Of Food and Mental Health
While at work, I had a nurse ask me, “Hey, where’s your new place?” As I explained, he said, “Hey, that’s very near the New Seasons market. I just love, love, love, New Seasons. I go there all the time!” This comment immediately made me question my friend’s mental health. But instead of blurting out some inappropriate comment, I told him that I was blessed with several grocery stores in my neighborhood.
This particular New Seasons is very close, and right next door to my all-time favorite store, Ace Hardware. With any ongoing project in my workshop, I will inevitably forget a special nut or widget. I really like Ace Hardware because they (1.) have practically anything and everything I could imagine for my project and (2.) they don’t ask questions about what I might be building. Instead of prying questions, they just smile and say, “Sure, we’d be happy to help.” And, most important, (3.) they hire professionals. I can go into Home Depot and ask for a special pipe fitting. The minimum wage high school kid will have no clue what I’m talking about. Ace has old guys. I mean, old retired plumbers, electricians, locksmiths, machinists, and they are eager to share their knowledge. I can bring in a broken part to an Italian Vetterli and say, “how can I get this fixed?” and the guy steps up and says “come with me… If you use some of this bar stock right here… and you have a mill and a welder, you can grind here and here and add there, you will have your part.” I really love that about Ace. Anyhow, because of its proximity to New Seasons, (right next door), I have occasionally shopped there too.
All my friends at work shop at New Seasons. My neighbor works there. Everyone I know (in Oregon) raves about New Seasons. I even have friends that claim to go New Seasons just to hang out. Perplexed, I’ve tried it several times. Every single time that I darken the door of that place, I am extremely disappointed. I’m starting think that something may be wrong with me. Every time I go there I gain an even deeper dislike for the store, but I continue go back just to see if I can get a glimpse of what everyone else is raving about.
This is the way it usually goes… I’m shopping in Ace Hardware for project stuff. While I’m at Ace getting my part, I think, “hey, I sure could use a ham sandwich… but I’m out of mayonnaise. I’ll just walk across to New Seasons. Surely they will have mayonnaise. Surely I can’t be disappointed about mayonnaise. Don’t all grocery stores have mayonnaise?” I walk in muttering as I look up and down every isle searching. I pass employees right and left. I’ll have to admit, they do seem to have a more than adequate number of employees on staff. As I walk by, I can’t help noticing that how this company seems to go the extra mile to hire the handicapped. Or is it, that they really embrace the “keep Portland weird” attitude. Everyone I see either looks really stoned, has tattoos everywhere (even on the face), dreadlocks down the back, Africa size gage ear rings, purple hair, spiky face piercings, or something that doesn’t look normal outside of The Twilight Zone . Do they get a tax break for having a such a diverse and highly compromised staff? Why do people shop here when there is a Safeway, Albertsons, Winco, a Super-Wal-Mart, as well as a few other normal grocery stores in the same town. I guess if I had a sibling or child that had made some rally bad life decisions (like facial tattoos) and was now unemployable, I’d shop there in an effort to give them business, and thereby to prevent his job loss. Maybe that’s how it works…
I finally give up and ask the guy with the loop ear rings and sleeve tattoos. “Hey, could you help me find the mayonnaise?” He looks back, and after about fifteen seconds I think, “great, I got the stoner.” And he finally says, “oh wow man, I think it’s over here” and starts walking. I say, “just point, you don’t have to take me there in person.” And he stops and looks around and says, “that’s just it man, I don’t really know, I gotta look a bit. Just bear with me.” Then he started walking again. We went up and down every isle, (just as I had already done once on my own). About the fourth isle over, he yelled, Aye, here it is!” I looked down and there was one row of mayonnaise… a very small row on the bottom of the shelf. What was I looking at? I didn’t see any mayonnaise in the sense of what I think of as “Mayonnaise.” What happened to Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise ? How about just plain mayonnaise? Food Club mayonnaise? Nope, they had organic made from eggs laid by free range chickens, certified organic with extra virgin olive oil, mayonnaise flavored with White Truffle, Black Garlic, Lime and saffron. They had stuff I couldn’t have imagined, but no “just plain mayonnaise.” In all my searching, I was getting really hungry, so I got the closest thing I could find… mayo made with organic olive oil. It was eight bucks for a small jar, but I wasn’t going to walk all the way to Safeway, dammit. I was going to get my sandwich and that was that.
When I walked in and started making my ham sandwich, my wife took one look at the mayo and laughed out loud, “I thought you didn’t like New Seasons?”
I glared and said, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
I still can’t see what’s all the hub-bub about New Seasons.