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   $400 grocery haul
Tuesday, July 27 2004
Some months ago Gretchen was visiting friends far away (in the not-terribly-far-away northeastern United States sense). I believe she was actually in the lesbian heartland of Northampton, Massachusetts. While there, she did some shopping in a Trader Joe's, the discount grocery chain known for its high quality goods and laid-back funkyness. The goods were so far superior and so much cheaper than anything we have locally in the Hudson Valley that she stocked up, filling her trunk with a month's supply of non-perishables. I remember plenty of delicious snacking a number of good meals after Gretchen returned with her haul. My fondest memories are a certain brand of corn chips. The importance of corn chips in my life puts me at a very narrow end of the corn-chip-eating bell curve.
Gretchen did some research and determined that the closest Trader Joe's to Hurley, NY is in Danbury, Connecticut. That's nearly 80 miles away. For a few weeks that was just too far to justify driving to go shopping. It's not as though we live in Wyoming. Hell, New York City itself is only 90 miles away. But then Gretchen had this idea that if we did a lot of shopping then maybe a trip to Trader Joe's would be justifiable. So this afternoon we set off for Danbury. It was a dreary ride, punctuated by frequent heavy showers. Temperatures hovered in the low 60s.
We ended up buying $387 worth of groceries. That was enough to completely fill two shopping carts. We concentrated on items like bread and canned goods, things that can be frozen or stored. Our cashier seemed to delight in "the big orders" (he referred to them in the plural and repeatedly told me how he likes to handle them). He asked if I was shopping for a large group of people and I said no, that it was just that we don't get to Trader Joe's "very often" and that when we do, we like to stock up. When he printed out the receipt it was longer than my arm. He held it aloft and joked to one of his colleagues, "Mine is bigger than yours!" To which the colleague replied, "It's quality, not quantity." To which I chimed in, "Hey baby, there's lots of quality here too!"
I'd been wearing my "These Colors Don't Fade" teeshirt, which features a grossly pre-faded American flag. But no one in the store seemed to react to it. Nobody got mad and punched me in the nose, but nobody said it was cool either. I wondered if it was too subtle, if people didn't even notice that the faded flag was contradicting the goofy bully-boy patriotism of the slogan above it. I began to worry that the worst possible interpretation was being made, that is was simply a faded shirt printed up soon after 9/11, back when even smart people were idiotic with patriotism. I began to realize that people just aren't very perceptive and have been trained to tune out contradictions in their world, no matter how ludicrous. This tuning out is important for their sanity. If everything they sensed had to make sense as it nestled into the logical webbing of their neurons, they'd all go mad!
We listened mostly to a Bruce Springsteen greatest hits compilation both going to and returning from Danbury. I've heard enough of it to know that there is very little Springstein that I like aside from his most minimalist work. I especially hate the horn-rich production used during the superstar phase of his career in the 1980s. I do think, though, that he wrote good songs. I've always been a fan of songs he's written as performed by others, particularly Manfred Mann.

This evening Gretchen and I watched a movie called The Governess on DVD. The movie hoped to be darkly gothic portrayal of bourgeois British life in the 1840s as seen through the eyes of a crypto Jew calling herself Mary Blackchurch. The movie was gorgeous, but most of the acting and most of the plot details conspired to squander the ample promise of the premise. The 1840s was when photography was first being perfected, and one of the chief protagonists is a photographic scientist. But we're offered none of the wonder that the crypto-Jewish governess should have experienced upon seeing her first photograph. And after seeing a few perfunctory scenes of her "governing," we're left to assume that it's a career that frees her to do pretty much anything she wants. The little romantic tension generated carries none of the weight and life-crushing purpose of the truely Gothic. Instead it all seems like pointless puppy love. And when bad things happen, they're never much worse than the sorts of things we've all experienced in sixth grade. But somehow the movie kept me watching, mostly by the sheer power of the costumes, the sets, the Sephardic music (very Dead Can Dance) and the manipulative use of blue and sepia camera filters.

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