I went to the grocery store

What I did: grocery shopping at DeCicco’s in a nearby town.

What I wore: tall boots, black Pikeur full-seat breeches, turquoise polo shirt, blood-stained gray hoodie that I bought last year when I went to Miami without workout clothes, scowl. I don’t know where the blood stains came from.

What I did beforehand: riding lesson.

Who went with me: rambunctious groups of teens from the local high school.

What I needed to buy: powdered sugar, quart-size Ziploc bags, something for dinner.

Why I chose this store: there is an excellent dry cleaner in the same strip mall. The uninspiring dry cleaner we’ve been using in Bedhead Hills has a dirty, disorganized store.

Where I parked: on the second lane from the south edge of the lot, between a Toyota SUV and a Hyundai that had backed in.

Things that were sad: the grocery store always makes me sad.  Our nation’s last telecommunications bill was passed in 1996, before smartphones. Kids are graduating college under staggering amounts of debt and there aren’t any decent jobs. Our elected officials haven’t the courage to enact legislation to limit man-made greenhouse gases. The gun lobby has made even our elementary schools dangerous. Women in rural areas lack access to reproductive health care. Medical debt is the leading cause of bankruptcy in American households. I am 53 and can’t get anything but a polite rejection when I apply for jobs. I’ve reached the point in my life when sometimes I feel I have no purpose. My parents died in their early 60s and I’m wasting my 50s feeling sorry for myself.

Things that were funny: at least I didn’t cry today.

Things that were not funny: “The glass ceiling is shattered, girls!” is a lie. You still make a lot less than your male peers. Your success is still mostly determined by how wealthy your parents were. Don’t let your patronizing acquaintances tell you how to feel about yourself.

What it is: where limp hopes and forgotten dreams go to die.

Who should see it: are you hungry, because dinner won’t make its fucking self.

What I saw on the way home: the dead bugs and road grit smeared with the first pass of my windshield wipers as it began to rain. But I summoned my energy after putting the groceries away and walked the dogs in the rain. The woods were very quiet. I was thinking about how different the world still is for women, and I heard a rustling. A big deer sprang away, more frightened of us than we had a right to be frightened of it; I was filled with adrenaline, thinking, “It might have been a coyote, or a golfer looking for a ball, or a varsity swimmer from Stanford, who the media should call a rapist.” 

