Watts Style, Chapter Four: The Laguna Lintel

The Greater Star of Dollar Tree

The first post on the 55 Laguna bedroom mentioned how my style was closest to Simon Rodia. Not so much in what he did but in how he did it. Taking a general idea then figuring out the end result as it was worked on.

One small homage was made to Watts Tower though above the closet door. There I’ve affixed jewel-like bits of glass found on the street. “Jewel-like” if you’re accustomed to buying gems at Dollar Tree or Goodwill.

The Lesser Star of Dollar Tree

I’ve blogged before about despising the Safeway on Market but, like it or not, it’s the cornerstone of the hood. Their corporate philosophy is not to do what’s best for the customer but rather to see what they can get away with. The same can of pumpkin that is $1.49 at Whole Foods is $4.29 at the Way. Shelves are always unstocked, the restrooms are filthy. The City is gentrifying around them and they are stuck in ghetto mode.

Still, I do go there late at night or for staples. You can get money orders for a dollar plus the change machines come in handy.

Once after a successful day of panhandling on 6th street, excuse me, after emptying out my coin jar, I picked up a couple of items and went to use the voucher at checkout. The clerk said they could no longer cash them, only the office could and they were closed. Other than being consistent with Safeway’s desire to constantly inconvenience the customer, this made no sense.

A few days later I went back to cash the voucher and asked the office why they couldn’t be redeemed when checking out. The clerk said it was the way the Manager wanted it.

“The Manager may have made the decision but what’s the reasoning behind it? What do you gain by doing it this way?”

I was met with a blank stare, her brain frozen in lemming mode.

Safeway’s slogan was once “since we’re neighbors let’s be friends.” Today it’s “since we’re neighbors you must be a shoplifter.” Items of even middling value are locked up and the onus is on the customer to find someone with a key. Good luck.

One Sunday evening I waited 20 minutes in the bottled goods aisle. I rang the bell, asked four different clerks, listened to repeated pages, nothing happened. Finally I went to the end of the aisle and shouted “For the fifth time, will someone please help me in Aisle 10?”

The customers standing in the four of 12 lines that were open stared at me both offended and with admiration. On one hand they couldn’t believe I could be so rude. On the other, I gave voice to what they all were feeling. As the neighborhood has quickly learned, the most dangerous place on earth is standing between me and a bottle of vodka.

The Most Insignificant Star of Dollar Tree

It was a walk through the Safeway parking lot one night that inspired the lintel. If there’s one thing you can count on seeing there more than rats it’s broken glass. Glistening in the moonlight I picked up part of a smashed bottle seconds before the stampeding rodents could get it.


One thing I’ve learned in decorating is a new appreciation for clutter. At ground level it’s annoying as you try to maneuver around it. But I only have a small chest, a chair, and a bed on the floor of my room.

In dealing with 12 foot ceilings it seemed foolish to leave half of the wall space bare. Clutter above your head is not physically intrusive. It’s just something to look at.

W Magazine taught me years ago space is the last luxury. To that I add: use it wherever you find it.

The best way to experience my bedroom is on your back, lying squarely on the mattress. You can take it all in that way.

One thought on “Watts Style, Chapter Four: The Laguna Lintel

  1. Safeway — I had NO idea that the practices continued. Like you said it used to be ghetto, and it always struck me that the lines there could have up to 14 people (I counted) and the Safeways in the Marina, Marin, and the Peninsula had no more than two, with a cheery clerk beaming “Hello!:.
    I always felt that “they” knew that their customers there in the middle of SF likely had no transportation thus no chance of going elsewhere. That was the early 70s. I had no idea the not only maintained that, despite the neighborhood changing, but got worse. WTF? Fortunately I don’t have to rely on it, but see examples of what you said about price from time to time: my boss brought me a bag of groceries
    recently when I was under the weather and the receipt was left in the bag. The very same mango, with the very same brand sticker, was 4.00 at Safeway and .79 at Berkeley Bowl. THAT’S FIVE TIMES AS MUCH.
    I LOVE the backlit shards of glass, and following your progress. And the reminder about the comment about space as the last luxury.
    For now . . .

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