Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dr. Strangecandy or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Steal the...candy.

When I traveled around Europe with my brother Mike (shout out--hey Mike!) at the age of 21, I kept a strict and detailed diary. As I documented each day sentence by sentence, I became increasingly sure that the diary and all its Euro-discovery-fueled wisdom would someday be a best seller. Or in the least it would captivate my immediate family as I, nightly, read aloud gripping passages involving flower covered bridges. And peasants selling geese and rosaries in front of Gothic cathedrals.

So, a couple weeks after my return to the states I opened said diary to re-read my own masterpiece before it went onto publication. Unfortunately it turned out to be a bit less gripping than I first thought. SO less gripping, in fact, that I tore it to pieces. And then distributed those pieces into different trash cans throughout my neighborhood. It was that bad. BAD. The fundamental problem was this: the whole journal was about things I had eaten on the trip. Every page!

The story about the flower-covered bridge? That was actually about how good Stracciatella Gelato tasted while crossing it. The rosary and goose seller? That was a story about how hard it was to push by her on my way to the cheese-on-a-stick cart. And every tale involving a Gothic cathedral dedicated one or two sentences to cathedral design--and nine paragraphs to the design of the pastry counter in the cafe next door.

My point, dear friends, is that I often accidentally find myself writing about food. And today is no exception.

Chapter One: CANDY (then)
I used to love candy more than anything ever. And my addiction to it could only be compared to that of a crack addict. (My grand, generalizing, stereotypical assumptions here about crack addicts have little to do with fact and mostly to do with events depicted in Bad Lieutenant.) I use this crack comparison because--like crack--I needed it all the time and it was the reason behind almost all of my early criminal activity. Examples? But of course! Here you are:

1) Early on in my existence, my father was a So-And-So at the company that owned 7-11. Therefore little ol' me was privy to some top secret corporate information that most of the public knew nothing about: THE SECRET CANDY ROOM AT CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS! Yes. Candy Room. Inside contained nothing but a candy display shelf, exactly like the ones in 7-11. And full of all the same candy. Each time we went to visit my dad at his office, he would take us in and tell us to pick out one treat. I always picked out one Whatchamacalit. And I also always picked out two Peanut Butter Twix and stuffed them into my pockets and picked out one handful of Fireballs and jammed them into my Little Twin Star purse. Every time! And I got away with it. Which led me to believe I always could.

2) Years and stuff happened, blah, blah, blah. No specifics available.

3) At some point after my senior year of high school I told myself that I needed to lose weight. But being the anti-conventionalist I was and still am, I decided that sensible run-of-the-mill dieting was not for me. And I devised my own fool-proof way to shed pounds. The regimen was simple: Do not exceed 10 grams of fat a day. That was the only rule. It was quite a straightforward diet, yet it went through many trial and error periods until finally emerging as something I now call the "Sour Gummy Worms and Diet Coke diet".

(You see, sour gummy worms have very little fat in them. And Diet Coke has none. So weight loss and health would obviously go hand-in-hand with this combo. Hand. In. Hand.) 

Unfortunately, this pricey diet coincided with a "low funds" period in my life. And, as many of you know all too well, Trolli Brite Crawlers can run you upwards of $2.35 per bag. Multiply that by 4 bags a day and you'd better have yourself a $40K a year job in order to keep your stomach full. Well, I didn't have a $40K job. I worked at Bobby McGee's Restaurant as a Scarlett O'Hara-esque, costumed hostess named "Southern Comfort". And believe me when I tell you -- the gig did not pay $40K.

Thus began my mid 90's reign of shoplifting terror unleashed upon all North Orange County Rite Aids. I am not proud of this. And I reserve the right to withhold further details of the spree. But as your heads are undoubtedly picturing right now -- it wasn't pretty. (And neither was my skin. Turns out-- an all sugar, all chemical diet really incites the acne. Words of warning from the ex-acne-surrounded mouth of someone who knows.)

Chapter Two -- The Final Chapter: CANDY (now)
Here (finally!) is where this blog post becomes relevant to today.

Currently, I am in charge of the candy dish at work. This is one of my many important daily duties, if not the most important. Sounds like a sweet deal, huh? (Intentional Pun! Zing!) Well, don't jump to conclusions because this task has turned out to be somewhat of a candy-ruiner for me. The pure routine of it alone has proven to be a turn off. Whatever image my mind used to conjure up for "candy" has completely morphed into looking like "office supplies". And then there are the drooling faces that begin to lurk about as the fill-time draws near..

When my predecessor was training me for the job, I wondered why she emphasized the importance of only filling the dish once a day. "ONLY FILL THIS DISH ONCE A DAY," she said with wild eyes that had seen too much, "ONCE. That's it. Just once. No matter how much they beg." I shrugged and said, "sure". Assuming --as I usually like to assume-- that people are crazy and say crazy things that I should just ignore.

But she was oh so right! Each day when the second hand tick-tocks its way around and slaps 1:30pm, "candy time" arrives. Methodically I open the locked cabinet (to which I am the only key holder) and pull out a mixed bag of fun size stupid candy and fill up the ugly dish. And undoubtedly the last Musketeer is still hitting the bowl when the first sneaky taker pops out from around the corner. Then another. Another. And another.

