#936 Perfect parallel-parking on the first try

Have you ever been driving down a busy, two-lane road with cars parallel-parked on both sides and a long line of people driving in front of you and behind you? I have, and I tell you: it’s a terrible feeling.

Most of the time I’d rather drive right on by a plum parking spot rather than face The Audience, the group of cars driving behind me and strangers walking beside me that stop to briefly witness the awkward reality show known as Anyone Else’s Parallel Parking Attempt.

Yeah, my stomach gets knotted up and I lose confidence in my abilities to pull it off. I know the people behind me aren’t just watching me, either. No, they’re judging me too — since the quality of my parking has a direct affect on the length of their drive. If I suck, they wait, and they know it. They stare at me coldly, locking glances tightly with mine through the rear windshield, just daring me to pull it off.

Then finally I give it a go, in one of two ways:

  1. The Driving School Method. This is where you really don’t pay much attention to your car or the space you have to fit into. You just follow the book — pull up beside the car in front of the spot, put it in reverse and spin the wheel until you’re forty-five degrees out into the intersection, and then keep backing up while quickly spinning the wheel the other way really fast. If all went well, you should end up right in the spot perfectly. Then again, this method is equivalent to building an IKEA bookshelf using the instructions only, without pausing to evaluate your work throughout the process. You might just finish and then stare up at the crooked, unbalanced pile of plywood you just nailed together, and wonder what went wrong.
  2. The Advanced Spatial Skills Method. There’s no rhyme or reason to this one. You don’t do anything, except size up the space, and then fiddle and turn your wheel until you fit in. You’re just really good at aiming a big piece of metal into a small square hole, really. You’ll go in any which way you can and then it’s presto, finished, simple as that. People who can do this amaze me, because I cannot do this.

No, for me it’s the Book Method all the way. I have no choice. Of course, I obviously do something wrong, since I usually end up a good three feet away from the curb. Then I’m forced to try frantically to “drive in” to the spot with an awkward twelve-point turn, failing to properly understand the impossibility of this manouver each time. Eventually I just give up and speed off, fleeing the scene and distancing myself from this horrible embarrassment as quickly as possible.

I guess that’s what makes it so great when you really do nail that parallel-parking job on the first try. When you pop into the spot perfectly and tightly — like a battery into a remote control — you get a huge high, a smile reveals itself on your face, and there’s an extra spring in your step. Yeah, there’s really nothing quite like it. The other cars behind you zoom ahead, happy to keep moving, but a little upset you got the spot and they didn’t. And sometimes, if you’re really lucky, an old guy will stumble out of the nearby restaurant patio he was watching you from, extend his hand, and say “Sonny, now that was impressive.”

AWESOME!

Get in there...

Photos from: here and here

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#937 The smell of rain on a hot sidewalk

Hot fumes coming at'cha

There’s just something about the smell of rain on a hot sidewalk. It’s sort of like the rain cleans the air — completely hammering all the dirt and grime particles down to the ground and releasing some hot, baked-in chemicals from the pavement. It smells best if it hasn’t rained in a while and the sidewalk is scalding hot — then it sort of sizzles and steams up into a big, hot, intoxicating whiff.

AWESOME!

Photo from: here

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#938 Sweatpants aka track pants aka jogging pants

Hot to trot

Once upon a time, I used to work on a college newspaper. The paper was halfway-decent, with some really strong writers, editors, and layouters. And it turned into a really tight-knit group — probably the result of a lot of late nights spent together drunk on Country-Time Lemonade and laser printer fumes.

Now, when I first joined the paper I remember hearing the cool senior kids using some phrases my friends and I never used in high school. For instance, whenever you asked someone to do something that wasn’t their responsibility, they’d just reply “Not my pants!” and walk away. Since it was pretty hard to enforce serious accountability amongst a bunch of volunteer college slackers on Sunday night at 11:30pm, you’d usually just end up doing the job yourself — the unrevised article replaced by a recipe off the Internet, the Editor’s reply to a scathing letter replaced by a photocopy of a hippo.

