Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Friday, July 09, 2010

Shopping for Food and Clothes


I shop in a number of different stores for food. I go to Safeway on Market Street for shrimp, fish, Fetzer Chardonnay, dairy products, milk, eggs, yoghurt, butter, sour cream and cottage cheese. I like to swipe and munch a blue cheese stuffed olive from the salad bar. I get vegetables, some meat and sausage there too. They also carry sushi, which we like to eat once a week at least. Lemons are the most expensive in town, sometimes a dollar each. I like the mix of people, gays, lesbians, African-Americans, the elderly, infirm and some white Anglos too.

One friend says he likes to shop at Trader Joe’s, I said I like Safeway because it has a better clientele.

I got lemons at 69 cents each at Whole Foods on 24th Street. It replace Bell Market a mid sized neighborhood super market. Now it is a pricey semi-natural organic food store shopped by people that drive SUVs and BMWs. The little old ladies of both sexes who toddled daily to Bell seem to have gone elsewhere. Whole Foods CEO wrote in The Wall Street Journal that he was against the Health Care Reform bill. I understand the company is anti-union and has poor benefits for employees. So I have a prejudice against them and seldom shop there. The store is handsome and the red, yellow and green produce well displayed. The bakery there does have a fine strawberry, peach, blueberry cream tart for desserts.

I love to shop at Costco. The one near us seems dominated by very busy Asian shoppers with huge trolleys filled with food items and electronics. There are lots of other shoppers too. I love the sheer hugeness of the place, the large packages and quantities one has to buy there in bulk. We get toilet paper, Glen Livet Scotch, some wines, asparagus, also shrimp cocktail already prepared in neat packages, crumbly white feta cheese that we devour. The flower mart is varied and the flowers seem to last longer than ones from other stores. I am tempted by the electronics, huge TVs that are the first think you see when entering the warehouse. I buy chicken breasts in quantity to freeze, lamb, rack of lamb and paper towels. It has the feel of a European market nestled in the outer arches of a church – but huge.

I go to corner stores for pints of Jim Beam whiskey when I am serving Manhattans, occasional containers of milk when we run out. I feel guilty going in there as I buy so little. I know they depend on the small sales in quantity but I still feel a bit guilty. Today’s corner stores are the size of the grocery stores in the 40s and 50s that I remember as a boy in Brooklyn.

I have been getting fresh wild salmon from Sea Bear, an on-line outfit out of Seattle. When salmons are in season, I can order them and they are shipped by parcel post in three days to our front door. The fish are packed in dry ice and come in white plastic containers. We choose not to buy farmed salmon, as we do not think it is good for the salmon or for us to eat fish raised in crowded tanks if we can help it.

Bi-Rite on 18th Street is near our house. We go for items we need and forgot from our larger shopping sprees. The clerks are usually very polite and helpful and the food excellent and expensive.

Ann shops the produce markets from time to time for lemons and limes, which can be six for a dollar. Vegetables and fruit are good but need eating very soon as they are quickly unappetizing. I seldom shop in farmer’s markets in the city. They take away trade from the local, markets, seem expensive and I am not convinced the taste of the fruit and vegetables are all that superior from what I get at Safeway. They are now a part of the San Francisco Saturday buying craze. The natural and organic labels make the products seem superior. But then perhaps I have corns on my palate.

When I shop now, I buy what I want no matter what the price. I no longer look for the bargains, the cheapest or even the best quality. I used to shop with care and caution, now I shop with a certain abandon. When I was younger I had the sneaking feeling I would run out of money if I wasn’t careful. I feared I might end up on the streets. I no longer feel that way. I have a prosperity consciousness with a certainty that I will always have, not only enough, but more than enough. Even now with social Security and the Church Pension Fund I will always have enough to live comfortably unless there is an absolute breakdown of the government and the stock market.

In addition to this prosperity consciousness I do not have elaborate tastes in clothes. I like the classic casual look of chino pants, open neck shirt, sweats and rugby shirts coat and tie for church and dress occasions. I have not owned a suit since I retired eight years ago and gave two ill-fitting suits to Good Will. While I admire the dressed up look of a shirt, vest, shirt and tie, I do not like to wear them, as they feel tight and uncomfortable on me. I must admit when I see a well dressed and suited man they do not look uncomfortable but relaxed and debonair.

I have on hand a dark blue blazer from Nordstrom a glen plaid grey sport coat from Brooks Brothers, chino pants from Land’s End, pajama’s from Brooks as their extra-large are truly extra large. Cheaper stores extra large are not roomy enough for me. I do like red and blue plaid jams of different weights for different seasons.

That is another thing. I dress for comfort. Loose pants and sweaters are a necessity. One of my women friends in the 70s wanted me to wear clothes that showed off my body more. I am always glad to show off, including my body, but nope, not tight clothes for me. Loose and relaxed is what I like.

I’ll admit to a couple of extravagances. I love bright colorful argyle socks. When I wore gray clerical clothes as a priest, the bright socks gave me a shocking dash of color at the ankle. Socks like that are not easy to find. Some stores sell muted argyle patterns that are too drab for my taste. I get the Ben Silver Men’s clothing catalogue. They are based in Charleston, South Carolina. The southern gentlemen models all look constipated with thin smiles. But they do have great argyle socks for sale. They run about thirty-five dollars a pair and I have them sent. They are colorful, fit well are long lasting and most importantly, I like them. I have succumbed and bought a set of underwear shirts of the finest cotton and a pair of military khaki trousers for dress wear that are quite elegant and expensive. I would not buy a tie from them, as they are way too expensive for a pretty rag to wear about one’s neck.

I don’t have many pairs of shoes. They get tossed out or given away once I do not like them any more. Because I need arch support I have to have sturdy shoes and walking shoes. I have no need for more than three dress leather, one pair of walking shoes and I pair of cold wet weather waterproof shoes. I don’t like shopping for shoes as I am uncertain about fit and there are few styles I like much.

I buy mostly food, clothes and necessities. I have he usual gadgets, books, CDs. Now that I am retired I don’t buy books or CDs not rent DVDs. I get them from the San Francisco Public Library.

We live in an economy that demands that we buy and consume as much as possible whether we need it or not. At the same time we are polluting the planet with gases, garbage and destroying rain forests and oceans to fill our voracious appetites for things to keep the economy from collapsing. In my own way I try to live simply, buy what I need to be comfortable, secure and healthy.

I enjoy shopping seeing the items, the people and spending money. I feel guilty sometimes that I have so much and so many have so little both here and around the world. Shopping reminds me of the larger world of food, commerce and economics, which needs our attention and concern.

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