I've fallen in love with Trader Joe's again. I had not been during the entire pandemic even though it is near my house. It has the worst parking lot in the world, always full, tiny and shared with a strip mall of other businesses and impossible to drive through. Still, it is a good place to shop if you don't buy any of their meat products. You can, but they are the worst in the world. They get last pick at the meat markets, I am told by a restaurateur friend of mine. Costco, he says, gets first, and indeed they have some of the best meats around. I find that incredible but probably true. But never, ever buy from TJs or Aldis or any of the discount stores. It is the stuff of horror shows.
On the other hand, there is everything else that is edible. Maybe I have certain middle class tastes that I am not aware of or would not own up to. I mean, the layout of this store is not glamorous. It is not spacious. It is like a maxi mini-mart. Maybe it reminds me too much of the place up the street that always sells me milk that has not been kept cool enough owned by "men with mustaches." Maybe it is the freakishness of the people who shop there. Perhaps I have to have my hippie vibe on. I'll own up to just about anything as long as I'm the one pointing the finger.
But yesterday, I went because I am still battling the death smell in the house. It is definitely not a rat. A rat smell would be gone by now. This is either a possum or a raccoon or a dingo or a small human. The smell continues to strengthen just when I think, "Now it has reached its peak." The mightiest warrior I have against the odor is a TJs candle called "Cedar and Balsam." Its fragrance is powerful and wonderful, and mine is all but gone. I would buy many more. And I needed frozen peas and organic milk. It was to be a quick in and out.
Nope. Have I never looked before? Have I never explored the nooks and crannies? I think I breeze by the crowded stacks and multiple layers expeditiously looking for what I need. And now? Yesterday, the store seemed a Cabinet of Curiosities. Maybe I have been sensory deprived. I moved through the aisles an inch or two at a time, irritating other insistent shoppers. It was uncomfortable, but what could I do? It was like exploring a new lovers body for the first time and finding nothing but pleasure.
O.K. Maybe not. But I had to go there, didn't I? Being sensually deprived and all.
Have you ever perused TJs bottled sauces? I hadn't. Are they new? Jesus, there are one or two mainstay sauces for each ethnic cuisine. I needn't make from scratch all the Asian sauces in menus I read about and would like to try. Chile sauces? Galore. Pestos and Mexican dips. Oddly enough, last night Q was touting one to me just hours since I first discovered it. I am late to the game.
And, of course, the cookies and the candies. How does one choose?
In the end, my small shopping cart was full. The cashier waved me forward, and then I remembered that I had come in for a candle.
"I bought a candle here a while back that was wonderful. Where would the candles be?"
"They are seasonal. We don't have any just now. Probably spring."
"What, winter isn't a season?"
She didn't have much of a sense of humor. The bagger chipped in helpfully saying, "Yea, why don't we have a Valentine's candle?" The cashier was unmoved. But she was good at scanning, and in a Texas Second she had me checked out. $35. I shit you not, as my father used to say. My knees crumpled. I was sure the cashier secretly loved me and was just tongue tied about the candle. Either that or she was incompetent. There was no way everything in the cart had been scanned. I looked at the receipt she handed me after checking her stolid face for a glimmer of a smile. Nope. It was all there. Holy smokes! I'd forgotten this part, too. Just another reason to love Trader Joe's.
Having written this, I am thinking of all the places I haven't been this year. I haven't been to the butcher's shop up the street all pandemic long. Nor the fish market. I have just shut down my life post-Ili/mid-pandemic. I've been a zombie, a worn shel of a human being.
That is all changing. Soon. Very soon.
I didn't take today's photo. It was taken from the back of the scooter. I used to ask my "passenger" to shoot with a small camera as we slowly cruised the Boulevard. Yesterday I was going through a hard drive and came to a folder with a label that made me curious. There I was, shot from behind, sitting on my scooter, a little fat but whole, rugged and unbroken. I weeped a bit for that, but went on to work some of the untouched photos from that file and life. The photo is nothing but a reminder of life pre-pandemic, pre-retirement, pre-breakup, pre-accident, when disaster and horror were somewhere distant on the horizon, too far away to even guess at, back when I went to all the markets and the pantry was always fun and always full.
I need to stock the pantry once again. The pantry must be stocked.