Portrait of James from the Belmont Bi-Rite.
I go to this old-timey grocery store on Belmont Boulevard, near my new house. I’m not sure why — they don’t really have the freshest produce, or most anything organic. I’m just drawn there. I go there and buy cooked meat, back in their deli. It’s one of the few last bastions of the Old South — beans, meat, and barbeque cooked daily. The floors are waxed clean and shiny, even though they’re very old. They only recently added the ability to pay with a credit card. It just feels like home.
When I was a kid, my family owned five small convenience stores in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Ever since I was about twelve years old, I started bagging groceries and working in those markets. Worked in them all the way through high school and college. I can stock a shelf with the best of them. I can clean a milk cooler. I can run a register and make change quickly. It was useful to learn how to talk to strangers, when I was a dorky, stoner, redneck kid. It sorta socialized me. It’s helped in my adult life, as a photographer.
Anyway, I go into this grocery, and I always see the night manager there. His name is James. He’s about 6’2″, but he seems about seven feet tall, because he’s so thin. He’s always running around at a hundred miles an hour, stocking shelves, and running the place. He always is fitted with his ball point pens, a nametag, and most of the time with one of those back supports, like those Home Depot guys wear. He said he has a problem with his back. So here is James — he is just so awesome to me. He is America. He seems like a guy that could be in a Mayberry RFD episode, along with Otis and Barney and Andy.