Newport, Oregon is under construction. Drive into town on Highway 20 (itself under perpetual construction), and you’ll see to the left a massive patch of dirt and rock where a car dealership used to be. The empty space goes on for blocks. Suddenly the buildings on the next street, including Oceana Natural Foods and the Newport Recreation Center, are exposed. Last month, workers demolished the parking lot and the old buildings, leaving the big glass showroom windows for last, then started smoothing the ground for new construction. We’re getting a Walgreen’s drugstore there sometime in 2013. People who live in suburbia, like I used to, have no idea how amazing it will be to have a place to buy drugs and sundries relatively close to home. If only they’d put a gas station on my side of the bridge.
Meanwhile, both of our “big box stores” are undergoing renovations. We don’t have a mall, so everyone shops at Wally’s and Freddy’s. Walmart got a year’s head start in its effort to turn from a plain old Walmart into a Walmart “superstore.” When it’s done, we’ll be able to buy groceries as well as everything else. Meanwhile, big sections of the parking lot are blocked off for construction equipment, and the inside of the store has changed so much I don’t know where anything is. I never was much of a Wally’s shopper and it’s at the wrong end of town, but I might go there more often while Freddy’s/aka Fred Meyer, suffers through a transformation of its own.
The Newport Fred Meyer store is expanding its mezzanine area, which used to just cover a part of the ladies’ clothing area with men’s and children’s clothing. Now the mezzanine is going to be over 15,000 square feet bigger. Every week, as the locals buy their groceries and try to figure out where things are now, the area overhead expands, sort of like yesterday’s eclipse over the sun. On Friday, when I went to refill a prescription, the darkness had spread to the pharmacy. Things were shuffled around, making the waiting area a more intimate space, dim and smelling of plywood. Amid the sounds of hammers and drills, one had to yell. “Sue Lick!” “3-9-52!” “I called it in!” “You don’t have it?” “I’ll come back later!”
I needed groceries as well as drugs. Most of the food sections are the same as always, but when you get to non-edibles, such as soap and dental floss, it becomes an adventure. You never know what’s around the corner. Oh look, makeup!
Groceries purchased and stowed in the car, I returned to the pharmacy. “Sue Lick!” “3-9-52!” I held my breath as the pharmacy clerk tapped on her computer, then turned to the bins of filled prescriptions, now so close I could almost read the writing on the bottles. “Oh, thank God,” I whispered as she returned with the familiar pink pills.
People wander around Freddy’s, wondering where the garden section went–electronics is there now–and what happened to women’s clothing–gone till August. Workers wearing green tee shirts with “Can I help you find it?” printed on the back held a staff meeting near the towels. Meanwhile, a white-haired man sat near the entrance handing out advertising circulars. He said hello to me three times, with no clue that he had just greeted me 15 minutes earlier. Amid the insanity, who could blame him?
I ought to include a photograph here, but it would look different tomorrow anyway. Right now, my beloved town is like the image on an Etch-a-Sketch. Every day it gets shaken up so we can start fresh. But some things never change. The ocean is still here, the rhodies are in bloom, the tourists have arrived in their silly shorts, and yes, it’s raining again.