Open my lunch-meat-less, barren refrigerator and you would have no clue who I once was. Today’s empty shelves and dried-up Brita water pitcher give no hint to the crown I once wore proudly. But, if you crack the freezer door just a hair, close your eyes, and listen quietly as the cold air escapes, the unfilled ice-trays will tell you a marvelous, magical fairy tale about my forgotten past.
Once upon a time I was the king of suburbia and the supermarket was my castle. My queen was the voluptuous baker who made the warm, fresh donuts every morning. My army, the hundreds of stock boys and girls who replenished the shelves while I slept. I had tax collectors at every checkout stand, not to mention a butcher, a florist, and a full custodial staff who rode their floor polishers and waxers up and down the aisles like jousting knights wanting nothing more than to earn the favor of their king.
Yes, I was a good king and loved my land, it’s citizens, and the vast array of deli cheeses. To stay abreast of the latest in grocery dominion, I spearheaded fact-finding expeditions to explore, chart, and map every corner of my fortress. But today, a million miles removed from that realm, I am left with only memories and copious amounts of supermarket knowledge. As my bones grow weary, I understand the responsibility I have to share my scholarly pursuits with those who will carry on after I expire like 2% percent milk left out at room temperature. And thus I pen my opus, my final Act, my life’s mission: The Art of Wandering a Supermarket.
Your journey begins at the front of the store, in between the two sets of automatic doors, surrounded by an armada of impossible Claw machines and temporary tattoo dispensers. Heed my warnings, travelers, and do not fall for these booby traps. They are the equivalent of lottery tickets for pre-teens, a waste of your hard-earned paper route or baby-sitting money. Besides, there is a boundless treasure chest inside overflowing with candy cigarettes, Big League chew, and bags of tootsie-pop wrappers with the stars on them. But in this room, you will find your chariot, your horse, your motorized shopping cart. Mount it with dignity. Ahoy, your journey has begun!
Once inside the cavernous walls of the supermarket head straight for the bulk foods section, or as I like to call it, the “all-you-can-eat buffet and trading post.” Eat your fill immediately, sampling all the flavors and spices of the world, but you will also need to stockpile all manner of supplies for the night’s meanderings. A good rule of thumb is to bag up a pound of Swedish fish (or other gummy) for every member in your party. This will ensure you have ample goods, enough to barter should you encounter any other wanderers.
Now that you are rescued from starvation, the possibilities are endless. You might head off to the library, where you can indulge yourself in the latest semi-pornographic romance novel or Lowrider magazine. If you want to enrich your mind, might I suggest something a little more scientific such as the latest Brangelina, TomKat, or Bennifer biographies. These wondrous tales show us all what is possible when two amazing people’s DNA is fused into one. If science is not your cup of tea, don’t fret, as the library is overflowing with paperbacks, coloring books, and magazines that are sure to suit all tastes. Just don’t spend the whole night here because there is so much more to see. Onward!
A sailor once asked me if I had ever seen the ocean. I told him yes, of course, because inside my castle there is a whole icy seafood coastline that stretches from sea to shining sea. All manner of crustaceans, fish, and exotic sea life wash up on it’s shores daily. “Oh bugger!” he said, “you are nothing but a dumb old fool. That’s just the seafood section of the meat department.” But, dear reader, I dare you to venture to that counter and tell me you do not feel the sting of the salty ocean air up in your nostrils! And don’t forget your bathing suit, snorkel gear, and harpoon because it’s as deep, plentiful, and diverse as any ocean I’ve ever swam in before!
Perhaps the oceanic waters don’t call your name. Perhaps you want to see the latest in agricultural technology. Head over to the produce section and be amazed. Every fruit, vegetable, and jicama from all over the world are grown right there. Without soil. Without natural sunlight. Individually. And in amazing geometric piles. Just a small daily spritzing of miracle water and a watchful gardener’s eye make this hydroponic cornucopia one of the mankind’s greatest feats. Don’t even get me started on the udder-less, cow-less, milk producing dairy wall in the back. It’s straight out of a science fiction novel!
For the adventurous among you, I’ll send you deep into the frozen Arctic aisle. Make sure you have plenty of rations to spare because the trek can be quite an exhausting mental and physical drain. You’ll want to trade with the natives in this region to supplant your high fructose Swedish fish diet with something a little more fatty to hold in the warmth. Luckily, the Eskimos are expecting you and have prepared many pies that they are willing to exchange. But no matter how desperate times might get in this freezing region of the supermarket, be warned that there are strict laws against clubbing an Otter Pop, Mom or Baby. (The natives are allowed under tribal rule, however, to scissor off their heads and drink their blood, in accordance with their ancient religious custom.)
Alas, we come to my favorite corner of my castle. Hidden away from the throngs of shoppers and seekers, it is my private sanctuary when I need a much needed rest. It’s entrance is shabby, two large black flaps with a small see-through plastic window that serve as doors, but these curtains belie the enchanting world behind them. Where else can you find a forklift with the keys in the ignition!
While there is much more to see and do inside the supermarket, I have decided I can’t share everything I know. There is beauty in mystery. And the real joy of wandering the supermarket is in finding your own unique path, machete-ing your own way through the jungle of cheap roses, carnation bouquets and hunky-male-in-a-thong greeting cards. I wish you luck, love, honor and may your reign be as prosperous as mine.