Purple Mountain Majesties

Aspen – the upper-crust alpine village high up in the Colorado Rockies – is a beautiful place to visit. Make that a stunning place to visit, if you wipe away everything you find on the surface. Aspen is for the obviously-wealthy, whether a night at a hotel ($350 and up, just about anywhere), dinner for two ($250 and up – the finer restaurants), a slope-side condo rental ($2,000/night), or any purchase in any of the village shops; the kind of retail you only find in London-Paris-Rome-New York.  You won’t see any of Aspen’s residents (probably because they don’t care to see you).  Drive past the nearby airport and you’ll see an impressive line of commercial planes… er, make that private planes.  Aspen is made of money – no different than its silver-mining days of old.

Aspen, Colorado (photo courtesy of blog.whatahotel.com)

Now, as instructed, take the chalkboard eraser and wipe, wipe, wipe away all of that excess.  Dust off your hands and stand back.  What remains of Aspen is its incomparable natural beauty, whether the towering Rocky Mountains on all sides, the rushing Roaring Fork river through town, or the stately aspen and bristlecone pine trees forming an umbrella over most of the residential area.  Speaking of Mother Nature, let’s talk about her most majestic contribution, just on the outskirts of town.  No visit to Aspen is complete without a trek to Maroon Bells.

Maroon Bells

The Maroon Bells – common knowledge to us Coloradans – are twin peaks in the Elk Mountain range, fifteen miles to the west of Aspen.  They get their name from their mudstone composition (a bright purple when the light is right) and from their broad profiles.  The Bells are “fourteeners” – two of the fifty-three mountains in Colorado with elevations +14,000 feet.  The approach to the Bells, through the Maroon Creek Valley with Maroon Lake in the foreground, lays claim to one of the most photographed locations in North America; no matter which direction you look.

Maroon Creek Valley

Remarkably (or maybe not – we all do this), we’ve lived in Colorado twenty-five years and never been to nearby Maroon Bells – until this past weekend.  Despite the must-see endorsement of many friends, I was immediately suspicious when I learned we had to buy “tickets” for the place.  Why tickets?  Because the U.S. Forest Service (bless them) won’t allow cars – and their harmful exhaust – into Maroon Creek Valley.  Instead, $8 gets you a twenty-minute propane-fueled bus ride from Aspen to the valley.  The bus ride adds to the experience for two reasons.  One, your driver gives an overview of the place, with just the right amount of history and sightseeing to keep your interest.  Two, you don’t see the Bells – not even a passing glimpse of them – until just before you’re dropped off at Maroon Lake.

  

Photographs don’t do the Maroon Creek Valley justice, let alone words.  Breathtaking, jaw-dropping, heart-stirring – take your pick. Everywhere you turn looks like a doctored picture postcard.  Everything looks undisturbed and peaceful – almost a sanctuary where you don’t belong.  I lost count how many times I just stopped and stared.  Add to that the brief late-summer window when aspen tree leaves change from green to a fiery shade of yellow, orange, and red, and the whole scene becomes surreal.  The stuff of dreams.

Kudos to the Forest Service for getting this experience right (score one for the U.S. Government!)  As I was reflecting on the Bells, I couldn’t help but think of the very different approach to Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota.  As majestic as the carved-in-stone presidents may be, they’re compromised by the several “sights” on the highway up the mountain (“Reptile Gardens”!  “Very Berry Winery”!  “Big Thunder Gold Mine”!).  You won’t find any of those traps on the way to the Maroon Bells.  Only Mother Nature at her most impressive.

Someday you’ll visit Aspen, bypass all of her excesses (or at least most of them) and ride the bus through the White River National Forest and on up to the majestic Maroon Bells.  You’ll hike around the lake, pause on the bridge over the stream, stare up at the mountains in every direction, and take a gillion photos – every one of them worthy of a jigsaw puzzle on your coffee table back home.  Then you’ll climb back on the bus, poised to add a check mark to your bucket list.  But you won’t make that mark.  Instead, you’ll be thinking, “When can I come back?

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

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When the World Stopped Turning

I was an infant when President Kennedy faced the threat of communism through the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was a kid when the Vietnam conflict dominated newspaper headlines. I was a young adult during the Persian Gulf War, when my only memory was Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA, the lyrics interspersed with tearful exclamations from family members. However, I was fully grown, married with children, alive and aware, on September 11, 2001. 9/11 stays with me; every anniversary observed with reverence.

