Ever wonder what starts a fad or a trend? I think it’s an unanswerable mystery. If it weren’t, everyone would be inventing Pet Rocks and making shitloads of dough. I actually had a Pet Rock and thought I was pretty trendy. But deep down I wondered why on earth I spent my babysitting money on such a stupid thing when I could have had another pair of those groovy Scandinavian Earth Shoes I coveted, even though they made my calves hurt.
A few weeks ago, I took my niece, Maddie, to Seattle. I love Seattle. My son lives there and the food is always great! Lots of oysters. I hate oysters.
Naturally, I wanted to make the trip memorable. Here’s a recap:
ME: So…what do you want to see first? Space Needle? Pike’s Market?
MADDIE: Yeah, all that, but what I really want to see is the gum wall.
ME: What’s the gumball? Is that some kind of sculpture?
MADDIE: No. Not the gumball. The gum wall.
ME: [No words. Just a vacant stare]
MADDIE: I saw it in a guide book.
ME: [ditto the vacant stare]
I’m starting to feel a little angst here but hey, I’m a trooper, so we start our trek to find this so-called tourist attraction. I admit, I wanted to get it out of the way so we could do other stuff like find the Beecher’s store and eat ourselves into a cheese coma. I mean, it’s just some wall tucked away somewhere near Pike’s Market. Pretty convenient and it actually had an address, so said the travel guide. How bad can it be?
The guide book did not do it justice. It was not a wall. It was a kind of “tunnel” of sorts under Pike’s Market covered side to side, up and down and every which way in half-chewed gum.
It was a petri dish of germs the enormity of which I couldn’t quite grasp. I think if they’d had this gum wall in 1346, it would have surely been ground zero of the Black Death.
This wall of potentially infectious I-don’t-know-what, was the strangest thing I’d ever seen and I’ve seen some pretty strange things in my life. What is it that’s so compelling about chomping a wad of Big League Chew then smushing it onto piles of other half-chewed wads covered in saliva from mouths that have been God-knows-where? I noticed myriad languages being spoken in that bizarre tunnel of staph and mrsa and wondered if perhaps it made people feel a part of the global community. Like being able to say something like “Hey, dude, I went to Seattle and now I’ve been to, like, every ‘stan country there is….sorta.”
In my mind, I was thinking more like this: “Hey, I went to Seattle and visited that gum wall and now I have this pesky open wound that just won’t heal.”
But I digress…
Maddie shoves some gum in her mouth, chews just long enough to coat it with her own personal cooties while I chatter aimlessly as a means to take my mind off where I am and trying not to breath too deeply.
ME: Bazooka was my favorite bubble gum as a kid. I can still taste it! It was super sweet and really, really hard. By the time the soft stuff came out like Bubblicious, I was way past my bubble gum chewing days. Unfortunate timing for my tooth enamel, I guess, because that damn Bazooka sent me to Dr. Bob, the prison dentist, way too many times.
Maddie hands me her phone.
MADDIE: Wait til I find the right spot.
ME: Maybe look for a red piece. Could be from Russia…or maybe Switzerland. Or how ‘bout that bright green spot?
MADDIE: Ooohhh, yeah! Ireland!
She finds her spot, gingerly smushes it into the wall as I snap her picture. I breathe a sigh of relief that it’s over.
As we’re leaving, I see a pole that’s covered in deliberately crafted strings of hanging gum in every color of the rainbow. I find it disgustingly attractive and snap a pic. It resembled something out of a Dr. Seuss book. I secretly christen it Seuss-a-licious.
ME: Let’s go take a bath in Lysol and find that cheese place!
MADDIE: Okay. But not until we see the haunted soda machine over on John street.