Harold Jaffe's docufiction

Trader Joe's
by Harold Jaffe

cover image of Terror-Dot-Govfrom Terror-Dot-Gov
(Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2005)

     We were sitting around the oak wood table drinking red wine and enumerating the virtues of Trader Joe's when there was a knock at the door.

     Trader Joe's is popular in your circle?

     Without question.

     Late corporate capitalism, then, has not failed utterly?

     Far from it.


     You say there was a knock at the door . . .

     Yes. Come in, we called out.
     Instead there was a pause, then three or four more knocks, louder.
     Again one of us called out: Come in, the door is open.
     I myself got up to look outside and nobody was there.
     We looked at each other wonderingly, but let it pass and went back to our wine and conversation.

     Went back to the enumeration of Trader Joe's virtues?

     The knocking at the door seemed to quash that.
     I remember the story of the poet Coleridge being interrupted by the tailor from Porlock, I think it was, while he was composing "Kubla Khan."
     After the tailor left, the poem took a very different turn.
     Of course Coleridge was not drinking red wine.

     He was ingesting laudanum of opium.

     Lucky man.
     Instead of opium and Absinthe, we have lite beer and cellphones.
     In any case, after the knocking at the door, the discussion turned to LL Bean.
     Those honest Yankees from Freeport, Maine.
     You must have ordered from them.


     You order something from Bean in 1997, wear it a hundred times, then decide you don't like it and return it to them after the millennium.
     They accept it without complaint.
     Exchange it or refund your money.
     Nobody at the oak wood table sipping red wine had a bad word to say about LL Bean.

     How many of you were sitting at the oak wood table sipping red wine?
     Not just number but gender distribution.

     Two females, two males.
     The fifth human's gender was ambiguous.

     I imagine the ambiguous-gendered human would find it hard to order from LL Bean.

     Not at all.
     When s/he is feeling male she orders from the male catalog.
     When s/he is feeling female she orders from the female catalog.
     When s/he is feeling funky she orders from the fly fishing catalogue.

     What sort of red wine were you drinking?

     A Chilean Cabernet.
     Full-bodied, on the dry side.
     A serious Cab, but not heavy.
     Bought for a very good price in Trader Joe's.

     Pinochet's Chile.

     Neruda's Chile is how we view it.
     Pinochet was the fascist genocider, right?
     Isn't he dead?
     If he's not dead he's ancient.
     Once you pass a certain age you might as well be dead.
     And the age keeps getting younger.
     Especially in the US of course.

     Pinochet's in exile.
     Spain, I believe.
     Or it could be that Spain deported him back to Chile.


     So we were sitting around the oak wood table praising LL Bean and sipping our Chilean red when there was another knock on the door, louder than before, three loud raps.
     Again we called out: Come in, the door's open.
     I went to the door a second time, opened it, looked outside.
     Nobody there.

     The wind?

     No, it was a calm night.
     The moon was full and bright.
     It was a blessing to be alive and middle class under the banner of freedom.
     Again we exchanged a look, sipped our Chilean Cab and resumed talking.

     About LL Bean?

     The knocking at the door seemed to quash the Bean dialogue.

     Was it a dialogue or an enumeration of their virtues?

     Both, probably.

     Nobody at the table had any idea who was knocking at the door?

     The humans in our circle either contact us on their cellphones, or email.
     In a pinch they'll fax.
     Showing up in the middle of the night and rapping at the door is not particularly cool.
     Unless of course it's an emergency.

     You keep the outside door unlocked?

     I live in a gated community.
     Surveillance 24/7.
     It's written in the mission statement.
     I thought I'd mentioned that.

     Electronic surveillance or human?

     Human surveillance has gone the way of the public phone.

     What time was it?

     Ten-thirty-five p.m. on a Thursday in May.

     Work the next a.m.?

     Not for me.
     I sleep in on Fridays.
     Do a bit of work in the afternoon.
     We refilled our glasses . . .

     With the same Chilean Cabernet?

     Trader Joe's agents scour the globe to buy products in great quantities.
     That's how they charge a good price.
     The conversation turned to Home Depot.
     You've heard people say about a certain place: You can get everything but the kitchen sink.
     Well at Home Depot you can get everything plus the kitchen sink.
     And always at a competitive price.
     You've shopped in Home Depot, right?

     I'm not a home owner.
     I sleep where I can.
     Everything I need I carry in this cloth bag.

     I guess you don't ski; you'd have to be Houdini to fit skis into that cloth bag.
     By the way, you don't have to be a home owner to enjoy Home Depot.
     Robert Venturi, the architect, wrote provocatively of the Las Vegas "esthetic."
     Venturi made a virtue of ruthless, slapdash capitalism.
     You must have heard of Venturi.
     Well, there's a Home Depot esthetic.

     Very male, no?

     Home Depot?
     Yes and no.
     It smells of wood chips, machine oil and honest sweat.
     Alternatively, it smells of strong, cheap cologne.
     Lots of tattoos, of course.
     On the bodies, though, of men and women.
     Post-postmodern females shop in Home Depot.
     These females tend not to follow the conventional strictures.


     Was that the end of the knocks at the door?

     No, there was a loud series of raps while we were enumerating the virtues of Home Depot.
     This time the ambiguously gendered person got up to open the door . . .


     There was a young woman, slender, dark-complected, in a veil, or hijab--
     Is that what it's called?

     I believe so.

     Well, above the veil--or hijab--we could see her sad, dark eyes.
     She was holding an infant to her breast.

     You could see her sad, dark eyes and the infant at her breast from where you sat?


     What did she want?

     Haven't a clue.
     What could she want at that time of night?
     In that neighborhood?
     Alms, probably.
     We didn't let her in.


     So the electronic surveillance failed you after all?

     What's that?

     Your electronic surveillance failed you.

     I suppose so, yes.
     Why are you grinning?
     Even technology is fallible, is that it?
     And for some obscure reason that pleases you.

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