Archive for May 12th, 2010

Jolly Rancheros.

Jolly Ranchers are a gateway drug. It’s straight from there to black tar heroin. Is that what you want Mr. Lemur King? A bunch of school kids strung out on smack? Obviously they had to make an example out of this little degenerate. The ‘No Tolerance’ policy works! Mr. E. Yorl

Crystals of pure JR Fire Stix.

Proving that the universe is not without a strange sense of humor, Nancy Reagan came out with the expression “Just say no” in the year 1982, the year of my downfall.

My alternative to Nancy’s refrain? Just say Maybe.

It started out innocently enough. I had a dollar or so left in my allowance and rode my bicycle over to the mom-n-pop store across the valley.

It was one of those places where the first thing you see as you come in is the chest-style freezer full of ice-cream treats, tempting children and adults alike with promises of vanilla-flavored sweetened cholesterol. To the right, like in every other store of this type was the beer cooler and loggers and millworkers came in continually, making beelines for their Ranier Pounders or their Bud.  (Well you gotta do something for lunch at the mill and dinner will not buy itself.  I always thought of six-packs as The Millworker’s Union Cookbook in Six Easy Steps.)

The store had worn wood floors and smelled like an armpit lacquered in old beer.  You know the place I’m talking about.  Every now and then it was good to step into the men’s room for some fresh air and then you could stand to go back into the store once your stomach stopped doing flips.

On entry to the store, one could turn to the left instead of right and leave behind the beer coolers and their “SCHWOOOO-CLUMP” sound as they opened and closed and come face-to-face with the candy aisle, which ran the length of the store and led even into the “adult section” in back.

Men and women alike, but generally more women, would come out from behind that rough curtain with something half-hidden behind their back.  They’d usually be wearing dark glasses and plain clothing and quickly sidle up to the cashier.  Then with twitches and single-syllable words designed to stave off any attempt at conversation they’d throw a wad of money at the cashier and scurry out of the store.  I’d seen more than one adult walk out of the back room with nothing but a handful of Dove Bar wrappers and chocolate all around their face.  It was never pretty.

That warm April day found me walking into the store, turning left, and surveying the treasures before me.  I had been in a sour-candy mood for weeks but for some reason I plunked down $0.60 and bought not only three Sour Apples but three Fire Sticks.

I got in line to buy my stuff.  I stood behind a lady with an obvious Snickers habit but that day it looked like she needed a little something extra to take the edge off – she looked strung-out and desperate – and I watched her leave with a bag full of empty wrappers, king-sized candy bars, and a giant monkey on her back.

I took my stuff to school the next day, fully intending that it was to stay in my locker and I would only eat what I wanted – and when I had my fill I would put whatever was left back in the bag.  No problem, right?  Easy-peasy, right?

A classmate saw my stash and asked for one.  I said no, that it was what was left of my allowance and had to last.  He said “I’ll pay you for it.”

That is when the Jolly Ranchers showed their true colors and whispered to me “Surely you could part with us for more than you paid and buy more of us later…?”

By word of mouth only, I had sold all of my product in less than five minutes.  It didn’t take long to realize that I was onto something.  I had something no one else was going to provide, and people needed it.  If not me, then eventually it would be someone else, I reasoned.

I would purchase jolly rancher sticks for $0.10 each and sell them for a 100% markup and turn around and re-invest 60-75% of my net back into building up stocks so I could keep up with growth in sales.  I had it all – grape, watermelon, sour apple, cinnamon – you name it, I moved it.

Then one day I was called out of 4th period science class – no great loss, that, except that I missed part of the film and to this day I have no idea how sea urchins procreate.  Snidely Whiplash (my pet name for that particular teacher) led me down the hall to the main office in silence , right on up to the principal’s office.  For some reason she had this thing for the medieval look – sconces with torches, pincers, glowing brazier, rings and chains embedded in the wall.  I think she truly intended it to feel cozy, but it really just scared the crap out of anyone who had to visit her.

She pulled out my file (already loaded onto the dolly for easy handling) and started talking.

I don’t care how tough you are, you can only handle just so much of the female-principal-who-looks-like-a-guy-dressed-up-like-Barry-Manilow-with-a-mustache before you start to think of ways to get out of the trap you are in.   You’d chew off a leg – if it were only that easy.  Death by buzz saw sounded attractive but the nearest mill was 4 miles away and I couldn’t run far without my inhaler.  I started to long for an old-fashioned pack of ravenous wolves but none were in sight.   Then I concocted elaborate fantasies of a biker gang swooping down on the school and setting it on fire and beating me to death – better them doing it physically than her doing it by droning on in her nasally voice.  Still no luck.  It appeared that I might actually have to listen to her in order to get out of my predicament.

Finally it dawned on me – they weren’t asking for a confession – they’d gone straight to “he’s guilty” because at least three kids narc’ed on me.  I was selling 50+ sticks a day for a while until I got caught and my  product confiscated.  They knew right where to find it – a bag full of Jolly Ranchers in my locker under my gym shorts and just over $20 in loose change in another bag.

Some life lesson there, huh? Not a “Hey Lemur King, great job on budding capitalism and economic principles” but “You aren’t getting this back and if you do it again we’ll suspend your sorry little ass.”

Perhaps the lack of leniency was because their patience was worn thin by that point… since January I had put vaseline on all the toilet seats and as many doorknobs as I could before I ran out of goop, put the science teacher’s desk up on top of two other desks in the classroom, and rubbed graphite from the drafting class pencil sharpener on my arm and said I was abused.

Note:  Once you say “hey guys watch this”, rub graphite on your arm, and even jokingly open up the “that bruise is there because my parents beat me” can of worms, nothing you say is going to head off a nice little visit with your now-very-angry parents, a principle that looks like Barry Manilow with a mustache and five-o’clock shadow, your counselor, and two additional teachers beyond the one that brought the whole thing up (Snidely again).  I am not making that up.  Didn’t make up much of the Jolly Rancher story either.  Or the vaseline and desk part either.

I switched to selling beer and wine coolers to classmates off-campus to pay for my Jolly Rancher habit.  All I can say is that once you have hit bottom, the Betty Ford clinic has a program for Ranchers, too.

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