Reminders weren’t necessary when Tuesday arrived this year (now dubbed Patriot Day), but I still got two. The first – from a fellow blogger – talked about Empty Sky, New Jersey’s memorial to its 700+ victims of the 9/11 attacks, in Liberty State Park directly across from Manhattan. The second – from my Windows lock screen – the day and date in a large font on my monitor: Tuesday, September 11. In 2001, September 11th also fell on a Tuesday.

“Empty Sky” – Liberty State Park, NJ

Lyric: “Where were you when the world stopped turning, that September day?” Alan Jackson

Anyone twenty or older in 2001 should remember exactly where they were “that September day”. I think a book of such accounts would lend meaningful perspective. Me, I was in Texas for a week at my company’s Houston offices. That Tuesday morning, I was listening mindlessly to the radio as I navigated my rental car from hotel to office. The local news was laughing about “some nut-job crashing his single-engine plane into one of New York’s World Trade Center towers”. By the time I got to work, there was no more laughing.

The rest of that week in Houston was a blur. Work pretty much came to a halt as people processed the horrific aftermath of the attacks. That Friday, it was apparent my return flight to Colorado wasn’t going to happen. With the blessing of my rental car agency, I pointed my car to the northwest and faced 1,000 miles of highway. Midway through my journey, in the middle of the West Texas desert, I picked up the broadcast of the memorial service from the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. I’ll never forget the words of President Bush (“We are here in the middle hour of our grief…”), and the choir’s rendition of “America the Beautiful”, bringing uncontrollable tears.

Fact: 25% of Americans living today were born after September 11, 2001.

Add in Americans who were ten or younger back then (including two of my children), and four in ten Americans have no real memory of 9/11. Thus, we have the memorials, which laud and honor the departed. On Tuesday, President Trump spoke from Shanksville, PA, site of one of the plane crashes. The Flight 93 National Memorial includes a visitor’s center, a white marble “wall of names”, and a “Tower of Voices” – dedicated just this week – with 40 chimes; one for each man and woman killed in the crash.

Flight 93 National Memorial (photo courtesy of C-SPAN)

In Washington D.C., those 184 victims are commemorated with the Pentagon Memorial, outdoors and just southwest of the massive building. The memorial is park-like: an illuminated bench for each victim, arranged in a grid according to age (the youngest was 3, the oldest 71), and interspersed with trees. When you’re reading the name of a victim from the Pentagon, the bench is oriented so you face the south facade of the building. For a victim of the airplane crash itself, the bench is oriented so you face the flight path.

Pentagon Memorial

Question: Why did fate place me in our Houston offices that day, instead of high up in the World Trade Center alongside co-workers from my company?

Finally, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum opened ten years to the day after the attacks, on the site of the former World Trade Center towers. Perhaps I shouldn’t say “finally”. At last count, there were 700 9/11 memorials across the United States.

National September 11 Memorial & Museum

Tuesday night, my daughter and I took in a Colorado Rockies game in downtown Denver. The baseball was exciting, but the pregame ceremony took my breath away. 1) A color guard in a slow, solemn march, the flags borne by representatives of each military branch. 2) A trio of elementary-school choirs singing the national anthem. 3) The Stars-and-Stripes, gracefully unfurled by firefighters from across the state; a flag seemingly larger than the stadium itself. 4) The scoreboard, with it’s red-white-and-blue message of affirmation: “WE WILL NEVER FORGET.”

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

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Lack’n Keys

Walking out the front door, I can count on one hand the items I typically carry. I always wear a watch, choosing between a stylish timepiece and a fitness tracker. I pocket a slim leather wallet on my left, containing a minimum of cards and ID. I stash a handkerchief on my right, an acquired habit to handle life’s unexpected messes. My cell phone goes in my back pocket, but really, I’m just shifting it from one location to another (house to car, car to office, etc.)  Finally, I pocket a ring of jingling keys… or should I say “key”… or should I surrender to: “remote transmitter”?

Before

After

Key rings (or chains), still found by the eye-catching dozens at souvenir shops and car washes, used to be a symbol of status.  The more occupants on the ring, the more important the man.  Add on a colorful fob – perhaps boasting of a car brand or a sports team, and your key ring spoke volumes.

