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In Search of the Holy Grail of Guilty Pleasures & Heavenly Delights

(Excerpt from Laughing at the Sun)

Years ago, I had indulged in a truly disgustingly decadent treat at Maxwell Street Days in Madison, Wisconsin: a chocolate-covered deep-fried Twinkie. Never would I have given a second thought to such a creation, however a buddy of mine insisted, and I must say it was joyful junk food that I obsessed over for days after the experience.

Just as Ho Hos are now my euphoric Guilty Pleasure of snack treats, only one fast-food dessert item surpasses them as the Holy Grail of blissful, sugary, heavenly delights. And of all the convenience stores in all of the world, it was this simple Texaco gas station mini-market, next to the Mad Greek Diner (near Baker, California), that featured a rare find that one only dreams of in most states.

The Object of My Desire was a two-part proposition. First, I saw the Coke Slurpee machine behind the counter, spinning the syrupy sweet, frozen delight like a dryer whirling wet clothes. Then, next to it, a vanilla soft-serve machine! Combine the two and you have an icy, creamy Coke Float; Nirvana in a 16-ounce cup!

I walked up to the counter and asked the young cashier for a large Coke Float, please.

He looked at me dumbfounded, as if I had asked him to translate Crime and Punishment into Mandarin.

“I’m not sure what that is, sir,” he replied after a moment. I noticed his nametag and went for a personal appeal.

“Well, Tom, it’s no problem,” I said smiling, as if we had been friends for many years.” I can walk you through it. First, you take some Coke Slurpee and pour it in a cup, maybe a third or so. Then, pour some soft serve vanilla ice cream in, followed by some Coke Slurpee to top it off! It’s really easy.”

“I’m sorry sir, but I can’t really do that. You see we have a charge for the Coke Slurpee and a charge for the vanilla ice cream, but I don’t have any idea what to charge for mixing the two.”

The brisk wind behind my sails had suddenly disappeared. I was stunned by his denial, but I tried to remain optimistic. If the Allies could win the war against Germany, surely, there was a way for me to negotiate a treaty to combine Coke Slurpee with vanilla soft-serve ice cream in this little emporium in the desert.

“I am more than happy to pay for a large Coke Slurpee AND a large vanilla soft-serve, if you do as I say,” I said with a big toothy smile, like a salesman ready to close a deal on a fully-loaded Lamborghini.

“But how would I ring that up?” Tom asked, and all I could think of is how he really needed to be removed from the gene pool.

“Well, if I was on that side of the counter, I would ring up a large Slurpee and then, add a large vanilla soft-serve ice cream,” I said, my eyes practically pleading for him to comply.

Tom thought for a moment. And then, his eyes showed the dimmest of glimmers as it looked as if he understood the task at hand and my recommendation for the resolution of payment.

“I guess I could do that, sir, although it’s not fair to you. You’ll be paying far more than it’ll be worth.”

“That’s more than okay with me, Tom. In fact, it will be my pleasure.”

He stepped over and grabbed a cup, placing it under the Slurpee machine nozzle and pouring in some frozen Coke. “That’s good, Tom. Now the vanilla ice cream,” I said a little jittery. I could almost taste the icy crystals of delight mixing with the creamy vanilla soft serve. I felt like Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet waiting to touch what they believed to be the Maltese Falcon.

Tom completed the task as if he had been an old pro at mixing Coke Floats, or Black Cows, as they were known back home in Chicago.

“With tax, that’ll be $3.57, please.”

I pulled out my wallet and slapped down a five-dollar bill. Tom gave me my change, but it didn’t matter to me. I would have gladly paid twice that for this treat.

I grabbed the cup and placed a straw into the icy concoction. Then, ever so slowly, I brought the straw to my lips. I now knew the satisfaction Indiana Jones must have felt as he placed his hand on a long sought-after antiquity.

I took a long sip as the icy Coke crystals and the vanilla ice cream mixed in my mouth, providing me with liquid refreshment that could only be described as “The Drink of the Gods.” As I swallowed the heavenly contents of my mouth, I felt a rush of searing pain strike my brain like a hot poker. Brain freeze!

I waited patiently for the pain to subside, and then, like a young boy who hadn’t learned his lesson, I repeated the experience again, with the same results. There was a bizarre pleasure-pain connection, yet it was very satisfying and rewarding. After the third attempt, I allowed the frozen heavenly drink to melt more in my mouth before swallowing. This led to a more fulfilling experience for me.

Walking out to the truck, Bob could see I was still in a state of ecstasy.

“Did you get lucky?”

“You have no idea,” I said lifting the cup to show him. I then made an imaginary horizontal line in front of me. “If this is heaven,” I said and then placed the Slurpee cup a foot above that line. The image was clear. Coke Slurpee Floats were rated in the Beyond Heaven range of delights for me. “You like Coke Floats?”

“Nah, I’ve had enough sugar for now,” Bob said without a hint of curiosity to try at least a sip of mine.

Non-believer! Philistine! More for me, I thought. There was no doubt in my mind that I could easily become a Coke Slurpee Float addict should a supply be secured! Lucky for me, and my teeth, this sugary treat was as rare as witty, pithy dialogue in an Adam Sandler movie.

“Hey, I think we’re out of water, though,” Bob pointed out as I neared the truck. “Could you get a couple of bottles for the road?”

“Sure,” I turned around and jogged back to the store. Water may have been a basic need, but this Coke Slurpee Float was the liquid luxury of divine pleasure.

With our bottled water, full tank of gas, and my supreme sugary buzz, Bob got behind the wheel and we pulled away from Baker and headed toward Barstow and beyond. Driving down the road, I noticed that the liquid of my Holy Grail was dissipating and thoughts of a quick return to Baker haunted my mind. I thought to myself, it’s only 20 minutes back, I could go get another Coke Slurpee Float and we could still be in Palm Springs before dark!

(Author's note: my new fave rav was discovered recently at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. Their dessert menu features a Root Beer Float with vanilla bean gelato and Barq's Root Beer. OMG! It was HEAVEN in a glass!)

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