The beefy hand of the park ranger slid the pass to me and droned, “Please don’t remove or consume any historical items from the memorial.” My eyebrows puckered; silently I queried the dusting of powdered sugar near his lower lip.
It had been ten bland years since the prohibition against all forms of junk food. The military was pressed into service, called upon to round up junk food from manufacturing plants, warehouses, store shelves, and even from the private sector. It was transported to a rural area, where confections and snacks were bulldozed into a misshapen obese mountain. Within months of the junk food ban, the Bible was also banned. Of these two dangers to society, only junk food was memorialized with a National Historic Memorial.
In the penumbra of the gastro-monstrous mountain, the concrete Visitor Center and Museum beckoned. After the greeting by the sticky museum door handle, I felt the need to slide my hand down the spinach-green slacks I’d chosen to wear. Inside, a standard gray movable sign on the left announced, “Junk Food National Historic Memorial -- mountain tours begin on the hour.” I checked my watch; I had thirty minutes to explore the museum before the next tour began.
The adjoining room to my left was labeled “Snacks.” I entered its dimness, allowing my eyes to focus on the bright displays. The first told the history of the potato chip, its origin and packaging through the years. Memories of fun-filled days spent with Jimmy at the county fair flooded as scents of popcorn and chips were vented into the room. The adjacent display used glaring geometric shapes and blaring neon colors with a chilling reminder of the calorie content and emphasized bodily damage from potato chip consumption.
Next, my buff non-junk-food-contaminated body hurriedly perused the snack cake display with its similar history followed by a consumer warning. Nostalgia smacked my lean six-pack with longing for those crème-filled delights of bygone days. Other rooms off the main hall were labeled, “Soda Pop,” and “Pastries.” I had my choice of which junk food rooms to sample next.
The last room I visited was labeled “Experience the sluggish life of a junk-food junkie.” This room was set up to be an experiential warning, where the participant could suffer through two minutes in the life of a junk food addict. This was the room I secretly and eagerly anticipated. This National Historic Memorial was the only place in the country where junk food was legally sold—in limited quantities. Just before entering, I purchased my artery-clogging, blood-pressure-raising junk food of choice. There was an overstuffed couch along the back wall of the lamp-lit room. I plopped onto the overstuffing and set my feet atop the coffee table that fronted the couch. The opposite wall sported a mounted television with a football game already in progress. I kicked-off my two minutes when I popped the soda can top and ripped open the single-serving bag of chips. The salty crisps and the fizzy liquid were an explosion of enjoyment, reawakening smothered and forbidden sensations. The two-minute experiential warning was pure ambrosia.
As I awaited the mountain tour, suddenly warning whistles blared. Uniformed personnel swarmed from every direction like ants looking for the last picnic crumb. The loud speaker announced that a praline had been stolen from the historic mountain memorial and recent mountain tourists would have to undergo a search. Then came a saccharin apology, “We regret that due to the theft, there will be no more Junk Food Mountain tours today.”
I gave a quick wave to the park ranger as I left the National Historic Memorial. His double chin pumped his head in my direction as his mouth remained fixed and his hands seemed preoccupied with something beyond my vision. The sign at the park exit warned, “We remember; lest we go back.”
I plan to return next year, just to be warned again.
© Beth LaBuff -- September 2012