I always thought Heaven would have free parking. At times I considered whether or not it would be valet.
Ascending the steep incline in my foreign-made voiture to the promised lot in a congested city with limited parking, I joined an assemblage of luxury and hybrid cars, the latter having assigned spaces closer to the entrance, which I found in poor taste given the celestial locale. I guess even Heaven has a hierarchy.
After entering through the automatic doors, the air smelled of a mix of patchouli and affluence. I felt the need to genuflect. What was odd was I descended into this oasis. I always thought I would need to ascend into Heaven, not slowly and smoothly descend via escalator to the pearly gates. Doe-eyed, I tried to acclimate myself to the soft, green-hued lighting and majesty that is the new (few months old) Whole Foods off North Avenue in Chicago. There was a quiet hum in the building with the sound of shopping cart–there are at least four different grocery container options–wheels spinning and talk of what was in today’s Times or on NPR. Thankfully, I brought my reusable grocery bags emblazoned with my alma mater’s logo and the latest issue of The New Yorker.
Additionally peculiar is the fact that I put Heaven as my destination in Google Maps and it led me here, the land of organic grapes, samples a-plenty and intelligentsia willing to pay $7 for a canister of cookies. Still slumming it in the suburbs, I long for the day when I too can squeeze some shopping in between yoga and pilates sessions. That’s right. They do both. Their lives are that stress-filled. After all, it is the city.
Initially, my eyes darted from one fit form sporting spandex to the next, each checking out some item that has aided them to look like God intended them to. I think it was soy nuts or alfalfa. I put some in my basket. Clearly, it was working for them.
A self-proclaimed disciple foretold of this land of organic milk and honey. While she spoke in hyperbole, she didn’t enlighten me as to the proper path once inside the gates. Forced to find my own way, I first looked at the beauty section. Who knew there were so many varieties of soap and shampoo? Not seeing my usual brand I figured I must be killing baby seals using it and resolved to pitch it once home (still using it). Just a tip, strangers perceive you as creepy when you repeatedly and deeply inhale with your eyes closed in their vicinity. I was trying to mentally store what Heaven smelled like.
Next, I spotted the fish monger mongering. Then the meat section of free range and organically-fed beasts of burden. I just purchased inhumanely treated chicken at the regular grocer, so opted to pass on the $6 a pound chicken breasts. Knowing the name of the chicken was a nice touch on the packaging though.
Zig-zagging the pristine aisles I settled in the chip aisle and vacillated between 8 different types of tortilla chips. Blue. Whole grain. Half grain. Corn. With lime. Frazzled, I closed my eyes and reached toward the shelf. Frankly, the woman over-reacted. Again, my eyes were clearly closed. How was I to know she got in the way of my hand?
After dodging her semi-full canvas bag and channeling Usain Bolt, I paused to waft the aromas of the tea and coffee section, then darted to the back corner of the store where all the baked goods were housed. Brownies, baguettes and bagels, all still warm from the oven, all tempted me.
Offending the greater female population in the store had made me hungry and I paused for nourishment in a little plastic cup. My best guess is that it was a spring roll skewered by a toothpick. The challenge was eating it. Made of some secret slippery substance, the segment was un-skewerable. Trying to look poised among my peers, I struggled with the age-old problem: getting food in the mouth sans hands and staying classy. Defeated, I tossed the remaining contents in a garbage canister and placed the cup in my basket to recycle.
Circling back to the booze section, I peered down my nose at the bottles of wine from all over the world. This area seemed to be the most fairly priced. Next time I need to bring something to a party, I’ll get it here. The wine then comes with the snob story of how I got it at Whole Foods. My crowded basket (tortilla chips and a used plastic cup) simply didn’t have room for a bottle of Riesling.
Possibly the best part of this location is the assortment of non-grocery areas. It has a wine bar. A regular bar. Some sort of food/restaurant establishment. A community table where shoppers, nee experiencers, are encouraged to sit and meet some new people. No one followed the instructions of the sign.
The place seems like the ideal date location. You can learn about your date’s allergies and food preferences. Then, after everything goes well, you can grab some flowers, a cake and rent out the place for the nuptials. There may have been a gym. I’m not sure. At this point I was a bit overwhelmed. My Whole Foods disciple hadn’t prepared me for the wonder contained in those four walls. Perhaps I should have gone with a buddy.
I looked for Holy water to bless myself as I exited, and after finding none, exited. I just hope they don’t judge me for abandoning my basket of unpurchased goods.