Thursday, December 24, 2009

Whole Foods Midnight Marathon

My dad once almost beat a Whole Foods employee into submission because the store lacked Hershey's chocolate syrup and Coca-Cola. That said, despite liking their cheese selection greatly, I feel pretty similarly about the entire Whole Foods operation. I like Velveeta, Jim Beam, and Wonder Bread on occasion. And I really like paying less for groceries.

But I can take Whole Foods with a grain of salt. I realize that moral superiority isn't really dictated by where you shop for groceries. So Whole Foods Midnight Madness in Denver was quite a humorous event for me.

"Midnight Madness," a term usually used to refer to college basketball programs' first practice of the year, means that Whole Foods puts a very few items on sale-- and on sale at Whole Foods is still pricier than Wal-Mart's everyday low prices (especially if they have that creepy yellow smiley face near the price.) Shrimp for $7 a pound? Insanity. Blocks of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for $5? These prices, from what I could discern, made the yuppies of Cherry Creek as excited as if they'd received a new fixed-speed bicycle from Barack Obama for Christmas (or Eid?)

As we arrived at Whole Foods around 11:15 in the PM, we quickly realized that there was not an entire spot in the entire parking lot. Wait, were we mistakenly at a Subaru dealership? No. It was really Whole Foods, replete with Subaru Outbacks and their yuppie drivers. Oh my god, a Prius. The employees bowed to the owner as he entered the store. Thinking that Whole Foods' customers might be a bit less aggressive than Wal-Mart's customers, I quickly realized that a $4 pack of wheat naan could turn even the greenest soccer mom into a crazed discount hunter. Here's a picture of me getting a great deal on naan.

After an extended search for a parking spot, we entered the store to cheering employees announcing the midnight madness specials on the overhead speaker. Hip-hop music between the announcements calmed people's nerves about being a white person in an all-white grocery store. Soccer moms in pajamas ran around the aisles like teens at a slumber party high on soda flavored with all-natural coarse cane sugar.

I realized that the amount of self-congratulatory and hipster-ish quotes being thrown around would put my memory on overload (although that happens during most simple sentences to me). So I decided, luckily, to write down some of the quotes as I anticipated that this could be a blog-worthy event. I'll just throw these quotes out now with a lil' bit of commentary.

"Honey, are we out of naan at home?" I mean, why would you limit your naan consumption to home? Most families of four need at least twelve loaves of naan each week. Plus if you keep a stash in the car, you could eat twenty loaves of naan easily.

(on the overheard speaker): "The OJ special is in the PRODUCE section and not in the NATURAL JUICE section." This caused an absolute tide of yuppies to shift directions and I'm pretty sure someone got hurt in the ensuing rush for $3.99 half-gallons of OJ.

"Oh my god, I can't believe we biked here honey! We are having SO MUCH FUN." Couples' high-five. By the size and irony of the guy's moustache, and her awkward-looking blue leggings, I could tell they were some of the first people on their block to see Modest Mouse live in concert at a small venue. (Cheers to Christian's blog Stuff White People Like for informing this last hipster-inspired commentary).

Tatooed employee: "Free samples, bro! Rice nog!"
RetiredJK: "Is it ORGANIC?"
TE: "Sorry it's not, bro, but it's all natural and really tasty!"
RJK: (Disgusted look) Later broski.

Fifty-something: "EXCUSE ME, you're cutting in the seafood line!!!
Sixty-something: "I'm in the OLIVE LINE!"
Employee with multiple facial piercings: "Free samples! Pizza! No gluten! No rye! No wheat!" Ummm... at some point I feel like Whole Foods sells people the emperor's new clothes and that there's not actually anything in the box. Maybe some olive oil or something. But I'll bet buying it still feels really good inside.
A couple other funny things I noticed. One is that chicks at Whole Foods really like to wear their hair like Princess Leia from Star Wars. I also have never even fathomed that so many fifty-somethings knew how to send text messages. I really wondered who these folks were texting at midnight, given that my parents go to sleep two to three hours prior most nights. Probably their friends in Japan or something multicultural like that.
At the checkout, I really had to fight the desire to buy a Northern Italian cooking magazine, because seriously who would even eat Southern Italian food? Philistines. The uncultured. I say this as I eat a late-night crab enchilada with nacho cheese. But seriously, the string trio playing 90's pop hits (jazz-style) was blocking my access to baguettes. I'm pretty sure they played "I Want It That Way" by N'Sync on their viola and stuff. The layout of the store was very poor because I need two baguettes a day.
But as I left with my naan and block of Parmesan cheese, one of their dreadlocked employees handed me a free sample of peppermint soy beverage. ORGANIC. And if it wasn't the best peppermint soy beverage I've ever had then my name is not JK and I'm not retired. Whole Foods, holla! P.S. My dad would have totally kicked that employee's arse.

