Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bagel Chips from the L.A. Fireball

There are few great bagels outside of New York.

On a very sad day many years ago, my favorite bagel shop in Los Angeles closed. Their bagels weren't great, but they were pretty good.

In the weeks and months that followed, Mrs. Clicks & Pops and I went to a variety of bagel shops. We weren't very impressed.

Then we found a bagel place that was pretty good. Not amazing, but at least as good as the one that closed. The staff was cool and the bagels were always toasted exactly right. The only problem was the location.

It's not that the new bagel place was too far away, but it was on a corner that's difficult to drive to if you can't remember exactly which street to turn down. And this was in an area where most of the streets looked the same (and had similar names).

We needed a mnemonic device.

And then I realized that the street our new favorite bagel place was on was the same street (several miles and major intersections away) where my college friend Tom Spath lives. That's an interesting fact, but it's not quite a mnemonic. So, out of nowhere, I loudly proclaimed "I've got it! Tom Spath is a giant bagel!" I think we laughed at this for about 20 minutes.

(Note: Tom Spath is actually not a giant bagel. He's a human being, not made of water, eggs, and flour, not available in a variety of flavors with several toppings, not giant, and certainly not baked in an oven, sliced lengthwise in half and run through a slow-moving-conveyor-belt-type industrial toaster to lightly brown his surface while leaving his insides chewy.)

After thinking up the mnemonic, we never again forgot what street the new bagel shop was on -- all we had to do was say "Tom Spath is a giant bagel" and we'd know how to get there.

About a month later, we saw Tom Spath and told him about the new bagel place and our fantastic mnemonic device. He was not amused. Actually, that's an extreme understatement. Tom wasn't quite insulted, but he certainly lacked the appropriate amount of glee at this most clever of all mnemonic devices. If he had his choice right then, we would have forgotten the whole thing.

But his lack of reaction got under our skin. If he had laughed, we likely would have moved on to finding a way to remember which Trader Joe's has the parking lot where people are the least stupid. But instead, over the next few months, we would concentrate on Tom's reaction more and more, sometimes trying to figure out some variation that would amuse him. Eventually, my rock-star wife began singing little songs about Tom as we drove to the bagel place, expressing details of Tom's life in bagel-centric terms. I quickly joined in, hoping to make up for my lack of singing skills with amusing lyrics. (I should mention that this entire endeavor quickly got out of hand; at one point, there were probably 10 or 12 verses and at least two bridges and we'd stop only because it took far less time to get to the bagel place than to sing the song.)

Since Tom was so unamused when we told him our mnemonic phrase, we didn't mention the song to him.

At least not until it was recorded (and whittled down from an "Alice's Restaurant"-length epic to a lean-and-mean 83 seconds).

And then we kind of had to tell him. He was apprehensive at the idea, but loved the song when he finally heard it.

So, although this explanation is longer than the song itself, in the words of the late Paul Harvey: "Now you know... the rest of the story." (Link for Gmail subscribers)


asiangrrl said...

Alex, I love this post! It's got whimsy. It's got a song about a giant bagel. It's got jazz hands! Ok, it doesn't have the last, but it should.

P.S. I laughed at the mnemonic device. I thought it was quite funny and clever.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Clicks and Pops - love it!
It's sad when you can't get a truly great bagel.

Jamie said...

Well, which would you rather have: a really great bagel or a really great bagel song? Well, okay, both, but this is brilliant, both the song and the story of the birth of the song. If it had been me instead of Tom Spath, I would have been tickled pink! And I hope you finally found great bagels. Hugs to both the Mister and the Missus.