I Stop at the Bananas

“I have no idea what’s awaiting me, or what will happen when this all ends. For the moment I know this: there are sick people and they need curing.”
― Albert Camus, The Plague

The pandemic has taken so much from us. Much that it has taken may never come back.

One thing that I miss very much is the rectangular plastic bar at the grocery store that you put on the moving belt between your groceries and the person in front of you. That piece of smooth plastic doesn’t seem to be very dangerous to me, but I guess other people, strangers, do touch it – so it has to go.

I miss it. I liked to watch the checker slide it down the little channel so the next person in line can wall off their purchases. I miss that.

The other day I had a list of groceries to pick up so I stopped by one of the local establishments (we do not live in a food desert – there are at least five grocery stores from several different cultures and styles of food within an easy bike ride from my house). The place was crowded, with several folks lined up placing stuff from their baskets onto the belt.

From the busy checkout line one over, behind me, I heard a woman say, clearly, “I stop at the bananas.”

I stop at the bananas.

What a cool phrase. How useful.

“Yes, I know there is a sale on papayas, but I stop at the bananas.”

“Sorry I’m late but on the way over here I saw a fruit stand. I stop at the bananas.”

“Apples…. not Cucumbers, I stop at the Bananas.”

“She’s a lunatic, not me, I stop at the bananas.”

“Every morning, I make a smoothie. There are lots of different kinds, but I stop at the bananas.”

Or, as it was today, a simple tip to the checker where the boundary was. It was right after the bananas.

“Danger’s over, Banana Breakfast is saved.”

― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Trophy from the Gravity’s Rainbow Challenge. Yes, I read the whole thing.

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – Shopping Carts by Bill Chance

“Vandals listen only when others are stronger.
If vandals are equal or stronger
Their word is the last word.”
― Dejan Stojanovic, Circling: 1978-1987

The ponds at the end of my block, Richardson, Texas

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#84) Getting closer! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

Shopping Carts

Sometimes, when the weather was warm, he liked to sit beside this little pond in a park near his house. The bank all around the pond was steep but there was a spot where a tree had died and left a flat area ringed by a rock wall that was a particularly comfortable place to sit.

He was sitting there looking across the pond where a sidewalk ran when he spotted a couple of teenagers pushing a shopping cart. There was a grocery store a block away and he could see a single shopping bag in the center of the cart. When they reached the middle of the part of the sidewalk that ran along the pond, one kid reached into the cart and pulled out the bag. The other simply turned the metal cart and pushed it down the steep bank where it hit the water and with a soft hiss, quickly sank beneath the surface. Once it was gone the two kids kept walking, now carrying the bag in their hands. It didn’t look very big.

He was upset at this. He knew the grocery store was losing money and would soon close. The neighborhood would be hurt by the lack of shopping and the image of the big empty box on the corner, the vacant parking lot. The carts were expensive and those kids were one reason nothing good ever lasted any more.

He thought about yelling something, but they were too far away. He couldn’t even chase them. By the time he rounded the pond they would be long gone. They were too far away for him to even know who they were – if he saw them again, he wouldn’t even know it.

So he sat there for a little longer and then walked home. He never went back to the pond again, preferring to stay home and watch television.

Jimmy’s Food Store

A while back, Candy had this wine at an Italian restaurant in Fort Worth. It was Lacryma de Christi del Vesuvio – which translates as “Tear of Christ.” It’s a type of wine produced on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius. We had been looking for the stuff all over the Metroplex and nobody had it. They all said the same thing though, “have you looked at Jimmy’s? If anybody has it, they will.” I looked up Jimmy’s Food Store and found it was on the corner of Fitzhugh and Bryan in East Dallas. Today we had some time and drove down there.

I’m familiar with that area. For years I went through there twice a day on my way to work downtown – either driving or on a bus. It was always a poor area, pretty lively, but not the place you wanted to wander around after dark. Lately, though, a lot of the run down old apartments and crude homes have been torn down and the area is primed for redevelopment and gentrification.

