Thursday, January 13, 2011

David Foster Wallace Speaks about Holiday NERDS Rope

I've recently fallen in love with the writing of DFW and here is a little tribute to his genius:

Most people who work at East Coast magazines rarely frequent places that sell NERDS Rope let alone ingest it. Our Editor-in-Chief didn’t even know it existed and when presented with a sample, mistook it for a souvenir from Honeydukes, the sweetshop at Universal Studios’ Harry Potter Theme Park, which now sees more tourists per annum than most European countries. Our Managing Editor thought it resembled a ‘holiday’ vertebral column(1) his son made in his 1st grade science class. A grizzled proofreader said it looked like someone ran down the bead aisle at Michaels with a glue-soaked Twizzler. He asked me if there was a razor inside of it. I told him I was about to find out.

The Holiday NERDS Rope is in a festive, sparkling green package cinched up tight on both ends. Dancing, flying, laughing, cavorting and plummeting along the wrapping are little red, green and white NERDS – tiny, bi-pedal creatures in stocking caps that resemble either shaved, dyed rabbits or cartoon germs. Didn’t I see these things battling my white blood cells in a seventh grade video on influenza? Wonka’s press kit states these are anthropomorphized versions of the candies, which begs the question of which human characteristics they possess. Are they loyal like a labrador or compassionate like a hospital nurse or violently insane like the Kool Aid man/pitcher? The packaging is not clear. NERDS look neither intelligent nor good conversationalists, but rather romping and brainless with the groupthink of lemmings in a gymnastics class with no teacher. No razor, by the way.

It’s easy to open and presented on a cheap, long cardboard shelf that slides out like a security deposit box. Tootsie Rolls and Almond Joys have this same shelf to ostensibly keep them from being bent or broken in transit from the candy factory to your grocery store. It would be elegant if the cardboard wasn’t perforated and almost as flimsy as the rope itself. There is something just unclassy about perforations. Why they try to intimate shapely elegance with a primordial, formless candy kids will undoubtedly whip their friends with is beyond me.

The package’s eating instructions call to mind phrases you might hear at an underground S&M club. Bite it! Chew it! Twist it! Pull it! I was so terrified by these commands I WHACKED it against my desk in a panic and the NERDS flew around the room like shrapnel from a claymore. My coworker still has a NERD in her tympanic membrane, giving all words entering her left ear a Wonkafied absurdity.

The taste is described as Soft Gummy Rope Covered With Tiny Tangy Crunchy NERDS Candy.(2) No commas are used, so these flavors may happen individually or in a simultaneous pell-mell attack reminiscent of Doughboys charging over a German trench. Be warned. It’s actually quite fragrant with a cherry fruit garden smell and the taste, like most candies whose main ingredients are dextrose, sugar and corn syrup, is more complex to describe than most mathematical proofs.(3) It’s quite delicious and wipes away the entire taste of the Indian food I had for lunch (as well as years of hard-earned tooth enamel) and leaves my mouth feeling like a dentist has pressure washed my mouth with microscopic sugar crystals. I washed it all down with a glass of milk. Merry Christmas.

1- Santa’s spine would be classified as a holiday vertebral column. It’s red, green and white and evidences years of chimney-induced back injuries.

2- Cinta Sauve y Masticable cubierta con Dulcecitos Agrios y Crujientes NERDS. The packaging is also in Spanish as Wonka is clearly targeting the Latino/Latina demographic.

3- There is a hint of strawberry, watermelon, cherry and the white NERD is what I refer to as a mystery flavor due to the Airheads candy, which produces a white taffy candy called white mystery, a secret flavor with Fort Knox type security. The white mystery Airhead tastes remotely berry-flavored with a hint of lemon, lime, watermelon, (not the flavor of a garden-grown watermelon, but of a laboratory watermelon flavoring, which is different), banana (again, laboratory banana) and green apple (which is actually acidic like a granny smith apple). As a child, I used to think the white mystery Airhead took on the flavor of whatever you were thinking before you opened it and the candy through some inorganic form of ESP discerned your thoughts and embodied that flavor. It generally worked except for the time I wanted it to taste like root beer. You might be wondering what laboratory banana or watermelon tastes like. The flavors are more like fragrances laced on pieces of hardened sugar. Some are astonishingly close to their natural counterparts, like banana, and some are not, like artificial flavorings for grape. A banana flavored NERD, for example, tastes like a banana pumped full of steroids, biologically enhancing the flavor to limits Mother Nature clearly did not intend.

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