We hardly knew ye

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - Mike Master­son Mike Master­son is a long­time Arkansas jour­nal­ist. Email him at mmas­ter­son@arkansason­line.com.

Not long ago I wrote about the demise of for­mer main­stay re­tail­ers in the lives of us raised in the 1950s and ’60s. Wool­worth’s, Ben Franklin, Mont­gomery Ward all were parts of our day-to-day lives.

The lat­est vic­tims of eco­nomic and cul­tural change are the malls that since the late 1960s have pro­vided so­ci­ety’s so­cial and re­tail­ing wa­ter­ing holes. These iconic as­phalt, mar­ble and con­crete shop­ping des­ti­na­tions are be­ing re­placed by the con­ve­nient yet home­bound iso­la­tion of on­line or­ders with free ship­ping to our front doorsteps.

Time will tell how well the 21 en­closed and “life­style” malls of Arkansas hold up. I can al­ways hope they ad­just and ac­com­mo­date in ways that keep them alive.

But eco­nomic fore­cast­ers and busi­ness pub­li­ca­tions don’t paint a rosy pic­ture.

Re­tail an­a­lyst Jan Knif­fen, founder of J. Rogers Knif­fen World­wide En­ter­prises in New York, told CNBC he be­lieves about a third of the na­tion’s shop­ping malls will close in com­ing years. Knif­fen es­ti­mates about 400 of the coun­try’s 1,100 en­closed malls will fail in years to come. Of those re­main­ing, he pre­dicts some 250 will get through while the re­main­der will strug­gle. An In­ter­net checks shows six in Arkansas — Phoenix Vil­lage in Fort Smith; In­dian Mall in Jones­boro; and the Main Street, South­west, Univer­sity and Metro­cen­tre Malls, all in Lit­tle Rock — al­ready have ei­ther closed or been con­verted to other uses.

One cause of this evo­lu­tion ob­vi­ously has been on­line shop­ping. In some in­stances, malls in ma­jor ur­ban ar­eas had be­come gath­er­ing places by those caus­ing crimes and con­cerns among cus­tomers. The re­cent rise of vi­o­lent gangs and ac­tivist groups (along with the po­ten­tial for ter­ror­ist threats in ar­eas where large num­bers gather) for the first time also weighs on the minds of per­spec­tive shop­pers.

That can’t cause those who own and man­age malls to be pleased.

There is more space than re­al­is­ti­cally needed for vi­able com­merce, a lot more. Knif­fen has been quoted say­ing, “On an ap­ples-to-ap­ples ba­sis, we have twice as much per-capita re­tail space as any other place in the world. So, yes, we are the most over-stored place in the world.” He ex­plains that our na­tion has an es­ti­mated 48 square feet of re­tail space for each cit­i­zen. That num­ber is on sched­ule to di­min­ish fairly rapidly.

Tra­di­tional mall an­chor stores such as JC Pen­ney and Macy’s al­ready have been strug­gling while im­ple­ment­ing cost-cut­ting mea­sures. Other re­tail­ers, such as teen ap­parel chain Aéro­postale, has filed for bankruptcy. Mean­while, mall sta­ple Sears has closed over 200 lo­ca­tions in two years.

What does all this mean for you and me, val­ued read­ers? I re­al­ize it’s mainly wish­ful think­ing, but per­haps there’s a smidgen of hope our mall com­mu­ni­ties will ad­just and find room for a re­turn to in­di­vid­ual re­tail­ers. But rest as­sured, sheer eco­nomics also will dic­tate that.

De­pres­sion and PTSD

Chances are you know some­one (or even are one) who suf­fers from de­pres­sion and/or post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der.

Sadly enough, across Arkansas and Amer­ica, tens of mil­lions of peo­ple to­day are liv­ing their lives with these re­lated ill­nesses to the hu­man psy­che. And while a wide choice of daily pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tions can help ease the neg­a­tive emo­tions and re­ac­tions caused by these con­di­tions, they don’t re­solve the root causes.

But I’ve learned of a once-monthly clin­i­cal treat­ment that of­fers re­lief by ac­tu­ally help­ing re­store dam­aged con­nec­tions within the brain.

Small in­fu­sions of the anes­thetic ke­tamine show enor­mous prom­ise to­ward help re­store a sense of nor­malcy for suf­fer­ers, ac­cord­ing to Dr. Steven Levine, of Prince­ton, N.J., founder of Ke­tamine Treat­ment Cen­ters. De­vel­oped in 1962, and since used as ev­ery­thing from an an­i­mal tran­quil­izer to a recre­ational street drug com­monly called “Spe­cial K,” Levine says small-dose ke­tamine in­fu­sions have proved a promis­ing form of ef­fec­tive treat­ment.

Levine told me he opened Ke­tamine Treat­ment Cen­ters in 2011 and has seen re­mark­able re­sults when the drug is ad­min­is­tered prop­erly and com­bined with tra­di­tion­ally psy­chother­apy. Within the past three years, a grow­ing num­ber of med­i­cal cen­ters and pri­vate med­i­cal prac­tices have joined in mak­ing the in­fu­sion ther­apy avail­able.

“The re­sults have been amaz­ing,” says Levine, now an in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized ex­pert in the clin­i­cal use of ke­tamine. “In some cases ke­tamine has started to al­le­vi­ate pa­tients’ symp­toms af­ter one in­fu­sion.” Re­search at mul­ti­ple uni­ver­si­ties re­veal a 75 per­cent suc­cess rate. A re­cent Columbia Univer­sity study found ke­tamine in­fu­sions given in like a vac­cine to those headed to­ward an en­vi­ron­ment likely to cause sig­nif­i­cant stress (sol­diers en­ter­ing bat­tle or aid work­ers to dis­as­ter ar­eas) pre­vented or re­duced PTSD symp­toms.

“We see mirac­u­lous out­comes with ke­tamine ev­ery day,” Levine says, “but un­for­tu­nately not every­one re­sponds. … [N]o medicine, even ke­tamine, can do it all. [It] can pro­vide a rapid jump start … . I don’t think of ke­tamine as a magic bul­let. It’s a tool.”

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