Meat Case - Italian Sausage and more

Do you like Nutella? - here's an eleven pound jar for seventy dollars.

Jimmy’s Food Store is a fantastic place. It’s the motherlode of specialty Italian food and wine. I heard the owner talking – he’s been in the same location for forty-two years. The neighborhood has been through some serious changes over that time, but his store has stayed the same. It was crowded with people buying Italian groceries – about a quarter of them speaking Italian.

The store isn’t very big, but holds a lot of goodness, crammed in as tight as can be. The biggest area is dedicated to wine, a huge selection of Italian wines, arranged by region and type. You can learn a lot about wine simply walking the aisles and reading the little articles they have taped to each variety.

Sure enough, they had a couple Lachryma Christi whites (the one red they carry was sold out). There was a Mastroberardino and a Vini Nobilis. We bought one of each and a couple other bottles of wine. We picked up some pasta (Pastosa – imported from Brooklyn!) some cheese and a couple of sauces to go with the pasta.

A couple of Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio

This is the kind of place you don’t want to go when you are hungry. You will buy too much stuff. In addition to the wine and groceries, back next to the meat counter, is a little place where you can order sandwiches. We bought a Cuban and a Muffaletta, some drinks, and took them out to a little table out by the street. The day had started out crisp, but the Texas sun was warming everything up quickly.

Mufalletta - big enough for about three meals

Cuban Sandwich

Seating out on the street.

It was really nice sitting out there on the street eating sandwiches and enjoying the day. There was even live music – a partly blind man, Vincent Van Buren,  playing harmonica and singing the blues (and a lot of old Beatles tunes).

It doesn’t get any better than that.

Vinnie Van Buren 1

Vinnie Van Buren 2

Vinnie Van Buren 3

Vinnie Van Buren 4

Video – Partially Blind Man Plays Harmonica at Local Food Store

Antonio Ramblés – Dallas’s Italian grocery

A lot of restaurants use Jimmy’s Sausage – Like Fireside Pies

What’s Worth Drinking – Lacrima Christi del Vesuvio

Super H Mart

I love the Saigon Market near my house, but I have been hearing the virtues of an even larger Asian Market called Super H Mart. It’s in north Carrollton, which is on the other side of the Metroplex from my humble home, but my car gets good mileage and I had some time today, so off I went.

It looks like a Kmart

Super H Mart is a chain, which started on the East Coast. It’s a huge place, with a massive grocery store surrounded by little stores and a long corridor of a food court. The biggest draw is the produce department with an endless assortment of fruits and vegetables… from normal looking peppers to the strangest looking spiky fruits from the far corners of the globe.

The place was packed with shoppers, noisy and active. It’s not very well organized, so you get to walk around a lot looking for stuff. It’s really clean though, and it’s an odd contrast, with the exotic selection presented like a typical American Megamart.

A great selection of Ramune

Of course, like any good Asian market, the seafood section is a treat. The back wall is full of tanks with every sea creature you can imagine. What isn’t swimming around is lined up on rows of aisles of ice. I wandered around looking at the stuff, watching some woman probing a case of blue crabs, watching them jump around, trying to decide if they were active enough.

Are your Abalone fresh?

Fan mail from some flounder?

Saigon Market in my neighborhood specializes in Vietnamese Fare, of course. Super H Mart specializes in Korean Food. I have never seen so much Kimchi in my life. Glass jars, plastic tubs, and big bags of a bewildering array of different kinds of fermented goodness – whole head cabbage, napa cabbage, radish, and many more that I didn’t really understand.

Jars of Kimchi, half and full gallons.

I like to buy my kimchi by the bag.

So I picked up a basket and filled it with a six pack of Ramune, some Udon, a big bag of Tobagi Kimchee, a bag of nectarines, and some Jufran hot banana sauce. Just another day at the grocery store.

There is a large section of teas and herbal remedies. Including this one, "Super Colon Sweeper." You have to admire a product with a drawing of the human lower digestive system on the label.