One day I made the mistake of asking how the phrase “Not my pants!” originated. The story I heard was delivered third- or fourth-hand, but it is painful and scars me to this day. It went something like:

“Well, one night my roommate was sitting on the couch watching reruns on TV wearing a big pair of baggy sweatpants owned by my other roommate. It was really late, he was really tired, and the only thing keeping him up was the fact that he really had to go to the bathroom. Yeah, number two. So anyway, he’s sitting there, really not wanting to get up, and eventually, in a tired, fuzzy head-daze he just says to himself ‘Awwww, not my pants’, and proceeds to go to the bathroom right there… in the pants.”

Yes, folks, that’s the story. Believe me, I don’t like sharing it with you and I had some doubts about whether or not I should. But now that it’s out there, you all know a memory that I’m forced to live with for the rest of my life. I guess the moral of the story is never lend anyone your sweatpants. Because lady, those things are just so comfortable that whoever you lend them to might not get up to go to the bathroom. For real.

Yes, old, faithful sweatpants. So comfortable, yet so risky for wearing out of the house. Seriously, how many of you would pull off The Sweatpant Look next time you were going out to a movie or the grocery store? I bet not too many, despite the fact that sweatpants are God’s Gift To Legs and they’re just so simple and practical. I mean, for instance:

  • No need for a belt. You just toss ’em on and you’re good to go. Just think: if we all switched to sweatpants, we’d render the belt obsolete. No more belts! Gone, just like that, forever replaced by a superior technology: the elastic waistband.
  • Easy to turn into shorts. You just roll them right on up and you’re good. That’s right: Instant shpants. Now that’s flexibility. A side benefit is that they don’t look terrible, unlike rolled up suitpants or rolled up tight, white jeans.
  • Stretchiness. Have you ever heard someone say “I lost thirty pounds! I had to buy all new clothes!” I have, too. And have you ever heard someone say “There was a sale on Ben & Jerry’s last week and now none of my clothes fit me!” Me neither, but you know that’s going on, too. The point is that most clothes aren’t that stretchy, so if the size of you changes, so does the size of your clothes. And that usually means you have to go buy more. But guess what? You don’t need to buy new sweatpants! Yes, sweatpants are like the caring, understanding, stretchy friend in your closet. They’ll just wrap themselves around you comfortably, whatever size you are. Thanks, pal.
  • Warmth. Hey, when you’re walking around in your beltless shpants, it’s easy to overlook one of the key sweatpant features. That’s right, folks, I’m talking about warmth. I mean, there’s a reason they’re not called shiverpants.
  • Relatively cheap. What is up with the price of pants? You’d think we’re buying bald-eagle-head-encrusted cashmere-infused Kobe leather trousers judging by the price of some of these things. I mean, they’re pants! Keep them affordable, people. We don’t got cash. Have you taken a look at the economy lately? Everyone’s broke! That’s why it’s all about the sweatpants. A side benefit is that they rarely change color or style, so you can use them for years to come without worry. Remember, when it comes to sweatpants, gray is the new gray.

So let’s sit back and smile and slow smile, nod a slow nod, and clap a slow clap. Let’s raise our drinks, then clink them, then drink them. Yes, let’s give cheers to sweatpants. Let’s say thank you sweatpants, for everything you do, on behalf of the world’s hot, comfortable legs.

AWESOME!

Photos from: here, here, and here

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#939 Hot cream and a straight razor on your neck at the barber shop

Okay, first off, it just feels great. Because really, how often do you get something nice and warm smeared on the back of your neck? Speak up if you’re getting this action somewhere else, because we’re all ears. For me, it’s only when I go to that old-school barber shop — one with the red and white striped pole out in front, the old dog-eared Sports Illustrateds from the 1980s sitting on the table, and no formal system at all for figuring out who’s next in line.

Secondly, how cool is that straight razor blade? Maybe it’s a bit dangerous. Maybe it’s unhygienic. But it sure is a giant blade, is what I’m saying. You have to respect a man who can wield such a mighty and powerful weapon. I mean, scissors I could handle. Sure, if you let me cut your daughter’s hair I’d probably give her a messy faux-hawk by accident, but the point is that scissors don’t scare me. Now, that giant blade is another story. It would take a lot to convince me to slice that thing across a man’s neck for the first time.

Finally, how close is that shave? Dude, it’s like you’ve never had hair on your neck before. Suddenly you’re transformed into a ten-year old boy. And you know, you sort of felt like one anyway, because the barber is generally older than your father and dispenses life advice pretty liberally. Either that or he talks about boxing like in the movies.

