Monday, April 27, 2009

Eternal Moonshine of the Vitamin-Powered Sugary Mind

Like most stories from my 20s, this one starts at 3:30 in the morning.

The middle of the night has always been my favorite time for grocery shopping. Stores are less crowded, clerks are more amusing (and more easily amused), and the other shoppers present plenty of opportunity for observing Life's Rich Pageant.

So it was 3:30, I couldn't sleep, and I was craving grilled cheese, which meant it was the ideal time to go shopping. At the time, I shopped exclusively in a gigantic food warehouse store that had a parking lot with 600 spaces. When I pulled in, there were four other cars in the lot -- another advantage to late-night shopping.

As I wandered through the bulk section, assessing my need for yogurt-covered pretzels at $4.99 per pound, the sound system in the store switched off. The lighting levels dropped about 30%. And then they started playing Aerosmith, and the piano sound bounced around the store, careened off the charcoal grills, got absorbed in the 36-packs of double-ply toilet paper, and echoed slightly in the spice aisle.

And as I grabbed a package of seedless Rye, I noticed something in a nearby aisle. A barefoot hippie chick in tie-dye and cut-off shorts was very slowly swaying to the music, staring at the selection of breakfast cereals (all sold in quantities designed to provide family breakfasts for the next six months).

As I stared, I was transported. Driving through the dark hills of Western Massachusetts late at night, listening to the radio, hearing the devils howling at Steven Tyler's heels and hoping they would stay in the woods long enough to let me get home safely.

When the song ended, the hippie chick collapsed in a ball by the Quisp boxes. And I felt weird that I'd been staring, wanted to get out of the store as soon as possible and let her have whatever private moment she was having, and go back outside where it was 40 degrees and sensible people wore scarves and coats instead of cut-off shorts.

I turned, then heard a quiet sob. And paused, knowing I'd have to go talk to her, knowing she was undoubtedly crazy, and suddenly wondering if it might be better to shop earlier in the night -- maybe at 1am instead of 3am.

And I went up to her. Stood awkwardly. Stared at what she was staring at. Then finally asked if she was okay. She looked up at me, smiled, and said "I was just thinking that Steven Tyler would be so much happier if he ate more Quisp."

I looked at the boxes, nodded, and said "yeah, probably, I mean it is the vitamin-powered sugary cereal." I tried to think of something else to say that would express concern while also allowing me to leave soon. But I couldn't think of anything so I looked down. And the hippie chick was gone. Concerned, I quickly looked in adjacent aisles. She was nowhere to be seen.

When I paid for my bread and cheese, I asked the clerk if he'd seen the hippie chick. He frowned at me, said "Dude, you're the only one who's been in here in the last three hours."

As I drove back to my apartment, the local classic rock station played "Dream On." I switched the car radio off (even though that violated nearly every belief on which I'd constructed my life). Let Steven Tyler's Quisp-fueled demons chase someone else home for a change.


Anonymous said...

I've always said the problem with Aerosmith was that Steven Tyler was clearly a Count Chokula and Joe Perry was obviously a Booberry!

Paula said...

Rock on fellow mudpuppy & many mooses to ya!

PoohPooh said...

Did I get sent to limbo?

Hi mudpuppy!

Anonymous said...

Old Quisp commercial:

Alex said...

End of the race around the world in Lompoc, CA:

Paula said...

Dude, Mr. Bunny Bunny and I are still so hippy. But real hippies don't buy boxed cereal, they eat fresh produce from the garden.

Mr. Bunny Bunny got a gun.....

Oops, there goes the lettuce.

Steven said...

Great story!

BTW I hate Aerosmith and really hate his voice...