Cracking Eggs

I once attended a private school teachers’ conference where the keynote speaker posited that private school students might be like eagle eggs, requiring only a warm bottom to hatch out exemplary achievers. He framed it as something someone else said, and offended everyone sitting near me.
Because I was born and raised in St. Louis and I have been wondering all year about how much that mattered, and why some folks there think, say, that the cops in Ferguson were “just doing their jobs.”  When I was a kid we had Dr. Seuss books, including, “Horton Hatches the Egg,” in which an elephant is abandoned to sit on a nest through a bad winter and via the magical transformative powers of the universe punishing a neglectful parent hatches an elephant bird. Also, there is Twitter, where an egg is the default avi and emblem of a new user but most especially a new troll.
Ostrich egg, cracked
I had this errand in Poughkeepsie and I had to stop for gas, and the first place I stopped only took cash and I ask you: who has cash? I drove on. Merging back onto Route 9, I decided that if I had the cash, I wouldn’t spend it on gas anyway. There is a decrepit Sunoco station just up the road, but the first pump had “transaction cancelled” on the screen, so I pulled around to a second pump and nothing happened when I tried to swipe my card; as I tried to cancel the transaction, out came the 900-year-old proprietor shaking a chicken bone finger at me, “Out of gas! Out of gas!” he said, accusingly, as if what he meant was, “Get off my lawn!”
After the errand, I thought it would be a cool and productive thing to try Poughkeepsie’s “fancy” grocery so I stopped at Adams. Rarely have I been more poorly served by my determination.  For starters, how do you even get in the store? Some business innovator in the 90s figured out that hidden entrances and exits and a frustrating store layout will trap customers inside, extracting more sales from them. Yet, I persisted.  Then, I went in search of a cart, circling in and out of the store a couple of times, trying to understand. Finally, I found the carts, chained and all locked together. I followed a shopper with a cart, putting groceries in his car and asked him. He was, like, you have to pay a quarter! It was at this point I should have gotten back in my car. Of course, I didn’t have a quarter, either. But, no, I stayed and wandered and bought ground beef and never did find the beer or the popcorn.
I tried to count the supermarkets where I am pretty sure that I’ve actually cried, and came up with 6 different Seattle QFCs, 2 Whole Foods (both in NYC), 1 PCC, 2 Seattle Safeways, and 1 California Safeway (California Safeways are completely different from Seattle Safeways).  I do hate to shop, even if it’s just food.
Anyway, I had gotten the idea to make brioche buns for hamburgers again even though the first time I tried it I lost my shit having kitchen-mess-rage; see, the resulting buns were delicious and lasted for weeks in the freezer. Also, I had been offered the gift of an ostrich egg and accepted it in my effort to be an open-minded and curious person who appreciates trying new things. The ostrich egg is large as you might imagine, comparable to a cabbage, and the weight and size of it are nothing compared to the strength of the shell. Apparently one ostrich egg has the equivalent of about 10 chicken eggs inside it. The dog Cherry felt so much deep appreciation for the object she guarded the kitchen island where it sat, despite the fact that she couldn’t see it. I should have taken this behavior as a sign of trouble, of course.
I wasn’t going to try for something heroic like saving the shell by carefully blowing out the contents. No, I was thinking, let’s get this fucker cracked, ‘cause we’ve got dough to make. The Internet said you could do it with a hammer and chisel and also that you should have an assistant. So I had my youngest hold it and I tapped it with the chisel and hammer. So, well, a big crack formed down the length of the thing but it wasn’t enough of a crack to open it. So my kid encouraged me to tap it again. This was the moment the strong smelling cloudy yellow goo began spurting with great force out of the side of the egg. Basically now we had a tiny fountain of stonky ostrich booty-smelling rotten egg.
There may have been screaming.
The pets, who are pretty much all self-centered assholes every day of the week, were terribly interested in this entire procedure and were doing a joyous dance of anticipation. Those hairy fuckers were feeling tremendous admiration for our ability to get into the gas and putrefied ostrich yolk filled egg and really didn’t get why I had to yell and run around and put the egg in the trash in the garage and lament about how the dish soap wasn’t removing the smell from the bowl. But I’m telling you, the dish soap didn’t remove the smell from the bowl, people.
Getting back to the brioche, I had to use every last egg in the fridge (because brioche takes 10 eggs, bitches). And so I measured out all the milk and salt and yeast and flour and eggs and whatever and began the mixer phase. The mixer phase can be stressful because of the rising writhing dough blob that ascends violently from the bowl where it belongs. Flour and dough get everywhere and also there’s this long period where all you do is stand next to the gyrating mixer and you add a small cube of butter at a time and wait for it to be fully incorporated (whatever the fuck that means). This step requires patience. I tried to watch the mixer because last time it wanted to walk off the counter; this time,  I found it over in the corner dry-humping the microwave.
So while I was still trying to forget the smell and trauma of the rotten ostrich booty egg and my youngest was hiding in his room, I went to set the giant dough blob to rest overnight in the fridge and maybe make the slaw to make room and I discovered that the ground beef I bought the day before was turning all kinds of incredibly scary and ominous grey and brown colors and no longer looked like edible meat.  So now I was like, seriously fuck that. And, fuck that store.
But anyway I got the dough made. I got up early the next day to replace the nasty meat and do the baking.
So then the day after the hamburger party I drove the youngest child to a summer program and the day after that we were staying at a bed and breakfast near the school having breakfast with the other people staying there, as you do. We sat amidst the floral wallpaper and plastic plants on the shapely velvet-upholstered Victorian furniture and made obligatory chit-chat. One of the women was a history buff and held forth on the career highlights of Lincoln’s Secretary of State William Seward. I liked her.  Her husband complained that he wasn’t going to be getting any bacon or sausages. We also talked about cats and traveling with cats and the other wife, bossy and tart, informed me that a cat has to be trained to travel. The bacon lover told a cat story, and the history buff had to tell him that the cat he was talking about had belonged to another, earlier wife of his.  Bossy wanted me to know that they lived in a particularly beautiful place that was called New Hampshire. I said that I knew New Hampshire was beautiful and that I had lived in Vermont, but before I could say more, she interrupted me to say,  “New Hampshire is NOT Vermont.”
I wanted to reply, “No, New Hampshire would never send a socialist to the U.S. Senate,” but instead I smiled. I asked her where she was from and she proudly informed me, pausing to inhale, that she was from Poughkeepsie.

