Saturday, May 31, 2008

Childhood tastes die painful death

No, I'm not talking about a crush on Haley Mills or Kim Richards. I'm talking about chewing gum. When I was a kid, my favorite gum by far (except for a brief Little League flirtation with Big League Chew) was Juicy Fruit. I just loved Juicy Fruit. Every time we went to the store, I had to pick up a pack. And at first, I was a typical kid, chewing it for about 3 minutes until the flavor rush was over, and then I would spit it out. Or stick it on the bottom of a desk. (Oh come one. Everyone did that. Even OCDs in training). But eventually, I picked up Bettye's habit of having a "relationship" with a piece of gum, chewing my Juicy Fruit for hours on end before giving it up for another stick of flavorful goodness.

But for some reason, I got out of the gum chewing business for a while. I went through an infatuation with Brachs peppermints and butterscotches. Tic Tacs. (For xmas one year, I got one of those wall mounted c-store racks that held like 50 Tic Tac packages, already loaded with assorted flavors). In college, I would feed my fixation with Dum Dums. I always keep Jolly Ranchers in a bowl on my desk at work (but no one likes the blue raspberry). And I still keep Altoids in the car.

But when I started flying for business pretty regularly, and realized I couldn't have a cigarette as the cylindrical tube of death was flopping around the sky, I need something to nervously chew as I contemplated crashing in a fiery ball of twisted metal and jet fuel. So I started picking up a pack of gum to keep in my briefcase. I experimented with a lot of different brands and flavors, but finally settled on IceBreakers. LOVE this gum. Flavor lasts a long time, isn't overpowering, and doesn't make your teeth hurt. For many years, it was easy to find at any c-store, airport or supermarket. Then suddenly about two years ago, it didn't show up in the candy racks. If they had it all, I had to search for it. At my regular Publix back in the motherland, I asked them to special order it, and I would wind up buying ten 15-packs in a box at a time, just so I wouldn't run out. When I moved up here to crabland, I would occasionally find it at a c-store, but no where else. Now, the only place I can find IceBreakers gum (the sticks, not the square things masquerading as my favorite gum) is in Walmart. I hate this. I've ranted before about how the parking lots here are zany rat mazes, with inexplicable traffic patterns and exits. And the parking spaces are fucking tiny, especially for those of us want to doom the planet by driving a dinosaur sucking SUV. And all the stores have smaller aisles, which makes the claustrophobia you feel in the parking lot only intensify as you go in to shop. Take all those things, and compound it with the general feeling of social compression and traffic you generally encounter in a WallyWorld, and it makes going in to pick up a pack of fucking gum an anxiety-ridden experience you don't want to repeat too often. So last week, I visited the local WallyWorld to score my IceBreakers fix, and picked up every single 10 pack bundle (of 5-stick packages) that was hanging on the hook. I think I got 12 of them. My hope is that they realize these things are really flying off the shelves, and keep ordering them. Or I may have to wander the streets trying hook up some black market IceBreakers (and I've heard they cut them with NutraSweet in the 'hood). To make me feel less silly pushing a cart around for just gum, I also picked up two more folding camp chairs for my balcony. Because I only have about 14 of those scattered across the hills of Georgia, but that doesn't do me any good here.

Anyway, in between finding my pusher at WallyWorld, I ran out of IceBreakers and needed some gum for a flight and picked up a pack of Juicy Fruit out of sentimentality. Would it still be as good as I remembered from my youth? The short answer is "no." It was sickly sweet, hard to chew and the flavor died in a millisecond. I barely made it though a 15 pack. It's weird. I still like the occasional Tic Tac, Dum Dum or peppermint, or other candy I fancied from my younger days. (Of course, I don't snort Pixie Sticks or that do that bizarre thing with the waxy stick and flavored sugar dust in two different pockets). Do tastes in candy really change that much over time? TNRLM readers, what's your experience in this area? Are there candies or gums that you were obsessed with as a kid that just don't cut the mustard these days? Or am I just crazy?


  1. Bring the new chairs to the Georgia Southern game.... you know we never have enough set up for the tailgate.

  2. Right. Never enough chairs. And never enough people to help pack them up (including those who actually sat in them, too)!

    With the airlines going the way they are, I think it would be cheaper to buy a La-Z-Boy and have it delivered to the tailgate, vs. bringing and checking two more chairs on a plane.