# # Lime Disease

Brother, I Can See Your Skull.

Brother, I Can See Your Skull. - The Coreyshead Blog

Lime Disease

Lime Disease


I’ve liked lime since I was a kid. Part of this is undoubtedly due to the perverse attraction I’ve always had for those things not mainstream in my culture: lime, the color purple, rain, Japan. The other reason – the biggest one – is the fact that I just plain love the flavor.

I didn’t get to taste it much, then. I mean, where did you find lime in 1970’s Colorado outside of gin and tonics? Unlike apple, grape, banana, cherry, and orange, flavors that seemed to be in everything, lime was a rare pleasure. It was so rare a flavor, in fact, that I have this horrible, itchy feeling that I first tasted it in Starburst candies.

Yeah, that’s right: Starburst originally came in strawberry, lemon, orange, and LIME.

I’ve always liked Starburst candies. Tart, bite-sized, and molar-looseningly chewy, they’re like technicolor taffy. Growing up, we didn’t get packaged candy often. We saw it on Halloween and sometimes when we went to the movies; another rare pastime. I think we got to the theater an average of once a year when I was a kid and, to be truthful, my candy of choice there for years was Hot Tamales – but I digress.

One summer, in the mid 1970’s, my family drove out to LA to visit my maternal grandparents. Their house was small so we boys were put up in my grandfather’s den. My eyes bugged out of my head when I saw that, as welcoming gifts in our room, grandma had put two *display boxes* of Starburst, one for each of us. Display boxes! You know, like you see on the rack in the checkout line, the top flap pulled off to dispense the 18 or so individual packages contained therein? Yeah, that was my grandma.

My grandma drove my mother crazy with her apparent sweet tooth agenda. My mom had a healthy sweet tooth herself but practiced, and hoped to impart to her children, a modicum of self-control. Grandma’s regular dispensing of sugary confections challenged this. She turned me on to Abba Zabba (the candy, not the Captain Beefheart song – man, wouldn’t *that* have been cool? ), Tiger’s Milk bars, and Sees candies, the latter of which I’ve never been that impressed with, though we gobbled them readily enough when she sent them to us. I haven’t eaten a Tiger’s Milk bar since my grandma was alive but I’m still an Abba Zabba fan – song or candy.

Anyway, my brother and I roll out our sleeping bags on the floor of our grandfather’s den and there they are, two boxes of Starburst just waiting for us to tear into them. We did not disappoint. I think I ate my first package right then and there, my brother, too. I can still feel my salivary glands quivering with that heavily sugared, lip-smacking tang.

My brother, ever the schemer, counseled both silence and conservatism around a mouthful of Starburst torn from his second, opened pack. The idea was to make the candy last … and, more importantly, to keep our parents from finding out the candy even existed. They were sure to nix the idea of us having it, especially if they found out there were *boxes* of it in our room.

Yeah, okay: fine. Whatever. I had candy to eat.

In those days, I would tear the yellow, foil-lined wrapper all of the way off and sort the candies into four separate piles, from least favorite flavor (orange) to most favorite (lime). Then I’d slowly chew my way up through to the heights of flavor ecstasy.

Sometime later in the trip – not too much later, I am sure – I opened *all* my remaining packs at once and sorted them into four, separate, monster piles of flavors. Now, rather than blind my taste buds by patiently chewing through each flavor in order of preference to get to my coveted lime, I could gauge the remaining quantity in the piles as I grazed my meandering way through them, making sure that, when I ate the last one, it would be LIME.

We kept our little secret as long as we could, eating the individually wrapped, neon-colored, faux-fruit flavored rectangles of mouth-watering elastomer whenever chance allowed. Despite temptation, the candies never left our room to be discovered in our pockets or mouths, and so the secret held until my mother stumbled across the monstrous pile of discarded, waxy wrappers tucked under an end table next to my sleeping bag and laundry that she was there to gather.

“No wonder you two have had such pathetic appetites,” she exclaimed, aghast.

By the time she found the remnants of our days-long, fruit-chew feast, however, so little was left that she just threw her hands up in the air and let us keep them, albeit with a stern admonition that, for the rest of the trip, they were for after meals only. She was far more angry at her mother than us, so we felt it worked out pretty well, all things considered.

This trip to LA helped cement Starburst candies into the base layer of my bonbon lexicon. Then Wrigley broke my taste bud’s collective heart by replacing the lime flavor Starburst with cherry. The nerve. The gall. I’ll never forget when I first discovered this. It was, of course *after* having picked a Starburst pack out of all the other tempting candy on the store shelf *specifically* because I expected it to have lime in it. The warning on the package that Wrigley had done something exceedingly stupid and cruel was not sufficiently prominent enough to tip me off that I was being duped.

Cherry instead of lime? Are you kidding me, Wrigley? Double your pleasure and fun with this (picture something off-color, anatomically improbable, and just awful. thank you).

