Posts Tagged ‘store’

Constant Contact

30 December 2009

Dear J-

If it’s going to be an El Nino year, we’re getting an early preview; we spent the afternoon crawling along with the rest of our suddenly conservative commuters. I’ve had a lot of cars on my mind lately — though my impulse buys tend to be agonizingly researched as part of both my obsessive nature and me trying to milk some extra hours out of the daylight. Rain comes in a surprisingly wide array of flavors, from sheets to today’s gentle waves washing down over everyone.

What will we be doing next year? I keep having to remind myself that it’s closer than I think, just a shade over a day and strangely I don’t mind how busy it is lately — the hours pass quickly, and it reminds me again of Spokane, working late on New Year’s Eve putting together the special orders for our Japanese customers, exotic foods mingling in surplus boxes in the dim half-light of the closed store (we turned out most of the overheads in order to discourage folks from walking up to the door and trying to get in).

It’s the togetherness that I miss most. We never were able to spend much time together growing up (latchkey kid from seven, mom working seven days a week, and busy busy busy with piano and homework for as long as I can remember) but we’d all pull together that night; even the smallest amongst us could be helpful, pulling the right bags of sweet rice or sorting out the rainbow of yokan. All along we spend time in different activities killing time or staying busy when it’s clear that we could just spend the hours quietly together instead. What stands out most in my mind is a picture captured by National Geographic: man and woman working together at home, one foot extended in order to stay in contact at all times.

Mike

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Roll On

29 October 2009

Dear J-

My childhood memories all feature the store in one way or another; it’s hard to remember a time when we didn’t have it — I was seven when we assumed control, my aunt and uncle had just come from China and my mom seemed to disappear, seven days a week, ten hours a day.  Weekends and sometimes the few hours between school and dinner we took the half-hour drive out to the store and helped out, whether stocking shelves (price stickering was fun, in those days before the ubiquitous bar code scanner) or minding the counter (generally yelling out for an adult to come run the register).

We used to go out on supply runs, usually enticed by a particularly juicy newspaper ad or, once Costco came into being, the allure of bulk products.  I’d spend hours in the back seat, passenger’s side, much like I am now, watching the scenery go by.  The passenger’s side is particularly good for this for those riders whose drivers aren’t left lane hogs; you get to see all the features on the side of the road, whether interesting signs and stores (before they split Division, I liked chanting the neon-lit words that slid by:  NO VACANCY, ARBY’S ROAST BEEF SANDWICHES ARE DELICIOUS, DRIVE-THRU, CABLE TV) or features — the crystalline basalt formations, sound walls with inset rocks, looping off-ramps.

What different memories of childhood do you have?  Though it was a small city, I was a city kid; sidewalks and school, paths and piano dominated my days.  And, of course, the store; it is as much a part of me as any other formative memory, lurking back to explain the inexplicable.  I do remember the few years before, but only vaguely — once the store was around, all I remember are those endless hours staring out the window watching street signs and scenery roll by.

Mike

Next Year

31 December 2008

Dear J-

We’re finding it increasingly hard to stay awake in the double-digit hours of the night (not that I ever, even when I was as young as some of my coworkers, considered going out to clubs), so tonight’s likely to be a quiet night spent much like other nights.  This time of year always makes me think of staying late in the store my parents owned; we’d close the doors and turn off the lights so we could prepare the special orders for Japanese foods, pre-booked weeks in advance.  I wonder if that’s where my brother picked up his love for dessert (food in general, sweets in particular) as there were more delicious treats than you could shake a stick at.  Me, I was always particular to yokan, which is a glutinous bean cake, more so than your typical mochi, but anything sweet would do.

The new year’s typically a time to start with a fresh slate of ideas and resolutions; I don’t have a ton of stuff kicking around my head yet except to keep working on my patience.  I need constant reminding that it’s not my time, it’s our time; that part of what makes any parent a good one is investing in interaction.  This is likely the year that I make the push to finally free ourselves from the small mountain of junk I’ve managed to assemble over the past five years (seriously, who needs a PS/2 model 70?).  We’re starting to actually need the room for living beings, and it’s much more fun to have those around than obsolete electronics.

The house itself needs some work as well; I think I’ve learned enough from laying tile that I can perform that both more quickly and more evenly (match the edge heights and the un-evenness is that much less).  There’s so many interesting layouts available that the standard grid is likely to fall by the wayside.  And if it doesn’t help the resale value of the house, necessarily, there’s always throw rugs and other concealing agents.  I never regret finishing projects, but I’m still not the best at starting them or carrying them through; that’ll have to change, assuming that I can get the time.

I understand the appeal of having a ton of space, but where we are, how we are — our lives are already so full and we’ve more than enough as it is.  Clever storage solutions and judicious editing of stuff (again, how many paperbacks do I really need?) will lead the way, I think.

Mike

Coining Phrases

30 July 2008

Dear J-

Dunno if I’ve discussed it before, but as a budding numismatist in my youth, I was presented with innumerable opportunities, when working in my parents’ store, for the collection of all kinds of unusual coins.  We always seemed to turn up one or two Eisenhower dollars at some point during the day, but I always pounced on the foreign coins — being where we were, it was no wonder we pretty much only ever got Canadian coins, usually slipped in to rolls of coins (this was before the relative parity between the loonie and the dollar, and was easily sniffed out using magnets).

One particular coin that stands out in my mind (and now I can’t seem to find it) was a 1982 Confederation Constitution dollar — I’ve never seen one since and occasionally suspect it may have been the product of an overeager young imagination.  Of course, if I could actually find a picture of it online, that would go a long way to assuaging my sanity … ah, thank goodness!

It was my cheap way of travel:  these mundane things passed through countless hands and used in every day life sparked flights of imagination on the places the coins had seen.  Some day again I’ll be someplace that requires me to hear unfamiliar jingling in my pocket; someplace with foreign shapes (ever seen a Hong Kong two dollar coin?)  and I’ll be there, adding my own history to the coin in my hand.

Mike

Grocery Store

5 November 2006

I think the store is still there, although I’m not sure who owns it — when my folks did, it was called R&R International Food Center, located at E. 628 9th in Spokane.

*****

While I was growing up, my parents rented and eventually bought a small grocery store in the local big city. Originally, they bought it to provide my newly immigrated uncle and aunt with jobs. As time went on (we eventually held on to the store for ten years, more than half of my life by the time we sold it), I came to regard the store as an unnecessarily evil drain on my time, patience, and attention span. Now, in retrospect, I see a flowering of trust and old-style virtues of locally-owned and family-run businesses.

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