So, as I walked outside my apartment building the other day I was surprised to see a hari krishna. As I continued walking toward the grocery store, I noticed a group of them. Yep, there they were in their orange or yellow robes and shaved heads just milling about the streets of the Upper West Side. I thought it odd. I mean, didn’t hari krishnas go out of vogue in the 80s? And, I thought they had tiny little pony tails sprouting from their bald heads. And didn’t they exclusively hang out in airports? As I walked toward Fairway Market, I glanced at the Beacon Theater. It’s high-tech, colored multi-thousand light bulbed marquee tipped me off. The Dalai Lama was speaking at the Beacon Theater this week. “Hey dumb ass” I said to myself, “these guys aren’t krishnas, they’re lamas.”. Okay, mystery solved. I was already feeling a little enlightened.
The sweet lamas were truly everywhere. Sometimes wandering solo, nodding, smiling and bestowing a silent blessing to those they passed. And sometimes they loitered in groups of 3-5 on the street corner sipping Starbucks. It was lunch time and I guess they were hungry because they were swarming the Fairway Market.
I took few deep calming breaths and headed in to attack the masses that is grocery shopping in Manhattan. It’s common for the rest of the world to hear the stories of New Yorkers and their eating habits. Things like they never cook; they always go out to eat; they order in; they store sweaters in their ovens. I always thought these myths might be true because New York apartments and kitchens are so tiny. But, I quickly discovered the real reason New Yorkers don’t cook. It is the chaos that is grocery shopping here. An insane asylum with inmates all hopped up on Mountain Dew is more serene than heading into Fairway Market or Zabar’s.
Now, New Yorkers have told me that the Fairway Market on the Upper West Side is one of the best grocery stores in the city. It is in an old building and I’m assuming it started as a small store-front mom and pop shop about a hundred years ago. Slowly or quickly, I have no idea, it appears the store started to expand. From one building they just knocked through the wall into the next building. The finished product is a unique and narrow little maze of grocery aisles.
Now, sprinkle about 1,000 people inside and you’re done. My first time in the store, I tried to stay out everyone’s way and not take up too much space, I moved about 6 inches in 5 minutes. I started to look around and noticed everyone was in everyone else’s way. People were cutting each other off and pushing their way through and around situations. It appears this is what the natural rhythm of the store’s flow has evolved into. I’m a newbie here and I’m still learning the layout of Fairway. And trust me, knowing the floor plan is critical. For example, if you don’t know that toilet paper is in aisle 4 and you’re now in aisle 10, you really need to evaluate how vital that modern luxury is to persuade yourself to make the trek back 6 rows. But, I’m proud to say that I am quickly learning to force my way through almost any situation in the grocery store. The one exception was back by the meat counter. On my right was a frail little old lady walking toward me. She was bent over her shopping cart using it like a makeshift walker. And, to my left, and an adorable little girl dancing in place next to her mother. I waited until the little old lady shuffled past me at a snail’s pace to cut back into the flow of traffic. I’m not sure why I didn’t barge through them. Maybe, I couldn’t decide which one was the easier mark or maybe I still possess a shred of humanity in my soul.