At the height of my own “importance”, I carried six keys: two for the cars (mine and my wife’s), and one each for the house door, office door, office file cabinet, and safety deposit box.  Each key had its own character, which made the collection even more interesting.  The house key contained a little light you could shine on the lock when it was dark.  The office cabinet key had a tubular shape.  The safety deposit key was flat and ancient (the senior member of the ring) and required a companion key from a bank teller to open the box.

First toy for our granddaughter

Alas, my key ring is now retired.  In its place is Mr. Remote Transmitter; technology’s answer to key-free cars.  The house door sports a lock with an electronic keypad.  Both office keys went away the day I began working from home.  My wife’s truck key shifted to a drawer in our foyer, in case hers gets lost.  And Mr. Flat-and-Ancient retreated to the home safe; a more prudent location than on a ring in public.

Keys carry a certain mystique in knowing they open something, which is why I miss them.  They also bleed a little nostalgia.  When I was a kid, I carried a tubular key for the lock securing the only vehicle I owned at the time – my bicycle.  When I practiced piano, eighty-eight black-and-white keys beckoned to make music.  When I played basketball, I never went far from the court “key”.  A childhood trip to Baltimore’s Fort McHenry taught me the origin of America’s national anthem…. and therefore about Francis Scott Key.

See why it’s called “the key”?

Keys also appeared in college.  Studying architecture introduced me to the keystone (the central block or other piece at the apex of an arch or vault).  Working architectural drawings always included a table-of-contents “key”, deciphering the symbols and acronyms on the greater page.

(Not-so-random thought: how did I never listen to the soul-filled R&B music of Alicia Keys?)

The “real” version requires Florida Key limes.

When I first met my wife, the keys kept coming.  Her family owned a home in the Florida Keys (small, low-elevation, sandy islands formed on the surface of coral reefs).  When she and I moved to Colorado, we flirted with the idea of a ski condo – in Keystone of course.  Our 25th wedding anniversary in Ireland included dinner at Dublin’s “Quays” Restaurant (pronounced, yes… “Keys”).  Also credit my wife for gifting me the most important key of all:

A lifetime of keys makes me a sad I’m “lack’n” them today.  But that’s not quite true, is it?  I spend most days clicking away on my computer keyboard, after all.  Even better, my remote transmitter contains – behind all that technology – a modest little back-up key.  Nice to know I’m still carrying.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

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Teacher of Note(s)

In church last Sunday, early in the service, the congregation was treated to a beautiful rendition of the hymn, “My God and I”.  The young female soloist, introduced with aspirations of the Broadway stage, stood poised behind the microphone, beaming through pitch-perfect singing.  As captivating as she might have been, my attention was drawn to her much older accompanist; a bespectacled white-haired woman at the piano, carefully dividing attention between sheet music and protege.  Wordless communication was exchanged; subtle nods of encouragement; cursory, confident smiles.  And just like that I was no longer in church, but back in second grade, toiling away at the keyboard in anticipation of my weekly piano lesson.

Josephine Siple [Sahy-puhl] – a name and face I’ll remember until my dying day – was my piano teacher from age eight until well into high school.  Why I remember her first name is a mystery (she was always “Mrs. Siple” to me) – perhaps adults said it often enough.  Josephine was the perfect embodiment of a grandmother – the white silvery hair, the abundance of wrinkles, the old-fashioned glasses, the matronly clothes, the wry smiles, and the soothing demeanor to make you feel more like a family member than a piano student.  But make no mistake; Josephine was first and foremost a teacher, educating her students as much about life’s lessons as she did the notes on the page.

To add to my Norman Rockwell painting (or take away from it), Josephine lived in an unusual house just a few doors up from my own, which I traveled to by bike.  It looked and felt much more like a fortress than a residence.  You passed through an imposing wooden doorway into a stone-floored foyer.  All I remember was the vast living room to the left (the piano lesson room, with a grand and an upright side-by-side), and the rustic kitchen to the right.  A front-and-center staircase disappeared to the second level (where, for all I knew, Mr. Siple dwelled).

