Has anyone noticed a wonderful change in the season going on over the past week or so, the crisp, cool breezes, golden afternoon sunlight and spectacular sunsets? Fall has finally arrived in Southern California and all these Autumnal signs rally my mind to but one thought, Milk Duds.
That's right! Autumn and Halloween goodies have, from an early age, become inextricably melded in my mind as one experience for all time. With each cool breeze comes the sensation of the chill experienced through a flimsy Collegeville costume as I adopted the persona of Casper or Yogi or a little "Wishnik" and scampered around in the cool night air. Golden afternoon sunlight harkens back to the anticipation and excitement felt in the time between getting home from school and the sunset's heralding the beginning of our annual neighborhood sojourn towards a sugary stupor.
After hours of pan handling door to door it was always our tradition to return home and begin the important task of categorizing our loot by type and desirability. This process also afforded us the opportunity to negotiate trade with our ghoulish cohorts helping us achieve our highest desirability quotient. This ritual always began with overturning one's vessel, be it a grocery bag, a plastic pumpkin, a pillow case or one of those wimpy plastic Trick or Treat bags that you got from your parents, (the latter of which was usually reserved for those social outcasts who also took to using a book bag or one of those plaid lunch boxes well beyond their peer deemed propriety) thus allowing the rec room floor to become strewn with plunder. Piles of treats in descending order. Chocolate = Good, Licorice = Bad and a wide grey area in the middle.
The "A" Pile
The "A" pile consisted of "Big Ticket" items like Snickers (a primo treat in the days before Fun size, Bite size and new Microscopic size), caramel apples (the Cadillac of which is a brand called "Affy Tapples", a delectably tart green apple coated in smooth caramel and rolled in chopped nuts), Baby Ruth, Krackle, M & Ms, Nonpar.....Nonparrey......Nonpaerells....ehhh....Snow Caps and the like, as well as a couple of wrappers from the stuff that was just too good to wait for, (all high-end chocolate items of a covetous nature).
The "B" Pile
The "B" pile was reserved for candy corn (does anyone detect even the slightest difference in the taste of the ones with the white on the tip as apposed to the brown?), Sugar Daddies (one of which, carefully paced, could last until Easter), bits o' Bit-O'-Honey, Mary Janes and Milk Duds (all surely designed to extract any loose fillings that may be rattling around in the dark recesses of your mouth), and chunks of Chunky, (relegated to the "B" pile solely due to it's superfluous inclusion of raisins.
And speaking of raisins, the "C" pile became the realm of the well-intentioned "home grown" treats. Fruit, nuts, popcorn balls and cookies; all thoughtful, personal gestures of love, but how could these misguided souls, spending the days before Halloween in their kitchens working their fingers to the bone, compete with the formidable mechanized forces of Hershey, M & M/Mars, or Nestles? The poor things! For all that selfless work, they never really stood a chance when it came to treats.
The "D" Pile
Lowest of the Food (and I use the term loosely), Chain are the "D" list items. These were the things that everyone tried to pawn off on unsuspecting younger siblings, ("I'll trade you all five "Dots" for only one Three Musketeers"). Necco Wafers (a disgusting roll of chalky flavored wafers the worst of which is the grey licorice one), Circus Peanuts (large, ghastly orange, peanut-shaped candies with a distinctly fake banana flavor. Try imagining a mind that could come up with that one), Gumdrops (these may have been good in the 1800's, when there was no candy competition, but today, ugh!), Twizzlers, and Good and Plenty (no matter what color or shape it's still licorice and I say no, thank you very much.
And still, after the confectionery collation there would always be a couple of odds and ends that were impossible to place in a category. Little toys, stickers, religious pamphlets and, what's this, a business card for the Dentist who lives on the next block. Now there's an enterprising individual!
Now a days, autumn has become a time of reflection and renewal for me. A moment to take pause and try to put things into perspective before the frantic rush of the holidays comes crashing in. The imminent approach of this season and Halloween continues to hold a feeling of great fun and anticipation, but then, all these reminiscences come with a sort of nostalgic melancholia as well. Warm thoughts of a time when the smell of burning leaves was not an ecological offense. When it was safe for children to go out hand-in-hand with their friends into the evening armed with nothing more than a flashlight and the giddy expectation of goodies to come. When the lack of "treats" led to the harmless "trick" of soap on a car window or suds in a neighborhood fountain. A time when you could accept a cookie, candy or an apple from a neighbor, never questioning it's origin or contents, and it is my sincerest hope for future generations that we may someday return to a simpler way of life.
"Back to the cupboard with 'ya now",
When we left off last issue, Lucky Charms, Big Boy, and the Burger King were heavily armed and on their way to a final showdown with the Magically Delicious, whoever they are.
Always after me. Lucky Charms. They're Magically Delicious. The Lamborghini 's loaded with weapons like a fooking tank. Well Bob's your uncle - we pulls into Von's market. The Burger King parks it in a handicapped spot - fook it. Me and Big Boy hop out, load up with killing gear like the fooking Wild Bunch. The Burger King gives a wink and a nod - on with it.
I sais to the lads, "I'm so scared I could shite yellow moons."
Big Boy laughs. "Pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars, and green clovers."
