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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Fri, 18 Apr 97 22:09:40 -0700
Forwarded-by: Keith Bostic <email@example.com>
Forwarded-by: firstname.lastname@example.org (Scott E. Patrick)
-- by James Lileks
I had a favorite cereal; ate it every morning. One morn I took a look at
the nutritional information and discovered that it was, in essence,
oat-flecked divots of lard. I spent a monkish year choking down Grape
Nuts, which resemble a bowl of rugged BBs, but with less taste. Now I
just eat what's cheap. This week it's Frosted Cheerios.
The word "Frosted" on the box guarantees that the sugar is clearly
visible, not hidden, just as the word "Fruit" assures you that several
pieces of fruit-hued putty with Real Fruit Flavor will tumble from the
box, and the word "Fiber" means that the package will have the digestive
effect of consuming a Chore Boy scouring pad.
Of course, I could scorn high cereal prices and buy the store brands with
the cheap graphics. The boxes say things like "if you like Fruit 'n'
Fiber, you'll love Pits 'n' Chaff!" "If you like Lucky Charms, you'll love
Frosted Pixie Gizzards!" If you like "Alpha Bits, you'll be temporarily
confused by Toasty Random Shapes!"
The cartoon characters on these boxes look like losers who couldn't get
work with a real cereal. I'm sure the cereals taste fine. But I cannot
bring myself to start the day with Oaty Clown Balls, not when the mascot
leers like John Wayne Gacy on the last few hours of an amphetamine jag.
Actually, I don't have to commit to a cereal for an entire week just
because I have a coupon. There are single-serve containers: The
Kel-Bowl-Pac. In the 60s, this was a brilliant advance in cereal
technology -- a small single-serving box that doubles as a bowl. It was
like something "Q" division would whip up for James Bond. They came in
groups of four -- Frosted Flakes, Rice Krispees, Sugar Pops, and Special
K, a cereal that has had the flavor scientifically extracted. The weakest
child got the Special K; it was nature's way.
It takes skill to use a Kel-Bowl-Pac, particularly if you are camping.
You take a knife and cut along the dotted line, puncturing the inner
membrane and plunging the knife into your leg. You now have a small box
of cereal stuck to your thigh. Next step: scream uncontrollably, causing
an adult to quiet your misery by giving you someone else's Frosted Flakes.
Thus does the weakest child develop a sense of guile. It is nature's way.
The different between Frosted Flakes and Frosted Cheerios? The Flakes have
a mascot: Tony the Tiger, Mr. Swank, the relaxed old pro, the Arnold
Palmer of the mascot circuit. Sugar Puffs had Sugar Bear -- that Rat-Pack
refugee with the sleepy eyes and the Dean Martin manner, the
spokescreature most likely to be brought up on a morals charge. (His
co-defendant would no doubt be Toucan Sam, the Peter Lawford of cereal
spokesmen.) I always got the feeling that Tony the Tiger would beat Sugar
Bear to a moaning pulp if he got the chance; guys like Sugar Bear must
have bugged Tony. Sugar Bear would have protested the Vietnam War; Tony
would have supported it.
Where Frosted Cheerios stands on the matter of post-colonial Communist
insurrections, I don't know. I just eat it because it's cheap. Next week
it goes off sale, though, and I'll have to find something else. Lucky
Charms, perhaps. Nice and apolitical.
Please don't tell me the leprechaun was caught running guns to the IRA.
James Lileks is a nationally syndicated columnist for Newhouse News Service.
He's in the Washington Post now and then. His latest collection is "Fresh
Lies," published by Pocket Books.
© 1997 Peter Langston