Monday, April 11, 2005


At some point in the mid 70s, our mother discovered wheat germ and our lives were never the same.

To my meat and potatoes Dad's great dismay, all dishes became increasingly fortified with the chewy grit of rolled oats, watery interruptions of daikon chunks, and the rubbery presence of tofu, tofu, tofu, all under a shower of beansprouts. A wok and bamboo steamer appeared on the white enameled Kenmore range, a chrome and harvest gold juicer joined the Waring blender on the countertop next to the small black and white TV.

At the other end of the house on Saturday mornings, on the Sony over the hampster cage, bright and kinetic images of cellophane wrapped high-fructose corn syrup, sugar-whipped lard, and bleached white flour delicacies danced before our eyes on the the flickering screen. We'd sit cross legged on the floor rapt, entranced by exhortations to participate in the great fun and excitement of translucent gummy spiders and worms, sweet sweet cereals which turned the milk pink, yellow or blue, and exotic chewing gums which ejaculated squirts of flavor "right in your mouth!"

Come noon on monday, we'd sit with our classmates on the long benches under the massive laminated beams of the Tower Street Elementary School cafeteria's lofty fir-planked ceiling. They carried glossy plastic lunch boxes screened with the smiling faces of weekend TV characters. We'd watch them extract Ziplock bags containing crustless Jiff and Fluffernutter sandwiches cut into bite size triangles, Oscar Meyer B-O-L-O-G-N-A slathered with Miracle Whip on Wonder Bread, and Kraft Singles with French's Mustard on pillowy soft potato rolls.

My brother and I gazed longingly at the accompanying Ho-Hos, Ring Dings, Slim Jims, Fritos Corn Chips and everything else which came wrapped in single-serving logo emblazoned non biodegradable packaging. We'd reach into our brown paper bags and extract wax paper wrapped turkey breast with avocado slices on seven grain bread, carrot sticks, and "cookies" ( lumps of granola, toasted oats, raisins and unhydrolized peanut butter in a mastic of molasses ) to go along with our non-fat milk.

One lunchtime near Easter, desperate for any form of refined sugar, I snatched a Marshmallow Peep from Myra Bliven's Snoopy lunch box, and stuffed the sparkling yellow canary into my salivating maw. It's sandpaper sugar skin dissolved on insertion. I pressed my tongue against my palette, feeling the gooey carcass squeeze through the gaps of teeth lately exchanged with the Tooth Fairy, as Myra wailed for the lunch lady's intervention.

For the rest of that week, I spent my afternoons after three o'clock sitting in a hard maple chair outside spinster Principle Miss Williams' office, kicking at the legs with my dangling feet. I'd watch the black spike hands of the brushed chrome Seth Thomas clock over her big puffy white dandelion hairdo head tick tick tick away each long hour and a half, taking the time to "consider my behavior" as she'd demanded.

It was worth every minute.
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