A long time ago, when I first started blogging and saw the “platform” not as the opportunity to sell things or brand myself, but yet another way to explore writing in general, my posts alternated between opinion pieces, little essays, and vignettes that tried to capture moments of life in Marin.
I randomly pulled this entry from September 16, 2002, which I can barely believe I posted nearly 12 years ago on the original “alembic” blog. That blog has been pulled from its home on a server years ago, but it still lives on in the wayback machine on the Internet.
So here we go with the old post, unedited from the original:
September 16, 2002
She and her husband are shopping for a last-minute dinner treat at one of Marin’s upscale grocery stores. Her teenage son is in tow, seeing how he begged to drive the ‘good’ car some distance. This is the son that lives on frozen pizzas, on one particular brand, to be precise.
Her cart is littered with a couple of gourmet cheese chunks, a couple of prepared salads, a bag of tomatoes, and the aforementioned son’s stack of frozen pizzas. She’s been working hard lately, and one of her treats at times like these is a glass – or two – of red wine in the evening. So she checks out the lower shelves of the wine aisles, where they keep the wines that sell under $15, and she picks up something called Pellegrini that boasts to be a “Carignane,” or old vine from the Alexander Valley.
On any given day, there is an army of staff ready to dispense wine advice and lore to her whenever she passes these aisles, but not today. She finally locates the Assistant Wine Whatever-His-Title-Is, and he of the broad-smile-on-a-wide-face recommends the wine as if it were the next best thing since sliced bread.
A minute later, the man of the broad smiles is standing by her cart, looking at her and saying something she can’t make out to another employee who is stacking boxes of crackers. Ever self-conscious, she smiles at the two by way of apology and says: “I can’t help it, I like weird wines….”
“It’s not the weird wines that concern me,” says the man of wide smiles, “it’s those pizzas in your cart that have me worried.”
“You should try Ruby’s pizza,” he goes on, but she cuts him off, because she has already had this conversation with this same man some months ago.
“I did try Ruby’s … and it’s much higher in fat than Celeste’s,” she says as haughtily as she can muster.
“Which is worse, fat or preservatives?” He challenges her now, not just with his question, but also with the bulk of his body, which he shifts in front of her cart.
“Fat,” she says, beating a hasty retreat through the dairy aisle. As she nears the cleaning products, she thinks, “Hell, a few preservatives now and then might in fact help us along the evolutionary scale. It’s quite possible, isn’t it, that some day, preservatives could become part of our bodies in new and beneficial ways…”
She joins her husband and son in the produce section. She has barely parked her cart, when she looks up to find the man of broad smiles standing in front of her once again, wielding a Ruby’s pizza in his large hand.
“Here, see for yourself … Ruby’s has….”
And she is livid now. She can’t really make much sense of what he is spouting on about the comparative size of the pizzas in ounces and fat grams. She recalls that some months ago, she and her husband figured out that the health food Ruby’s pizza, which was smaller than the Celeste, had all those stats measured per serving. And, she recalls something about there being many servings in the Ruby’s pizza, compared to the one serving that was the entire Celeste pizza … but she can’t find the presence of mind to explain all this to the man standing before her, so she blurts out:
“I don’t want a Ruby’s pizza, okay? I tried one before, and I didn’t like it. I don’t want to buy it, okay?”
She would like to tell him to leave her alone, but there is no need, he’s already gone. She wonders why she feels as if she has to apologize for the things in her cart to an employee of the store, especially when she doesn’t even eat that damn pizza herself. She would like to tell the man of the broad smile to go screw himself and that she’s unto him. She knows that it’s not her health he has in mind, but his wallet. He must be connected to that fat-saturated butt-ugly Ruby’s pizza in some way or other, and she is really pissed now … but he has left, and she is stuck behind her cart and the mountain of heirloom tomatoes behind her. With a quick glance she takes in the small crowd that has gathered to watch her and the man of the broad smiles, and, with each word she utters to no one in particular, she raises her voice to a higher pitch:
“I don’t care to be told what I should and shouldn’t buy by employees of this establishment. Who the hell is he to tell me what is good for me? I really don’t care for it.”
She can see her husband and her son, both of them keeping their distance standing right by the nut bins.