The logic of where items are shelved in the supermarket is beyond comprehension, especially when seeking myriad “milk” products. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Columnist

I really ought to be better at grocery shopping than I am, given that I’m a grown man who for more than 35 years has been at least partially responsible for acquiring his own sustenance. And yet I still manage to get flummoxed at the supermarket.

I’ll take some of the blame, but only some. The logic of where things are shelved is beyond me.

Take, for example, the eternal milk. That’s the Parmalat milk that comes in those waxy cardboard cartons and lasts forever. We keep a quart of it on hand for when we run out of the regular mortal milk and can’t be bothered to replace it right away.

But though they both come from cows, the eternal milk is nowhere near the mortal milk. For some reason, it’s in the same aisle as the baking supplies, across from the spices.

And what about the fake milk? That’s oat milk, almond milk, coconut milk, etc. Our daughters have convinced us we should give it a try. Oat milk comes in the same kind of cardboard cartons as the eternal milk, but is it near the eternal milk? No. It’s near the protein bars.

What about the cheese, I hear you asking. So glad you asked. If you want foreign cheese — Gouda, mozzarella, feta, brie — you go to the deli section.

But if you desire something a little less fancy to grate onto your turkey chili, don’t go to the cheese aisle. Go to the dairy section, where, between the yogurt and the mortal milk, you will find bricks of cheddar, Monterey and pepper jack.

Vanilla wafers? Generic ones are in the cookie aisle, but Nilla wafers are a few aisles away in a special Nabisco end cap.

My Lovely Wife always writes “biscotti” on the shopping list. Biscotti have become my Holy Grail. They’re a type of cookie, so they could be in the cookie aisle. But you typically eat them with coffee, so they could be in the coffee aisle. They’re foreign, so they could be in the tiny sliver of shelf that holds exotic treats.

I have never successfully found the biscotti.

My idea: Everything in the grocery store should be arranged alphabetically. Biscotti next to brooms. Cookies next to cantaloupes. Milk — all milk: long-life, short-life, oak and almond — next to mushrooms.

'River' phoenix

My Monday reverie about the National Gallery of Art struck a chord with George Waldmann. He discovered Frederic Edwin Church’s 1877 painting “El Rio de Luz (The River of Light)” when he came to Washington as a student in the 1970s.

“I had a cheap print on my dorm wall at the time and I still go ‘visit it’ once in a while,” George wrote. “But I always knew the name as ‘Morning in the Tropics.’ Did something change?”

Yes. Franklin Kelly, who came to the gallery in 1980 as a summer intern, also became smitten by the painting. Franklin did his PhD dissertation on Church and discovered that during the artist’s lifetime it was exhibited under the name it now bears.

The original title, Franklin said, is more lyrical, suggesting that the tiny canoeist Church painted in the distance is on a journey “to some other state of being.” He sees echoes of Thomas Cole’s four-part series, “The Voyage of Life,” which hangs nearby.

It’s been a pretty good journey for Franklin Kelly, too. He is now deputy director and chief curator at the National Gallery.

Turning point

On Wednesday I wrote about good old right turn on red. There’s nothing good about it, said Deborah Davidson of Falls Church, Va. My column reminded her of one I wrote a few years ago trying to pinpoint when things — i.e., society — started going down hill.

Deborah’s nominee: when right turn on red was allowed.

“It meant that the law wasn’t the law, cracking the armor of the social contract and giving both motorists and pedestrians license to freelance,” she wrote. “I know I sound like an old coot (I’m 66 but not terribly coot-ish), but walking in the District is an experiment in terror as folks decide which laws apply to them and which do not. That right turn rule, I believe, started it all.”

Twitter: @johnkelly

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/john-kelly.