Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Last Tango in Los Angeles: Grocery Shopping in Burbank...or, The Battle of Th...

Last Tango in Los Angeles: Grocery Shopping in Burbank...or, The Battle of Th...: "Yesterday was our designated grocery shopping day. To the outsider this may sound fairly innocuous. Not so. We go to about a half dozen d..."

Grocery Shopping in Burbank...or, The Battle of The Armenian Women.

Yesterday was our designated grocery shopping day. To the outsider this may sound fairly innocuous. Not so. We go to about a half dozen different stores for various items. This is complicated enough by itself, but when you add the fact that we usually have a short debate over every purchase, it becomes a day-long ordeal. By the end of the day Angie is at her wit's end and cursing the pre-nup I made her sign.

First we travel over to the actual grocery store, the one that features actual groceries. It has several names; Von's, Pavillions, or Paladium, which is what I call it because I can't remember the first two. I have come to know Paladium like the back of my hand. I know where all the 'naughty' aisles are and where all the 'boring' aisles are. For example, the frozen pizza aisle, which is roughly the length of the autobon, is a 'naughty' aisle. Often times I'll dash off in a frenzied trot as soon as we enter the store and a half hour later Angie has to call me on my cell to find me. It has all the earmarks of a black-ops procedure because at this point it becomes about getting stuff into the cart without Angie seeing it. Fairly easy if I'm clandestine enough. She tends to leave the cart unattended for periods of time while she gropes produce. At this juncture my mission is to get the frozen pizza or handful of frozen burritos or pint of chocolate chip cookie dough into the cart and make a quick retreat without being spotted. I've discovered that she is unwilling to make a scene at the check out counter if the item is already in the cart. If she discovers the item beforehand she can simply toss it aside and plead ignorance. The whole operation demands stealth and strategy on my part.

Next, we drive over to the 'Armenian Market.' Which is code for 'Combat.' The Armenian Market is a hodge-podge of unpronounceable foodstuffs and jams and jellies containing pomegranate and olives. It is also a terrifying experience in that I usually have to grapple middle-aged Armenian women with mustaches. They're a tough and saavy lot, these women. The trick is, I've found over the months, not to let them get you on the ground. Best to use my reach and speed of hand. Just flicker light jabs at them and then wait for an opening when I can really let fly a haymaker. Once they've got you on the ground, they're tenacious. They bite and throw short hooks to the kidneys. And they use their weight advantage to keep you pinned. Plus there's that constant jabbering in their mother tongue, which I'm sure is trash talk, but I can't understand it so it's fairly wasted on me. Now and then another hefty, European, bearded woman will pause in her shopping to deliver a quick, pointed-boot kick to the ribs if I'm already down. They stick together, those Armenians. But, alas, The Armenian Market has 'cheap chicken,' according to Angie, so we have to go. You can't show any fear as you enter The Armenian Market, otherwise they'll swarm you like early morning hungry pigs in the Ozarks. So usually as soon as we enter I bellow at the top of my lungs, "Who wants a piece of me!?" Like timber wolves surprised in their den, they scatter and assess the situation before attacking. This gives Angie, usually, just enough time to get some 'cheap chicken' and make a getaway. Sometimes I take a broom handle with me and start banging it on the wall creating a distraction while she bolts for the chicken. It's all pretty unnerving. I sort of see myself as Charlton Heston in The Omega Man during these trips. Taking on the Armenian women full-on is futile. One has to outsmart them.

After that we drive over to Trader Joe's for the fun stuff. Trader Joe's has stuff never before seen inside the known solar system. It is the Wonka Factory of grocery stores. Plus I've noticed people tend to dress up to go to Trader Joe's. So Angie and I make a quick dash home and change into our hippest clothing before going. It would simply not do to shop in Trader Joe's unless you're properly attired. I also discovered early on that I have to pretend to read the ingedient labels in Trader Joe's. It's part of the experience. I used to just go in and get stuff and throw it in the cart. But as time wore on, I started hearing the whispers, seeing the disapproving stares. Not reading the ingredient labels on the food there is considered unbelievably crass. So now I pick up a jar of peanut butter, pretend to pour over the back label for a few minutes, deep in concentration, occasionally clucking and tisking, and then finally, with a deep sigh, decide to purchase it. Apparently the people that shop at Trader Joe's have a history of accidentally purchasing food laced with cyanide.

After Trader Joe's we go back home and change back into our normal clothes and then drive over to Target, which, according to Angie, has the best deals on paper towels and deoderant. The Target store, here in Burbank, is the best place to spot a celebrity, oddly enough. So I always take my autograph book with me. While Angie scours the shelves in search of an opportunity to save somewhere between 3 and 9 cents, I run up and down the aisles in search of a B-list celebrity. I've been rewarded handsomely a few times and I now have autographs from Michael J. Pollard and Bonnie Franklin, which, of course, I treasure.

When we get home, I have to first treat the cuts and abrasions I've received at the hands of the Armenian women and then help Angie put away the groceries. It is often at this point she discovers the goodies I've managed to slip into the cart throughout the day. Yesterday, in a completely unselfish moment, I managed to get some doggie treats in the cart made entirely of retired mailman parts, ground up. Our dogs, Franny and Zooey are, generally speaking, pacifists, but will viciously attack anything resembling a mailman. I can only guess they've been unfairly treated by the U.S. Postal Service at some point. They hold a grudge.

So, having started our grocery shopping at nine in the morning, we finish, exhausted and exalted, at six in the evening. Both of us, tired yet relatively unscathed, fell onto the couch with a new appreciation of life, of our god-given health, of our good fortune to have survived another day. Next monday it starts all over again; the fear, the anticipation, the planning, the night sweats.

Until then, I'll try and put it out of my mind. I'll try and live each moment as it comes. I'll try and be grateful for every second I have left. I'll try and appreciate the here and now and not obsess over the coming mondays, the looming possibilities of bodily harm, the supressed anxiety of physical combat with cunning and strong Armenian women.

See you tomorrow.