When I was a kid there was almost nothing I loved more than the corner convenience store. Over the years that particular store has changed hands so many times I couldn’t begin to give all the different names it had. But the one that sticks out in my mind was when it was The Pantry.
Really there was nothing special about this store other than it was the one I went to because it was near my house and well, convenient. Saturdays in the spring and fall and any day I had a little money in the summer were spent roaming the candy aisle. I loved their selection and some of my favorites were Now & Laters, Flav-O-Stik, Bit-O-Honey and Bazooka Joe bubble gum. On top of all that sugary goodness they had a Slush Puppie machine!!
I loved Slush Puppies back in the day. I could not get enough. In case you have never had a Slush Puppie let me educate you a bit. From the picture you can get a feel for the product. First you would select a size drink either small, medium or large. Then you would select a flavor. Besides the usual grape, orange, etc. they offered such delicious nectar as bahama mama, bubble gum and lemon-lime. The stand procedure was to squirt the designated amount of syrup for the size drink into the cup, place it under the lever and pull. Usually what I would do was look around to see if anyone was looking then fill my cup about half full of flavored syrup. The “slush” part of the drink was micro-ice pellets and water.
Until recently I had not seen one of these machines in its original form. Somewhere in the early 90’s Slush Puppie decided to install pre-mixed flavors in stores. Not only did this cut down on the common flavor diversity but it also cut down on “special” mixes. Believe me I tried all kinds of combinations of flavors to various degrees of taste. But like I said, I have recently found a store that has one of these glorious machines and have been enjoying my deliciously tasty treat from the past.
I can also credit the corner store for introducing me to comic books. They had a comic book spinner rack in the corner near the register that looked similar to the one on the left. Every couple weeks new comics would appear on the rack and my little mind would spin incessantly.
I’m sure most of the comic fans in my generation (and before) started their addiction the same as me. I miss having those racks in stores. There was just something magical about those things. I would love to have one for my house so I could display some of my old comics. And maybe get my own Slush Puppie machine as well!!
The first comic book I ever bought was in that store. My Mom stopped at the store to pick up a few things for dinner and as she was checking out I wandered over to the spinner rack.
That cover captured my attention immediately. Why was Spider-Man in a black costume? I had to know. So I took it to the counter and showed it to my Mom. She looked down at me and in a rushed movement grabbed the book and put it on the counter. We left the store and headed home. Once there I ran straight for my room and jumped on the bed. I poured through that book from cover to cover. I had to know more about where Spidey had been and how he got that costume.
Crack is not the most addictive thing in the world. Comics are; more specifically X-Men comics. But I hadn’t yet found the comic book equivalent of crack. No that came when I bought X-Men 193, a Double Sized special edition!
I had no clue who those people on the cover were except for Firestar. The only reason I knew her was because of the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends cartoon. I did not know she wasn’t originally a comic book character. Nor did I know that this was her first appearance in “cannon.” All I knew was that I found a new obsession. Everything else be damned. Soon Spider-Man, G.I. Joe and the Fantastic Four fell by the wayside and the X-Men were my new drug.
I searched desperately for old issues. I borrowed entire runs from friends. I asked endless questions. I bought several issues of The Official Guide to the Marvel Universe. I had to know who these X-Men where and what they had done. You have to remember that this was a time before the internet so I couldn’t just Wikipedia twenty-five years of continuity. I spent untold amounts of time and money catching up on my beloved mutants.
Although I don’t read X-Men much these days not much has changed. Sure I’m not a kid any longer and The Pantry has changed hands and names many times. But as I sit on a spring afternoon drinking a bahama mama Slush Puppie, reading the latest copy of Ultimate Spider-Man and listening to my 80’s playlist, I’m reminded of those days long ago. How a fat little kid found a little solace in a world of fantasy and sugar. It feels good to be alive some days.