Now bereft of my local Pathmark supermarket since April 15, and having to travel a mile on public transportation to get to Waldbaum’s, or be a lazybutt and order groceries from the wildly expensive Fresh Direct, this photo I shot last week reminds me of the almost prophetic words of Councilman Lew Fidler who, in February, after it was announced that the store at 3785 Nostrand Avenue would shutter, remarked: “I want you to picture for a second what Nostrand Avenue would look like if that Pathmark was gone.”
Let us pause as we take it all in.
While Nostrand Avenue between Avenue Y and Avenue Z pretty much looks as it always does, it is impossible to ignore the elephant in the room — the vacant, decaying monstrosity from where I used to purchase my food, whose windows across the street I now feel boring holes into my conscience, like the desperate, longing eyes of a Somalian child, whenever I pass by. There were days when I went shopping that that Pathmark’s aisles were so bustling, lines at the cashier so jammed, that a flash mob could have easily coalesced to recreate Cecille B. DeMille’s Battle of Actium scene in Cleopatra. And now this big, empty place is nothing more than a shell, whose entryway is pathetically littered with discarded trash and errant piles of circulars.
I always had a love / hate relationship with Pathmark. It was close by – a five-block walk from my house – so I, as a non-driver, greatly appreciated the convenience of being able to stock my pantry without having to schlep to and fro on buses, because what is more fun than riding a crowded B4 (the most loathsome bus line in creation) from Waldbaum’s on Ocean Avenue and Voorhies Avenue to the last stop on Knapp Street by the 7/11 with your 10 bags of groceries in tow? And then to further drag one’s sorry, grocery-toting carcass the four blocks home from the bus stop? I’d rather have a root canal.
One time in Pathmark, I purchased a block of cheddar cheese, only to discover that, once I had gotten home and was putting all my groceries away, the bottom end of the cheese block was covered in a thick, fuzzy layer of green. After I ceased dry-heaving, I returned back to the store, hit up the customer service kiosk, and the woman manning the area was not only profusely apologetic and accommodating, but also endowed with a sense of humor as sharp as the cheddar I never got to enjoy. She flagged down an employee over to her workstation, showed him the moldy cheese, and explained to him that not only should he do a thorough inventory of the area to ensure there is no more moldy cheese on the shelves, but also try to be more cognizant of their obviously faulty refrigeration practices.
Wary of purchasing cheese from Pathmark after my trauma, I began to rely on my tried and true pals at Silver Star just across Nostrand for all my dairy needs (their blissfully fresh mozzarella balls at the appetizing counter are beyond sublime). However, one evening in early May 2010, with no food in the house and Silver Star already closed for the night, I caved and went to Pathmark and, unable to resist the lure of the Dark Side, broke down and purchased one of those bags of shredded cheese, thinking “What could possibly go wrong?”
The next morning, intent on sprinkling some delicious Colby Jack shredded cheese atop my egg whites, I opened the package and stuck my hand in, grabbed a clump, dusted it over my scrambling eggs, and before I sealed the package, blindly grabbed another clump and threw it into my watering cakehole. I honestly don’t remember much after that. I think I may have tried to block it out.
What I do recall was a tsunami-sized wave of disgust washing over me as I desperately tried to extricate from my mouth this oddly disturbing flavor, which is so difficult to put into words. If I had to compare it to something, it might be similar to what I’d imagine a vat of chemically-infused steaming poo in the sewage treatment plant tasting like. Take my word for it, it’s nothing you’d prefer to savor. During the dramatic expulsion of said raw sewage-flavored transmogrified cheese from my maw, and after I took steps to remove the foul tang from out of my mouth, and my mind — because it really was psychologically scarring; even after the flavor is physically gone, it still sticks with you for a while — I did manage to look inside the bag of cheese and, lo and behold, the shreds were all tinged in a sickly blue, and I knew, then, I had been tricked into eating moldy cheese.
As traumatizing as my experience was…and as unenthusiastic as a few of the cashiers have been to me over the years (One actually scolded me, when I decided to purchase some cheapo bath towels, because she had difficulties running it over the scanner: “The next time you want to purchase towels, go to K-Mart!” How does one even begin to respond to something like that?), I never wished for Pathmark’s demise.
And now it is no more.
It is particularly galling for those who (I am assuming) do not live in the area to presuppose that Walmart is the answer. It may be, at another time or place, though some disagree, but not over there. Our elderly neighbors at Seacrest Towers, or residents of the Sheepshead-Nostrand houses, or me, damnit, do not need to buy discount swing sets and patio furniture — we need a supermarket! I don’t even care what kind at this point: D’Agostino, Whole Foods, Steve’s C-Town, King Kullen, Fred Meyer — just clean up the blight in front of the store’s entrance, stock the shelves, and give the people of Sheepshead Bay what they want.
Please… the sooner the better.