Rock Bottom, Meet Basement

Aldi, the estranged cousin of Trader Joe’s, just opened on Roscoe Blvd.   It’s about the size of TJs, but with a bigger parking lot.  The most successful grocery chain in the world with 8000 locations, and expanding aggressively into southern Cal, this is their first store in the Los Angeles proper, and but a mile from Chez UpintheValley.  Let’s check it out.

The product mix consists of a lot of private label brands I’ve never heard of,  containing items I’ve seen before in different wrapping. Or at least think I have. Is this not a Kind Bar, with a new label?

Isn’t this Duncan-Hines? That’s what ze Germans want us to think.  For all I know it is Duncan-Hines. Is this important? Probably not, in the case of cake mix.

But what about organic?   The Whole Foods version is on the right, a dollar fifty more.  So is Aldi buying from Horizon and undercutting on price, or are both Horizon and Aldi buying from third-party vendors? Or is the Aldi version deficient in some way? Are they getting the chaff from the first cut of quality control and passing the savings on to you?

The nutritional information is identical.  Aldi is opaque in the provenance of their products. Reading the label tells you nothing. Everything is “distributed” from Aldi. Inc., Batavia, Illinois.  One can see how semi-familiar packaging flattens the branding distinction, bringing the price point forward in the decision process.

Do I really want to go below 50 cents a pound for pig meat?    Five more days of Lent….think it will keep?  Tempting…

Here’s where the store goes sideways for me:  a surprising quantity of non-food items clogging the aisles.  With limited shelf space and a deficit of certain products I was hoping for -better beer selection, more vegan ice cream, Trader Joes-like stuff- why so many steering wheel covers, fire extinguishers, carbon monoxide alarms, gun safes, dog crates, bookshelves and garden furniture? Do you really want to sell shovels and bagged soil three blocks from Home Depot?   How about a two-ton car jack? Why these products? Were they remaindered?  The margins on a square foot basis can’t possibly work. Unless they can.

China is 43 miles from Van Nuys, disgorging craptastic product lines at the Port of Long Beach like the Normandy invasion.  Every single day. In that environment, nothing should surprise us.

Aldi has the warehouse feel of Costco but without the scale.  Priced to compete with TJ’s, but grey, institutional and cheerless, and lacking the unique gourmet items.  I was hoping for Fresh and Easy,  which I loved, and this is not it.    Fresh and Easy is dead as last weeks mackerel and Aldi is expanding, so what do I know?  Then again, so is Harbor Freight.

Our Broken Window

Gene Raymond Townsley — Arrested in Church Theft

“Angry Pacoima Churchmen Nab Suspect – Irate church members armed with baseball bats, garden tools and lead pipes last night captured a former parishioner of the Mary Immaculate Church in Pacoima after the church poor box was robbed of $2.09.”

Two bucks. To the courthouse with the Jonathan Rhys-Meyers doppelganger. Pretty was no panacea.

The 1959 rules were:
Do not steal.
Doubly so from the church.
The poor box? Gimme that shovel.

This is what I saw on the way to Trader Joes yesterday.  Do you think everyone in Northridge decided one day this was going to be the new normal?  But there they are just the same.

When I worked on Lord Bezos’ Farm, in the gourmet department, street people would wander in and calmly load their backpacks with premium wine and liquor and walk out the door with impunity.  They made no attempt to conceal their theft.  If we caught them and the total value was under $950, which it always was (occasionally, daringly, it would kiss up to the prosecutorial red line) the shift manager would turn them loose to return another day.

This is not forgiveness but licentiousness.   No one voted for two sets of books, one for the law abiding and another for the Free State of Jones and its profiteers, but this is the mockery of compassion we now must endure.

If you think this benevolence extends to you, try being $100 in arrears to the city as a commuter and taxpayer.  Count the days before the late penalties turn into bench warrants.

You don’t know my name, said Jean Valjean. I’m a thief.
Of course I do, said the Bishop, your name is Brother.
You forgot your candlesticks. Use this silver to become an honest man.
God has raised you out of darkness, I have saved your soul for God.

The priest’s gesture was effective because he spared Jean from a return to prison for life.   Remove the gendarmerie from the equation and there is no grace, only pointless indulgence.   No redemption, no Marius, no Cosette, no wedding.

I wonder what became of Gene Raymond Townsley?

The Bishop of Digne painting by Darin Ashby

A Ho Story

Daniele Watts, playing the Ho
Daniele Watts, playing a Ho

Media scenario: Up and coming starlet makes out has sex with boyfriend in a Mercedes with the door open on a busy street next to a studio in the entertainment capital of the world.  In the middle of the day.

Workers in adjacent office building suggest the couple get a room.  They don’t.

Someone calls the police to complain.

Police arrive, tell them their performance is interfering with business. Ask for ID’s.

Actress refuses to comply with the request. Police detain her.

I have a publicist, she warns.

The officer has encountered many people with publicists. They show ID when asked, he explains.

Boyfriend begins taping incident for Facebook.

‘I serve freedom and love, you serve detainment.’

Viral marketing ensues:

 The police presumed she was a prostitute because she was black! 

You won’t believe what the LAPD did this time!

They think black women are streetwalkers!

Django Unchained actress  arrested handcuffed in front of her workplace! For kissing while black! Authorities investigating…

From Buenos Aires to London, the pistons begin turning the great cam shaft of public outrage. Ferguson II! Or Trayvon III, if you prefer, but without the chalk outline on the sidewalk.  Even better, a sex angle.  A showbiz angle, too. The trifecta! Get this girl on the set!  We can all be outraged together, without guilt. No one has to take shelter in his ideological bunker.  A freebee. The promise of weeks of good cable TV, sexy B-roll footage, and pop culture Deep Think explaining What It All Means.

Grab your remote. Start clicking those links. Why not? It’s not like there’s an election going on. Or a war.  To be more precise, a resurrection of the Conflict Formerly Known as the War on Terror authorized by a Congressional Resolution denounced by the President before he was President, which will have war-like features but none dare call War.   No wonder we love the tabloids.

Daniele Watts being 'treated like a Ho'. Allegedly.
Daniele Watts, ‘presumed to be a Ho’.  Allegedly.

Here’s the bottom line: LAPD as a matter of departmental policy does not make prostitution stops off a black and white patrol car.   All interdiction is handled through vice, working undercover in unmarked vehicles.  Two overt acts are required to bring departmental action. Consequently, patrol cars roll past working hookers on Sepulveda every day, in full regalia, leaning into car windows…and don’t even give them a glance, much to the consternation of residents of Van Nuys. Which is to say, there is pretty much no chance uniformed LAPD officers rolled up on Ms. Watts in the teeming slum of Studio City, across the street from Trader Joes and Laurel Tavern and just up the block from CBS studios and said to themselves: ‘hmmm, black lady/white man having relations…if it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck…cuff that b***h.’

But here’s what’s interesting.  In Django, Daniele works at a brothel called the Cleopatra Club which offers pretty young black women up to wealthy white men who first arouse themselves by watching gladiator-like death matches between black slaves.  At the coup de grace of one of the more brutal scenes of recent American cinema, she coquettishly spills her gumballs across the floor in a kind of sexual release, a moment worthy of an essay of its own.   Back into the pop culture ether went Daniele Watts, and now this sudden reappearance two years later, accusing Los Angeles of treating her like the character which launched her career. Which for the moment, has resurrected it.

Is she acting in one of these photographs or both of them?  I say it’s all performance art.