Monday, June 18, 2007

10 Years On

Fate, mysterious temptress that she is, scheduled my 10 year high school reunion for the week after my homecoming party. While the homecoming concluded the most recent chapter in my Book of Life (Chapter 7: South East Asia), the reunion serves as a synopsis of the previous ten years and is an opportune moment to reflect on the work in progress. It’s been an intriguing mix of comedy, adventure, romance, and tragedy. We’ve seen the character of the protagonist develop, relationships grow more complex, and the importance of events come into focus. What will transpire in the pages to come? Which preciously introduced characters will become significant and who else will we meet? Will the plot continue in the same direction or is a major turning point in the story fast approaching? Will the novel grow redundant or is it just starting to get good? It’s been an interesting read thus far, full of twists and unexpected storylines; I’m looking forward to reading on . . .

I am infinitely wiser and more experienced than I was 10 years ago. I have loved and lost and learned to love again. I have discovered more about myself, the world around me, and my place in it. I have been tried and tested, have made and learned from my mistakes, and have come to understand and appreciate so much of the advice offered me.

Despite all this, recurring doubts flash across my mind.

Am I satisfied with my life? Have I achieved what I had hoped to upon graduation? Would my former self be proud of what he has become? Would the idealistic teenage me be impressed or would the jaded teenage me be ashamed? Do I even care? Do I value the opinion of this pimply faced teenager, or are his expectations merely the daydreams of a naïve child? Priorities change, so much of what was important to me then seems so frivolous now, and so much of what I then took for granted I wish I had appreciated more.

How do I remember this first decade since leaving the proverbial nest? What have I achieved? What do I regret? And how will I look back on this period when the time comes for the next reunion? Do I even think about the 25th reunion? Who will I be in 2022 at age 43? How important is it to me that I meet the approval of this elder me? What do I hope to accomplish for him in the next 15 years? How will he judge my choices? Do I care? Am I living for the me of tomorrow or the me of today? Or to rekindle the aspirations of the youthful me of 1997? Or to make proud the me that will attend the 50th reunion in 2047?

To which self am I faithful? Are these the glory days I will fondly recall or the wasted years I will bitterly regret? Am I progressing? Am I stagnant? Have I gotten off track? Am I going in circles? Am I going backwards? Where am I going? Is that where I want to be, where I wanted to be, or where I will want to be? Why am I going there? Whose desires am I fulfilling? Whose desires should I be fulfilling?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Wendell, Quello, and Bob

I’ve been bombarded with an overwhelming number of requests from loyal readers urging me to use my criminology background to uncover the true story behind the Cinnamon Toast Crunch spokesmen mystery. For the truly ignorant, there is a breakfast cereal called Cinnamon Toast Crunch. From 1984 until 1992 it was made by three chefs who would bake a loaf of bread, cut it into slices, apply a cinnamon-sugar spread to the slices, and then toast the breads in a magical oven. This is how they made Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Then, suddenly, there was only one chef. Wendell was always the dominant one, the Diana Ross to Quello and Bob’s Supremes, but no explanation was ever offered as to why the trio was disbanded. Almost immediately rumors of foul play were insinuated. Some suspected a jealous Wendell of taking out his partners; others thought executives at General Mills were responsible and forced Wendell to continue making television appearances against his will.

Unbeknownst to many, the glamorous life of cereal mascots is one fraught with danger. Perhaps not for the superstars, but for every Tony the Tiger and Cap’n Crunch, there are dozens of Boo Berries and Crunchosaurus Rexes. Even longtime cereal stalwarts Snap, Crackle, and Pop were unable to save their brother Pow. The turnover at brands like Cookie Crisp, Coco Krispies, Smacks, and Apple Jacks is truly heartbreaking. While a lesser tier of Buzz the Honey Nut Cheerios bee, Toucan Sam, the Trix Rabbit, and Lucky do fairly well for themselves, the introduction of a new product or changes in consumer preferences could at any moment render them the next King Vitamin. Veterans like Sonny the Coco Puffs bird and Sugar Bear the Super Sugar/Golden Crisps mascot have been fortunate, but have been living on the edge extinction for years.

Cereal politics are ugly, rivalries intense, and billions of dollars are at stake. This part of a balanced breakfast is not for the meek of heart. I’ll spare you all the sordid details of the Cinnamon Toast Crunch affair, but let’s just say it wasn’t the most amicable of splits. Cereal mascots, like the models with whom they consort, ingest almost nothing but cocaine and booze. It is a thrill ride that far too often ends in tragedy. Wendell was actually the heaviest drug user of the three, but after he became a Jehovah’s Witness in 1991 a deep rift developed between the chefs. As their friendship deteriorated, so did their cereal’s market share. With General Mills’ corporate espionage sources discovering rival Post’s plans to introduce Waffle Crisp by the mid-nineties, an important decision regarding the direction of Cinnamon Toast Crunch needed to be made. In one of the most controversial and underhanded moves in industry history, a series of 4 commercials were recorded without Quello and Bob’s knowledge. These Wendell solo spots ran the entire length of the high cereal summer season, after which Quello and Bob were released from their contracts.

Mascots from across the breakfast spectrum went on strike as a display of solidarity to the two slighted chefs. Everyone from Aunt Jemima to Mrs Butterworth to Rastus the Cream of Wheat Guy came out in support of the bakers. Grocers across the country were unable to restock their shelves with breakfast foods, which led to increased sales at Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks. It took years for morning home dining to recover, and its popularity has yet to return to pre-1992 levels. The fallout from the incident haunts the industry to this day.

As for Quello and Bob, the transition from celebrity to civilian was understandably difficult. Fortunately Quello has conquered his demons and, after a few relapses, has been clean for years now. He and his wife Monica run a spa in Indiana ( and are expecting their first child. Bob wasn’t so lucky. His body was found in a Motel 6 outside of Reno days before his 32nd birthday. Autopsy results showed 43 toxic substances in his blood.