Years later, I was relating the story of the long-lost, lime flavored Starbursts to a high school chum of mine when he pulled up short, interrupting my ‘remember when’ with a ‘you’re delusional.’
“There never was a lime Starburst,” he repeated. “I’ve been eating them as long as you and there never was a green one. You’re confusing it with something else – or just making it up.”

This from the same guy who was willing to swear on a stack of bibles that “The Wizard of Oz” was originally shot and shown all in black and white, that it was only colorized in the 80’s. Wotta maroon.

I challenged him to put his money where his mouth was: I would *prove* that there had once been lime Starbursts (this is all pre-internet, folks – we couldn’t just “google” pointless minutia in a matter of seconds, back then).

Stubborn little twit that I was, I wrote a letter explaining both the bet and my undying sense of loss to the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company. Some months later, a response appeared in my mailbox. It was a form letter (probably pulled from a folder entitled “Lime Complaints”) that explained: Sorry, lime flavored Starbursts were not only the least popular flavor of Starburst but lost out, by a wide margin in a national taste test, to the replacement flavor, cherry.

I showed the proof, exultant, to my friend but he just shrugged and welshed on the bet, anyway. Between that and the Wrigley response, I was left with a growing sense that “justice” was just an abstraction.

I nurtured a small, black diamond of righteous indignation in my heart for Wrigley until 1979, when they renewed my faith and fruit candy hysteria by introducing Skittles to the US market.

I discovered the candy in an odd way. Our next door neighbors received a Denver paper which, unlike the local rag we got, had a Sunday edition that included a section of colored funnies. Kind, old couple that they were, they allowed me to take home the funnies once they were done with them. One Sunday, the section contained a half page, full-color ad for the new candy, Skittles. Prominent in the ad was a coupon for a free bag of the stuff – not a little pocket sized bag, either but a big one! I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to get it. FREE CANDY!

I carefully clipped the coupon out of the funnies, stuck it in my desk drawer, and waited. The next weekend that mom went downtown, I accompanied and, with her blessing, took the coupon into Draper Drug. I walked down their candy aisle fingers crossed that they’d have the new candy. Sure enough, they did. The big, red bag, heavy with glossy nodules of flavored sugar, crinkled in my arms as I approached the counter. How could this be free? The little coupon in my hand felt like a special kind of magic. My golden ticket.

The clerk behind the counter, an unhappy, old woman with semi-transparent, grey, horn-rimmed glasses, a stiff looking, off-blue permanent, and a constipated pinch of a mouth took one look at my coupon, another at me, and informed me in no uncertain terms that she couldn’t honor such a thing. It had to be a joke. A fake. While I stood there, shocked at the clear accusation I’d somehow manufactured a full-color, counterfeit candy coupon at the ripe old, bank-robbing, age of ten (in the 1970’s, mind you, when no one had printers at home), she called over the manager.

Luckily, the store manager was neither as paranoid nor as unreasonable as her clerk. She took one look at the coupon, then looked at the clerk as if to say: so what’s the problem?
“A whole bag? Free?” The angry clerk gestured at me during the exchange, as if attempting to conjure the unspoken, third part of her disbelief trifecta: ‘for this … miserable urchin?!?’
“Free’s what it says,” the manager replied, handing back the coupon and turning to a more serious concern.
The clerk didn’t like this, to be sure, but what could she do?

I soon found out.

She rang up the transaction, stuck my coupon under a flapper in the drawer, then turned to me and said: “That’ll be one penny.”
The clerk reached over and took the bag of Skittles out from under my hand.
“The tax comes to one penny,” she repeated, her free hand outstretched.
“Tax? But … it was free. I didn’t spend any money. The coupon … ” I pointed at the cash register where she had deposited my little, carefully clipped out piece of paper. I was confused. How could you tax something that was free? Boy, did I have a lot to learn!
“It may be free to you, young man, but it isn’t free to us,” she said, firm in her righteousness.”One penny.”
I didn’t have a penny.
“Then you don’t get the candy,” she said, coldly triumphant.
I couldn’t believe it. Not only was my transaction being turned down as one questionable penny shy, I had the distinct impression I’d have to fight her to get my coupon back, too. I was angry, surprised, and near tears. Candy was such a rare treat for us back then. Having a coupon for a big, free bag of the stuff was like my own, personal Christmas – and here was prune face, pooping all over the deal for the single purpose, near as I could tell, of retaining her “Employee Jerk of the Year” award.

Well, she had my vote.

