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Posts Tagged ‘shopping’

Stock

December 4, 2014 | by

Fredmeyer

Photo: lyzadanger, via Flickr

There are a few things you need to understand about the particular grocery store I’m about to discuss. It’s part of a New York chain, but it is not what anyone would call a supermarket; it’s on the small side, for starters, with none of the slickness or charm one might associate with supermarkets. 

It’s in a basement. You descend a broken escalator to a time that knows no season, no hour, no change. There is never any music playing; it is usually empty. There is a single, dejected cashier. It has that vaguely rancid smell endemic to urban supermarkets, with base notes of wet cardboard, old vegetables, and less-than-immaculate deli slicers. 

Oh, and lest you think it is cheap—it’s not. The unit pricing is generally about 10 percent higher than that of the two other markets in a mile radius. Its one advantage is that it is open late, until midnight most evenings, although late-night trips there are even drearier than usual. 

None of this is the point, however. The noteworthy thing about this market is its mysterious organization. Almost nothing is where you might expect it to be: baking needs share an aisle with cleaning supplies; pet food and dried fruit are cheek by jowl; spices are to be found in three different places, sorted by brand. (Herbs are in a different place completely.) The selection is vast, but arbitrary. On a recent visit, I found they had no whole milk—although they stocked no fewer than five varieties of eggnog, including dairy-free, low-carb, and organic. Read More »

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Palpable Disappointment

October 28, 2014 | by

Or, the hazards of wearing a Paris Review shirt.

Paris-Review-T-Shirt-Ad

Vintage Paris Review advertisement.

While I was shopping for milk, I felt a hand tap my shoulder. It was a lady of perhaps sixty, wearing arty jewelry. “Excuse me,” she said. “I was just wondering … are you from … Paris?” She said the last word with an exaggerated French accent: Par-ee

I stared at her blankly for a moment. She, in turn, was staring at my breasts. I looked down and realized that I was wearing a Paris Review T-shirt, the dark blue 2013 version that’s modeled on a design from early in the magazine’s life. THE PARIS REVIEW, it says, along with an image of the hadada ibis in its Frisian bonnet. 

“Oh, no,” I said apologetically. “No. I’m from here.”

This is not, of course, an uncommon error; as names go, The Paris Review—which denotes a magazine based in New York, one that publishes zero reviews—is among the most misleading out there. I can’t think of another title that’s quite so dishonest. To paraphrase Mary McMarthy’s remark about Lillian Hellman, every word here is a lie, including The. (Okay, maybe not The.) 

I was prepared to explain that the American founders had indeed started the magazine in Paris in 1953; that they’d moved to New York in 1973; that upon George Plimpton’s death they’d relocated operations from his Seventy-second Street apartment to an office. I was not going to say—but was thinking—that in any case, in my experience, Parisians don’t tend to advertise their Parisian-ness on their clothing. Or maybe they do; as I’ve stated, I’m not one. 

As is so often the case, the clarification resulted in palpable disappointment.

“Oh,” said the woman. “I was going to ask you about baguettes.” She indicated the bakery section.

“You can!” I said. “I think I’ve tried all the breads here, and some are way better than others.” 

“No,” she said. “That’s okay. Thanks.” And she walked away.

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The Brothers 40K

September 24, 2014 | by

War game as money pit.

orcos-zalvajes

Ork Boyz from a recent version of Warhammer 40,000.

When you’re growing up, having a brother close to you in age means you’re never alone. There’s someone to share your clothes and chores, your blame and punishment, and, as was my case, your bedroom—my brother and I were together even in a state of sleepy unconsciousness. The second of my two oldest brothers predates me by a mere ten and a half months. When we were young everyone thought we were twins; even we secretly thought so for a while. A major, if less apparent, perk of our bond was that we could partake of enthusiasms we wouldn’t have wanted others to know about—not our friends, nor the girls we had crushes on, nor anyone, really.

The summer before high school we stumbled on something unbelievably uncool. If we hadn’t had each other for company, I like to think we wouldn’t have given the endeavor a second thought. We had our reputations to uphold, after all. His was being cool—he was a drummer in a punk band whose members, including a female bass player he would later start dating, were much older than he was. My brother drank a can of Mountain Dew every morning for breakfast and wanted everyone to know about it. I had considerably less to lose: I awkwardly straddled the world of jocks and skateboarders, with mixed results. But since my brother and I had each other, we found no reason to limit our interests, however obscure, unpopular, or geeky they may have appeared, and however much they might have jeopardized us in the eyes of our peers.