The only real problem with the hot shaving cream and a straight razor on your neck is that it’s pretty tough to find these days. Which is sad, since according to the eggheads at Wikipedia, straight razor shaving has been around approximately six thousand more years than any of us. So I say let’s bring it back, folks. Let’s keep demanding that our neck-beards be trimmed with the slice of a nice blade. And then maybe people at barbershop school will line up to learn The Art of the Knife.

AWESOME!

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#940 Terrible businesses run by children

The ten cents barely covers their capital investment loan payback

When I was about fourteen years old, I signed up for something called Junior Achievement. It was a happy-go-lucky non-profit group that promoted business and entrepreneurship skills in children. Or basically, it was a bunch of kids in a room every Thursday night acting like middle managers with adult supervision.

My group ended up coming up with a business called Roc Creations. This was a clever play on our core product: cheap, homemade rock necklaces. We thought it was a brilliant, failsafe plan. After all, who likes necklaces? Everybody, of course. And how cheap are rocks? Pretty darn cheap, man. We just spent one Thursday at the beach, the next Thursday painting, and the Thursday after that drilling holes and tying string through them. We figured it was a solid plan, well executed.

Sadly, after a few weeks we realized we’d made a huge mistake. We’d bet all our chips on a losing hand. The necklaces failed to generate enough buzz and excitement at the flea markets, despite our screaming rhyming chants at terrified housewives, and we quickly tumbled into the red, piles of dead inventory and drill bit invoices mocking our poor judgment.

But then, like any good business, we evolved! We quickly changed our name to Roc-Cal Creations, and printed off a quickie run of cheapo laminated calendars. We tied them together with a dry erase marker, slapped some magnets on the back, and went door to door, neighbor to neighbor, selling these “reusable fridge calendars” for four bucks apiece.

Well, we managed to sell enough of them to get back in gear. We started to make money and established a strong business partnership with the lady in the markers aisle at Staples. Yes, it all ended well, but not without some late nights under a dim lamp with a dollar-store calculator, a stack of graph paper, and a pile of Laurentien pencil crayons, trying desperately to finish the numbers for our annual report, which was actually printed on the inside of one of our folded-up calendars.

It was a great experience and it really got my buzz going for running a business. That’s why I think it’s always fun when you see children running some sort of strange, hilarious, or terrible business. Because really, you’re just watching them learn stuff they don’t learn at school and have fun doing it.

How cute are the twins selling lemonade on the street corner? The gymnastics team running the barbecue outside the grocery store? Or the kid who takes your grocery cart back if he gets to keep the twenty-five cent deposit?

Those kids are all playing the game. So I say: go on, kids. Do it well. Next time you’re selling some rock-hard cookies or salty date squares at a Bake Sale, sign me up. Because we’re not just buying some mild indigestion, are we? No, we’re investing in the future.

AWESOME!

Photos from: here and here

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#941 The Universal Fry-Sharing Policy

The Universal Fry-Sharing Policy states that if you are eating a meal with someone who ordered fries, and you didn’t order fries, you’re entitled to grab one of their fries and eat it just as it’s landing on the table as long as a) you ask first, b) you make eye contact with them and raise your eyebrows until they nod, or c) you just know them really well.

Also, since you’re getting first dibs on their sizzling stick-pile of delicious, hot, oily fries, it’s only fair that you purposefully avoid any obviously amazing fry in the pile. You know that really, really long McDonald’s fry sticking out of the box? Probably shouldn’t touch that. But the thin, crispy short ones, the oversalted ones, and the regular, limp n’ floppy ones? Those are all fair game, my friend. All fair game.

But be careful out there: The policy can be abused. Some people might start pecking away at the fry-pile then just start gaining momentum, unable to stop gorging themselves on your plate once they get started. They just keep testing the waters, pushing the envelope, snacking away until you move your plate out of reach or ask them politely how their food tastes. I’m serious, you need to watch out for these Gorgers, because they’ll dent your fry-pile if you’re not careful.

Stop! Thief!

