As far as grocery stores go, the Sobey’s (formerly IGA) on 51 avenue and 111 street (Pleasantview) is something of an anachronism; an out-of-place, dilapidated throwback to 80’s-era grocery stores. They’ve spruced-up the exterior sign with a new one, but inside it’s the way it has been for the last twenty years. Maybe I’m off my tree tonight, but I find it comforting that my old grocery store hasn’t changed a lick. Change happens all the time everywhere so it’s very inspiring when something – even something as mundane as a grocery store – doesn’t change. Kinda like that old friend from high school that still has a mullet.
I walk in and I’m hit by that classic grocery store smell. I don’t know how to describe it except that it’s like when I was five and my Mom dragged me to Safeway every Tuesday. Smells like produce and packaging. It’s a small store, probably a quarter of the size of a Superstore or Save On. Despite the size, they sell everything that a guy truly needs. The place is just run down enough to have real character. The produce bins are chipped and matted. The tills are modified old-school models with big CRT screens mounted on wooden planks above the register. The meat dept. has one of those old-time glass counters that you never see any more. In short, she’s a beaut. I throw a couple things into my basket and set out to get a gander at a few of my fellow night shoppers. The old woman in the dark navy pea coat looks like she’s been coming here for thirty years. The housewife over there is staring intently at a jar of peanut butter, her runners dirty and her brownish hair just slightly a-tussle. There’s a pen-thin hipster with white cords from his ears in the chip aisle eyeing up a bottle of salsa and a bag of Tostitos. Over in the produce section, a middle-aged man in a brown suit pokes a head of cabbage and wipes his nose on his sleeve. I grab my cukes and romas and continue on, looking for nothing in particular and content to wander and observe my fellow shoppers.
At the till and nobody’s in line. Considering that today is 10% Tuesday, the store is dead. Must be the swanky new Safeway across the street. Seems everyone goes for the flashing lights these days. For my time and money, I’m content to hang out in the back 40 at a place like Pleasantview Sobey’s. I may not be able to buy a jar of Mango Salsa or a sleeve of square bagels, but I can pick up a stick of Old Spice and a jug of Clamato just fine. And that’s all that really counts, right?
Stu's Van, March 2007
StreetRag is an urban weblog and podcast about the city of Edmonton, which is located in the province of Alberta, Canada. It is authored by Edmonton-based writer, web advocate, and poet Michael Gravel and is updated frequently with written urban vignettes, amateurish photographs, deuteronomous audio material, barely coherent musings and rambling ecumenical treatises. StreetRag is a love letter to a lonely prairie burg struggling with its big city ambitions and small-town feel.
The city is Edmonton. It's a subject, not a passion. E-Town is almost universally derided by outsiders as an unlivable tundra wasteland populated by oil-hungry redneck conservatives who despise the arts. All of that is true. But it's not the whole story. There is beauty here. Dusty snowfalls. Brilliant summers. A stunning river valley. A diverse arts community that flourishes. It's a place that inspires a gray relationship - not all good, not all shitty. For that reason alone it is lovable, for what is life but a grayscale?