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Walk to WINCO
A Day in the Life of a Hobo, Portland, Wednesday, March 15
© 2023 James LaFond
SEP/19/23
At 7:50 I woke in the garage, dressed and went into the house. The sink was heaped with dirty dishes, so I loaded the dishwasher while I made coffee. The youngest bear cub asked that we leave early, that, unlike his surly older brother, who was suspended for horseplay, he liked getting to school early.
We walked past Kelly’s house, which I pointed out again. Three motorists stopped at side streets where they had the right of way, for us to cross. I told him, “In Baltimore, they would run you over. These drivers are so polite.”
In 15 minutes we emerged on Powell, across the street from the school, which looks like a postmodern storage locker, at 69th. There we waited for the light to turn and crossed with the herd.
“James, you’re not coming to talk to the principal are you? I gotta tell you that he hates my father and brother and has his eye on me.”
“Oh, I’m certain he hates your old man. I’m walking down to WINCO. Do you need anything, have all the ingredients to bake a cake?”
“Where good, plenty of milk and butter and eggs and I have another box of cake mix.”
“I’ll see you after school, buddy.” And out Powell, which is essentially the highway to Mount Hood, I ambled.
At 72nd street, at the 7-11, a bearded, middle aged, hair-bear tranny in a dress with a Mongolian top knot scurried on by.
A man my age stood outside of an auto garage and nodded respectfully to me as he waited for his boss to open up shop.
A giant, fat sissy with beard waddled by me.
I approached the anchor shopping center, which is at Powell and [1] 82nd, and see on the right side an orderly homeless camp complete with generators and no trespassing signs. The 11 tents are pitched against a sound wall among sharp boulders placed to prevent camping, which are used to anchor the very tents civic planners thought they would prevent. The service roads cut into the south side of Powell, like Loch Raven Boulevard in Baltimore, where once envisioned as on ramps for the great Mount Hood Highway. When I came to Portland in 2019 they provided parking for local businesses. Now that Covid wiped out half the businesses, they provide campsites for the homeless.
Behind the shopping center are two forlorn souls, male, tall, in their 30s. Both have blankets over their heads. One stands and sways, mumbling to himself. The other leans in a squat against the building back, his head pressed against the wall as he moans like a soul caught in Hell’s wrack.
On the side of the strip mall are two feral tweakers, one tall dirty man with a shopping cart full of junk and blankets who is tittering. The other is shorter, my height, ruggedly athletic, dark bearded, and reads out loud from a flier in a hollow drug addict yawn, like a ghost casting up echoes from some abyss. This man is dangerous, I note and seems to be reading for the tittering man.
In the shopping center the first business has a kicked in and boarded up window. I pass a little Asian lady with her dolly headed to the WINCO, the anchor business. It is 9:00 AM. The bottle bandits, the army of homeless who scour the residential area for every can and bottle to exchange them for 10 cents a piece at supermarkets, are lined up waiting for the recycling attendant to finish emptying the machines, vending machines which take bottles and cans and give dimes. These 20 folks, half women, keep the neighborhood clean and assure home owners that their recycle can will never overflow. Two women discuss a possible sleeping location where they can shower tonight. The bottle bandits are all in their 30s and Caucasian, except for a large Asian man of 40 who steps out of my way.
WINCO is the best supermarket I have shopped nationally. It is an acronym for Washington Idaho Nevada California Oregon, a strictly regional, employee-owned outfit. The layout is perfect, the staff excellent and the prices listed above Fred Myers and Safeway prices, to show the extensive savings.
A gallon of milk is $3.20, half of the standard price. There are limits on milk and eggs for the discount price, with 12 eggs going for $1.78 for the first 2.
Below is my purchase, which is intended to feed me one meal a day for two weeks, [2] making 3 frying pans of ghetto chop suey and two half gallons of cold salad. I will get the heavy vinegar, soy sauce and salad dressing at the Dollar Tree tomorrow, as it is half the distance.
A pretty Asian woman was playing joyfully with her baby in the cart while she shopped.
-onions, 3 lbs, $1.28
-Zucchini, 1.54 lbs lbs, $151
-2 plastic bags, $0.10
-cabbage, 1.46 lbs, $1.28
-celery, $1.48
-cilantro, X4, $2.32
-radishes, X2, $1.96
-green onions, X5, $3.40
-jalapenos, 0.56 lbs, $0.72
-mushrooms, 8 oz, $2.28
-lime juice, $0.98
-lemon juice, $0.98
-butter, 1 lb, $2.98
-BarS franks, X24 dogs, $2.04
-diced tomatoes, 14 oz, $0.68
-beans, canned, 14 oz, $0.78
-sour cream, 16 oz, $1.78
-carrots, 1 lb, $1.28
Total = $27.83
The cashier was a large middle aged woman training a large young woman, including how to check my $50 bill. Many new hires are being brought in to handle the extra business with Walmart closing ½ mile away.
There are some self checkouts. But WINCO has more manned checkouts than any grocer other than Cosco. They have two bagging shoots, behind the register down which belts the customers go after paying to bag their own order. I pay and go to bag, leaving it to her to give me my change.
There is laughter as she tries to give my change to the Asian man behind me, who refuses and she thanks for being honest as we chuckle. [3]
I had worn my girdle and was glad for it as each of the two bags I packed weighed 20 lbs. Crossing right off, and walking back slowly with short steps, I noted a second homeless camp on the south side. This single block section of service road at 74th, where the Jehovah Witness Kingdom hall sits across from an abandoned chair store behind a sound wall, is occupied by a 32 foot 1970s RV, an 8 foot camper, an 8 food camper with no pick up truck under it, set on a pallet and draped with a tarp, a van, an SUV, a tent and a car. Against the fencing around the closed chair store three tents are pitched.
Two motorists with right of way wave me across the side streets.
I get home tired and decide to fry up a large pan of chop suey:
-1/3rd stick butter, table spoon olive oil, 4 ounces soy sauce, 2 ounces vinegar, bottom 2/3rds of the celery bunch, 2 onions, 8 sliced hot dogs, 8 oz mushrooms, salt, herbs and pepper.
While this fried I ran the dishwasher, put in a load of clothes to wash, wiped down the counters and surfaces with vinegar, swept the house, mopped the house and put away the groceries.
I ate 1 bowl of ghetto chop suey and placed 3 more meals worth in tupperware.
It was now 11:00 AM and time to write. The evil cat Jupiter was dragging the covers off the oldest boy, sleeping in his dad’s bed. I dragged the cat by its neck and locked it out of the room. I then saw that the bottom bunk of the boys’ room was breaking at the frame from his weight. The top bunk is only used for baskets of clean clothes and the younger boy sleeps on the sleep sofa in the front room. I used 4 by 4s and hard wood floor slats to stack under the cracking frame and prop it up.
By 11:30 I was writing.
Yeti Waters was home by 2 with more groceries and a dinner plan, a bottle of Old Granddad and a six pack of Coors light.
We talked history so I only got 2 of the 3 planned articles for the day written. Now I will go play chess with the oldest boy, who has me 8 wins to 3, with 5 stalemates.
Notes
-1. Portland has one of the best book stores in America, named Powell’s. Both outlets are further down town.
-2. As a professional drinking companion in Portland, 75% of my calories come from light beer and whiskey.
-3. Tyrone in Baltimore would have expressed a desire for, argued for, joked about, or fought for his right to my change.
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