Secondly, watch out for those diner plates that come with only a dozen fries. You know what I’m talking about. Those places that give you a small pile of thick, baked-potato-tasting fries, and that’s it. Those piles are off-limits! Sorry, but the Universal Fry-Sharing Policy simply does not cover extremely small piles of chunky-style fries. It would be too much to take one of those fries. The percentages just don’t work.

Finally, there is one Appendix to The Universal Fry-Sharing Policy. Conveniently, it is called Appendix One and it simply states that after somebody who ordered fries finishes their meal and pushes their leftover pile of dry, cold, ketchup-smeared fries into the center of the table the first dibs go to people who didn’t get fries. Second dibs go to those who already demolished a stack of them, but just want more. And third dibs go to the guy washing the dishes in the back.

So thanks, Universal Fry-Sharing Policy. Your existence is a win-win, balancing the tables by helping us fry guys trim down the calories and helping the “Can I substitute salad for fries?” folks enjoy some guilty pleasure while still meeting their Eatin’ Healthy goals.

AWESOME!

Good form, solid execution.

Photos from: here, here, and here

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#942 Somebody flashing their high beams at you to warn you about the cops

Tired and groggy, you’re driving home late at night, whipping down the side streets and back paths to get home a bit faster, your eyelids drooping, your body achy and sore. Occasionally, there are headlights in the opposite direction, blurry, whiz-by streaks of bright white — shift workers, truck drivers, and party animals all owning the lonely roads, trying to get somewhere quick.

Then suddenly an approaching car flashes their high beams at you. Blinded, you sit up, awake and alert, checking all your mirrors, slowing the car down. What’s going on, you think, until a few seconds later you pass a cop car with its lights off, sitting on the side of the road waiting to catch a speeder, a patient and silent predator waiting for its prey.

“Thank you,” you whisper under your breath, as you drive by under the speed limit. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

* * *

Isn’t it also great that the flasher going the opposite direction really can’t ever get the favor returned? I mean, you don’t know him or her, him or her don’t know you. They just sort of threw the favor out there, a warm passing smile on a dark drive home, with no payback required or expected. No, you might never see each other again, but it’s just The Late-Night Driver’s Pact, a rebellious fight-tha-police stance that helps everyone out in the pocketbook a bit.

So you smile as you drive on, and when you see another car heading the opposite direction, you know what to do.

Flash them high beams, sister. Flash them bright and light up the night.

AWESOME!

Photo from: here

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#943 Using Q-Tips the way you’re not supposed to use them

[digg=http://digg.com/odd_stuff/Why_is_there_a_picture_of_a_dog_on_the_back_of_a_Q_Tips_box] Yes, I’m talking about rubbing and twisting that cottony Q-Tip tip right on up inside your ear canal. Yeah, get it deep in there, where it doesn’t belong, because it’s like an amazing, satisfying inner-ear massage.

Also, the more dark, waxy, and disgusting the Q-Tip is when you’re done, the more satisfying it is, am I right? Because then on top of the inner-ear massage you get a killer “Whoa, that just came out of me…” high, too. For those keeping track at home, that’s two highs for the price of one. Not a bad deal!

Now, I know what you’re thinking: How could I possibly advocate doing something so terribly dangerous like pushing a hard, pointy object up against your fragile ear drum? I mean, the box itself says right on it “Do not insert swab into ear canal. Entering the ear canal could cause injury.” Plus, the Q-Tips website doesn’t even mention sticking them in your ears. And neither do the pictures on the back of the box! No, all they talk about is how Q-Tips are great for applying makeup, cleaning your camera lens, painting with your kids, and, uh… dog.

Seriously, could someone figure out why the dog’s on there? If you could, that’d be pretty…

informative.

In conclusion, you need to be careful when you’re scraping your ear out. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun while you’re at it.

AWESOME!

Why is there a dog on there?

Photo from: here

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#944 Your pillow

Your worked in pillow shouldn't look like this

Back one day on a long road trip, I sat in the driver’s seat, Ty sat shotgun, and Chris sat in the back. We were trucking down a long stretch of highway in silence, just watching the world go by, when out of nowhere Ty suddenly turned to me and said: “Hey, how long have you had your pillow?”

