Another stagnant summer morning in Diamond Bar. My brothers Keith and Danny are still in bed. Downstairs, my mom’s rattling something around in the kitchen.
I’ve been hanging around my room all morning, not doing much of anything. I read in a magazine the other day that teenage girls should get more focus in their lives by making a list of future goals.
It’s next to impossible to imagine me being anything but me or doing anything other than what I’m doing right now, but I thought I’d take a stab at it.
So, here we go…
TEN THINGS I’D LIKE TO DO
- Eventually be married
- Rock Star or Successful Musician
- Rock magazine writer
- Humor writer
- Disc Jockey
- Be comfortably wealthy
- Have the ultimate total bod
Hm. Well, for now what I’d really like to do is get something to eat. It’s a little before lunchtime, so I head downstairs to the kitchen. Mom’s toy poodle, Jolie Poupee is stationed by the doorway, keenly staring at Mom whipping up food at the dinette table. She’s assembling a phyllo dough casserole from a recipe that she transcribed from The Galloping Gourmet. She’s wearing a ruffled pantsuit and has a wiglet pinned to her head. On a Saturday morning, this can mean only one thing: my mom’s idiot boyfriend Lee is on the way over.
I open the cupboard and stare at the same stale set of boxes that have sat here for the last thousand years. I keep staring, somehow thinking that if I do this long enough, something new will appear on the shelves
“Hungry again? Why don’t you have a boiled egg?” Mom says in her warbly voice. “After all, it’s ‘hard to beat!’ Get it? Hard to beat!” she giggles.
Aaaah! How many times have I heard this joke! I slightly chuckle… don’t ask me why… and then, in complete defeat, I grab a few broken almond windmill cookies.
Just then, Lee opens the front door. “Hey, everybody, I’m here!” he calls out.
Mom drops her pastry brush and looks up happily. Lee comes bounding into the kitchen. He’s full of pep in his relaxed fit slacks, polo shirt and loafers. He’s wearing aviator shades, and his light brown hair is perfectly shellacked. My friends and I love to debate whether it’s real or a rug.
“Hey, peace to all you beautiful people! What a day… just groovy! Why, it’s… okay!” He gives Mom a peck on the cheek. “Liz, don’t you look gorgeous! And that food looks almost as good!”
She blushes. “Oh, Lee! You are so sweet!” They giggle in unison.
I avert my eyes in disgust. Lee is a former school principal who, like Mom, led the square and narrow life up until a year or so ago. Now he’s reveling in a mid-life crisis that includes embracing all things “hip” and “cool” that he learned about at a Transactional Analysis seminar so that he could “rap with the kids.” I understand why Mom and Dad got divorced, but replacing Dad with this leisure suit loser is the ultimate insult.
Lee turns his attention to me. “Hey, Darlene! Are you having a beautiful day?”
“If a beautiful day sucks, then, yeah, I am.”
Lee chuckles. “Oh, you’re okay, Darlene. You’re okay, Liz is okay… and Jolie’s okay too!”
Jolie barks, “Yipe!” Mom titters. “Far out!”
“That’s right, Liz,” he replies encouragingly. “Far out!”
They pause to look at the doorway as my brother Keith walks in. His hair is looking extra long and stringy today, and he’s wearing a Black Power T-shirt and filthy jeans that drag on the floor. He opens the fridge and stares inside despondently.
“Hey, Keith!” Lee calls out. “How are you? Are you having a beautiful day?”
Keith yanks a leg off a roast chicken, leaves the refrigerator door open, gives Lee the finger, and walks away.
“Right on, Keith… tell it like it is!” Lee replies enthusiastically, seemingly speaking to the fridge since Keith’s no longer there. “You’re okay.”
Thankfully, I hear a familiar knock at the door. I run to greet my friend Deanna… long legged, blonde, wearing jean shorts, a bikini top, and a toe ring.
Deanna gets right to the point. “Let’s head to the 7-11. I wanna buy an Edgar Winter Slurpee cup for Warren. I stepped on his sacred Canned Heat cup last night and flattened it like a taco.”
Deanna’s choice of words isn’t always the best, but I know what she means. Her boyfriend Warren is in a band and all the girls chase after him. Deanna needs to keep him happy.
