by Brett Anderson
Life is a chain of phases. Each link of the chain carries a distinct mood that can engulf you completely. These moods are fleshed out by certain color schemes, special soundtracks, coordinating outfits, and even corresponding types of weather. But for me, the most distinct element of each link has always been it’s accompanying palate of flavors.
For six months in high school, I was in a stormy phase. Dorothy Parker’s poem about suicide was the funniest thing I had ever read. My clothes were vintage and quirky. I listened to what I considered to be “sophisticated” music, preferably with the needle of a record player confirming it’s authenticity. And I compulsively collected lady-like candies: violet pastilles, anise lozenges, and basically anything in a precious little tin. Attaching a flavor and a package to my world rounded out and completed the experience.
Then came the Japanese phase. I was fascinated with the coexistence of ancient history and the space-aged future. In Tokyo, I saw a traditional Buddhist temple with cherry blossom trees and a manicured garden right around the corner from a night club that looked like animation come to life in the form of perfect, shiny plastic. I buried myself in stationary, listened to all the music I could find, and I, of course, compulsively collected the appropriate candy. There were little white pellets that tasted like Ramune soda, chocolate that melted more smoothly than anything I had ever tasted in the US, and best of all, Japanese gum with its flavor/texture combo that put Wrigley’s to shame.
I can trace it all the way back to the My Little Pony era. As a child, I mulled over those cartoon ponies and their psychedelic shapes and colors, the illustrative butt designs and wet-looking eyes. The question of hair was always major: brand-new neon, or classic pink? You can bet there was a candy component to this dream world, and this time it consisted of a fruity rainbow wonderland of flavors and colors. I lived for Starburst (mostly the pink ones), Skittles (mostly purple), Nerds (of course grape and strawberry), and does anyone remember Valentine’s Day Runts? They were heart-shaped. It was enough to make my brother ralph, which was great because then I didn’t have to share.
I have a confession. Candy wasn’t just a supporting actor in my series of phases. Many times it was the impetus of the phase itself. Halloween has always been my holiest of holidays, where mind, body, and spirit unite for one night (and then for as long as the stash lasts). The truth is, I frequently had candy left in my secret hiding place by the time Halloween rolled around again the following year.
I was like those depression-era skeptics who kept their money under their mattress for fear of a bank foreclosure, except I kept my commodities in the form of sucrose, fructose, and all other “-oses” locked in a clear plastic box under my bed.
Yeah, it was clear… It was clear for a reason.
I knew my brother would find my hiding place, and when he did, I wanted it to sting bad! He could turn that box over and over like a gorilla with a coke can and wonder and suffer away. He could sit there and ask himself why, if he was so smart, he wasn’t smart enough not to plough through his own sugary bounty in two nauseating days? (Little did I know he actually could open the box, but I didn’t find that out until years later.)
Oh, candy… It’s how we learned about doing drugs. It was practice. We used to eat Tart‘n’Tinys in the basement of our Dad’s office building and pretend that they gave us special powers like in a video game. Reds were energy; they were uppers. Greens were for health (thanks mom!). Yellows made you jump high, and blues were “like so you don’t have to sleep or whatever.”
Candy. It’s also how we learned to deal drugs. It all started in the schoolyard with a pack of Fire Pix. Someone figured out that you could make them at home with toothpicks and cinnamon oil, and soon enough we were running a racket. We learned all about quantity vs. quality. Randy’s were strong but he charged a lot. Bo’s were cheap but they were totally a rip off because he cut the cinnamon oil with water. It was like playing house.
A true obsession is never-ending, and I carry a torch for all things sweet. I am a member of the Jelly Belly fan club, and I have a VIP Willy Wonka card (Member # 51309) that promised to give me unlimited Nerds Ropes until they realized that I took that as a challenge and not a gift. The only thing that really puts a fork in my spokes is my astromonical dental bill, but I feel like it’s my admission fee to an entire world of flavors, textures, shapes, and colors that I wouldn’t ever trade for a perfect set of choppers.
Now, If that’s not the deluded voice of obsession talking, I don’t know what is.