"Oooh! Wow, looks like I happened by at just the right time!"
 "Oh Candy!"
"I really shouldn't, but since it's Tuesday..."
"Hey! You have Snickers today. My favorite, guess I have to!"
"My diet starts tomorrow. LOL!"
"I really shouldn't, but since it's Wednesday..."

And so on. All day. Until there is nothing left but blue jolly ranchers that have adhered themselves to the bottom due to melting, and of course the poisonous barf-inducing Banana Laffy Taffys that are notoriously left behind.***

All of this would be so much more tolerable if these folks would just own up to the fact that they eat lots of candy. If only they would walk up to the dish proudly and proclaim, "now is the time I eat my candy. I do this everyday. And I am not ashamed of it!" I would have so much more respect for that.

Unfortunately that is not the way things are. No one owns up to their addiction. And instead of feeling like a professional respected pharmacist, dutifully distributing to people the antidote for a bad day that they so deserve-- I am a cloaked crack dealer waiting for my pathetic weirdos to emerge from the shadows mumbling/begging for a taste with fistfuls of wadded up dollars.

And then I think back to my youth and note that I should keep my judgments to myself. Because I too was once just like them: a shame-filled criminal and repeat offender just trying to get my fix.

***Little known fact -- When investigating the disappearance of the Roanoke colonists, British and Spanish investigators found nothing but some stones with writing depicting the troubles of the colonists, and a pile of Banana Laffy Taffys with a sign on top saying "Gross".

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Default of Me

A few years back I did something pretty dumb. Something I am kicking myself for right about now. And since you are all my dear friends, I guess I can share with you the tale of my stupidity.

One partly-cloudy day in September, I walked into Fort Knox with an empty cardboard box and asked to borrow $98,000. The clerk (I believe his name was Clerk Knox CPA) said, "Why yes of course! Right this way, young miss."

I followed him down a gold brick hallway and into a room containing one of the world's largest money machines. 

"This makes money," Clerk Knox said. "Take some!"

I held my empty cardboard box up to a part of the machine labeled "cardboard box goes here". Immediately, fresh money started shooting out. 

"Too much!" I shouted. "Turn off this machine, sirs! I have all I can carry." 

After signing my name on a line that came at the end of some words, I attended a brief wine and cheese reception held in my honor. I didn't stay long, and quickly found myself giving goodbyes all around to the good, hard working execs of our country's best financial institutions. Then I skipped out into the now non-cloudy September air. 

"What a great day," I thought as I made my way to the bridge at the edge of town. "Yup, great day. Well, that's enough blabber about the day--there's the bridge!!" 

I ran as fast as a person with a lid-less box of money can run. And reached the bridge without spilling one bill.

Once there, I looked over the side. 

"Perfect!" I screamed to no one. "Watch what I'm gonna do next!" I also said that to no one.  

I immediately turned over the box and dumped all the money into the murky waters below. Smiling, I watched as two fish took two big bites out of the faces of two Benjamins Franklin. And I waved/blew kisses to the rest of the pieces as they floated away to oblivion. 

Satisfied, I headed home to get ready for bed. Thinking the whole time, "What a great decision I made! Borrowing money and throwing it away was the greatest accomplishment of my life. I am going to sleep better than I ever have. And tomorrow I will wake up successful and rich!"

"Hmm...what should I do first?! I know! I will do a play in the center of town. And everyone will applaud me. I'll pose for autographed photo ops and sign each one with: Much Love, From A Rich and Successful Person. And then, after eating fancy chicken pot pies until I puke (that's what rich people do), I will swing by good ol' Fort Knox and pay them back every penny I borrowed plus interest! Gooood Night!!"

Okay so you probably just now called me a liar. Because, as you may have guessed with your smart brains...that story wasn't true (except for the part about doing a play). But I promise I had no malicious purpose for misleading you, my good buddies.  It was merely a tricky way of getting you to read a cautionary tale. Which you otherwise might not have read because most cautionary tales are BORING (example: Young Goodman Brown). But some--well-placed in front of the right eyes at the right time--can be quite gripping and effective (example: Gremlins).

There IS a timely reason for my caution-y tale telling. Today, after years of hiding in plain sight from scary people who hold a bloody note over my head...I started to repay my graduate school student loans. Loans that I will be repaying for the rest of my life.

And it's not the realization that I will be paying them forever that has caused my utter terror and delirium today. It is the fact that somehow, I spent almost $100,000 without even noticing. It's like I fell asleep and while I slept, the loans that once looked so appealing and harmless have now multiplied, hatched and are running crazy in my town movie theater on Christmas and they will never be contained!

The worst part is I have nothing to show for it save a dwindling elitist attitude that I am somehow awesome because I paid lots of money to learn. Money that would have been SO much better spent if I had carried it around in a box and thrown it into some murky waters. At least then I would have been able to touch it and see it for a little while before it was gone. At least then, when people would pass me on the street they would whisper, "There she is!! The girl that threw a box of money in the river! And I think she also won a chicken pot pie eating contest!"  Then I would at least be known for accomplishing something.

But as it stands, the only existing accomplishment that came from the money I owe is my diploma. Which right now lies locked in a damp, university basement filing cabinet. Awaiting the $25 processing/shipping fee I was never quite able to afford.