Monday, May 26, 2008
At Rite-Aid this morning I walked through
the "Dollar Days" aisle. I love these aisles.
I love to see what kind of crap we as a society
are foisting upon dollar-toting consumers. These
aisles represent to me all that is wrong with our
consumer-driven lives. And in every "Dollar Days"
aisles there is usually one item which speak louder
than any other, and today it was little net bags
of shells, for, of course, a dollar. Now I'm going
to get all nostalgic: I remember when the only place
one could purchase little bags of shells was at
a store beside an ocean. Little bags of shells
and shells in bins individually priced. Exotic
shells, glossy shells, shells with odd spikes
and pearly insides which, when held up to the ear
echoed a far-away surf. As a six-year-old, I usually
had perhaps a dollar to spend on a memento
of my trip to the ocean, and most shells were ten cents
or maybe a quarter. They always slipped nicely
into a slim paper bag, and I'd take them out later
when I was alone and examine each one, every swirl
and stripe. These were my treasures, more valuable
than any other possible souvenir, and I dreamed
of walking a beach far from the limitations of rural/suburban
Renton where every shell was a wonder I could not
have ever imagined -- glint, sparkle, shimmer.
When I was 26 I walked the beach in Normandy
and instead of sand there were only tiny irridescent shells,
literally millions of them underfoot, up and down the strand
as far as I could walk. I scooped handfuls to my pockets,
carried them home across an ocean and a continent
carefully packed to minimize breakage. Sometimes when
I think that this, too, was just a dream, I return
to the vintage glass jar where they are stored
and I sift them -- a bit chipped after all these years --
through my fingers.
The dollar-bags of shells at Rite-Aid this morning
turned what I have always thought of as treasure
into a cheap commodity. I considered buying some,
even picked up the mesh bag and turned it over
and over in my hands, but it just wasn't the same.
I think what I really needed from the Dollar Days aisle
was a set of orange plastic cups: stackable, unbreakable
and ugly. Maybe tonight I'll dream of a meadow
with orange plastic cups blooming from every stem.
But really, I'd rather it be shells.