Sunday, March 30, 2008

Grocery Shopping In The Inner City: A Nevin Barich Blog Experience

I grew up in California’s San Fernando Valley. And the great thing about being a Valley Boy is that you grow up among many different types of people. Different races, religions, backgrounds, points of view. And I’m eternally thankful for growing up in a melting pot, because that’s exactly what the world is: a melting pot.

But even that didn’t quite prepare me for my little adventure a couple of days back. I was in Hancock Park at my friend Sanger’s place for some NCAA tournament basketball action and Texas Hold ’Em poker. During the evening, I decided to accompany Sanger to the market to pick up a few food and beverage items. As we drove out in his truck, I quickly realized that we moving out of the quiet peacefulness of Hancock Park and out toward L.A.’s inner city near the USC campus, finally coming to a stop at the Food 4 Less.

Now like I said: I’ve grown up with every type of person imaginable. But the one thing I’m not used to is being the only white person in any one large location.

And I’m going to confess something right here:

It’s a little odd.

But when I walked inside? That was where the fun began:


So Sanger and I ventured to the alcohol section -- where he was looking for tonic water -- when I came across a woman speaking to her 5-year-old son in way that’s a bit more colorful than the "mother-to-young son" conversations I would overhear at my neighborhood Ralphs.

The woman said to her little boy:

Where the fuck are the 12 packs of Coors?!? Your dad likes the 12 packs, but all they have are the six-packs!! He don’t like the fuckin’ six packs!! What the fuck?!? Go see if they have some 40 ounces.

And you know what was so cute? The little boy found the 40 ounces and tried with all his might to reach them on the top shelf.

And you know what?

He did.

I think I can. I think I can.

(By the way, I have finally figured out why 40-ounce malt liquors are the inner city beverage of choice. They were going for only $1.98 at the Food 4 Less. $1.98!! Holy cow!! The same drink at my neighborhood Ralphs would go for $15.75. I took a swig of malt liquor once in my wilder, sexy college days and thought that it tasted like a mixture of gasoline and piss. And even I was tempted to buy a couple for $1.98.)


When we went to wait in line at the cashier, there was a woman in front of us who had in her shopping cart the following items:

Top Ramen


Little hot dog cocktail weenies


Assorted dented cans

And more Top Ramen

And I’d like to say something at this point:

I don’t know what the stigma is against dented cans. The food isn’t damaged, it tastes the same and the can is 30 to 40 cents cheaper. What, I ask you, is the problem?

We Valley folks can learn from this woman, as far as I’m concerned.


And finally, there was what happened after the cashier scanned our items:

I was standing there waiting for the cashier -- or somebody -- to begin putting my groceries away when I noticed that no such help was forthcoming.

I stood there for a moment, confused, until I saw Sanger go to the other side and reach for the plastic bags.

It then occurred to me:

I was expected to bag my own groceries.

Now look: I am not uppity, a snob or against hard work. But this was bullshit!! Nevin Barich does not bag his own groceries. I

Besides: It really is an exact science. Don’t put the eggs at the bottom. Soda and pie do not mix. Separate bathroom and tooth-care items. How the hell do you keep it all straight?

But...when in Rome. So I reluctantly went over to the other side and grabbed a couple of plastic bags of my own.

The cashier -- who by this point was already onto the next customer -- looked over my way, saw me hesistantly put a bag of chips in with the Heinekens, and gave me a little smirk that said exactly one thing:

White Boy.

So much for blending in.

And now for this week’s:


The other day, I went to my local 7-11 and purchased a Big Gulp from a female worker.

I say this again:

A female worker at 7-11.

In my 28-plus years on this Earth comprising hundreds of visits to this franchise, I have never, ever seen a female work there. I mean not once.

As I was walking out, I noticed the other worker there -- who was male -- staring at this woman, a kind of awed look on his face.

I caught his eye.

"Times are changing," he said

They certainly are. They certainly are.

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Anonymous said...

Can I get a shout out, like for Ceglinsky. It would be far more entertaining...

Lainie said...

Nev, my dear Nev...have you gotten a little hard-edged on me? What happened to sweet non-swearing, non-drinking Nevin? He's been replaced by an edgy bad-ass. Let me ask you, have L.A. grocery stores yet installed self check-outs? They're fabulous, and give us even more reason to never deal with people face to face again. But alas, you do have to bag your own groceries....though I kinda like it 'cuz I can "use" as many plastic bags as I need to replenish my doggy-doody-baggy supply, and nobody's giving me a hard time about it.

Oh, and p.s. Food 4 Less doesn't bag. I think that's part of the reason they're so damn cheap, but you can go to an affluent, suburban Food 4 Less, (hmm, would you find them there?) and you still have to bag your own groceries!

As for the ghetto family in the grocery store....makes me sad. I think I would have been horrified to witness such an event between mother and son. It's humbling, though, to be reminded that despite my bitching and moaning about various things throughout the day, there are people out there who have true reason to think their lives are shit. Sad, but very true....

Love the blogs Nev! I always look forward to them. Thanks for making me smile!

Prince Gomolvilas said...

"But the one thing I’m not used to is being the only white person in any one large location."

...Yeah, well, welcome to my world. Get used it, pal. The race wars are a-comin'!

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