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Hot on the heels of their gripping exposé of what it's like inside an American Idol taping (apparently that studio is much smaller in person, and there's a man wandering the aisles prompting the audience to applaud!) the NY Times continues their series Things On the West Coast That Don't Begin To Exist Until We Acknowledge Them Years After the Fact with a look at The Grove. What to make of the dancing-waterist, most trolleytastic consumption experience west of the Rockies? Best to submit yourself willingly to this seductive simulacrum of Main Street, U.S.A., filled with all the ma n' pa Apple Stores and charming cellphone accessory carts of your youth:

The Grove is everything that is horrible and spectacular about our brand-saturated American lives.

It's a living version of every pretentious theory you may have read back in grad school: a facsimile of a space, a scripted zone, a generic city, a vituperative quote by Baudrillard or Deleuze. But it's also totally great! [...]

[A]s long as we continue barreling along our path of unmitigated consumerism, the future will not look smooth, white and sleek. It will look like the Grove: a Frankensteinian hodgepodge of branded facades that we walk into and out of, forgetfully.

"A Frankensteinian hodgepodge of branded facades?" Leave it to those neurotic, East Coast intellectual types to overanalyze a good thing. As anyone who maneuvers the streets of L.A. with any regularity can tell you, the Grove owes its success to its one seemingly obvious, but maddeningly elusive feature: The easy-to-master parking structure. One night spent in an unfamiliar corner of Hollywood + Highland's Level 5, huddled by an exhaust vent for warmth with only a few stray popcorn kernels from your coat pockets for sustenance, is enough to make you reconsider ever revisiting a state-of-the-art shopping facility again.