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Requiem for a Store

No more 9XL Sweatshirts for you buddy!
5/31/07


The news came from Bleidorn.

“Goldmann’s is closing,” he said from Milwaukee.

“No fucking way!” I replied from Santa Fe. “I leave Milwaukee for a few months and look what the hell happens.”

Goldmann’s was a titan of old-fashioned department stores and its lunch counter was our Saturday morning respite. After a bedraggled night of drinking, carousing and general rabble-rousing, we would gather still reeking of smoke to make the pilgrimage.

Oftentimes it was difficult to wake up and get in the car, but it was always worth it.

Goldmann’s was the reward, the rebirth needed after a night out. Brock, Bleidorn and I would saddle up to the U-shaped counters and watch as hair-netted waitresses brought out the daily special. We would look over the menu that we had already memorized and ask if the 100% Angus burger came with pickles. We would wonder whether the deserts in the glass case were edible.

Tap water occupied plastic tumblers placed before us on the Formica countertop as old women, black women, abnormally tall women would ask what we needed. All I needed was a BLT; all I wanted was a chocolate malt dripping down the side of the glass after a sloppy pour; I don’t need nothing else but those crinkle-cut God-damned cafeteria fries dripping grease and peppered with salt…

How can this be happening Milwaukee? How can you do this to me?

I can’t remember when we began visiting Goldmann’s after rock concerts and late nights on the town, but each lunch was followed with a visit to the candy counter. The candy jerk putting a half-pound of pink wintergreen mints in a brown paper bag crisply folded at the top.

As we wandered the store I would gorge myself on the powdery mints reeking of bismuth and then wonder why the hell I bought a half-pound that would sit in its paper bag, leftovers on the shelf by my door wondering why I had brought it to my home.

We would invariably wander over to the clothing department and marvel at 9XL sweatshirts unzipping them and trying to figure out what it would mean to be that large.

I remember one day in particular as we stood on the second floor and watched as a mother methodically made her way through a pile of jersey shorts looking for just the right size for her corn-fed son.

She grabbed the shorts by the waistband and held them at arm’s length stretching to her full span before putting one pair down and grabbing another. Occasionally she would enlist the help of another son to pull the waistband. So completely involved in her work, we were hypnotized by the sight, unable to move away. Where will this woman shop for her husky boy now that Goldmann’s is slated for closure?

And we watched it happen from the lighting department filled with NASCAR lamps, touch lamps and lamps that could only occupy a different era. It was in this lighting department where I found the most special lamp commemorating my first home. Where will I ever find a lamp that so perfectly inadvertently mimics the shape of the female reproductive system, complete with pinecone ovaries and delicate shrubby fallopian tubes? Well I found it at Goldmann’s and will likely never find it again.

After thoroughly visiting every nook and cranny we’d visited before we would usually find it necessary to pick up some underwear or socks or maybe a new handkerchief. Or maybe I really needed that CD of Pope John Paul II saying the rosary in Spanish. Or I could really use those orange Dickies work pants. And, hey, check this out… blue ostritch-skin boots!

I think I know what happened.

Goldmann’s is too good to be true anymore.

The deals were never that great and even though I’ve always been enamored with the store, I never left with much more than a few pair of boxers, some railroad socks, and maybe gut rot. It was almost more of an anthropological study for me to visit the hallowed aisles crowded with mysterious products from a bygone era. What are snuggies? Special on mumus? You get special socks when you have diabetes?

I was relieved to see that Goldmann’s won’t close its doors until October.

Bleidorn will be getting married in late July and I won’t be able to make it home for his bachelor party. When we talked on the phone and I let him in on the news that I wouldn’t be able to make the party, the first thing that came out – before I’d even heard about the Goldmann’s closing – was how a visit to Goldmann’s was in order. And now, after hearing this sad news, now more than ever, I need to go to Goldmann’s

I love you Goldmann’s. I love you like I’ve never loved a store before.

The full bitch of a story is here!!!!

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One thought on “Requiem for a Store

  1. Mark H says:

    Boy, another post of yours that brings back memories (last one was BLT Genesis)….This was great..I’ve seen this happen in this country so quick the last 20 years….WalMart comes along and swallows up 10 fabulous independent little stores we love. Last one here was the blue-collar joint, “JOWERS” where all the big toughest clothese of EVERY kind sold……. You made ME miss that Milwaukee joint, and I’ve never been there. Thanks for another enjoyable read.

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