For Jim Stiles, of course
This is not a paid endorsement. In fact, this is not a paid anything. And it may not be an endorsement.
I am not certain when Jim Stiles and I became fellow-travelers, comrades in the experience of eating Pringles. Jim likely remembers. He is very good about remembering such things. I can only presume the connection began in Moab. Maybe he saw me at some point with the delectable red can somewhere about town—on a bench, in my truck, moping around City Park? It’s difficult to say.
In a more freewheeling period of my youth, I once house-sat for Jim. Perhaps I had seen cans of Pringles in his house—notice that I use the plural—cans. But again, I remain uncertain. I do recall, however, I managed unintentionally to defrost his refrigerator, along with his many beloved and long-suffering edibles. He also asked me, afterwards, if I had ever cleaned a bathtub in my life. Certainly, I told him, and hopefully that was indeed the case. My point, nonetheless, is that our Pringles connection goes back a few years.
A fairly recent episode of our Pringles bond (what else to call it?) occurred two years ago, after I had purchased my first Norwegian can of Pringles. At the time I could not presume they would taste the same as Pringles, U.S.A. Coca-Cola, to choose an obvious example, tastes considerably different in different parts of the world. With experimental certainly I can say Old El Paso tortilla chips in the Far North do not taste a great deal like Old El Paso. But I went for it anyway. I purchased the can of Pringles, spending around $7—the going rate for Pringles in the Far North.
On the way home, I met my friend Marte. She saw the Pringles. She then used the ambiguous Norwegian “hmmm.” I don’t know how to describe precisely the Norwegian hmmm. A comment may or may not follow the hmmm. The Norwegian hmmm can suggest, among other possibilities: curiosity, boredom, attention, interest, non-interest, or it’s merely indicative of a verbal tendency among native Norwegian speakers. Consider the North American “wow,” as a rough equivalent. After a pause, Marte then said to me, “Those are very good.” Another pause. “They are also very unhealthy,” which, curiously, seemed to please her.
After getting home, I emailed Jim about having purchased a $7 can of Pringles. After all, who else would appreciate such an extravagance? That same afternoon Jim sends me an email in response, saying—breathlessly through the keys—“I was eating Pringles last night!” I felt chills. The old afición was brewing. And they were wickedly delicioius, these Pringles. The salt, the crunch, the snappy lid that pops open and beckons us onward to eat, and they were all within reach of my hand. I think it was Lays brand potato chips that had the advertisement, “Bet you can’t eat just one.” With Pringles it is “Bet you can’t eat just one can.” Or, for the more adventurous, “Bet you can’t gnaw on the yummy paper/plastic/salt/oil/chemical marinated silver lining of the can!”
They were worth the $7 hit, and my wife was out of town. There are a couple of points of explanation worth noting here. Firstly, the $7 price tag on Pringles in the North should be considered in terms of local economy and comparative values. The long and short of it is that in Norway the consumer makes a healthy wage and in turn everything is expensive. If, on the other hand, people live in an expensive economy and do not have a sufficient wage then there can be difficulties in the extreme. If we ever wonder how someone like Erdogan can hold power in Turkey then, as the saying goes, follow the money. If Turkey is too exotic, then look closer to home…which brings me to my second point. My wife was away, and I was in control of fiscal policy. My rule for purchasing groceries is simple. I purchase whatever I like, which tends to be indulgent, self-serving, and frankly, better. I like expensive foods and ingredients, presuming, as I do, they are better—better cuts of meat, fresher fruits and vegetables, and so forth. Anyone who tries to convince me a $7 bottle of wine is as good as a $50 bottle of wine likely has no taste for wine, particularly for red wine. I recognize it may be possible to have a memorable $7 bottle of wine, but lots of things are possible, and I am not, in my own defense, a wine snob. As things go, a $7 bottle wine is one thing and a $7 can Pringles is quite another, which brings me back to the notion of following the money, and let us wisely agree that money isn’t everything—in politics or marriage and maybe not in wine, though I am a bit doubtful of the latter.
The reason I am writing any of this is because a couple of weeks ago I had to open a Facebook account. There was an earlier Facebook account that contained a bit about my work and a little about me, which I had never seen. Then two weeks ago I entered the Facebook world. The reason being, I could not gain access to information about a current project I am working on, unless, as it were, I had a Facebook account. Thus, away I went into the world of Facebook and liquid identities. As expected, I uploaded a photograph of myself onto Facebook. Let me say in all honesty that I have not aged well. My haggard face, vanishing hair, and my carriage in general are all marked by hard times, edging ever closer to the raddled dog on the carpet look. Actually, the metaphor I had considered using was an aged mailbag, one left too long in the rain. Even so, I put up what I will call a rather “writerly” photograph. There I am—melancholy eyes gazing towards some paradoxically vast middle-distance, a handsome set of oak bookshelves behind me, rows of great books, and an unexplained skeleton standing in a gun cabinet off to the side. My friend Tore Walde took the photograph, and he, like me, worked hard to get all the writerly reverence into the shot. My thoughts were, well, if I have gone to seed, at least I can look the part of my calling.
Then Jim Stiles chimes in, and he did this one minute, perhaps two, after the photo had been uploaded. I hardly had time to admire the illuminating cast of sunlight across my stalwart profile. And what did Jim say? I quote, “You look like you’re thinking, ‘Man, what I would not give for a can of Pringles right now.’” There it is, ladies and gentleman, another Pringles moment with Jim, this coming so soon after I had tried to pass myself off as the writer, as a man who’s seen the world type. Yet, there was Jim, quick with a Pringles comment. It was hardly the swoon or swoonie the likes of Faulkner would have desired.
But then again, and let me apologize for being so predictable, Pringles did seem like a good idea. Such a pleasure is those things that stay with us, Pringles and all, and not in the least, the old pals.
Damon Falke is the author of five books, including most recently Now at the Uncertain Hour. His poem Laura, or Scenes from a Common World was produced by Square Top Theatre and was an Official Selection for AVIFF Festival at CANNES.
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