Turns out Vons is good enough for Long Beach
Do you want to fire up a regional social media group on Facebook or Nextdoor or jump start a long conversation at your local coffee shop or bar? Just type, or holler, “Hey, does anyone remember X?”, with X being a grocery store that’s been gone for a while.
Even though there’s little of note that has occurred in any grocery store, they manage to play an outsize role in our memories.
You’re going to get a litany of names: McCoy’s, Market Basket, Lucky, Cole’s, Plowboys, Ray & Eddie’s, Iowa Pork Shops, Food Fair, the Boys.
I’m going to get emails telling me, “Hey, you forgot” any number of other grocery stores, but, no, I didn’t forget, I just got tired of typing their names. OK, Alpha Beta, is that one you think I forgot? Or the little store in Naples whose name I actually have forgotten?
Now we can stick a fork in Long Beach’s sole Pavilions. Or, rather, Pavilions has stuck a fork in Long Beach, as the chain’s parent company, Albertsons Co., has chosen to make the store a regular old Vons. They may argue it’s not a downgrade, but it is.
Pavilions has always been a sort of Vons Deluxe, an upscale version of your basic supermarket. When it opened in 1988, my wife would drive across town from our apartment in Belmont Heights to shop there. And when the home we bought later was in escrow, I’d load our 2-year-old son Raymond into the Jeep and swing by to gawk at the house and then drop by the 2-year-old Pavilions to order something from its bakery and sit down and enjoy it at the counter and chat like a couple of old men.
For years, Pavilions was the glitziest store in Long Beach, then came the wave of even swankier stores like Bristol Farms in Los Altos (now shuttered), Whole Foods and Gelson’s, and Pavilions, while still a nice place to shop, fell into a sort of complacent ordinariness and found itself outpaced by a sort of upscale Ralphs in Marina Pacifica, a store we’ve sort of boycotted since Kroger closed the fairly dowdy Ralphs on Los Coyotes Diagonal by our house, which we used as an emergency market when we discovered we were lacking an ingredient or two for the evening meal and which had a fine pharmacy, handier than the one I now use at Pav—er, Vons.
In the Long Beach Post/Business Journal story about the Pavilions/Vons switch, our reporter Brandon Richardson found a store employee who spoke about it, though Albertsons Co., declined to comment. The reason, said the anonymous employee, was that the parent company thought the Vons brand would “better suit the communities of Long Beach and Lakewood.”
If that’s truly what the Albertson Co. officials think, it sounds to me like a sly insult.
I’ll split my time between Stater Bros. and, when I’m feeling flush and opulent, Gelson’s.
What you definitely need to watch
On my vacation last week, I spent a good chunk of it — about 10 hours — in a glutenous, Falstaffian binge of Season 2 of “The Bear” on Hulu.
Last year’s inaugural season of the show was very likely the finest season of the year, following the hectic, stormy interplay between Michelin-star chef Carmen Berzatto (Jeremy Allan White) and his often-contentious staff at a Chicago sandwich restaurant he’s trying to rescue.
The eight-episode season was full of often-chaotic, sometimes glorious moments and, against the odds, the 10-episode Season 2 manages to top it, peaking with one of the best hours ever of television with Episode 6, “The Fishes,” a flashback of a past Christmas dinner at the Berzatto family home. It’s a crazed, fork-flinging get-together that should utterly swamp the 2024 Emmy Awards (it’s too late for the 2023 awards) thanks to a large and extraordinary cast that includes several guest appearances, among them Jamie Lee Curtis as the frantic and overwhelmed family matriarch, alongside other family members and friends played by Bob Odenkirk, John Mulaney and others, in addition to regular cast members, including White, Ayo Edebri as his main chef, Ebon Moss-Bachrach who’s brilliant as the self-obsessed Cousin Richie, and the always-remarkable Oliver Platt as Uncle Jimmy.
While most of the series’ episodes come in at about 25-30 minutes, “The Fishes,” clocks in at an hour, which left me exhausted, in a good way. I can’t recall enjoying an hour of TV more.
I might throw out my TV now.
Or not. Maybe I’ll see how Season 4 of “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” shapes up when it drops Friday on Prime Video.