With preoccupations last week centered on difficult and unhappy subjects, my imagination retreated to a place both simple and pleasant. Bring a kid to a supermarket and let his or her imagination run wild.

Preoccupations last week centered on mosque building, the anniversary of  9/11, and so-called Christians who think there’s something to be gained by burning the Koran (... or is it the Quoran? I still never even learned how to spell the name of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. ... Or is it Qadhafi?). With such difficult and unhappy subjects, my imagination retreated to a place both simple and pleasant: Supermarkets.

When I was young, supermarkets were about the coolest places around. A whole aisle devoted to presweetened cereals; a whole aisle devoted to snacks and sodas; a whole aisle devoted to ice cream ...

My allegiance later switched to liquor stores (a whole aisle devoted to cabernets ...), but as a 7-year-old I could think of no greater calling than to one day manage a supermarket. (On my list of childhood career goals, running a supermarket fell, chronologically, between cartoon character — I thought they were actors in costume behind “cartoony” screens — and game show host. Columnist fell between reporter and dead wood, so things continue apace.)

A supermarket, especially when you’re young and the shelves tower over you, is almost an amusement park. There are bright colors and garish music (where else can you still hear Gary Lewis and the Playboys’ “This Diamond Ring” followed by Juice Newton singing “Love’s Been A Little Bit Hard on Me”?). Familiar faces like Cap’n Crunch and Uncle Ben smile out at you. The temperature ranges from 70 degrees in the produce department to 28 degrees in the frozen-food section. Plus, there are obstacle courses: neighborhood reunions at the top of the aisles and kids who insist on hanging on the side of the carts, making it impossible to scoot past.

And then there are the exotic foods. An inquisitive kid could drive a parent crazy:

“Hey, ma, look! Pigs’ knuckles! Can we get some pigs’ knuckles, ma? ... Why not? ... They taste like what? ...What’s ‘Shinola’? ... Never mind what? ... Hey, ma, do pigs even have knuckles? If they don’t have fingers and toes, how can they have knuckles?”

Pigs’ knuckles were among the foods I assumed were named by someone who didn’t want you to eat them. Also in this category: wheat germ, cow’s tongue, headcheese, succotash, kumquats and leeks. Then there were the cannibalistic foods: lady fingers, kidney beans, liver, ribs, elbows and — you knew this was coming — rump roast. Again, questions:

“Hey, ma, do artichokes even have hearts? And who choked ‘em?”

Other foods sounded like they came right out of my comic books:

“I am Gourd, tribal chief of the Justice League of Edibles. I serve the noble Sirloin of Worcestershire, with my faithful sidekicks Pastrami and Jalapeno. Our latest caper involves protecting the honor of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil from the evil Scallions.”

I had an overactive imagination. A trip down the pasta aisle transported me to a scene from “The Godfather”:

“I’m happy to welcome today representatives from all the families: The Cannellonis, the Fusillis, the Vermicellis, the Rotinis, the Capellinis and, of course, our honored guest, Don Rigatoni.”

I never outgrew that overactive imagination. During difficult weeks, like the one just past, I still recall those placid childhood trips down the grocery aisles. The products leap to mind, which is a good thing. Since I now drive with youngsters myself, I have taken to using them in place of stronger language.

The radio: Rev. Bob Old of Springfield, Tenn., said he planned to burn the Koran Saturday. Old said he wouldn’t back down.

Me: “Horseradish!”

Youngster: “Hey, is horseradish a horse? Or a radish?”