The pursuit I speak of is Warhammer 40,000, a dystopian, futuristic tabletop war game set in the forty-first millennium, a combination of Risk and Dungeons & Dragons with a sci-fi twist. Read More »

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Suits

August 7, 2014 | by

Was_soll_ich_werden_45

From What Should I Be? (Was soll ich werden?) (1888), a picture book by Lothar Meggendorfer.

Yesterday I went suit shopping with my brother. The suit was to be a birthday gift from my parents; I’d been entrusted with the task of supervising the purchase. We started out in a well-known British chain. “He’s looking for a suit,” I announced.

“Are you two getting married?” asked the salesman.

“We’re siblings,” we said at the same time.

“That would be weird, then,” he said.

After this, I was paranoid. “Our parents are giving him a suit for his birthday,” I would announce loudly. Or, apropos of nothing, “I’m his sister.”

When, finally, we went to a tailor, I decided to further clarify the situation by being abusive while my brother was measured.

“We couldn’t find a suit off the rack,” I informed the tailor, “because he has the build of an undernourished Victorian chimney sweep.”

“You’re a perfectly normal size,” said the tailor.

“Maybe if you’re used to suiting children and midgets!” I scoffed. No one said anything, so then I excused myself.

I’m not particularly proud of this display, but I think a little discomfort in these situations is natural. Indeed, it can take even stranger forms. One friend said he particularly dislikes people assuming he’s on dates with his sister not merely because it’s creepy, but because he hates their thinking he has so little chemistry with his girlfriend.

I had always figured those families who all look uncannily alike had it easier in these situations. But I had reckoned without human weirdness. “It must be great that you’ve never once had to worry about someone thinking you and your sister were a couple,” I said to a friend with a nearly identical younger sibling. “Are you kidding?” he said. “I worry that people think I’m such a pathological narcissist that I have to date someone who looks exactly like me!”

So, there’s that.

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Shopping for Groceries with the Romantic Poets

October 25, 2013 | by

Jason Novak is a cartoonist in Oakland, California.

 

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Pleasure Domes with Parking

December 24, 2012 | by

The Court of Flowers, postcard.

We’re out this week, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2012 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!

Because my grandfather owned a men’s clothing store and my dad briefly worked for him, I spent a lot of my childhood in malls. Hanging around malls is already a tradition in Phoenix, Arizona, where I grew up. It’s as central to life as driving and eating Mexican food, a habit stemming from a mix of materialism, a reflexive tendency to “pass time,” and a very practical need for air conditioning. But it was also a habit born of an era when malls adorned themselves in gaudy architecture and country-and-western motifs, presented themselves as shopping experiences rather than just places to shop, and capitalized on Americans’ aspirations toward glitz and glamour. I can’t enter one of the predictable, interchangeable modern retail spaces without thinking of the heyday of the mall, a period when, to borrow the title of a Time magazine article, malls were “Pleasure-Domes with Parking.”

I saw none of these touches of class in person. I was born in 1975, and by then malls had changed. As I experienced it, my Grandpa Shapiro’s store, The Habber Dasher, was adjacent to the food court, an echoey hall enlivened by the greasy orange aroma of Pizza D’Amore and the sweet froth of Orange Julius, as well as Kay Bee Toys, the Red Baron video-game arcade, and the movie theater. My time at the mall was spent buying shockingly lifelike diecast metal cap guns at Kay Bee and then eating free samples of slow-cooked meat from the tiny gyro stall, staring in horror at the hard, sunken eyes of the whole smoked fish in Miracle Mile Deli’s cold case, or looking up at the tall escalator that led into UA Cinema. When I walked through the open, indoor plaza where Santa Claus sat in a huge Styrofoam Wonderland, surrounded by polymer wads of fake snow while the sun shone outside, I had no clue that malls could be anything but what they were then, that they had any history at all.

In fact, shopping arcades and centers existed in the Western World as early as the 1920s. The classic, fully enclosed form now known in America as “the mall” debuted in Edina, Minnesota, in 1956. An Austrian-American architect named Victor Gruen designed the so-called Southdale Center, and it became the de facto prototype for a wave of enclosed, temperature-controlled shopping complexes structured around big name “anchors” and interior garden spaces. Read More »

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