Inside the windowless cube of the Empress Street Walmart, open 24 hours, time doesn’t seem to move. Blue-smocked, zombie-like employees shuffle past, throwing inquisitive looks at the two bearded fellows who’ve just come in from the cold. Folk musician Micah Erenberg’s in the market for a new rug, so we’re cruising the aisles in search of carpeting.
“Something that’ll really tie the room together,” Erenberg says with a laugh, quoting The Big Lebowski.
However, the corporate box store is so labyrinthine and vast, we find ourselves in the cheese aisle first, marveling at the abundant selection. It seems there’s a whole cheesy world out there that Erenberg and I are not experiencing.
“I shop at Food Fare,” Erenberg says, chuckling at the mounds of fromage. “So it’s usually just cheddar or mozzarella.”
After a brief detour in the toy section and discussion about The Lego Movie, we admit defeat and ask directions from the Walmart staff. It takes two able-bodied employees to locate the carpet section. After learning that a sizable area rug can be purchased for around $40, we leave the store, unsatisfied with the selection. As we exit, more surprisingly normal-looking customers are stuffing inside. Even in the middle of the night, this Walmart is in full swing.
Next, we move toward the airport. As I drive, we struggle to recall the name of a song playing from the stereo, and then struggle to recall the artist. (For posterity: Mac Demarco’s “Baby’s Wearing Blue Jeans.”) By the time the song ends, we arrive at our destination: the old Salisbury House at the corner of Ellice and Roseberry.
A mere few quiet customers are seated at tables in the corners. A middle-aged woman wearing sunglasses regards our table sternly from across the room. Our waitress informs us that they only have Diet Pepsi and 7-Up available, as the city-wide boil water order has caused a spike in bottled drink sales. Erenberg orders a 7-Up and a cheese nip. A black and gray landscape purrs outside the window, smoke drifting up from a lonely industrial chimney.
Currently, Erenberg’s to-do list is getting long. He’s prepping his new website MicahErenberg.com, an upcoming full-length album and a performance at Winnipeg’s Festival Du Voyageur on Feb. 14. When the cheese nip arrives, Erenberg reveals he plans to release the 12 - 13 song album on vinyl and audio cassette, in addition to the usual methods. For a guy with several early EPs already under his belt, Erenberg is enthusiastic about the newfound challenges of the LP.
“A full-length album can really encapsulate everything,” Erenberg says, munching on a fry. “It’s like the difference between a single painting and putting on an art exhibit.”
Before we depart, an apron-clad woman lurches out from the kitchen to ask: “Was the food good?”
We tell her it was. She nods, pleased.
“That’s good because I don’t usually cook.”
And then she walks away.