Bless you, Google Earth, for I confirmed – fifty years later – Josephine’s house still stands (photo above).  Her place may have been uninviting, but Josephine found a way to make it feel warm and welcoming, even to a timid child.  She would host recitals for parents in the big living room, allowing her students the luxury of a performance at the grand piano.  I can still picture Josephine in the kitchen afterwards, happily serving and chatting behind a big glass punch bowl loaded up with a concoction of 7-Up and lime sherbet, boiling and fizzing like witch’s brew.

     

A good friend confided in me recently about his granddaughter’s impatience.  He said she’d begun piano lessons – about the same age I was – but simply refused to practice.  Her parents, with utter resignation (and delusions), allowed their daughter to move on to the violin instead.  Why on earth would they endorse an infinitely-more difficult instrument when mere piano practice was already too high a hurdle?

Piano practice was never a problem for me, and I give Josephine all the credit.  She instilled a sense of responsibility which I know translated to a stick-with-it attitude in other aspects of life.  I remember one lesson where I knew I hadn’t practiced enough the week prior.  Josephine sensed it immediately, and though the exact wording escapes me, her comment had just enough, um, wisdom and sting to reevaluate my priorities.  I never showed up unprepared again.

As things are wont to do in childhood, my piano practice and lessons eventually fell by the wayside, in favor of other activities which pale by comparison.  Thanks to Josephine, I entered a few piano competitions. (I was no Van Cliburn contestant but I certainly learned how to perform under pressure.)  Thanks to Josephine, I explored outside of my comfort zone: lessons on the church organ; percussion instruments in the school orchestra; dabbles with flute in college.  None of those instruments consumed me like the piano. Then again, none of those teachers were Josephine.

My piano teacher extraordinaire is long gone, but the memories and lessons she gave me are life-long companions.  I can resurrect Josephine in a heartbeat, as through an accompanist in church.  I can also bring her back in other seemingly-random moments, reminding me her teachings went well beyond the piano.

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R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Thanks to another pro football season, America’s allegiance to its flag is once again called into question. My wife and I chatted with our German exchange student recently, asking whether her own country found patriotism so controversial. To this she said, “You Americans are considered very patriotic people. We Germans not so much; perhaps, because of Hitler in our past”. I was a little taken back by that comment. Americans can point to shameful events in our colorful – albeit brief – history, and yet; we still sing the anthem and stand for the flag. Well, most of us.

This week in Colorado, primary and secondary schools begin another year of formal education. The setting is not so different from schools I attended. The classrooms are laid out the same (technology aside). The cafeterias offer up borderline-edible food. And the students – every weekday morning – stand, face the flag, place their right hands over their hearts, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.  Forty-six of America’s fifty states mandate the practice.  Congress opens its sessions with the Pledge, as do countless other government and private meetings across the land.  Another day begins in America.

     

The Pledge has a rich history for a phrase spoken (or sometimes sung) in less than fifteen seconds.  It was based on Captain George T. Balch’s Civil War-era pledge: We give our heads and hearts to God and our country; one country, one language, one flag!  The version we use today – reworded by Baptist minister Francis Bellamy, was first published in the children’s magazine The Youth’s Companion in 1892 (albeit with simpler wording).  The Pledge was also first used in public schools on October 12th of that year, coincident with the opening of the Chicago World’s Fair.  The Pledge was designed to generate patriotism in young people, at a time when this kind of energy was on the decline.  Sounds like something we need just as much today.

The original version of the Pledge stated: “...allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands… ” The change in 1923 to today’s version: “… allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America, and the Republic for which it stands…”, was a nod to America’s immigrants, so as not to deny loyalty to birth countries.  Finally, the phrase “under God” was added in the 1950’s, and formally adopted on Flag Day (June 14th) of 1954.  It was also at this time students began the everyday reciting of, as President Eisenhower referred to it, “…a dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty.”

Along with saying the Pledge and standing for the flag, America’s students “place their right hands over their hearts”.  This gesture also has a history.  In lieu of a military salute (reserved for those in the Armed Forces), students originally stretched out their right hands towards the flag, palms down, ending the Pledge with palms up.  But the practice was associated with the Nazi salute and quickly abandoned, in favor of the hand-over-heart (or cap over left shoulder) we use today.

To no one’s surprise, America’s Pledge of Allegiance (almost unique among countries) is not without controversy.  Since 1940, there have been at least a dozen high-profile legal challenges.  A few target the practice itself, claiming a violation of the First Amendment.  But most target the use of the words “under God”, in conflict with the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause (freedom of religion).  None of these suits succeeded, with the typical defense, “…the [Pledge’s] words represent a patriotic (not religious) exercise…”, and [to atheists], “…participation in the pledge is voluntary.”