The Burger King repeats it. "Pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars, and green clovers."
With each step we take, "Pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars, and green clovers." It's our fooking battle mantra.
The automatic door swings open. "Pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars, and green clovers."
Under our breath, to cover the sound of our pounding chests. "Pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars, and green clovers."
Lights are on. No clerks. No shoppers. We fan out. "Pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars, and green clovers."
The lads reach either end of the store. Nobody there. "Pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars, and green clovers."
I comes up on aisle 8 - cereal. The message from Magically Delicious said cereal aisle. Midnight. Right on time. Shotgun ready, if not steady. "Pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars -" I round the corner like fooking Sonny Crockett. I shouts "GREEN CLOVERS!"
"Is that how you greet an old friend, Lucky?" Some strange old fook stands at the end of the aisle dressed in a green frock and pointed cap like the jolly green Klansman. He swings his arm and rolls something up the aisle to me. Big Boy's head.
The crazy fook vanishes like a magician as I fire a shot. The Burger King rounds the corner and sees the Big Boy's surprised look on his cut off head. He ralphs on the Entenmanns.
Cereal boxes fly off the shelves, hundreds of them, rushing like a tidal wave. We climb into the frozen food case to let it pass. Hungry Man dinners attack me. I looks to the King blasting the shite out of an army of Tater Tots. I drops a grenade and we leaps out. Some éclairs tried to stop us but we just ate the stupid fooks.
And there's that green Klansman again, laughing like a cartoon baddie. "You don't remember me, do you Lucky? You stupid sack of shit! Waldo? Waldo the Wizard?" He sends a lightning bolt out his fingertips, to underscore the wizard part, blowing a gaping hole clean through the Burger King's mighty chest. The King topples over me, but I fits through the hole like I'm fooking Buster Keaton. I piss meself like a macho fook.
"Fooking hell, Waldo!" I sais. "What all this?"
"Ah, memory coming back now, eh?"
"You got old. Still fooking daft." I back me way up the dairy aisle real slow.
"1975, that's how long it's been." Waldo was an up and coming cereal icon back then. General Mills' golden boy. The General gave him Lucky Charms cereal after the green Klansman outscored me in focus group tests. I was out. That's the flake trade. By year's end, after sales plummeted, I was back. Flake trade. Never heard of the magic green fook again until now.
"A long time to carry a cross, eh Waldo?" I blasts the shotgun and run. I am pelted with cottage cheese and bricks of Velveeta. I ducks behind the meat counter to reload. "It was the General's decision, mate! I had nothing to do with it. Your beef's with him!"
From the butcher's room comes a meat monster - an eight-foot tall, sixty stone, four-legged Frankenstein of choice cuts wearing the Big Boy's checkered bib overalls with the grey corpse of General Mills himself mounted on its back. I drops me gun and runs. It lunges and pulls me into its gullet. Swallowed. I'm swallowed. Wrestling a pork loin when a haggis starts a-strangling me.
A block of souse speaks to me with Waldo's voice. "It should have been me, Lucky. That cereal was MINE! I was focus group tested. They loved me better than you! They loved ME! Ew, did you piss yourself?"
I pokes a hole in the beast large enough to stick me head out. We're in the butcher's room, set to leap into an industrial meat grinder. Waldo stand at the controls with his baddie laugher. Hits the switch.
"It was your own fooking fault, Waldo." I sais, "Pushing that awful tag line."
"And what's wrong with 'Ibbledebibble delicicious'?"
"It bites donkey, that's what. The General told you not to ad lib, but you wouldna listen, you thick headed fook." I can just get me arm into the Big Boy's trouser pocket. I fishes out a grenade and lob it into the grinder. "You blew it, Waldo."
"Can I just interrupt a second?"
"Huh? Uh, okay."
The pitch is interrupted by Jerry Wankler, Head of Production. He points to his Blackberry, "It's just that I have another meeting I have to get to. I'm really sorry. Please, finish up. Its good stuff. Barry. Debra."
"See you Jerry" Barry and Derba say. Underlings.
As soon as Jerry's out of sight, Barry says, "Actually, I'm gonna have to bail as well. I'm really sorry. I've just got this - " he gestures with his wristwatch. Is it about to explode? What's the rush?
"Yeah, me too." Debra says. "I'm really sorry. An off-the-lot meeting."
Barry calls in a d-girl. "Hey Jen, could you sit in on a pitch? Steve, Jen. Jen, Steve."
"Nice to meet you."
"Steve's got this crazy idea, like Tarantino does a cereal commercial."
"Oh wow. Cool."
Barry and Debra leave. Jennifer looks at her iPhone and skews her mouth. "Mn. Uh, hmm. You know, I uh, actually, I actually have a conference call I need to get. Hang on a sec, okay?"
Jen leaves the room, returning with a goldfish bowl and a Swingline stapler. "This is my goldfish, Goldie, and this is...my stapler. If you could just go ahead and finish up with them, I.....your work is great, Stan."
"Okay. Uh, nice meeting you. We'll be in touch."
I finished my pitch to Goldie and the Swingline stapler. They had two notes: strengthen the relationship between Lucky and Sue, and add staples. We're tentatively scheduled a lunch meeting after the holidays.