Sunday, June 5, 2022

The Kitchen, The Container Store, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Trader Joe's

  This is a long, stupid story and I'm feeling punky.  Let's see how far I can go.  Where do I begin. 

It was a dark and rainy Saturday. . . .  O.K.  It was supposed to be as a tropical storm was tracking across the state, so I decided to do a dreaded chore.  I would take apart and clean my fridge.  It is a dandy one.  It comes apart like tinker toys.  Maybe all refrigerators do.  I don't know.  But this one does which makes it easy to clean, something I should do more often.  

And so, shelf by shelf, I began to empty the thing.  

I planned to throw the bad stuff away, of course, but being a guy, I wondered, "Is this still good?  Can preserves go bad?  I mean. . . they are called preserves. . . ."

I decided to get some help.  Text help, anyway. 

Ph.D.s would know what to do.  Females.  Doctorates in Home Ec.  Kidding.  Two in math, two in lit, one in sociology.  I began with the one who has kids.  An entire family.  She was really excited.  "Oh," she exclaimed, "if I weren't busy today, I'd come over and help you.  I LOVE organizing things."

I'm not making that up.  

I thought, sure, she teaches at the university, but she has kids.  So I texted the childless others.  Holy smokes, my friends, they were very much the same, even the butch lesbian who I thought would be like me.  

"I clean my refrigerator and shelves every three months," she said.  "I can't stand it if things aren't organized."  


Every shelf went into the sink to be washed with hot, soapy water, then sprayed and wiped with a Clorox cleaner.  I had to really work at it.  Things had spilled and formed hardened, sticky shapes.  Jelly?  No.  That was the roasted beet that leaked all over the place.  This one?  Yea, that's got to be jelly.  

I found things that weren't even food.  One entire shelf was old film I'd forgotten about.  Some things were difficult to identify.  Fossilized pizza, maybe.  

I texted more friends.  I texted my college roommate and his wife.  Ph.D. in PoliSci.  MFA in Creative writing.  Child free.  They had no advice.  They just laughed.  

I texted an old best friend who moved away decades ago and raised a family, three boys, all Ivy Leaguers. He's the smart one.  He made lots of money.  He's my conservative friend, and he had real boy advice.  "Throw it all out. Replace with beer. A bottle of vodka in the freezer. Oh, maybe keep the hot sauce. 

And olives."

In a few hours, the shelves had all been removed and cleaned, not as I usually do, but fully.  I am what I call an 85 percenter, but this time I upped my game--98%, I'm sure.  I got on my hands and knees and did fridge yoga, scrubbing the inside walls and floor and getting into the little notches with Q-tips.  I was determined not to leave a speck.  And when it was all spic 'n span, I put it back together.  That is when I got lost.  

"You need to go to the container store," said my friend with the family.  

"Do they have such things?"

She sent me the address of the Container Store.  I texted the photo over to my buddy.  

"That is a psycho’s refrigerator. Probably has a snake in it."

It was after noon.  I hadn't eaten, but I wasn't hungry after handling all the old and dated food.  What I wanted was a Bloody Mary.  

It was time for opinions: "Can Bloody Mary Mix go bad?"

The women said "pitch it." My buddy said, "Zing Zang brand probably has enough mercury in it to knock back bacteria."

"That's what I was thinking," I wrote back.  

My friend with the family, however, wrote, "Don’t drink a Bloody Mary right now. It’s raining and you have to go on the interstate. No drinks right now. And yes, if you’re unsure if the Bloody Mary mix is bad then it is 99.9% likely to be bad. Toss it."

Since I had no celery, I threw some blue cheese cocktail olives in it.  I took small sips to see how my belly would react.  Seemed fine.  

Of course, what I hadn't mentioned to "mom" was that my wiper blades are bad.  They have been for a year.  They are really fine everywhere except where I look.  I have to duck or stretch to see under or over the smeary part.  

Of course, the Container Store was overwhelming.  It was the size of a Walmart with nothing but containers.  I tried, but everything began to swirl.  I stood in the middle of an aisle and began to weep.  Silently, of course, but people looked at me with sympathy.  

"How do you choose?" I asked.  They just gave me sad smiles and nodded.  

The first things you see are the most expensive.  I could store my flour, for instance, in a $22 container.  The sugar container was only $20.  But I was resigned.  I needed it all, for I had decided that when I got back home, I was going to dive into the cabinets.  I filled a shopping cart with plastic things, then, rounding a corner, I found the cheaper stuff.  I put the beautiful expensive containers back on the shelves and got the ones that looked like what my mother might buy.  Still, when I checked out, it was close to three hundred dollars.  

Back home, I piled the containers on the floor.  I had bought randomly, it seems, and not nearly enough. 