Three years ago, in the most recent defense of the Pledge, New Jersey Judge David F. Bauman declared, “As a matter of historical tradition, the words under God can no more be expunged from the national consciousness than the words In God We Trust from every coin in the land, than the words so help me God from every presidential oath since 1789, or from the prayer that has opened every congressional session of legislative business since 1787.”  Amen to that, David.

Aretha Franklin – America’s indisputable “Queen of Soul” – died last week after a long struggle with pancreatic cancer.  Aretha’s most famous lyric was undoubtedly, “…all I’m askin’ is for a little respect…”.  No coincidence; America’s flag makes the same request.  The Pledge is a voluntary act – sure – but who’s going to argue with, “…liberty and justice for all”?

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”, and from Erik Larson’s novel, “The Devil in the White City”.

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Foul Mouth

Search the Guinness World Records website using the word “mouth”, and you’ll get pages and pages of results – over 250 mouthy records. Most seedless grapes stuffed into the mouth: 94. Most lit candles: 37. Most tennis balls: 5 (by a dog). Most drinking straws: 459. We’ll put just about anything into our mouths these days.  Now add to the list baking soda for brushing, coconut oil for “pulling”, and charcoal for whitening.  That last one; it makes me pause. Charcoal?

Charcoal is the mound of briquettes in your barbecue.  Charcoal is the sooty remains of a smoldering campfire.  Charcoal is “lightweight black carbon and ash residue produced from animal and vegetation substances”.  Yet we choose to put this substance into our mouths?  Apparently “Sensodyne”, “Pearl Drops”, and all those other white-whiteners didn’t do the trick.  Checkmate.  Black wins.

If hygiene headlines speak the truth, black is the new white (or something like that).  Charcoal powders and pastes are the trend-setters these days, turning the mouth solid black before – allegedly – turning the teeth a whiter shade of white.  The color cycle of toothpastes is now complete, starting with the classic whites from days gone by, moving through the entire rainbow (including the blues and reds of Colgate; the green gels of several), and concluding with a shade the darker side of midnight.  But is blacker really better? Some fan-quotes are a little vague: “I’m using this [to show] I’m in the know,” says one, and “Everyone wants to try something new, but it has to be something that looks cool,” says another, and “I’m doing it to encourage dialogue.” Sounds like charcoal is more about image and less about whiter teeth.

Rather than post an in-progress and visually-disgusting photo, check out Hannah Hart’s brief demonstration of charcoal whitening here.  She dips her brush into what can only be described as a tin of shoe polish, morphs her mouth/lips/teeth from clean-and-white to blacker-than-black, destroys her sink (honestly; it’ll never be the same again), and finally, shows off her stained tongue; a regrettable side effect of thirty days of carbon consumption.

Watching Hannah’s video, I can’t help picture something entirely inedible dripping from her mouth.  Looks like black paint, used motor oil, or the sap of some deep forest tree you wouldn’t take big money to consume.  No matter how effective charcoal powder is for your pearlies, I can’t stomach the idea. Maybe I should try it without a mirror.

Now let me admit to a little hypocrisy:

1) I relish black foods, so I have no problem putting “black” into my mouth.  Among my favorites: olives, licorice, coffee, and black beans.  I also don’t shy away from blackberries, black bread (made with bamboo charcoal!), black rice, and the black of mushrooms.  I’m told I should try squid ink pasta.

2) I brush my teeth with a product called “Earthpaste”.  Earthpaste (“amazingly natural”) is exactly what it sounds like.  Mix together dirt (well, clay actually), a little salt, sweetener, and oil, and brush, brush, brush.  It’s not sweet – though flavors include peppermint, lemon twist, cinnamon – and the dry, gritty feel takes some getting used to.  But Earthpaste sold me for what it doesn’t contain: glycerin, fluoride, foaming agents, and artificial colorings.

It stands to reason if a) I have no problem putting black things into my mouth, and b) I’m willing to brush with dirt, I should be willing to c) brush with charcoal (A+B=C or something like that).  But Hannah’s video ruined it for me.  So did the facts behind the teeth-whitening.  Yes, bleaching gels abound, but for the most part “whitening” means abrasives.  Over time, you’re removing the top layer of your teeth to expose something whiter underneath.  Goodbye enamel; goodbye tooth strength.  Charcoal, as it turns out, does the same thing, only in black.  Short-term: whiter teeth.  Long-term: digging into the dentin.

