“God, it feels sad in here.”
Yeah, it does.” He was my neighbor. Not a close friend, just someone who’s wife had been volunteering at a community garden with my wife. But, not too surprisingly, we had both managed to show up to buy some stuff and what had been–and soon would not be– our neighborhood grocery store.
“I was talking to the store manager. He says it’s pretty much all going to be gone by Sunday.”
He meant the current store manager, not the man who’d run the place for years before the closure had been abruptly announced the month before. I’d overheard him speaking to another customer a few minutes before, about how fast it had all happened.
My neighbor and I were standing in the frozen food aisle of what had been referred to for years as “The Montrose Fiesta” or the “Dunlavy Fiesta”, soon to be the now-closed Montrose Fiesta–soon after that to be a pile of rubble, soon after that to be the site of 800 or so “luxury apartments” in yet another faux-tuscan architectural abortion.
Since I wasn’t even going to be in town when the store closed–and needed to pick up a few things anyway– I had decided to take a couple of minutes from packing for a weekend trip and walk over to Fiesta…to say goodbye.
The same store had previously been an Appletree’s and–when I had first moved into Montrose in a previous millenium– a Weingarten’s where I routinely bought fresh donuts and cheap coffee as an impoverished self-labeled “artist”. Soon all three incarnations of my long-time neighborhood grocery will exist in the same place where the spooky and decayed beauty of Wilshire Village Apartments now exists: in the memories and memorabilia of those care to retain such things.
Of course, I have a new “neighborhood store” in the form of what is unambiguously self-labeled as “Montrose HEB”. At some point I suppose it is possible that it will instill the affection that I and (apparently few)others hold for the Montrose Fiesta. But it’s hard for me to see how. It’s just too big, too shiny, and too corporate for me to imagine loving it. It is extraordinarily convenient and probably far better suited to Montrose of the twenty-teens than Fiesta could possibly have been… this probably makes two of us.
As I wandered around the store, looking for things I needed or wanted, I thought about the many times this place had reliably served my needs and the needs of my neighbors. All the beer, all the wine, all the bottles of obscure Indian sauces, all of the late night munchies of every possible description. I thought about the seasonal displays of European chocolates that had always announced the impending arrival of xmas/kwanzaa/whatever. I thought about all of the times I’d run into friends there, particularly friends I am no more likely to bump into in this life than I am to ever shop in my neighborhood store again.
When I had run into my neighbor, I’d been standing over one of several shopping carts queued up in the frozen food aisle full of items priced to sell. I was surprised to see that there not a whole lot more in the baskets than there ever was. Eventually, I picked out a few organic graham cracker pie crusts and a fairly silly wooden basket from China in the form of a watermelon (it was a buck…why the hell not?)
I made my way over to the beer and wine section, which had always been my favorite part of the store. I like wine, lots of it, and like a wide selection. So had the old store manager, to judge from his weekly email newsletter of beer and wine specials (which I am not oddly glad I never got around to deleting). There was a discounted bottle of Charles Smith’s “House Wine”, a Washington state favorite of my wife’s. I added it to my basket.
Eventually, I had to admit to myself that I was just killing time and I really needed to go home and finish packing. It was like that last date that you know damned well really is the last date and goodbye is not what you want to be saying. Eventually, you say it anyway. I checked out and went home.