Adieu to Balducci’s, Zabar’s, and Other “Traitor” Joes


Once upon a time in the faraway kingdom of Arlington, Virginia, I actually enjoying grocery shopping. Of course, that was two decades ago, when both my checkbook and I enjoyed a busy, productive run with more discretionary income. Mind you, Jon and I haven’t had spare change since November of 2009. Today, we plan our forays to market in advance to consolidate trips and save gasoline. We shop at four different grocery stores: one for staples, another for meats and produce, Trader Joe’s for affordable treats, and our local “Taj MaTarget” for the convenience of securing medications and bare essentials.

Jon scouts websites for online coupons and clips the rather archaic, cumbersome, and persistent ones that fill our leaning mailbox. As we peruse the grocer’s various aisles, we now compare: the price per weight and the expiration dates, as we check the list of pertinent email alerts. Oy ve.

Marketing has become a fine art, albeit one on a pauper’s budget. Gone are the “Cobb salad” days when I would see, let’s say, an appealing jar of blue cheese stuffed olives and place it in my cart with no attention paid to its price or necessity. I no longer have a freezer teeming with meats. They have been replaced with white bread, “dainty” frozen meals for Jon’s lunch, generic vegetables, and ice cream, when and if it is on sale. The icebox door is no longer filled with exotic condiments, nor is the second shelf filled with an array of gouda, Gruyère, Cotswold, and Guinness cheeses. They have been replaced with one “lone” choice for both mustard and sliced cheese, well as close to gourmet as a pre-sliced cheese can be!

Generic substitutes dominate our cart, except for those few loyal and coveted brands involving catsup, mayonnaise, coffee, and toilet tissue. Occasionally, though, we’ll sample, perhaps “Duke’s”, and realize that we made a bad decision, especially for sandwiches or slaws. If the indoor pusses are reading this, they should realize that the “prioridad número uno” is indeed fresh cat litter. It has become the single item that we always have on-hand. Period. Truly. Period.

Naturally, this post was freshly inspired by today’s round of marketing. Of course, the logistics brought to mind yet further “twin” concerns: time of day and day of the week. To no one’s surprise, I am finicky about never wanting to be in a Harris-Teeter, Food Lion, or Whole Foods during peak times such as snow days, any televised or local tournament schedule, or evening rush hour. Jon is better about such impromptu adventures and will venture out for a solo jaunt, allowing me private posting time … without shouting, shoving, grabbing, and endless waiting. Now that I am in my mid-fifties, I am still amazed at how many people who pay by check never have their pen and checkbook poised for the amount. Instead, they fumble and stumble.

So as Jon and I enjoyed our mid-afternoon Friday marketing jaunt, I found myself reminiscing about the good old days.  Specifically it was the angus beef, seeded artisan rye bread, and the unseasonably vine-ripened tomatoes that piqued my interest and stirred my tender loins. I only “bitched” vocally about the rising prices of paper towels and tissue paper. It is a different world today. I rarely complain anymore as my priorities are more grounded. I have Jon, my family, and my friends who constantly nurture me.
What I don’t have, however, are “blue cheese filled” olives. Yet I somehow survive.

(Image: “Puta” by Fred Stonehouse, 2011.)


Embracing the Salty Masthead

 “Aye, aye, swabee!”
Most of us have some layer of deep-seeded romantic fantasies involving sailors, prompted from either children’s adventure novels or classical Greek mythology. My younger colleagues would suggest that Popeye, Gilligan, McHale, and the Village People also left some indelible “tattoo” on our subconscious.

The first such imagery that had impact on a Chapel Hill”kindergartner” was that of “Diver Dan” and his underwater shenanigans with the mermaid Minerva, and the clever fish puppetry. Although I have yet to since encounter any other aquatic life forms that wear spectacles, puff on cigarettes, or converse with an Italian accent (which often crossed into”dangerous waters” with a politically incorrect gangster dialect), I remain hopeful that mermen preen on the ocean’s rocky surf.

Television and the occasional film thus molded my “sailor” visuals in my fertile and young imagination, at least until I was a teenager. Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was to have a relatively huge impact on my pubescent years. I was awakened to the majesty of the sea and its adventure, danger, and demands. It was also, perhaps, my first realization of man’s “smallness” within the Universe’s realm. At age thirteen, I was indeed hooked and on course to be an obsessed Melville enthusiast.

Of course later in life, admittedly in my twenties, the familiar sexual images surfaced: the scraggly, unshaven faces; the salty brows; and the provocative stances. Add to those a nostalgia of the warm and pungent sea air and a few Stolichnaya martinis, and I was always primed to embark on a flirtation.

Hiya, sailor.”

A chance encounter with a merman, however, would likely leave me speechless and in need of much more than a mere martini.

Please note: the life form “merman” maintains no relation to the quite late and very different life form, songstress Ethel.

(Image: “Amor Y Olas” by Felix d’Eon, 2012.)