My recommendation? Skip the charcoal.  Maintain your inner child.  Eat dirt instead.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.  Also, from the Wall Street Journal article, “The Latest Fad in Tooth Whitening Is to Turn Them Black”.

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Disc Chalky

Woodstock Candy (“Let Sweet Flashbacks Sprinkle Down”) assembles collections of vintage candy and sells them on Amazon.  The “nostalgic retro mixes” tailor to the buyer’s age, as in “30th Birthday Box” or “65th Birthday Box”.  For those in my decade, Woodstock tosses in classics like Chuckles, Red Hots, Sugar Daddy’s and Smarties. Also, a few Pixy Stix, a Candy Necklace, and a long strip of those colorful Candy Buttons. Finally, buried quietly in the back of the box: one small roll of Necco wafers.

Four months ago, the Wall Street Journal alerted those of us with nostalgic sweet teeth of the fate of Necco wafers.  More correctly, NECCO – the New England Confectionery Company – would shutter if it didn’t secure a buyer.  Apparently, no one came to the candy counter, because the factory closed its doors late last month.  The consumer reaction was immediate – on the order of the Hostess Twinkies frenzy.  Rolls of Necco wafers flew off the shelves.  Frantic calls to candy stores demanded entire boxes be placed on hold.  One Necco devotee offered his 2003 Honda Accord in exchange for the company’s remaining product.  You might call it “disc(o) fever”.

The Necco wafer/disc is an underappreciated candy of years gone by, though admittedly my affection for the confection is not what it used to be.  Necco’s are packaged in rolls of about thirty, in an assortment of eight flavors, including clove.  Clove.  Even the flavors sound dated.  A Necco wafer looks and tastes like a disc of chalk (drywall?), with a hint of flavoring to make it seem like food.  Eat a dozen wafers and your hands and clothes are covered with edible dust.  Eat a dozen more and the flavors all start to taste the same.  What used to be a satisfying crunch now feels like a threat to my dental work.

Why was I drawn to Necco wafers, when my back-in-the-day 7-Eleven store included an entire aisle of more appealing candy?  Maybe I just like little discs.  My father used to drive my brothers and I to some of his building sites, and I quickly discovered the concrete littered with dozens of metal coins.  These were “slugs” – today called KO’s or “knockouts”; the quarter-sized remains of partially-stamped openings in electrical junction boxes.  I collected hundreds of them – God knows why (but I was a kid, so I didn’t need a reason).

I also collected coins – more specifically quarters, because quarters were big money in my day, and translated into just about everything in that 7-Eleven aisle.  Quarters could also be stacked into paper wrappers; perhaps my precursor to a roll of Necco wafers.

At the same time in life, I had what was probably the coolest toy around.  It was called a “Rapid-Fire Tracer Gun” (if you were really cool you had the Star Trek version).  The Tracer fired little round plastic discs, spinning them out of the barrel so fast they hurt when they hit skin.  They even made a Tracer Rifle for more accurate shots.  The Tracer had a spring-driven magazine, so you could queue up a whole pile of plastic discs.  Or Necco wafers.

Necco wafers aren’t nearly as appealing as some of the stories behind them.  A hundred years ago Necco’s were carried by Arctic explorers and handed out to Eskimo children.  Their “suspiciously long” shelf life (Necco’s are sugar, corn syrup, and not much else) allowed them to be stored for months; then consumed by Union soldiers during America’s Civil War.  And therein lies the significance of the NECCO factory closing: the wafers have been around since 1847.

If I still don’t have your attention, consider this: NECCO also manufactures Sweethearts, the heart-shaped romantic-message-stamped equivalent of the Necco wafer, distributed by the billions on Valentine’s Day.  Think about that: no more candy hearts bearing “Kiss Me” or “Love You” or “Be Mine”.  Instead, just inedible greeting cards and meh grocery-store chocolates.  But don’t despair – I think the factory closing is just a hiatus.  The Hostess Twinkie came back and so will the Necco wafer.  It’s already underway, so join the movement: #SaveNecco.

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