It is just odd, this need for trend and flavor and aren’t we all tony, sipping our lattes, carrying our shopping baskets over an arm, wandering the aisles of the grocery store listening to live jazz. I find it so bizarre. Grocery stores have gone from little boxes with rows of shelves lit by small bulbs and windows and no music, to giant rows of shelves lit by fluorescent lights and muzak over the sound system, to monoliths with shelves arranged at angles lit by attractively placed track lighting and live music playing in the corner. It’s grocery shopping as social experience with strangers. You are going out to buy your food anyway, why not hang out and look cool doing it? Plus if we cover everything in pretty packaging, not only will you not realize you are being sold to, but we can charge you 80 times more for everything you buy because we have you convinced we are such honest corporate citizens bent on saving the planet. Yuck.
I suppose something I have noticed upon returning to Portland is how damn hard it tries to be cool. As much as I recoiled from the slick corporate touch of Hawaii, I realize the version in Portland is just as calculated. Some tres chic advertising agencies and publicists have put their touches on liberal communities to ensure the corporate touch is more obscure. They sell to those of us who think we are too cool to be sold to. How better to do it than to fill the grocery store with plants, smelly candles, attractive lighting accents, live music, and a sign in the corner telling us it doesn’t exploit third-world farmers and that our veggies have no chemicals (we’ll ignore the fact it took untold hours and gallons of oil to get it all here). The sad thing is how well it works.