I can’t say I’ve been to Walmart all that many times in my life. I think my dad used to go there to stock up on bulk water before Sam’s Club opened and you could get “a liter of Pelligrino for 50 cents! It’s at least $4 on the boat!” (Reference to expense of purchasing water on cruise ships.) So I probably went a few times with him growing up.
There was a Walmart in Baltimore. I think I went there once in my entire life – to get a softball glove. The Walmart in Baltimore was only to be used as a last resort – in an emergency. From what I can remember, it’s fairly chaotic inside. Opened boxes, contents strewn across the shelves, sketchy characters loitering inside, and outside in the parking lot. As an example of the mayhem around the Baltimore Walmart, I offer this anecdote: I was awoken from my slumber early one Saturday morning by a woman asking if I knew a “Mike.” I groggily answered, “Wrong number.” She called back, and not accepting my “Wrong number” again, proceeded to agonize about how she had bought this phone at the downtown Walmart but all the speed dials had already been programmed and my number was in there listed as “Mike” so I needed to tell my deadbeat son Mike that his friend should not purchase a phone, use it and then return it to Walmart. I was so confused at this berating. After ten minutes of trying to assure her that I didn’t have a son named Mike and that she should probably just take the phone back to Walmart, Mark stuck his head in the bathroom where I was trying to talk quietly so as not to wake him and just said, “Hang up.” Oh right…what a novel idea. So I did. I didn’t pick up as she continued to call over and over again. Until she must’ve given up.
You can imagine my hesitation to venture back into a Walmart anywhere. Mark assured me that Walmarts in college towns are big and nice and sparkly. He wasn’t wrong. We went to Walmart to look for something or other, and for the life of me I can’t remember, even though this was only two weeks ago. Hm, okay, well it doesn’t matter. Because what really matters is that I was overwhelmed! So many wonderful things! Makeup! Candles! UMich body pillows! Oh I couldn’t wait to buy all sorts of crap I didn’t need! And there was a whole grocery store in there! With alcohol! (This is so new to me that you can buy alcohol in the grocery store – or CVS even! Very European.)
We did what we had to do that day, but last week, I went back to Walmart to purchase some items that I couldn’t find in Target, including right-sized bar stools, poster frames and a generic printer. On this second trip, where I really had a chance to wander the aisles and dig into what was truly being offered beyond the flashy front-of-store displays, I noticed a real lack of furniture items, for instance. And they only had nice photo printers, no cheapies. And none of the frames fit the pictures I have. Severely disappointed, I thought, well at least I can do my food shopping while I’m here.
I had written up a list of staples and fresh food that I needed for the apartment. My first grocery shopping trip in the new place. I should’ve known better than to do it at Walmart. Why had I let down my Walmart guard? Oy, the frustration.
It was great for stocking up on frozen pizzas, graham crackers and salt. And while they had at least three aisles dedicated to chips, I could not find a non-creamy Caesar dressing. (Well there was ONE but it had high fructose corn syrup in it, so I refuse. As a side note, I swear not eating high fructose corn syrup helped me lose at least five pounds in college. It was as easy as swapping out Wheat Thins for Triscuits.)
I came away with a good amount of paper products, dry/frozen goods and beer, but not much in the way of really delicious-looking produce or meat. I was tempted by some ears of corn, but then I realized that there is a farmer’s market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, which is a ten minute walk from our place, so I was probably better off going there.
Walmart is now back on the banned list. Done.
Switching gears entirely, I did try a new pizza this week! I had the portobello and spinach pizza at Grizzly Peak Brewing Company. The bar itself is great – cozy with all their own beers on tap. I had a very refreshing and interesting beer flavored with a lot of ginger. The pizza hit my salt craving with kalamata olives and feta, however there was a bit too much mozzarella that weighed it down. Between the mild flavors of the mozzarella and the portobellos, I definitely needed the crushed red pepper to zing it up. I could have seen this pizza with less mozz, more feta, and instead of lemon-infused oil (no sauce), perhaps a garlicky pesto. The crust was good – but I preferred eating it on its own rather than slice by slice. Chewy and slightly sweet – almost reminded me of a good breadstick.
Saturday we went to the first UMich football game tailgate of the year! It was a bright sunny day, and we had a great time getting to know Mark’s coworkers and their families and friends. We didn’t actually go to the football game, but we took a leisurely (read: 45 minute) walk back to the apartment, where we promptly took a nap.
Sunday, we decided to get outside and do something active in nature, so we went to the Argo Park Livery to rent kayaks. The shop is run by the local government and they don’t take reservations, but luckily we got there early and it was a bit overcast, so the place was pretty empty (not so much when we got back there about 2 hours later when the parking lot was jammed). Kayaks were $18 each to rent for an hour and half, while floating/paddling down the Huron River to Gallup Park, where the company picks you up in a van to take you back up river. You start off going down 9 cascades – little drops – some of which feel like you’re popping out of a drainage pipe – fun! Then the remaining hour and fifteen minutes is spent meandering down the river, alternating between letting the tide take you and doing some heavy paddling (especially at the end towards Gallup Park where the water becomes quite still). It was a relaxing and delightful trip – we spotted a groundhog, geese, at least three blue herons, and lots of fish. We were also followed part of the way by a family of ducks! Rafters must feed them because they swam right up to us and we easily could have reached out and touched them if we felt the urge.
I didn’t bring my phone/camera for fear of getting it wet, but on a subsequent walk through the parks along the edge of the river, I took some shots of what we basically saw. Here are some photos of the route, the wildlife and some other boaters. I didn’t alter any of these photos…the sky is really this blue and the clouds are really this puffy.
This scene of the flowers against the fence reminded me of a story my mom tells about when she was backpacking in Europe and learned to say one thing in Russian: something like “the lilac-colored forget-me-nots grow next to the hydroelectric plant.” Is that right, Mom?