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10 September 2002

In the waning days of summer, when the temps are beginning to drop to warm enough to be comfortable, cool enough to be comfortable, the active Californian heads for the hills. Cars are packed with sleeping bags and camping gear, some pull boats with water skis, bikes are mounted on bike racks on the back. The physically fit are off to enjoy a couple of free days swimming, hiking, biking, jogging and doing other things that physically fit people enjoy.

The paunchy head for Costco.

As I am currently straddling two worlds, I was able to take my choice: exercise or shopping. Since we had not been to Costco in a long time, shopping won out.

For the two or three still left in the world who may not have experienced a Costco-like store, the first view of this place is overwhelming. Everything is oversized. Picture an enormous warehouse the size of an airplane hangar. It's very tall. It's very long (you could easily park a couple of 747s, end to end in the middle with lots of room to spare). It's very full of people. It's full of food, clothing, and other things you simply must have. Here you can purchase everything from cereal to refrigerators, from dog food to computers, from jellybeans to diamond rings, from broccoli to jeans, from ice cream to novels or CDs.  Everything comes in the large size. 50-100 pound sacks of kibble. 36 roll packages of toilet paper. 12 packs of yogurt. 5 lb. blocks of cheese. etc. The idea is to buy in bulk and save.

The shopping carts are double-wide, and most of the people pushing them are as well. Costco is a great place to pack on a few pounds because, especially on a weekend day, at the end of most aisles are women with little bake-ovens cooking samples of the foods they hope you will buy. People wander around the place with little nibbles of pizza, or pieces of pastry. You can easily get your free lunch by making a tour of the samples (and if that doesn't fill you up, you can stop at the hot dog stand or get a soft pretzel or an soft ice cream on your way out).

I am of the "stock up" generation. We joined a food co-op 30 years ago in Oakland and just continued buying in bulk ever since. I have to keep reminding myself that we no longer have 7 people living here and that it really isn't necessary to stock up for only two people. But who can pass up a giant size bottle of oregano, a quart bottle of tabasco, or a 10 lb sack of frozen chicken breasts?

I had been wanting to get to Costco ever since a friend, who is also on WeightWatchers, told me she's been eating a lot of frozen bagel dogs, which she purchases at Costco. Sounded like a good new food find, which I have been unable to get at the local supermarket. While there I might as well also stock up on other stuff.

Costco has not heard of "low fat," or if they have, they are embarrassed to admit it, since you have to really hunt to find something that is not sugar-coated and fat-soaked. All of the things that I have finally learned to like in the lower fat, lower calorie version were unavailable at Costco. You could buy 25 lbs of sugar, but not a small box of Splenda. You could get a half gallon jar of mayonnaise, but not the low fat variety. You could get huge bags of greasy chips, but no baked chips. You could get any of a bazillion types of bread, but no high fiber bread.

Around me children cried for samples of candy, which parents were loading up in huge bags. Fathers rested little cups of soup samples on their ample bellies while pushing the carts up and down the aisles. Women in tight-fitting pants loaded up on fried frozen foods (I was one of those in tight-fitting pants, but I was virtuously passing up the taquitos, the stuffed, breaded jalapiņos, and the mini quiches.)

In the end, I bought very little--canned tomatoes and tomato sauce, fat free yogurt, frozen chicken breasts, cereal, dog treats, and videotapes. I found bagel dogs, but they must not be the same ones, since these were refrigerated and 400 calories each, and I decided to pass (never did find frozen ones).

We stood in a line that stretched forever from the cash registers and then went out to the car, our basket only half full, walking behind a family with two heaping baskets, the pastries peaking out of the top, over the bags of Snickers. 

I suspect that my new lifestyle doesn't match Costco any more. Next time maybe I'll try heading up into the mountains with my bike strapped to the back of the car instead.

Quote of the Day

There are few things as mind-bending as being part of the primal crush of humans stalking bargains. It's that hunting and gathering instinct that is part of Microsoft for Humans.

--Michael Sugar

Picture of the Day

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Grandma with her "slutty fizz" (remember the picture of  other grandma drinking her "virgin pina colada"?)

Does this lady look 83???



One Year Ago
So Long for Awhile
I'll have lots of tales to tell, I'm sure, when we get home. So, until I find the next cyber cafe... bye, all!

(This was written before we got on our plane for London--on September 10, arriving 9/11)

Two Years Ago
Doing the Best I Can
Today I felt almost like a normal person. It was a strange feeling. Here I was actually straightening up (a little), decorating (a little) and preparing for a houseguest (a little). Very odd feeling.

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