Sunday, July 3, 2011

Hot Dogs, Get'cher Hot Dogs

So, I've been hanging out a lot with my mom, who's been pretty sick, and is recovering from some major surgery, and today my visiting aunt Julie took her and I and my kid sister out to Costco--to stock up on garbage bags and other household basics, but also just as a sort of field trip for my mom, who hasn't been able to get out a whole lot this summer. It was my first-ever visit to the behemoth that is Costco, and my mom, who was wearing a hot pink peasant dress and in high spirits, suggested that there might be an "article" in it for me. I'll admit that I couldn't think of anything especially newsworthy about my first visit to Costco, but I think she thought that on this Independence Eve I might be able to mine the Costco Experience for, y'know, insight into the American character or something.

Which is a tall order; Costco, of course, is just a really big store, where they sell really big portions of everything under the sun, and, well, duh, that's pretty American--no Pulitzer for investigative journalism there. But as I've sat by the window with my pipe this evening and reflected on the day's events, I do find the vistas of Costco coming back to haunt me, and concede that the subject could merit a few words. The most memorable image, for me, was the spectacle of a dozen or so cow-eyed suburbanites, wrestling (as my sister put it) over half-portions of hot dogs that were on free sample--I'd say that in itself summed up the national mood pretty well, if it didn't seem so obvious. Apparently tasting stations are a major aspect of shopping at Costco--with everything from turkey burgers to gelato being offered, in gratis li'l demi-portions, one can (and does!) make a whole meal of the free samples. The other thing I found striking was the bizarre dimensions that products seemed to take on when sold in such massive quantities; looking at 24-packs of jumbo body lotion bottles, for instance, I couldn't help but imagine some overfed giantess sitting on a chaise lounge somewhere and moisturizing yards and yards of undulating flesh--I mean, who else is ever going to get through five gallons of skin product?

People like my mom and aunt and sister (and I) seem to wear a protective layer of irony when doing something like shopping at Costco--we're at least a little bit enlightened in that we can recognize the total obscenity of it. But this intellectual sense of remove didn't stop up from shopping enthusiastically--filling our (oversized) cart to capacity and topping it all off with gargantuan frozen yogurt sundaes. The deals are just overpowering. And, people like my mom (and aunt), who are post-operative and simple can't get around all that well have pretty legitimate reasons for wanting to stock up on toilet paper and dish soap. The place even struck a consumerist chord or two in me, at moments--I, who do half my shopping at the dollar store and generally only buy things when I have to. It sure would be nice, I found myself thinking, to have twenty pounds of coffee in my freezer, and be done with those shitty mornings when I've run out of the stuff and have to leave the house for my waking fix. Unfortunately, the one thing I really wanted to buy today--a portable li'l crackbox to play tapes on while I bike across town--Costco didn't carry. They may sell 'most anything else you can imagine (including, my mom joked, coffins), but I guess cassette players are just beyond the pale of obsolescence.

Anyway, my mom claims to read my 'blog on occasion--so here ya go, mom--not only did I complete your assignment but I turned in my copy the same day. Next time, though, can we go to the park or something?

1 comment :

  1. Liam -

    You can get a cassette player at Radio Shack.

    I remember your War Against the Idiots zine when you were working at Parsons spec programs with me and Roland. So I drank to much rye whiskey and wound up at your blog recalling your good vibe.

    Hope you are well -
    Greg L.