Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dazed and Confused, But with Cookies

In Back Bay, in the '80s and '90s, our supermarket was called the Star Market. At some point, it changed hands and became a "Shaw's Supermarket." Nobody cared. We still referred to it as "the Star." Many of us long-time residents continue to declare that we are "Going to the Star" as if we're launching into Space.

A store's name doesn't matter, as long as you can get the same old stuff you need inside. Unfortunately, every few years the Star/Shaw's people make that difficult. They "update" our store and rearrange things. But first they create chaos for a few weeks, when the place is so random and disorganized that we can't find anything. There was also the time when the Shaw's (or maybe it was the Star) moved to a new location around the corner, ushering in a remarkable period when Back Bay residents spoke willingly and frequently to our neighbors in the aisles — it was the only way to find anything in uncharted territory. For weeks, we wandered around, looking hopefully in each other's carts and asking, "Hey, where did you find that?" It was the friendliest we've ever been, except maybe right after 9/11. (We didn't even bother with each other when our transformer blew and we lost power for a couple of days.)

If you find New England supermarket history fascinating, you can read the Star/Shaw's story here on Wikipedia. I found it boring and confusing. (You'd be smarter to invest your time in David McCullough.) It will make your head spin, so don't do it before you need groceries in Back Bay. To get them, you will need all of your brain cells in working order, and you might need to borrow some, too. Because our "Shaw's" is turning into a Star Market again.

Not that anyone cares. Even newer residents use both names since we old-timers have confused the hell out of them. The real issue is that the Star/Shaw's people are rearranging the store again, big-time. I was just there and I'm still dizzy from my efforts to purchase a few things. They are disorganizing everything in stages, so the merchandise will probably move around more than once. Simple things like crackers will become sought-after, moving targets. 

As you can see below, I found the risotto next to the organic toothpaste:

Between the toothpaste and risotto, you'll find a bottle of "Desert Essence." I don't know what it is but I hope you never put any in your mouth. I've been to the Egyptian desert: it's a vast litter box for wild cats and dogs, donkeys, horses, camels, sheep, goats, and human. You don't want desert essence, trust me.

It looks like we Back Bay neighbors will have to start talking to each other again, god help us. The store is already surreal. There is neither Shaw's nor Star signage... it's all generic, and the place seems darker, too. Those big signs up by the ceiling that tell you roughly what's in each aisle are untrustworthy, and several are blank, as if to put you on the Road to Nowhere. 

All I needed tonight was cereal and straws. I found the cereal fairly soon, after I noticed that bottled iced tea was next to pancake syrup... and, naturally, pancake syrup goes with cereal. Just like little fruit cups belong with poultry stuffing:


I needed straws because we drink lots of smoothies these days. I'm cheap: I like to reuse my straws so I rinse them and keep them on the kitchen counter. But I kept finding that they had tooth marks all over them. I didn't think I was an unconscious straw-biter, so I was puzzled. Then I saw Lion carrying one around.

So we needed straws. I had to ask where they were, and along the way, I noticed one bag of Tate's chocolate chip cookies (only 6 grams of sugar per cookie). I grabbed them just in case I never saw any again. I also grabbed bathroom tissue, thin spaghetti, and a tube of McVitie's Digestive Biscuits (5 grams of sugar per biscuit) just because they were there. Being British, they used to live in a "Foods of the World" ghetto section but the Foods of the World now have their green cards and are naturalized citizens, mingling with the Jello and Campbell's Soups.

I never imagined tuna and Jack Daniel's BBQ sauce coming together, did you?


I was bug-eyed by the time I got to the registers, dazed from concentrating furiously for so long amid all the colorful packaging. Most people standing in line with full carts looked strangely triumphant. But I bet they had also loaded up on things they found rather than things they needed.

You might be wondering how all the Ocean Spray juice flavors were faring during the upheaval. I was curious but I couldn't find them, so I can't tell you.

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