Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Odd Shopping

I am the world's worst shopper which is a handicap sometimes at work when I get a 911 call from a person outside a store I've never heard of. Luckily they storesnare all listed in the computer (!) but I like to know where these shops are which makes it easier to visualize locations on emergency calls so I'm always wandering around looking at places that are new to me.

How does a store owner survive off Duval Street selling plastic mugs, I just don't know. But here they are, tumblers for sale by the dozen in all sorts of shapes and sizes and decorations.

It's a quiet time of year downtown so my wife and I had The Tervis store to ourselves. It was Halloween so we got some costumed attention as we looked around. "Got it from Fast Buck's," she said with a sad smile, remembering the store that was. So we had something in common, we both had worked in the famous department store on Duval.

They sell these mugs for about ten bucks apiece and I am not a particular fan of walking around with a drink but throw an ice cube in these things and the contents stay cold for ages. They work remarkably well.

Tervis customizes designs to order and the mugs are made in the US, amazing to relate, and Even more amazing is that their American factory workers produce pink accessories. A pink lid costs $4 if you want one, and you can't have mine.

It's silly but sometimes you just have to go out and see what it's about shopping that turns people on. Tervis is good stuff but the next store was one of those places I've known about forever and just don't go to shop in ever. Millie's sells English stuff which strikes me as almost as weird as Tervis renting space just off Duval and paying the rent by selling plastic cups.

Inside Millie's I found all sorts of strangely familiar packaged foods from my misspent youth, foods filled with processing and calories and sugar and all that stuff not on the food pyramid, not at the top nor the bottom. Spotted Dick in a tin, custard in a can, Aero bars and Crunchie all the foods that one imagines would sustain a fairly substantial British sub culture. How this place makes a living in Key West I cannot imagine. I flew the flag by buying a box of the world's best cookies (biscuits) which are milk chocolate Hob Nobs, a little known fact.

Branson Pickle and Piccalilli and of course Marmite which has made a small impression on American culinary consciousness. Hot buttered toast and thinly spread Marmite is a foodstuff to rival ambrosia. another little known fact.

The odd thing in Key West supermarkets is how seasonal some foods are. For instance in winter Canadian foods show up on the shelves and our socialist neighbors tend to eat foods and brands I recognize from my youth spent suffering in English boarding schools. Canadians apparently like Crosse and Blackwell tinned products and lo-and-behold suddenly Publix carries them as Christmas approaches. Thats when the town is filled with je me souviens tags and yours to discover tags and mincemeat on the shelves and mulligatawny in cans and ethnic food no longer means Cuban. I wonder why Canadians make the trek to Key West only to eat canned food from home but there are no easy explanations for peculiar human behavior.

Clutching Hob Nobs I turned out of Millie's on Front Street only to find a store called Coco Nuts with...coconuts in the window I scratched my head and kept moving.


Now here's a store I understand, a tour booth selling tickets! As I used to work as a sailboat Captain (my USCG 50 ton ticket has long since expired). It's absolutely amazing how people line up to torture themselves dangling from parachutes over the water and wrecking their kidneys on jet skis.


I made a gross simplification last week suggesting visitors come to Key West to enjoy the weather. I suppose it's entirely possible they come to enjoy shopping too. More power to them but for me shopping is an alien concept unless its for motorcycle parts or for food. Which reminds me, it's winter so organics will start being plentiful again at Winn Dixie on Big Pine. Thats because winter residents will be back soon and they seem to deserve a higher grade of foodstuffs than us year round hangers on. It's a tough life living all year long in the Lower Florida Keys.