Street Smart Chicago

Shades of Graze: Foraging in the Ukrainian Village Dominick’s

City Life, Essays & Commentary, Ukrainian Village Add comments

When the Whole Foods on Ashland near Belmont opened a few years ago, a friend took to calling it “Whole Cruise,” and found himself meeting women of a certain age when he lingered near brie, cambozola and mimolette. Similar sensations emanate from the Dominick’s on Chicago near Damen. The foot traffic along the street has increased exponentially since it opened, all manner of class, color and race represented. The surrounding populace has upscaled, and this clean-gleam replacement for the dinky Edmar’s, once an A&P, functions as a feast of love, a horny cornucopia, as well.

For some, its a bodega, prices just as high as at an all-night market, but with more selection. (I live close enough to consider it a huge walk-in pantry.) Its Starbucks is swaddled in sounds of Polish and Ukrainian. Adults throughout are as wide-eyed as children at the lights and colors, the smell of roasted chicken, fresh sourdough bread. (Is that Death Cab for Cutie on the Muzak?) This is the largest social center for blocks that crosses age and economic lines (outside of taverns). A young blonde under a brightly colored skiing hat strides out, cradling a carton of eggs. A couple in sweatpants that share an apartment close by giddily describe their daily shopping routine to indicate their commitment. Among younger faces, signs of incipient coupling, insouciant cruising, abound. (Ten items or less and one of them is a sly smile.) Visions of domesticity include spats of spite, cuddly couples with unconcerned PDAs of nudge and grab-ass, or arguing over whatever’s in the smallest of type. A brunette pixie, fresh from the shower in cut-off sweats and flip-flops, stares intently at a box of generic muesli, awaiting enlightenment. The wait at checkout with folded arms and slight slouch includes last-minute peering.

Another woman’s defining signs: Old Navy cap, Tostitos, cat litter. Unshaven men glare and lope: a gay and metrosexual pose at once. A striking pregnant woman in a sailor-stripe hoodie, a Shirley Manson look-alike, lingers over vacuum-seal veal. A trim manager flits from aisle to aisle, pointing UPC pistol at empty slots on shelves like a wand. In aisle four, a transparent door has been open long enough to roil clouds of cold and glisten the glass, and for frost to form thickly.

Two tall, thick men have identical handlebar mustaches. They argue in Polish, something like: “Nie pozostawiamy bez tego, Chunky Monkey!” (translation: “We do not leave without Chunky Monkey.”) A widow in her 70s enters, pushing her granny cart. Her eyes look forward, at nothing in particular, toward a goal we cannot know. (Ray Pride)

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