Another Bloody Mary.  More texting.  More advice.  

The pantry shelves were as bad as the refrigerator.  I found old, crumpled bags of nuts and potatoes chips and Ball Jars with a few pieces of old candy in the bottom.  

It was five o'clock and I wasn't done.  But I was.  I had emptied the bag of baking goods that had been sitting on my dryer since I made the banana poop bread.  I'd put the flour in the cheap container.  The top kept popping open.  I should have bought the expensive stuff, I thought.  Sure. 

The rest would have to wait.  I hadn't eaten all day but for the three Bloody Marys.  I needed food.  But first, a cocktail and a cheroot on the deck.  I needed to contemplate.  I needed to relax.  

The rain had ceased.  There was only the occasional light mist.  It was Saturday night.  C.C. had been texting me photos from Ohio, another friend sending pictures from Illinois.  I had a bag of mushrooms a pal had sent me, stuff grown in Oregon.  Fuck it, I thought.  I'll microdose.  

Like I know a dose.  

I figured it would take awhile.  I started making an easy dinner--spaghetti noodles (fresh from their new container home), frozen petite peas, and canned chicken.  The cat showed up just in time.  I opened the chicken with my new expensive can opener and gave her the chicken juice mixed in with her food.  God she goes for that.  I started chopping garlic.  I sat for a minute as the noodles boiled.  I could already feel something low down in the back of my brain, maybe the brain stem, maybe the cerebellum.  This was not, I realized, going to be a cerebral experience.  I decided to rent a movie I'd seen years ago one Saturday afternoon, much like this one, lying on the couch with Ili.  It turned out to be a Super Saturday.  

I drained the  noodles and the peas and put the chicken in the bottom of a big bowl.  Garlic, then the peas and noodles, Kosher salt, pepper, red pepper, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.  I poured a glass of wine.  The movie was "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.", 

Jesus, that is the best spy movie ever made.  Ever.  Beautiful people, beautiful costumes, beautiful settings, and not a ton of crazy action scenes.  It is almost perfect.  Guy Ritchie directed.  He's done some good ones.  I loved 'Snatch."  That was another Saturday movie with Ili.  Hmm.  

For some reason, I started to get cold.  I don't usually get cold.  I hoped I was o.k.  I needed to put on another shirt.  I walked to the closet.  On top of the dresser sat my Japanese fishing shirt, the expensive one that I've never worn.  It still had the tags.  I put it on, tags and all.  

I took a picture--me, my Jap fishing shirt and Jap pants.  Groovy.  One for posterity. 

Halfway through the movie, dinner eaten, I paused to clean up.  I washed my one bowl and one fork and the colander and the boiling pot.  Done.  No, wait. . . set up the coffee maker for the morning.  

Shit, fuck, goddamn--I forgot to buy coffee.  What to do?  Only one thing, I thought.  You are sure to want something else to eat.  Trader Joe's will be open for another few minutes.  Take yourself in your cute little costume and go.  

I drove carefully through small streets.  I am fortunate, you know.  I needn't get on major roads to get anywhere from my house.  When I got to TJs, the parking lot was fairly empty.  The sky was clearing.  There was the glimmer of a slice of moon.

I must suggest something to you that you already know.  Don't go to TJs late at night when you are fucked up.  It's like going to the candy store.  I found the coffee beans in a big container.  Cheap. Ginger cookies.  Triple ginger cookies.  Some brownies.  


I was finding that whiskey helped mellow the mushrooms.  

Back on the couch, whiskey and cookies, in hand I watched the last half of the film.  The way it ends sets up a second film and maybe a series of them.  Why, I wondered, did they never make the second?  I Googled it.  Oh. . . Armie Hammer got into some #MeToo trouble.  The movie wasn't really a box office smash hit.  Figures.  People like more bang bang shoot 'em up.  It's a terrible shame.  

I was sleepy.  It had been a day.  But. . . I slept poorly, tossing and turning all night long.  My back and hips hurt from the refrigerator yoga, I guessed.  I had nasal drainage that kept choking me.  Maybe I caught something from the crowd at the Container Store, I thought.  It was packed with people.  I needed to sleep, I thought.  This was no good.  Tomorrow would begin the purge.  No liquor.  Healthful teas.  Light yoga and meditation.  

The morning is bright and blue.  Me. . . not so much.  I have had a pot of the Trader Joes coffee.  It is good.  Now I must finish what I started in the kitchen.  This afternoon, I will cook some pork and little red beans in the InstaPot and invite mother over for dinner.  When the kitchen is done, I will take a walk.  

There are still the closets to do, but I won't think about that until next week.  I believe my friends will get a kick out of that, too.  

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