Bossy also told how she had a pet crow as a child; it had been brought to her when it had been found, unfledged, and her father had had a pet crow, and knew what to do and that made her seem somehow wonderful. Or at least like someone who had a strangely wonderful childhood.

The good, the bad, and the ugly of Fresh Direct

People like to say that you can get anything delivered in Manhattan. I think they say this to avoid saying something more important: getting stuff into your apartment is a huge pan in the ass.
My car (beloved replacement of a previous car) lives in a near-ish garage, rides up an elevator to a grubby and cramped parking spot, and costs as much to keep in the city as anyone might pay for an apartment in someplace less ridiculous. Driving anywhere around here is almost always unnecessary, and almost always fraught with peril, so I see my car once a week or less, when I go to the country to ride horses. For the purposes of running errands, I schlepp like other New Yorkers and I buy things and have them delivered.
I can carry four very full bags of groceries if I can pack them myself in canvas bags and use my folding luggage cart. Grocery checkers in New York City realize that those of us who come with bags and carts of our own expect to pack ourselves, so the smart ones stand back and let us do it. The walk home is tricky, though, since there are so many kinds of pavement in my neighborhood (cracked, smooth, asphalt, granite, old granite, cobblestones) and then there are all the manholes. Finally there is a high curb on my block that must be navigated. Usually, I have the whole thing tip over at some point.
One expensive grocery store will deliver everything except the frozen food for a minor fee, though they often have a five hour backlog, which requires planning ahead by half a day. If I can plan ahead by a bit more, I can order my groceries from FreshDirect.com, and they will be delivered to the counter of my kitchen for the same fee and will arrive within a pre-arranged window of my choosing, about 1 ½ hours long.
The good things about Fresh Direct are centered on the convenience of it.  You can work from a list; you can search on an item by name from the comfort of your chair.  They remember that you like Newman’s Own Pink Lemonade and show it to you whenever you ask for lemonade. When eggs arrive broken, you send an email and they give you credit immediately. They have most of the staples you might need, and many of the cleaning supplies.
The bad things about Fresh Direct are many little things.  Because you do not choose your produce, your eight yams may range in size and shape making them hard to peel and handle.  A couple of your pears will be misshapen and unappealing. They choose huge bananas, and you can’t ask for smaller ones.  Since you do not actually see the items you are buying, the packages of bacon may be just the sort of all-white, fatty, broken slices that you would set aside while you looked for pink ones.  Quantities are sometimes not apparent, so when you casually click on four non-fat vanilla yogurts, they might be 32 ounce containers instead of the expected 8 ounce containers.  How many jalapenos is ¼ pound? Fragile things like bananas come carefully wrapped in a layer of plastic foam packing material which was probably never intended for use on food and certainly doesn’t protect from bruising. Once you’ve bought something a couple of times, the site calls it your “fave” and highlights it with a star, even if it really isn’t your “fave.” Eggs are more expensive and often arrive broken.  FreshDirect doesn’t have everything I want (rooibos tea, Shout Color-Catching sheets, organic buttermilk), and while I can request as many items as I want with their handy form, I feel like I’m shouting into a well. Everything comes in cardboard boxes that must be broken down and recycled. 
Things get downright ugly when items are suddenly not available and so are not delivered, leaving you without any Italian sausage when you are making marinara. You do get an email telling you that you will receive credit for the missing items, but at that point you might be so peeved that you have to go out and buy a replacement that you come close to sending an all-caps reply. One night I got an email saying that “due to a power outage your order was cancelled,” and went on to describe the simple steps for placing the same order. As it was, I was leaving town the next day and could not get a new delivery window, so I did fire off an angry email. For my trouble I got a hefty discount.
My biggest problem with shopping for groceries online is that there is no store to walk through, so I consistently forget things I would ordinarily not miss. I want a 3D store, with a tiny 3D shopping-me who can walk the aisles, see the cauliflower and the Rice Chex, and hold the orange juice carton in her hand.