I glance around strategically. Mom’s handbag is on the table by the front door, and I can hear her and Lee chatting energetically in the kitchen about going to an encounter group.
“Sure. Hold on,” I hissed. Mom doesn’t believe in allowances, so I, in turn, believe this means she implicitly believes in theft.
I grab 35 cents and a leftover Certs and quietly close the door behind me. We head down the hill, our bare feet blistering on the sidewalks. It’s a short walk to the 7-11, maybe 10 minutes. Some guys hoot at us from a car. We pretend not to notice them.
Avoiding the sticky patches of sidewalk out front, we stroll into the 7-11 and head straight to the candy aisle. The candy aisle is our playground… what to buy today? I had a modular menu of options:
Today I’m goin’ for some skinny licorice ropes so that I can braid them before I eat them. I also buy a Whiz bar, simply because its name cracks me up. Who thought that was a good idea! I love to buy oddball candy like this. There’s a whole world of weird on these shelves, and I think most people don’t even notice it.
We step out the door, and Deanna lifts her Slurpee triumphantly. “Ta-da! Warren should like this!”
I admire the cup. In a big oval is Edgar Winter’s grinning face, his white hair cut in a cool shag to frame it. I never realized he was such a fox! I’m going to copy this. I wish I had something to draw with other than pencils and ballpoint pens.
“Let’s head to the club now,” Deanna continues after a long slurp. “I think that new lifeguard Steve likes me. I wanna stare into his cinnamon eyes.”
Leave it to Deanna to seamlessly shift the conversation from one guy to another. If Deanna had five boyfriends, she’d be looking for her sixth. And I’m pretty sure Steve’s eyes are blue, but what do I know. “Cinnamon” sounds romantic anyway.
Copyright © 2013 Darlene Lacey
(Stay tuned for next week’s installment of Candy Bar ’75.)
Whether classics like Hershey’s, Mars and M&Ms or trend-setters like PEZ and Atomic Fireballs, candy has a special place in the hearts and memories of most Americans, who to this day consume more than 600 billion pounds of it each year. In this illustrated guide, Darlene Lacey examines the colorful history of candy and the American experience: from movie candy, drugstore and dime store candy, holiday candy, endorsements from athletes, rock bands, TV and movie stars, along with urban legends, candy scandals, and long-gone trends and fads. She looks back at barnstorming pilots dropping candy bars from planes, Bubble Yum’s reputation of being made from spider eggs, the rise and fall of candy cigarettes, and why some of America’s favorite candies eventually vanished from the shelves, along with so many cherished sights and stops on the American scene. This mouth-watering, sugar-fueled trip down memory lane features 80 images of candy from this period, all of which come from Lacey’s Candy Wrapper Museum.
Classic Candy: America’s Favorite Sweets, 1950-80, (Shire Books, 2013) available in paperback, Kindle Edition, and Nook Book eBook. It can be ordered at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, and many other online retailers.
Darlene Lacey began collecting candy wrappers as a Southern Californian teenager in the 1970s. Her goal was to create the Candy Wrapper Museum, where wrappers could be enjoyed as art, nostalgia, and humor. Over the decades, she has collected one of the most complete and significant collections of American candy, some of which can be seen at www.candywrappermuseum.com. The site has drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors, and her collection and insights into American candy have been featured on the Food Network’s Unwrapped, the Chicago Tribune, and Smithsonian Magazine among others. Select pieces from her museum were also exhibited in a fine art show sponsored by Scion. A freelance writer and editor, Lacey also writes about candy and culture in a column for thelosangelesbeat.com. The author lives in the suburbs of Los Angeles, CA.
Darlene at the LA Beat: TheLosAngelesBeat.com/author/darlene-lacey
The Candy Wrapper Museum, which showcases many favorite items in the collection: CandyWrapperMuseum.com
The Candy Wrapper Museum on Facebook: Facebook.com/CandyWrapperMuseum
Darlene Lacey on Twitter: Twitter.com/DarleneLacey75
Darlene Lacey on Goodreads: Goodreads.com/author/show/6478008.Darlene_Lacey
Shire Books: Shirebooks.co.uk/home
Darlene Lacey on YouTube: YouTube.com/user/meandarlene1