatever nasty orange soda they happened to have - we called this drink a Suicide. We would sit in the back of the Grill, nursing our Suicides, gaining strength for the bike ride home and trying to get each other to laugh hard enough to snort soda through our noses. Sometimes we even bought things at K-Mart: a model kit, a Frisbee, and as I grew older even cheap (really cheap) car stereo speakers.
These days, Jaclyn Smith sells her line of designer post-Angels wear and Route 66 brand jeans fill a void that doesn't really exist in denim anymore. K-Mart is the sponsor of Martha Stewart's new daytime show, now that she's finished with her stay in prison, and I guess that's pretty solid K-Mart aesthetic after all - isn't it?