Today, I found a website about found grocery lists. There truly is something for everybody on the internet. It’s right here, by the way.
I was fascinated by its fascination with the small, mundane accruals of the small, mundane people; I found it an apologia for the things that are regularly overlooked because they are microscopic in size. Those things which we hold in mundane contempt; that which we would call “taking things for granted” and I discovered it for the most mundane or reasons.
I suck at grocery shopping.
Of all the prosaic reasons to find a prosaic piece of collage art as a website and time capsule, I chose the most prosaic of all. The act of improving my grocery shopping game. it’s weak as fuck.
I walk in there, grab a basket; sometimes, I walk in and see the rows of color; the masterfully arrayed stands with conical colorful shapes; I see the ovaries of trees and vines and all the things borne above and below the earth in their gaiac majesty. I look at the long aisles, filled in an organization that speaks its own secret language; a dewey decimal system for the soap-opera masses; with the images and needs painted explicitly and somehow not at all far reaching enough to be meaningful.
Condiments, such an all-encompassing statement, and yet most of the condiments cannot be found in this section. There are condiments like dressings, or cheeses; there are condiments from other countries; there are ketchups and mustards of course; your rap-beloved Grey Poupon’s aligned on shelves, sometimes haphazardly, sometimes in martial beauty; geometrically arrayed to portray a sense of order. These next to peanuts and various things that the grocery store actually wants you to buy; snack packs of various nuts; spatulae and frying pans; the off-brand grocery store snack foods and off-brand colas that are as much a mainstay of the US as those more generic panegyric subjects like Mom’s Apple Pie, Baseball, and rampant Xenophobia.
I walk into this place, arrayed with a market psychologist’s precision, and I am lost in this city of food. I am lost among the avenues of fruits. I stumbled, recently, picking out a fresh food bag; I stood there, smiling the way you smile when you know you are in an embarrassing situation, but showing your embarrassment would be tantamount to acknowledging your embarrassment; and the jacketed indifferent people, wandering in their own non-synchronous rhythms watch in mild amusement at the putz fumbling with dispenser so he can grab a cucumber he will fail to cook, and will eventually go to the compost pile for reasons unknown.
I find myself lost in fluorescent lighting; the re-usable bags; the circular logic of prepared foods. The day old sushi which is eaten only in the most utilitarian of circumstances. With the mayo spicy and yellowed dripped onto the just shy of vibrant tuna nigiri; and the way overpriced cool tasting sticky rice that is no subsistute for the good shit. No dreams of Jiro would ever concoct such mundanity.
And then onto the cheese section, where a glorious array of various shades of yellow, red, white, and speckle make themselves known. One can get lost in a cheese display, if one is not lactose intolerant (which I am not). One can finger lovingly the displays of brie and gorgonzola so crisp and the vermont cheddar that needs be extra sharp to be consumed by my mallet-smashing-watermelon subtlety of palate.
Onto to those red glaring meats, and tupperware collections; anterior and posterior to the frozen-fish, sitting freshly cut; breakfast wares and pork-cut gone wrong hot-dogs all arrayed to entice.
And then I wander, allegro, across the remaining aisles. Anxious and grateful at the ability to shop for groceries, even though I don’t know what I’m looking for. Making sure to stick to a budget that, somehow, I exceed, by only the slightest of margins that will still manage to shame me with my limited ability to budget.
The embarrassment as I search for frozen fruit and the carbs, pretending my macros are a consideration, when I really feel broke. And, after rushing like someone who made act 2 way too long through the climax, I get some yogurt and granola and go.
So, to make a more balanced solution, I looked of grocery lists. I’ve never felt my age more; I’ve never felt so mundane and simple as to search for something like a grocery list.
But then I found this site. And I saw that mundanity, in a row, is quite beautiful. To see the pathologies of man writ small, in various colors and lined papers and stick notes and hotel stationary; objects as diverse as lotion, get-well cards, margarine, bananas, condoms; doctors stationaries; index card; kisses in red-lipstick for loved ones; parmesan cheese; glimpses into character; little peeks behind the curtain of mundane life.
And, for a moment, it feels like an aesthetic, greater than itself, but no more than itself. For a moment, humanity is a single plural strain of existence write large across the planet.
But then I remember, it’s just a bunch of groceries.