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Let’s see, where was I? Oh, yeah, in shock! I wrote a voluminous blog after the election, which is still sitting in my drafts folder waiting to be finished. And then, I just kinda… was in shock for a while, and stopped blogging. It was GREAT that Obama got elected, but I couldn’t believe it actually happened. To tell the truth, it’s still hard for me to believe it. He’s not perfect, and he’s not doing everything I want, but I’m still happy Obama got elected. President Barack Obama. No one can ever undo that.
From reading other people’s blogs, it looks like blog pauses are pretty common – people just stop for irregular periods of time, usually with no explanation. So maybe we’ll just call that my little Sabbatical, leaving the fields fallow for a while. That’s something we’re all supposed to do every once in a while anyway, planned or spontaneous!
But for a while now, I’ve been thinking alot about things I want to say in this forum again, so stay tuned! More posts coming soon, including something that I hope will stir up some conversation in the South Florida Arts Community (and maybe even beyond!)
Or: The Green, Green Groceries of Home
So Wednesday night I’m chillin’, watching Countdown with Keith Olbermann, and, as per usual, Keith is talking about John McCain’s latest gaffe, and all of a sudden, he says: “In front of the cheese case at the King’s Supermarket at the Westgate Mall in Bethlehem, Pa, the Senator tried to clear up any confusion….” etc. etc. And I sit bolt upright, look at the screen, and sure enough, there’s McCain in the local supermarket right near my parents’ house!
This is the grocery store I drag my father to any time I need ice cream or potato chips or seltzer or whatever else I’m craving that my parents don’t tend to keep in the house. I know this store and the Westgate Mall pretty well. It’s barely a mall by today’s standards, just a little strip mall. The supermarket is not that super either, it just happens to be the closest one. When I go with my stepmom to do a real grocery shopping, we always hit the Wegmans that’s a lot bigger and much better, but a little farther away. Though it’s not exactly small, King’s is much more of a Bethlehem small-town grocery store, while Wegman’s is a megastore that makes its own sushi, espresso and focaccia inhouse – not the kind of store I grew up with, or ever expect to see when I visit Bethlehem, though it’s been open for several years now.
I still remember Schoenen’s, the little grocery store I went to with my mom a thousand times – a family business, much smaller and humbler – off the main streets in a little neighborhood on the way to my high school. I remember its little parking lot – maybe 20 spaces – along the side of the store, and the big church and associated church school across the street on two sides of the store. I never knew anyone who went to that church, and its little plaid-skirted students always looked very foreign to me; but my mom always ran into people she knew at Schoenen’s, and always chatted with them – sometimes a little longer than I would have liked. That’s probably why I remember the outside of the store better than the inside, because that’s usually where I was while she was chatting. She was friendly like that.
Schoenen’s is probably long gone now. Since my mom passed away, and my dad remarried and moved with the family to a new home or two, this King’s store has been my parents’ neighborhood grocery for many years. And seeing this little bit of home on the national news really got me. The same thing happens when I see the inevitable footage of Syracuse snow every winter on the news, or deco hotels I recognize from around town on old episodes of Miami Vice, and most especially when I see footage of New Orleans. I remember after Katrina seeing a particularly wrenching photo of the devastated St. Roch Market – I always used to drive crosstown to buy crawfish there – theirs was the best!
What is it about the places we’ve lived that even a glimpse of a grocery store there can so stir these feelings of yearning, longing and general tugging at the heart? I don’t have any brilliant or profound insights here, I’m just noticing how much these little sightings affect me, and wondering…. No doubt others have written voluminously on this subject, so maybe I’ll just read some of what’s already been written, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel here.
Anyway, back to Bethlehem: I’m sure anyone who watched the news at all this week saw McCain in front of the cheese, and I must admit there was a certain amount of snarkiness among the media towards the cheese. And I must also admit that I felt a certain amount of defensiveness on behalf of my hometown cheese. What did the cheese do? Did anyone ask the cheese if it wanted to be on the national news? I don’t think so! It was just an innocent bystander!
Days later, everyone in the media is still talking about McCain and the cheese, for example this from Olbermann last night:
“Rule #1: Always stay away from the cheese.”
I emailed my father to let my folks know about their grocery store’s fifteen minutes of fame, and he wrote back:
“Yes, I was at Weiss-Kings and the secret service arrested me because they heard me say I am voting for Al Obama. Could U send 25K for my bail? Otherwise everything is OK.”
My father has also determined that Obama is actually Irish: i.e. O’Bama.
While McCain has been touring a variety of food-related establishments this week, Obama has – well, if you’re breathing, you know where he’s been this week. But in all the coverage, I haven’t heard anyone mention how cute Obama looked in a yarmulke. (Is there a rhyme in there? Obama’s Yarmulke? Maybe Adam Sandler will write a song.) (Yeah, I know, cheesy).
So thanks Keith, for being the only commentator to be so specific about the location of the cheese, and making the campaign just a little more personal for me.