You kind of roll with the random questions on road trips, because if you don’t then you get mighty sick of I Spy and the four mix CDs you brought along pretty quick. So I thought about it for a moment, then said earnestly, “You know, I can’t remember ever not having my pillow. I think I’ve had it for like twenty years or something. It’s completely old, worn-out, flat, and stained, but I’ve had it forever and I can’t find another good, flat pillow like this so I’ll probably keep it until it disintegrates, or I until I lose it or something.”

I thought nothing of it, continuing to stare straight ahead and fiddle with the radio, but Ty stared back at me completely horrified. His jaw dropped, his brain boggled, and he was silent for a minute. “You know,” he said eventually, his eyebrows furrowed in real concern and his head bobbing in little nods, as if convincing himself that despite the severity of the news he was about to deliver, it was important to just get it out, “you’re not supposed to keep any pillow for longer than a year. It’s actually really, really bad for you.”

“Whatever,” I countered, eventually settling on a radio station and continuing to stare out the windshield. “It’s just a pillow.”

Love your pillow and it will love you

“Yeah, that’s the thing,” Ty counter-countered, “It’s not just a pillow at that point. It’s a really dense collection of years of dandruff, dead skin, dust mites, and drool. Seriously, it’s less ‘pillow’ and more ‘your disgusting head’ at that point. It’s full of years of bacteria. Bacteria that’s had a chance to grow and build cities! I swear, I saw it on a website and in the news.”

There was a pause, before I eventually dismissed Ty’s claim with finality. “Pshhhhhh,” I concluded, putting on my sunglasses and turning up the volume on the radio.

Defeated, Ty let it go, preferring to let me suffer the nightmarish consequences of sleeping on my pillow rather than waste any more effort trying to convince me that I needed an upgrade. So we drove on in silence, watching the world go by on that long stretch of highway.

I let it drift away then, let it disappear, but really — the truth is that I just didn’t want to think about it.

No, I didn’t want to contemplate the possibility that I might need to replace my pillow. Because there’s really nothing quite like the comfort provided by your pillow, is there? I’m talking about the one you sleep on every night. The one that has bent and shaped itself around your head, has been fluffed and squished and packed and thrown. It’s a bit yellow, there’s some hair on it, but it just… knows you. It loves you. And it’s been with you for eight hours a day since you can remember.

Yeah, I once heard a stand-up comic describe his pillow as looking like a bandage from the civil war. And mine’s probably at that level, too. I even think of it like a bandage, cradling and caressing my worn-weary head, providing a gentle escape from reality every night from dusk till dawn.

I mean, that’s why I can never really get a good night’s sleep anywhere else unless I take my pillow along. I admit it looks a bit funny walking in the door with a pillow under my arm, but oh well. See, what if I sleep over at your place and you toss me one those flimsy, sack-pillows that feel like they’re stuffed with fifty ripped-up handfuls of industrial-grade Styrofoam? And I’m not taking any chances with the hotel’s puffy, unsupportive cloud-pillows either, or those wacked-out, ergonomic jobs that make your head feel like it’s propped up on a wheelchair ramp.

No, it’s all about your pillow, yours, your pillow. I mean, have you ever tried to switch pillows with someone else one night? It cannot work.

Your pillow’s been there through the highs, the lows, the nightmares, and the tears. You’ve been through a lot together and you know each other so well. So next time you’re planning to crash somewhere? Take your pillow. In exchange for a little less packing space, you’ll get a lot more hours of goodnight comfort and moonlit, subconscious bliss.

And hey, if you don’t believe me?

Sleep on it.

AWESOME!

Share the bed with these cute little critters

Photos from: here and here

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#945 Spending all your money on candy

[digg=http://digg.com/food_drink/Nine_of_the_best_candies_of_all_time] Everyone’s got the candy of their generation, their neighborhood, and their tastes. What sugary delights sent young minds to greats heights when you were a kid? Well, let’s share. Here are some highlights from fourth grade:

Sizzles and pops

9. Lotsa Fizz. Also known by its more convenient nickname ‘Fizz’, these candies masqueraded as a regular ol’ hard candy, the kind you might find in a doctor’s office or a crystal dish in your grandma’s front foyer. Other than the snake-like packaging, linking individually-wrapped pieces together, there appeared to be nothing special about them. However, once you crunched into them, they released a tingly, carbonated bubble-liquid that sizzled and frothed on the tongue. A real advancement in the candy surprise effect. Good for a year or so

