The vegetables at the Kroger were extremely beautiful. I wished I had a camera, just to show you. Four colors of cauliflower, huge bunches of broccoli rabe(!!??!!), gigantic globe artichokes (which I looked into ordering from California three weeks ago, on a lark, and was instructed on the website of some random Google result that the Artichoke season doesn't really begin till the dead end of February, better even the ides of March). Its always sunny beneath the florescent sunshine of the Kroger produce department. You should have seen my current favorite vegetable, yellow beets. Two bucks a bunch (the leaves are like the most tender spinach you have ever eaten, not to sound like a food writer, but, great when cooked briefly in a chicken broth), and huge, round, and ready to bleed gold. Ahh, what has natures bounty to do with the best laid plans of mice and men? The economy continues to tank, but in the industrialized world, at the supermarket, you'd hardly know it. Six A.M., seventy degrees (inside), a bright and shining beginning of a salad day in midwinter.
So, restraining myself, I only have one shelf of my own at home in my refrigerator, I saved room in my arms for some kind of protein (this is somewhat hard for me, thanks to my Mom, who fed me vegetables like a foie gras goose as a kid). Just as I was getting ready to check out at the grocery store, I was forced to set my items down at the self check out station (typical guy, without a cart), and this nice employee said good morning to me. We chatted for just a few seconds, and I walked over to get some soda from just a few aisles away. The store at that hour was deserted, and yet, sometimes is busy at six A.M. It reminded me of shopping each morning for items when I worked at the Courtyard by Marriott, as I was picking some strange assortment of soda flavor (I chuckle every time at the option of purchasing diet grape soda, and yet, what is the difference between that, and Sunkist, or even Coke. I would love to explicate my opinion on such choices in a different entry.) And as I put my soda beneath my arm and returned to the checkout stations I wondered, again, why it was I genuinely enjoy the company of this checkout guy, why I find this swirling artificial wonderland of the supermarket something more than just another sign of my distance from Mt. Authenticity. So, I am thinking such thoughts, and I return to the checkout, and the guy I was just talking with has checked out all my groceries for me even though it is a self checkout station. "All you have to do is swipe your card and swipe your sodas, sir," he says. Gee whizz.
You might wonder why I should relate this pretty pedestrian story. You'd almost have to wonder why you're reading about running errands, for crying out loud. And yet, I was wondering myself, what the difference is, really, between say, sitting at my breakfast table and staring at the wall, listening to NPR, and being there, in the checkout aisle, talking to, interacting with, and being presented with gifts from and entry level grocery store clerk. It embarrasses me to remember how thrilled I used to be with myself for having such interactions with individuals in public, given that, as is so abundantly clear in this example, the other guy was doing all the heavy lifting, literally and figuratively. Perhaps even more to the point, kindness is pretty typical in the world, even amidst the worlds best NASCAR Dads.
So, on balance, I felt a strange mixture of gratitude and pride this morning, as my day became cradled in the rosy fingers of the sun. Clearly I am lucky enough to see in the inky beginnings of the dawn a promise that to others might just as well be an empirical deduction: dark and without color. Clearly, I find the neon blue vested, supermarket entry level workers of the world potentially inspiring. I suppose it is a new thing for me, this last few years, to really ask these questions, though. I remember, long ago, laughing at the beauty of the morning, when the darkness of my life threatened, but failed, the sunrise. Today, I am not laughing, just grateful that the farewell of the ink black night and the salutation of the morning come at all.