Central Discount 120915 [disquiet0037-asrealasitgets1]

Central Discount is an Amish-run salvage grocery store located about 15 miles SW of Iowa City. Bent And Dent is what the Iowa City townies call it. The store is open 3 days a week: Mon, Wed, and Sat.

It’s a very plain and white metal building. Inside, there are no electric lights, only skylights, and not many of them. Concrete floor. Metal carts. It’s a cavernous space. Half the shelves have nothing on them, so it’s reminiscent of old scenes of Soviet-era grocery stores. They don’t take plastic, only cash and checks. There’s no bar code scanners. No beeping. No music playing overhead. No intercom.

Saturday is the worst day to shop as it’s packed. And no, the Amish don’t really shop here. You get the occasional Mennonite mom & kids during the week. Mostly, it’s the well-fed (non-Amish) looking for a deal. And they’re constantly in your way.

It has all the usual boxed foods, chips, soup cans, salad dressings, and whatnot. It comes from different stores, Meijer and Walgreens and others, likely from Chicago. In the past I’ve seen and bought the occasional odd Indian snack food. It’s not uncommon to see things originally priced at $4.29 marked down to 25 or 35 cents, but staples like boxed scalloped potatoes will run 75 cents. Most, but not all, have passed their marked expiration date.

I wasn’t sure how this recording would work out. The day before, I made field recordings at Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville (a suburb of Iowa City) and got an excellent recording of a Zamboni smoothing the ice at the skating rink that’s openly adjacent to the food court. I wasn’t sure I could top that (largely an undulating drone punctuated by passing voices), but I think this recording at Central Discount does. Plus this recording has more of the “store recording” feel that was sought.

Down the first long aisle, it’s a jam. Lots of people pushing carts, or not pushing carts and getting in the way. Near the end, I got under an odd-looking ceiling fan moved by a piston with an electrical cord that likely runs out to the generator along the side of the building. Yes, the building does have electricity, but not much. Cash registers and the ceiling fans are about it.

This ceiling fan made a sound that was irresistible to me, but it was a mess of people and carts and noise when I first went by. I did some shopping in another part of the building and came back when the crowd had moved through. I stood there trying to conceal the Zoom H1 that I held, and pretended to look at the boxes and packaging.

It’s an excellent rhythm, I think. Vaguely middle eastern or Indian with a slight hint of jazz. And since the crowd had largely moved on, I got a nice “store ambiance” coming from the rest of the interior of the building.

This Disquiet Junto project was done in association with the exhibit As Real As It Gets, organized by Rob Walker at the gallery Apex Art in Manhattan (November 15 – December 22, 2012):


More on this 37th Disquiet Junto project at: