Thursday, May 25, 2006

Back to Trader Joe's.

I'm not going to get into why I stopped shopping at Trader Joe's, but I will just say that I could never show my face back there again and feel safe. Hence my predicament of late.

Trader Joe's produces a wide variety of proprietary frozen foodstuffs, and a few of them are quite remarkable (despite the jelly-bloods who hock them). You know I do not toss the term "remarkable" around lightly. Their Ratatouille Provencal is a vegan's dream, plump with luscious zucchini and eggplant, and their "Trader Jose's" charred tomatillo tamales are pregnant little corn-flavored dream tubes. There's quite simply no other way to put it.

Long story short, I've been desperately missing those two particular items lately, and had to have them again. At long last, I decided that a disguise was my best course of action.

On any given day, I am trim, sharp, and lean. No muss, no fuss. I exist, and I get the job done. I don't have asinine sideburns. I don't care about famous smells. My clothing does not have writing on it. So what do I choose as the perfect disguise? That's right: Donny the Weightlifter. Donny is dopey, musclebound, covered in tight name-brand clothing, drenched in cologne, listening to an MP3 player, hair pulled back in a smother-handle (a pony tail — a smother-handle is a pony tail), and has a "Jersey thug" accent. Nothing could be further from my own natural deportment.

Pete loaned me the appropriate costume pieces from the wardrobe he has in the Tuff Shed out in the yard, and helped consult as I tried on various accents and accessories. Say what you want, but Nice Pete is a damn fine judge of character. He sees to the quick of a person, like a scalpel. If something isn't working, he'll know it instinctively. That's how he helped me whip my Donny into shape. Before an hour was up, I was the epitome of the 80 IQ weight room fireplug, effortlessly dropping lines like, "Yoo got any assss, bay-bee?" and "I tink I buss'id my spine."

So, decked out in tight white bicycle shorts (the text "OAKLEY" ran up the side of either leg, in very fast-looking lettering), a baby blue tank top with a "Bad Boy Club" muscle guy on it, puffy white high-top muscle shoes, iPod (the screen was cracked, but no one would see that), single-lens sunglasses, and a ponytailed wig, I had him drop me off in front of Trader Joe's. He was to circle the parking lot and watch for me constantly.

I walked into the store like nothing was wrong, and to my tremendous relief no one seemed to notice me. I picked up a basket (well, I fumbled the first few, my hands were shaking so badly) and went straight to the frozen foods aisle. A warm feeling washed over me as I saw all the old familiar packages beaming up at me from their little bins. The stir-fry vegetables, the microwave quinoa, the tomatillo tamales...I picked them up one by one and read their nutritional information the way one might read a yearbook entry from an old friend. It was truly gratifying, I will admit that.

I must have been lost in dream-land a little bit too long, because the next thing I knew there was a panic in the store, and huge shotgun blasts were erupting in the parking lot. It sounded like Pete's 12-gauge, so I went to peek out the window. Women and children were falling into terrified piles to the left and right of me.

Indeed, that fool had set up a line of organic watermelons in the parking lot, and was blasting them with his rifle. I swear, you can take the boy out of the country, but you cannot take the country out of the boy. I ran and jumped into the van, which gave him the cue to skedaddle. We left a pretty nice snake of tread on the lot, and made it home well ahead of the patrol sirens. Oh, and the best part? I had unwittingly left the store with a basket full of ratatouille and tamales!

All in all, a pretty good day, I guess. No one can finger me, because I was in disguise, and Pete is going to drive his new sports car for a while, so his van can lay low.

— Pat.