Do You Really Want to Hear About the Morgans?

Hello my dear blogettes. I hope this Christmas season finds you well and prosperous, and that you can find it in your heart to share some of that prosperity with me during my blogathon. It starts now and ends after this blog but may continue for another day or two depending on the motivation level in a post-Christmas world.

So, as you may have guessed, this blog deals with a certain recently released rom-com (for the uninducted this stands for romantic comedy) featuring SJP (Sarah Jessica Parker) as Meryl Morgan and Hugh Grant as Paul Morgan. A quick summary of the movie in my good friend Dave's words: "He's been stumbling through life as a charmingly befuddled d-bag... She's a horse-faced slut... But together they unexpectedly find the recipe for love..."

The movie doesn't even start before the laughs begin. A preview for the Jennifer Aniston action rom-com "The Bounty Hunter" precedes the movie, and I predict these two movies will compete for post-season honors on As the movie begins, Paul is repeatedly calling Meryl's answering machine, leaving sweet but wordy and misguided messages with the clear intent of reuniting with his estranged wife. The reason they're estranged? Sometimes movies imitate life, and Paul has cheated on his wife (although not with a hooker in the back of a car).

The first major scene in the movie features Paul stalking his wife at a charity dinner. She is the keynote speaker despite having zero talent for public speaking. The topic of her speech? An ironically foreboding talk about the fight against breast cancer reaching a "turning point" and a "make-or-break" time in their organization's fight for a cure. Paul listens intently and, after the speech, is the most convincing, polite, British yes-man ever played on screen. He never actually disagrees with Meryl, whose over-the-top high-strung personality clashes horribly with his. Throughout the movie, they are far more believable as the antagonistic, seperated couple than they are as a married couple living together. One wonders if a straight-to-video release may have been more appropriate for the flick.

As the plot thickens, Paul and Meryl walk to her client's home only to see the client murdered by a knife in the back. Of course, the hit man feels it necessary to stick around for awhile and stare at the Morgans; conveniently, he sees a picture of her on the cover of a magazine on his getaway. After some fish-out-of water jokes about her attire and business dealings, they quickly enter the witness protection program and are whisked off to Wyoming.

The directors evidently put the movie on auto-pilot at this point, as we while away a half hour watching Paul and Meryl adapt to Wyoming life. Placed in horribly contrived situations, they experience all the things that all rural people do: eat wild game, shoot rifles, ride horses, milk cows, visit the rodeo, and, of course, share themselves with the wonderfully quaint townfolk. The ultimate irony of this portion of the film is that Meryl at one point claims to be "allergic" to horses... could this be a sly dig at SJP's horse-like appearance on the part of the producers? Probably not, as that joke would be a bit over their heads.

One of the few saving graces of this film is that it parodies city folk, especially those of you who live in NYC. The Morgans' inability to fathom rural life comes up throughout the movie, for example as Meryl struggles to find a non-cocktail dress outfit to bring with her to Wyoming. Later, Meryl asks Wilford Brimley to blow his smoke in another direction, and they get a rude awakening to living in a rural town. Straight out of an episode of South Park, he states "we don't take kindly to out-of-towners coming in to town and tellin' us what to do" to which Paul replies "I hope we can be friends" in the most beseeching, submissive tone he can muster. And he musters a submissive tone amazingly well.

The New-York centric point of view continues later, as Meryl recalls an episode involving "Jarlsberg cheese from Zabar's" while recalling an incident in which Paul tried to humanely trap a mouse rather than slaughtering it (Meryl, of course, is a member of PETA). The humour (note how I spelled it!) continues until the very end, when the hitman tracks them down at a rodeo. Meryl and Paul, in a scene that reminds of their newly repaired relationship, hide inside a rodeo clown outfit. A charmingly self-harming Paul overcomes his fear to douse himself in bear repellent while attempting to disable the hitman. Despite his clumsy but well-meaning attempt, the couple has clearly endeared themself to the community, and they respond by pulling several guns on the hitman and knocking him unconscious with a horseshoe.

Can a movie get zero stars? Was this written by a junior high school student? Could Meryl's personal assistant's performance overcome an awful script to compete for year-end honors? Will there be a worse movie this year? I don't know, but to quote the movie, "we don't take kindly to movies like this around here." I'm also pretty sure there was a high school couple giving each other hand jobs in the back of the theatre... I have no doubt they were far more romantic than any movie with Sarah Jessica Parker could ever be.