So, it’s the pandemic. Shocking I know. You’re probably all Corona’d out by now. I know I am. The media and the social channels. It feels like there’s never anything good to talk about. I know I find myself on internet blackouts once a week. Self imposed. Not related to how much I drink in Quarantine, but you get the idea.

You’ve got to take breaks from the online world, you need it for your sanity.

I find solace in our weekly grocery shop. Where we live in Los Angeles, we are very fortunate to have a number of options of where to purchase our weekly sustenance.

Similar to other countries, there are a number of grocery store chains that stock slightly different items (probably all owned by the major conglomerates, I mean this IS America).

The ones closest to us are Trader Joes (your cool aunt who introduces you to new flavors and pizza crusts made out of random vegetables), Smart and Final (your cheap cousin who doesn’t just buy one packet of chicken breasts, he buys a 30 lb pack), Whole Foods is your snooty wealthy older sister who only eats organic but who also introduces you to delicious vegan, ethically sourced ice creams, and then there’s Ralphs (your middle of the road soccer dad who has most delicious things, but not the cool, funky items TJ’s has).

Steps-wise (cos I’m all about hitting my ten thousand every day in quarantine) Ralphs is the closest, and so I find myself up on Sunset Blvd most weeks, buying up snacks and meats for Scott and I to panic inhale all on the first day.

Don’t act like every family doesn’t eat all the yummy stuff first.

The Ralphs near us is nicknamed “Rock n Roll Ralphs” because of the close proximity to music stores like Sam Ash and Guitar Center. Also it has a cool mural painted on the wall of Rock ‘n’ Roll stuff. A coincidence? I think not.

During the height of the pandemic, every grocery store in our area had a line around the block, as essential workers limited the number of people allowed into each store. AND because people thought that truly it was the end of times,  items of food would run out. This meant that for a couple of weeks, we couldn’t get things like: low carb tortilla’s, eggs, chicken, milk. Honestly it felt like war time.

Grocery carts became islands, loaded high with items, as families worried they wouldn’t be able to find the items they were looking for.

But Ralphs was pretty okay. I don’t know if the one near us is just larger, so more people are allowed in the store, or if I just got lucky being the unemployed hoe that I am, able to do my shopping at 11am on a Tuesday. But I never really saw a line outside Rock N Roll Ralph’s. 

When I was a kid, I had this friend named Sarah J who lived in a big old house in Sydney. They were family friends. Sarah was my age and her brother Pat was my brothers age, and the kids used to race around the garden playing stupid games. They had a big overgrown outdoor space with secret nooks, and to me, a former Hong Kong apartment dweller, it seemed like they had endless places to play and hide.

Sarah’s house also had a lot of “things”.  I wouldn’t say they were hoarders (they definitely weren’t) but the house felt like a lot of items had been passed down or had come through and never left.

Again, as a child of expats used to moving every four years or so, we didn’t have “stuff” that couldn’t be packed and transported easily.

My favorite game at Sarah’s house was “runaway”. She had these big carpet bag type bags, and we’d pretend that we had 10 minutes to pack the essentials and then run out the door. Perhaps I was practicing in my mind for fleeing from the giant earthquake I didn’t know I’d live in fear of 20 years later. Perhaps I just liked packing, (it was something I was very familiar with after all) but I always loved the survivalist aspect of having to race around and make split second decisions. Mostly we packed “jewels” and clothes and toys.

Those games with Sarah certainly prepared me for the pandemic.

The Ralphs near us is pretty big, and in my opinion (as a non supermarket organizer -WHAT A JOB) it is not very well organized. It feels backwards to a lot of other stores. You enter through the backed goods and you’ve got produce way on the other side.

Ludicrous (or cruciferous which is a veggie pun – zing!)

During the pandemic, I’ve become a supermarket ninja. I can fill a cart in 15 minutes (which is why I get so pissed at my boyfriend when he takes hours to shop, carefully and lovingly examining each label).

Not me, I’m back in Sarah’s house survival mode, an invisible clock ticking down as I try to get all the things we need in a non-existent time limit.

As it turns out, my training has been invaluable because in the first month and a half of our lockdown (which was pretty intense to be honest) news emerged that Rock N Roll Ralphs on Sunset, was a COVID19 hotbed with something like 21 workers coming down with the virus.

Thankfully as I mentioned, we have other options in the vicinity, but I couldn’t help but think my training had truly paid off, as I’d been in and out of there lickity split.

I wanted to end this blog with a joke about Rock N Roll and Rona having something in common, but to be honest, I’m finding it hard to be funny about a virus that has killed over 130,000 Americans (and counting).

Not to bring you down or back to the reality of the world we currently live in, but the saddest part about this whole situation (as an outsider living in the US) is the lack of support from the government, and the strangely polarizing/politicization of this pandemic.

There are people who actually have said that I am a “snowflake” for wearing a mask in public. I am not a “snowflake” although I do believe Black Lives Matter, we should use less plastic and care about the environment, AND that it’s a woman’s choice if she wants to get an abortion. I am a thoughtful person who wants to help stop the spread of a disease the best I can.

We don’t know enough about what the long term affects of this virus are. We don’t understand how it mutates, or truly understand even why there are some people in a household who get it, while others don’t.

All we can do is the best that we can.

Happy to report that Ralphs is no longer “Rona Ralphs” and we can shop there safely again.

Be well, stay safe, and use your brain to stop the spread of COVID19.

Paris xo