8. Massive, fist-sized Jawbreakers aka Dinosour Eggs. The big question here was who could fit these in all the way? Occasionally, a local big mouth would manage to squeeze it up in there, and then proceed to nearly suffocate while trying to simultaneously breathe and speed-suck the jawbreaker down to a smaller size with drool flying everywhere. It wasn’t pretty. You were actually watching them OD right in front of you. Of course, others would simply leave the giant jawbreaker on their night table and have a few licks before bedtime, spending a year or so patiently turning the smooth sphere it into a faded, rubbed-out rainbow of dried spit and sugar. Whatever you think about these things, they definitely came out on top of the Total Candy Minutes Per Dollar ranking.

7. Pez. Was it just me, or did Pez have a kind of weird taste? Don’t get me wrong — the dispenser alone was enough for some great memories, despite some questionable versions over the years.

Sour balls

6. Tear Jerkers aka Sour Balls. At the time, Tear Jerkers were a futuristic advancement in Artificial Souring Technology. They caused a massive sugar high epidemic at my grade school, with kids running over to the variety store at lunch to grab a new bag, daring each other to eat two or three at a time. The gum that remained after the sour powder was gone was always a wet, syrupy disappointment, and usually ended up in the trash to make more room in your mouth. But that sour powder packed a punch and it often left the insides of your cheeks all inflammed and torn up for the rest of the week. And of course, there was always the big question: who has the guts to eat the leftover patch of sour powder in the corner of the bag?

Don't break the stick!

5. Fun Dip aka Lik-M-Aid. Fun Dip was an entirely new way to eat your candy: Lick an edible candy stick and then use your own spit as glue to collect all the sugar-powder below. Well, it was a great long-lasting treat, as long as your stick didn’t come broken when you bought it. If that happened, you had to dive in with your wet finger instead. But you had to be careful, because it was that mark of the stained, purple finger that gave away why you weren’t hungry at dinner time. A lot of people would finish off by eating the actual stick itself for good measure which is sort of like eating your fork after finishing your pie.

4. Hot and Cold Nerds. Nerds was always a decent backup selection — it filled up the candy bag but was rarely the first pick. Sure, that little box of tiny, hard, asteroid-shaped candy offered two flavors in one box, but there was nothing too special about picking up Watermelon and Grape or Strawberry and Lemon. That is, until Nerds came out with the temperature-themed Hot and Cold Nerds box in the late 80s. Sure, maybe it was just bright, red cinnamon and bright, blue wintergreen, but it sure was fun alternatingly burning and freezing sensations in your mouth. Of course, there were always two kinds of Nerds kids — the slow, tantric, shake-it-in-your-hands-and-savor-it kids, and the minute men who instead preferred the all-in-one-go, head-tilt, box-shake manouver.

3. Bizarre Forms of Gum. Remember the glory days where gum came in so many different forms? There was baseball card gum, shattering and cutting the inside of your mouth like glass when you bit into it. There was Big League Chew, the shredded chewing tobacco gum. And of course there were Bubble Jugs, Bubble Tape, and even Bubble Gum Squeeze Tubes, which you pushed into your mouth like toothpaste, though with the exact opposite effect.

2. Pixy Stix. I always admired the straight-shooting style of Pixy Stix. Unlike the other candies, they didn’t dress up and pretend to be anything besides sugar. They were the real deal, straight up, just sugar in a straw. You want something gummy, sticky, sour, or chewy? Try the other guys. Now, if you want plain sugar, you’ve come to the right place. Available in regular size and occasionaly a Super Jumbo Straw version. Just be careful you don’t get dry-throat and gag on it when your brother pours a strawful down your throat.

Good luck kicking the habit

1. Popeye Cigarettes. These ones were the real deal, before they took off the red tip at the end and rebranded them as ‘Popeye’s Candy Sticks.’ Yes, after a dark, moody stint with the patch, Popeye managed to finally kick the habit. But good thing, or he probably wouldn’t be with us today.

Yes, finding and chowing down on some of the candies you grew up with is like sucking on sugary memories. Because how did it feel walking out of your local corner store with a wide smile pasted across your face, an empty wallet, and an armful full of candy?

I think we all know the answer to that.

AWESOME!

Gateway drug to shotgunning a beer

Photos from: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here

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