The vegetarian thali dinner at Chaat House in Cupertino looked like a cosmic mandala. Circles within circles. I will never forget it.

Every time I invaded the Oaks Shopping Center, I would eat at Chaat House. It was cheap. Dirt cheap. Yes, it was a chain, so there existed others, but at that particular place, staring into a presentation of that particular thali dinner, I imagined chanting ancient mantras of the most esoteric sort. The ego would dissolve. The self would drop. Higher states of consciousness would crystallize. It was better than drugs. The place also had a giant poster of an Om symbol, explaining its roots and meanings. I loved staring at that poster while I devoured the thali dinner.

Of course, since the shopping center is now demolished, I can’t do any of these things. That mandala, along with the Om poster, is history. Also gone is the Thai restaurant, the coffee shop, Hobee’s, the old bookstore and the theater, or what was left of it.

Even Tom Shane bailed from the scene. I never had any friends in the diamond business, so I never thought about Tom Shane too much. But I still contemplate the cosmic mandala of that thali dinner. I took numerous photos.

When I slithered around Cupertino last week to survey the wreckage of history, I couldn’t help but summon the muses of memory. The cosmic sound of Om guided me along the way.

The former Oaks wasn’t the only atrocity to behold. The Flint Center is now out of commission. The building remains, for now, although its half-century run as one of the South Bay’s tremendous performing arts centers is now over. Kaput.

Everything happened at the Flint Center. By now, most people know that Steve Jobs first demonstrated the Macintosh on stage at that very venue in 1984.

One year later, we showed up as teenagers to watch Wrestlemania I, on closed circuit television, broadcast live via Pay Per View from New York City. That’s how it was done in those days. This was the very first Wrestlemania, right when pro wrestling was just starting to degenerate into the over-commercialized Hollywood garbage it is today. Everybody was there on the screen: Hulk Hogan, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Andre the Giant and more. In those days, Cyndi Lauper was in the mix as one of the managers, but she wasn’t the only rock star. Muhammad Ali, Mr. T, plus the legendary baseball manager Billy Martin and even Liberace showed up. None of this was live, in person, but it was close enough for rock ‘n’ roll. I miss Billy Martin.

I can’t believe De Anza found a way to axe the Flint Center. They spent $30 million seismically retrofitting the parking garage—for 1,800 spaces—and now the Flint Center is finished.

And then there’s Vallco. No cosmic meditation on Cupertino’s downfall would be complete without mentioning Vallco.

Around the same time as the aforementioned events, Vallco was the fourth highest grossing mall in Santa Clara County behind only Stanford, Valley Fair and Eastridge. Originally an austere business park in the ’60s, Vallco was by the mid-’80s a gargantuan retail monstrosity anchored by Sears, JCPenney, I Magnin and The Emporium. At that time, it had 143 stores and a parking capacity of 4,600 cars—more than the entire population of Monte Sereno. The El Torito restaurant alone took up 9,500 square feet, the TGI Fridays 8,900 square feet. Naturally, I first showed up for Musicland and Rainbow Records. I didn’t care about Foot Locker or the Sunglasses Hut, but the mall was raging. Eventually even more parking was added, along with dozens more retail outlets.

Now it’s all gone. This is not a complaint. No amount of cosmic mysticism will bring back Crabtree & Evelyn or the One-Hour Portrait Studio. What’s done is done. This is a logical conclusion to half a century of suburban sprawl and the nauseating car culture that came along with it.

In any case, as I finish typing this column on my MacBook Air, I am grateful that at least Apple still remains in Cupertino. In the spirit of Steve Jobs, I will now return to my Om chant and let the memories continue.