Three and a half years ago, when I took my unwitting epic journey across the United States on my scooter, I photographed America in front of me. I shot the landscapes, the bridges, the laundromats, the skulls in the desert, the drive-ins, the people, the oceans, the motel rooms, the fast-food, the roads, and on and on and on. I captured the things that touched my mind.
Everything that I photographed was something to me. Meant something to me. Impressed me in one way or another.
On day nine of the trip, I entered Mississippi. Not long after, I pulled over at a small gas station, taking a break before an upcoming bridge on the way to Gautier. I parked my scooter, took off my helmet, and went inside. I grabbed a package of Twinkies. When I brought them to the counter, one of the clerks assured me that at the end of the world, the only thing left would be Twinkies and cockroaches. The other clerk chimed in, “And Cher!”
Outside, while resting, I took a handful of photos of my snack purchase. As an adult, any time that I’ve bought Twinkies, a memory from childhood plays in my mind, filling me with all of the enthusiasm of that moment:
I’m standing in line behind my mom at the “new” commissary in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia. I’m holding a box of soon-to-be-purchased Twinkies. My heart is filled with joy just thinking about the deliciousness of the cream filling wrapped in golden sponginess. I’m excited beyond belief that this marvel of food, this new foamy deliciousness, has made its way from America all the way to Saudi. One more treat of Western civilization finds a home in the desert land. A land full of expatriates, hungry for anything America.
Back in Mississippi, standing beside my scooter at a gas station in the late afternoon sun, I tear open the plastic wrapping on the Twinkies. I care nothing about everything I have learned as an adult about how terribly unhealthy the little snack cakes are for me. It’s a Twinkie! And it’s happening here. And it’s happening right now.
As I bite into it, the feel-good memory lasts exactly a moment. The chemical sponge cake assaults my taste buds. I think that perhaps it hasn’t aged properly yet. That the preservatives need to be given a couple more years to set in. Or perhaps there was a miniscule hole in the plastic wrapping, making the cake more gooey than it should be. Perhaps that little bit of air changed the very chemical structure of the snack. I’ve seen enough science fiction movies to know that when air gets into things that are supposed to be sealed tight, it can have devastating ramifications. Usually involving aliens.
Or maybe that’s the way it always tasted. I don’t know. That was one of the last packages of Twinkies I’ve purchased. Shortly after eating them, though, I was in the forest taking a self-portrait. It’s taken me three years to come up with why I took that photo. But now I think I understand. When I look at the timeline of events, it was obviously the Twinkies. Something was wrong. Something went wrong in the production of Lot B-91368. Or whatever the hell the lot number was that produced that batch of Twinkies. I’m amazed I ever made it out of that jungle alive. What with it’s crazy rabbits and bluegrass music. I may have taken the photo to simply record that I was actually there in the event of my disappearance.
Twinkies are no worse than meth, really. It’s straight up chemicals, manufactured for human consumption. And just like those stupid chicken sandwiches at Burger King (oooooooh, how I hate you and your wonderful flavor!), they’re injected with some sort of chemical addictive (not additive) that enslaves humanity. And priced just right.
I’ll miss you, Hostess Twinkies. I really will. I wish you had been as good in real life as you were in my memory.