By Andrew Ramirez
There’s this phenomenon in L.A. where if someone asks you if you’ve been to Trader Joe’s lately, and you say, No. Never, that person’s eyes will explode. I’m not joking. The first time it happened, it got all over my face and shirt and eventually I ran out of shirts. So I was forced to get a little smarter:
Trader Joe’s? Well, let’s see. When’s the last time I went to Trader Joe’s? Say, when’s the last time you went to Trader Joe’s?
Saying that is like kicking open the flood gets. They’ll start telling you all about it: Six packs of Simpler Times and Name Tag beer for three bucks, jumbo apples for 59 cents, or how there were free samples of vegetarian pot stickers last Sunday, and dig this, dig this: they didn’t even care how many you took!
But sometimes I’ll forget:
I went to Trader Joe’s last week—
Oh Trader Joe’s? You know what, I’ve actually never been…
One time this girl’s head craned 360 degrees. After her eyes rolled back to normal she asked me what my problem was:
Are you, like, avoiding Trader Joe’s or what?
Then she never spoke to me again.
But I’ve got nothing against Trader Joe’s. I’ve turned a lot of nights blurry with Simpler Times beer. I’ve ingested entire busloads of whole wheat linguini and three cheese tomato sauce. Hell, I’ve cleaned out more Greek yogurts than the housemates of mine who actually bought them.
The more people tell me I need to go there, the more I’m breaking out in hives worrying that Trader Joe’s will only disappoint. And for simple reason too: by this point it’s impossible for a tacky grocery store to live up to what people keep telling me about it. This one adopted kid I know touched hands with his biological father when they both reached for the same basil flatbread crust in the frozen food aisle.
Trader Joe’s…Fucking Trader Joe’s, he said and started crying. He didn’t abandon me. He lost me at Ralph’s, and now we’re together again.
But I’m more scared it’s going to be like a sequel to a movie I really liked. The last thing I want to do is exit Trader Joe’s the same way I walked out of Robert Rodriguez’s Predators. Or even worse: Terminator 3. And it was one hell of a grim afternoon when my brother told me I couldn’t depend on baby teeth as a source of permanent income.
I stopped caring about the Tooth Fairy before I even knew she was made up, that’s how quickly that one died.
But in my head, Trader Joe’s floats like this strange and magic island sparkling off in the distance—a few mermaids singing songs on the shore, a few pirates trading punches in the sand. I don’t want to interrupt that kind of perfection. The first time I caught Santa Claus without his beard, he was in the back room of my grandma’s house wearing a bright red suit and cinching my mom’s big black belt around his waist. I mean, it’s hard getting excited to sit on Santa’s lap when you’ve come to realize that the real Santa is your aunt’s fat ass husband. The same Santa that was always so damn happy during Christmas, going Ho Ho Ho like in the movies, and it’s like the clouds have parted, and now you know why Santa and that other asshole were never in the same room at the same time.
Because Trader Joe’s really is stuffed with mermaids and pirates and Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy too. I’ve never been inside but c’mon. Trust me. And if your eyes already went pop, why not?