Thursday, March 30, 2017

PiL -"Bags" (1986)

Black rubber over black plastic.

The Bags - "Survive" (1978)

Paper over plastic.

Life In A BeLo Bag

Photo by Mike Smith
During the early 1980s, no other grocery store was more identified with a particular pocket of Portsmouth, VA, than BeLo Markets. Displaying slimy meat cases, dented peach cans and expired snack cakes, the place gave resigned shoppers a rudimentary hub to redeem colorful food stamps. Accompanied by my mother and four siblings, we would often stock up on sodium nitrite-laden Carl Buddig lunch meats, extra crumbly Wonder bread and various brands of barbecue potato chips. On our 10,000-pound Zenith behemoth of a TV set, the "C'mon, step right into Belo!/It's a fact our prices bring you in!/Our people bring you back!" jingle regularly interrupted important viewings of C-grade animated fare like "Inspector Gadget" and "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe." The low-cost representation carried over into the hallways of Churchland Academy Elementary. Impoverished students sporting Bobos like Pro Champs and Trax on unfortunate feet were invariably serenaded by "You got your shoes at the BeLo!"- like disses from Nike and adidas owners.

In spite of such negative connotations, I always had a soft spot for the budget mart. Many years later, a shirt kiosk inside Greenbrier Mall created what would become one of my favorite tees to that point. Fashioned after a professional-quality photograph of the BeLo sign on Indian River Road in Virginia Beach, its red, white, and yellow hues drew numerous compliments throughout its four-year stint in my wardrobe. There were even several offers from friends and strangers who wanted to purchase the shirt off my back. Either they shared in the childhood nostalgia of a more carefree era or wanted to exact sartorial revenge on their chests. "Did you get your shirt at BeLo?" many asked. "Why, yes! Yes, I did!"

About seven years ago, my friend Danielle offered a relatively simple gift that still keeps on giving to this day. The BeLo Foods cloth bag was embossed with a familiar-yet-alternate logo on the front and an environmentally themed world map on its reverse side. Not long after being ripped from a Florida-sourced bubble envelope, the tote became popular enough to modestly trend on Facebook. At the Hardcore Norfolk movie première in August 2011, it captured the fawning attentions of several nearby acquaintances before and after the showing. Enjoying a cookout hosted by the Thornton family circa 2012, I wanted local legend Vic Demise to place his hard-earned Portsmouth City Jail ball cap alongside the former food receptacle for a unique photo opportunity that somehow failed to knock.

Retiring from the local music scene and refocusing on haunts in Western Tidewater, the BeLo Bag wisely transitioned into an everyday travel accessory. Eleven Starbucks napkins, two old cups, five straws and four sleeves revealed a strong coffee jones exhibited by its handler. Eight packets of Sugar In The Raw were combined with other ingredients to soothe the soft skin of a pretty princess. Three containers of Chick-fil-A Polynesian Sauce never made it onto a nugget-covered tray, for one carelessly coated plastic bags of Halls Cough Drops and Jolly Rancher candies with sweet stickiness. Two metal spoons were extracted from the same wreckage before the soiled star was gently placed in a Samsung washing machine.

Hygiene reared its closely cropped head per second inspection. A can of Barbasol Thick & Rich shaving cream and eight BIC disposable razors sliced stubborn hairs inside the restrooms of Starbucks locations in Downtown Suffolk and Harbour View. Liberal douses of Polo Ralph Lauren Red cologne were also applied in said lavatories' confines. Two tubes of Gold Bond Ultimate Hydrating Cream remained sealed like an unwanted compact disc from a "Crazy" musician. One yellow Pledge can and two green microfiber towels wiped away recurring smudges on Belk-bought Clarks leather shoes with height-boosting soles.

One final examination indicated a strong fondness for crossword puzzles. An issue of Suffolk News-Herald flashed a filled grid and a condemning notation by the "In spite of" clue that seemed to appear in the city paper every day. (Solution: NOTWITHSTANDING) Two clippings from Sunday's The Virginian-Pilot proved to be far more challenging avocations. Syndicated layouts from The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times conformed to particular themes with selected clues and pitched a fair level of difficulty. Eight ink pens furnished by library systems in Suffolk and Portsmouth provided tools that shaded empty squares. However, an uncapped instrument leaked important source material which soiled nineteen CDs and four peg sports games. The victims were treated for their injuries and released near Sentara Obici Hospital.

Although the music formats and wooden blocks decided not to press charges against the rogue writing utensil, both have since left the area. The BeLo Bag now makes its home inside the trunk of a 1999 Buick Century.