Space Food Sticks

Unfortunately, my attempts to find out the cause for Wednesday’s performance at Walmart have all failed miserably, so I guess I’m destined to never know.  Pity, because that was one heck of a show.  Under ordinary circumstances, today would be laundry day.  But lacking the necessary money to head to the laundromat (and not willing to drive to an ATM to get any), I’ve since decided that ‘laundry day’ will have to wait until mid-next week.  (I refuse to go on a Saturday, given the number of people at our local haunt, and I don’t do laundry on a Sunday unless it’s a dire emergency – something that hasn’t happened since my army days.The Little Woman is off working on a project, thus leaving me to my own devices.  So, for all intents and purposes, I have the day off.

The weird thing about having free time is trying to figure out how it’ll be spent.  In other words, I’ve nothing to do today, and it’s driving me nuts.  Usually, I’d jump into the car and hit the various used bookstores, or perhaps roam through a local antique mall.  Both of these plans require gasoline, and with me having just filled the tank (and gas having risen some forty cents in the last two weeks), I’m in no rush to use it all up.  More importantly, I have no money to spend at either location, so it would be an exercise in futility.

I have started watching The Seventies, a CNN documentary produced by Tom Hanks, that’s currently showing on Netflix.  It’s an interesting trek down Memory Lane, that has reawakened my desire for Space Food Sticks.  An easy way (well, I guess it’d be easiest to just ask them) to find out someone’s age is to mention Space Food Sticks, and to then watch their expression.  If there’s a longing for some missing part of their youth that no existing material thing can satisfy, then they’re not only old enough to remember Space Food Sticks, but they’ve probably downed a few boxes of them in their time.  Pillsbury made these things; wrapped in foil, they were short tubular looking high-energy chocolate (or peanut butter) flavored sticks.  What made them so desirable was the fact that these sticks were allegedly used by the astronauts (which automatically made them cool), and it was a “fun way” to get the morning’s required nutrients. Of course, no one ate them to be healthy; we ate them because they were fun.  And unfortunately, when the Apollo program died, so, too, did the demand for Space Food Sticks.  There was, briefly, a company that brought the product back for a newer generation (i.e., three years ago), but it didn’t last – I don’t know why.

I was a huge sucker for the Apollo program.  When I was a kid, there was only one television in the house (by law, I’m guessing), and as I was so often informed, the channel selection was determined by “the person who paid for the television.”  It wasn’t until I was older that I realized this logic only worked for two people in the household, and that I wasn’t one of them – but I digress.  I wanted to be an astronaut, so occasionally, I got to watch rocket launches and/or splashdowns, and I loved every minute of it.  I even had a red, white, and blue plastic Saturn V rocket (a good sized one, too, now that I think on it) that I played with periodically.  This fixation meant that there were a lot of astro-oriented foods at the house for my siblings and me – the aforementioned Space Food Sticks and Tang, among them.

Tang, for the uninitiated, is a powdered energy drink that also had its origins in the space program.  Originally, it came in orange flavor only, but I see that A) it’s still being made, and B) they’ve expanded the flavor list.  Either way, it reminded me of the same orange flavor found in St. Joseph’s Baby Aspirins – not exactly inviting, but not horrific, either.  A few years ago, I decided to tap into my nostalgic feelings and bought a canister of Tang.  It was the first time I’d had any since grade school – and I was woefully underwhelmed.  It’s okay – in fact, I’m toying with buying some after I finish this post – but it’s not something that I would regularly keep on the cupboard shelf.

My fascination with the Apollo program ended when a “helpful” teacher informed me that my plans for an astronautical career were foolish because there would never be a black astronaut.  This was followed by a poorly concealed smirk as she walked off.  I could go on about how this was wrong and dismissal-worthy, but I no longer see it that way.  I mean, that was the reality back then, and maybe I’m being too generous, but this person – as awkwardly as they did so – believed that they were helping me.  Dreams shattered, I no longer followed launches, nor did I care to know the names of those brave men who reached the stars.  My Saturn V rocket disappeared one day – my dad likely tossed it as he thought I was getting to old for toys – and I stopped eating astro-oriented foods.  Sometimes, in order for life to move on, we have to jettison those things that are holding us back.  For me, it was Apollo.

In the years since, I’ve rediscovered my love for the space program, and I’m thrilled to see astronauts of various ethnicities, backgrounds, and gender.  I’m too old (and too firmly packed, as they’d have said in the 1940s) to be considered for NASA, but I still enjoy reading about space flight and exploration, and it’s actually this that led to my interest in Star Trek and Star Wars.  We may not have Space Food Sticks anymore, but Tang remains available; maybe a glass of that will touch that part of me that believed I’d one day leave my footprint on the Moon alongside those of so many other brave people.

Guess I’m heading out for a can of orange powder tonight . . .

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