1. Delightfully Anachronistic Package Design: Virginia Edition! Part II!

    YEARS AGO I cut in front of a hideous old hag in the express lane at Pathmark. This ancient hump-backed crone was all ratty black shawls and hairy purple warts. She stunk of unwashed hair and kielbasa, and carried in her shopping basket a single tube of Preparation-H, as she evidently had hemorrhoids. Which I reckon were painful for her because she moved so goddamn slow.  Jeez!

    I, on the other hand, was an active seventeen-year-old, too busy for hemorrhoids, with a cart full of six cases of Foster’s Lager, a package of Drake’s Devil Dogs (it’s an East Coast thing), a pound or so of Voortman cookies (back when you could buy them loose!), a box of Kudos (remember them?),  a few bags of Wise potato chips (Sorry! East Coast, again!), a couple dozen other odds and ends, and a newly-minted fake ID (for the Foster’s).

    This was in Port Chester, New York — just across the border from Greenwich, Connecticut. (But I’m telling you, economically and culturally, the two places were worlds apart! Worlds apart!) In Port Chester, privileged Greenwich kids like myself were allowed, neé encouraged, to illegally purchase alcohol. There existed a tacit understanding between the municipal governments of both towns that if Greenwich would send their teenagers to Port Chester to spend their underage drinking money, Port Chester would not send their teenagers, or God forbid, any of their other residents, to Greenwich beaches.

    Anyway, Baba Yaga there was taking for-frickin’-ever, rooting through her dingy little coin purse – so I just took the initiative, pushed my cart ahead of her (“ahead of,” “into” – whatever) and started piling my groceries onto the belt. It’s okay – remember, I’m from Greenwich.

    The old hook-nosed, bekerchiefed witch squinted at me with one milky white eye, reached into her sleeve and pulled out a packet of Beemans gum, shook it at me and intoned something – I can’t quite remember what exactly, it’s been years – but something like,

    “Vei deveni obsedat de fermecător vechi cu aspect alimente…!”

    Something like that.

    Ever since that moment I’ve been obsessed to the point of being practically crippled by an admittedly bizarre fixation with delightfully anachronistic packaging design. Christ almighty these stupid setups just keep getting longer each time!

    Anyway, last week, in the very same store in Hill, Virginia where I found Mrs. Sullivan’s pies, I came across these amazing creatures:

    Prairie Belt Smoked Sausage!

    Holy cow – this package could be Mrs. Sullivan’s pies’ nephew! Yellow background, brand name in red script, the whole nine yards!

    And by “the whole nine yards” I mean, of course, the main anachronicity (a word I first coined here) of this package: a tenth-generation photo of a bowl of smoked sausage coupled with artwork of a cute little fella in the foreground comprising a label designed when canned food label lithography was still in its infancy! Probably!

    Given the juxtaposition of sausage and small boy we must therefore assume that Prairie Belt Smoked Sausage are made from small bo–  Oh, look, my attorney just popped one of his blood pressure pills.

    I’m joking! My only point is that the image of the prepubescent Mathersesque young man looks like it was painted over six decades ago! The subject of the painting, if he’s even still alive at this point, is well into retirement, dealing with the horrors of those infamous Obamacare Death Panels, or being pushed off a cliff by Paul Ryan, depending on your political persuasion. (Remember, we are not a political blog! I’m Ted Parsnips and I approved this parenthetical aside.)

    Actually, comparing the Prairie Belt boy to Jerry Mathers would be inaccurate. Perhaps a better descriptor would be Boothesque.

    Indeed, he bears a stronger resemblance to little Billy Booth – you know, Dennis’ pal Tommy on the 1959-63 series “Dennis the Menace.”

    Look!  Look!

    He kinda looks like him, right? Little bit?  Sure.

    So after discovering these anachronistic delights, I did exactly what you’d have done: I bought like thirty cans.

    I mean, when am I going to find this stuff again? Besides, Christmas is right around the corner. (This year, give the gift of good taste, mechanically-separated chicken and pork spleens. Give Prairie Belt. Clearly I should have gone into advertising.)

    Unfortunately, I wasn’t thinking when I was getting ready to come home – I packed them all in my carry-on bag. As the 5-ounce Prairie Belt Smoked Sausage cans were over the 3-ounce TSA limit and resembled, in size and shape, containers of Sterno, I was required to throw them away there at the gate or consume them before boarding. As you would, I chose the latter.

    I’m not a greedy man, so when I started slowing down by can 17, I offered some to the others in line at 75¢ a can, exact change only (a potential 24¢ per can hit I’d be absorbing), but there were surprisingly no takers. I managed to get down one more can but then cursed my small, trim abdomen as well as the TSA bastards who would be feasting like kings that night on the dozen cans I surrendered to the trash. (In retrospect I should have opened them all and dumped the contents directly into the garbage to prevent this.)

    And here’s the thing: Turns out the Sterno comparison was rather apt: Six gin and tonics into the flight we hit some turbulence and  everything came back up, burning the hell out of my throat. What I wouldn’t have given to be sitting next to that wicked old gypsy woman who could have conned me out of my first generation iPod Mini for a stick of Beemans to get the taste out of my mouth! I bet the two passengers on either side of me would have appreciated this as well.

    Tomorrow: Something shorter.

    Posted by on September 18, 2012, 6:00 AM.

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