I live with a woman who is into this exercise but I can’t say that it has grabbed my imagination. Yet.
There are some consciousness challenges that arise. I am, like most everyone else who lives in my neighborhood, a food snob. Everyone seems to be an expert in food nowadays. My old friend Stevie grew up on frozen fish sticks and wouldn’t eat a single fruit or vegetable until he was well into adulthood; today he calls himself a “foodie” and every time I hear him evaluate an artesian pizza crust or a particular olive oil I wonder who is speaking.
I enjoy shopping at Trader Joe’s, as I see all my neighbors do. I could lobby for local ordinances every time I go there. But I also respect the fakery of our lives; Trader Joe’s started with that faux South Seas routine reminding me of Trader Vic’s when I was a kid. We didn’t have a nickel and I didn’t go on a vacation until I got married but Trader Vic’s was like dinner on a cruise.
The poverty of our inner lives; such things work. Everybody in Pasadena wanted to shop the first Trader Joe’s because of all that Polynesian narischkeit as you strolled the jungle aisles and left your sad little Chevy Vega hatch-back life outside. It’s still in business by the way. TJ’s, not the Chevy Vega.
So we go to Aldi to shop for food stamp food. TJ’s, founded by Joe Coulombe, has been owned since 1979 by a family trust set up by the late German businessman Theo Albrecht, one of the two brothers behind the German discount supermarket chain Aldi Nord.
Ha! It’s the same family! Serving two different worlds in contiguous neighborhoods that rarely intersect. Who wrote this story, Salman Rushdie?
It’s the novelistic intersections of these stories that delight and depress me. I feel like I’m scurrying through this microcosm-maze operated by mystery relations that intersect in some other envelope of reality; here we intuit the TJ-Aldi connection, not sure how it plays out, but what it means on the micro level – we are the snobs who shop TJ and I for one have never set foot in Aldi and it’s totally a noblesse oblige kind of concept I admit – I am just like the people I bump into at TJ’s and what a surprise that I know everybody in the store. I wouldn’t know a soul at Aldi I’m sure. If I ever went there. Which I won’t.
One other thing. I don’t like the whole subject of food stamps and poverty. I’d rather not think about it unless I get lost and wander off the corridor and into the world where I don’t live. So does the rest of America. How much did we hear about poverty in the last election? How obscene is that. Lyndon, yours is the last voice I hear in my head when I think Poverty. A little Bill if I sit with it for a while.
One last thing. In 1971-72, that winter, I was living in the back of a white Rambler station wagon (American Motors, CEO George Romney hello again Salman) in a rest area in Phoenix, Arizona. There was a recession then, those old enough to remember, one would have to line up for blocks and hours to get gas. I parked my white Rambler station wagon in a rest area in Phoenix, Arizona, and moved only when the po-lice roused me.
In those days, that part of America was on the move. There were families living next to me in that rest area rolling across America from the dying industrial North and Northeast looking for work. I felt like Woody Guthrie and the dust bowl. At night we would make fires, I sang songs with a guitar, and on a good night someone showed up with a box of potatoes secured from who the hell knows where and we roasted them over the open fire. I had no food stamps ‘cuz I had no address.
That’s another reason I don’t care for this exercise. I had left home and another life and was trying to start over; I could not ask my parents for money and there wasn’t a home to retreat to. I considered crime.
I don’t talk about this story much, too soon. It was forty-one years ago.
james stone goodman, united states of america