Luckily, the manager hadn’t gone far and, witnessing our exchange, wandered over and told Miss Poopicaca to pull a penny out of her pocket and put it in the register.
“Do what?”
“Oh, c’mon. I know you have a penny. Put it in there and let the kid have the candy. That or call it a short. I think we can handle a penny.”
The clerk was beside herself. I don’t know who she wanted to smack more, me or the manager. Her face was beet red and she trembled around the mouth and hands. Instead, after a palpable moment’s hesitation, she slapped the bag of Skittles down on the counter and walked away, leaving the manager to bid me a kind good day. I grabbed that bag and got the heck out of there, let me tell you.

I didn’t open it, though. Not yet.

I carried the big bag of Skittles carefully with me back to the car and tucked it behind the seats so it wouldn’t get too hot and melty during the drive home. Once home, I hurried to my room and secreted it away in a similar, cool place until after lunch. I wanted this new candy in pristine condition when I ate it.

When I did finally open it, I was thrilled: the candies were bright and round like M&M’s but fatter, shinier, and the flavors! So crisp and tangy! Best of all, they were basically just candy-coated, bite-sized bits of Starburst. The orange, lemon, and strawberry flavors of Skittles tasted *just* like those in Starbursts. I recognized my coveted and long-lost lime flavor immediately and rejoiced: an old friend back from the grave, now in tiny, bite-sized portions! Yum!

I dumped the bag’s contents out onto my bedspread and sorted the flavors as I would’ve Starbursts: by flavor, least liked to most – Orange, Strawberry, Grape, Lemon, and Lime. I was dismayed to discover that orange was not only the most prevalent flavor in the bag, it was so by an almost two-to-one majority.

Now, I don’t have a problem, per se, with orange flavored candies but why, when there’s an assortment, does orange *always* dominate? Is it really that much more popular than the other flavors, that much more plentiful, that much less expensive to produce? Or is it the orange lobby? Go on, you can tell me – I’ve never been to Florida …

Lemon and lime Skittles, on the other hand, made up the smallest part of the mix. My sense that these flavors were more special and precious was only strengthened by the clear assortment bias. While I was willing to eat orange Skittles by the non-discerning handful, lemon and lime were consumed slowly, one at a time, my teeth cracking through their shells in slow motion, my tongue savoring the fluorescent, sugary, citrus glop they and my saliva combined to form. Pure, sugar-overload heaven.

Skittles aren’t for everyone, though. A different school buddy of mine, this one with the unlikely surname of Bump, turned up his nose at Skittles and, following a fancifully discursive etymological trail, determined that the name “Skittles” was ultimately derived from “scat” – animal fecal droppings. Maintaining that the candy’s ingredients likely had a similar pedigree, he refused to eat them and wondered openly about the sanity and character of those who did.

*shrug* More for me, smarty pants. More for me.

I remained a fan of Skittles and Starbursts (even sans lime) well into adulthood, though I rarely ate them unless I was at the movies. That sounds more limiting than it sometimes was. I went through a period in the aughts where I saw a lot of movies at the theater and, thus, ate a lot of Skittles.

Lime DiseaseLime DiseaseOn top of this, around the same time, Wrigley came out with Mint Skittles and just about blew my mind. I liked them even better than the original candies. That’s right, Mint Skittles. They came in plastic dispenser boxes and two varieties: spearmint and wintergreen. They were absolutely incredible. I ate these little blue and green Skittles like, like, well, like candy, I suppose. I couldn’t get enough.

As a consequence, I began to see hints of impending dental issues and decided that, among other things, I could no longer eat Skittles. Now, when at the movies, I would have just a few Red Vines or gummi worms with my popcorn. The next time we went to the movies, my daughter grabbed a pack of Skittles: “want some, dad?” No thank you. (twitch)

Luckily, Mint Skittles never caught on (what’s with you people?!? no lime? no mint? you disgust me) so, by the time I came to the “no more Skittles” conclusion, they had gone the way of lime Starbursts and no longer constituted a threat.

I kept this personal proscription on Skittles up for a good, long time but, eventually, at a weak moment, when offered a small handful, I broke down and pushed them into my mouth. My god, their horrible, sugary chewiness was incredibly tasty!

And so it goes. I’m back to not getting to the theater often (seriously – do they even make movies worth seeing anymore?) so my candy consumption comes in fits and starts. A couple of weeks ago, I stopped at the gas station on my way home after work and, while pumping gas, realized I was really, really hungry. I went inside to grab a little pre-dinner tide-me-over and, after a cursory scanning of the available crapola, the bright red of the original Skittles package beckoned to me like an old friend.

I was on the road, blindly popping the candies into my mouth, one by one, when I realized something was terribly wrong. I brought the package up into my field of vision and scrutinized it. The familiar colors were still there, alright: red, pink, orange, yellow, purple, and green. But … something else: There, in splash print above the term “Original”, the package shouted “Now with Green Apple!”

Green Apple?!?


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Responses to “Lime Disease”

  1. Jason Eaton says:

    MY GOD, I am RIGHT there with you with the Starburst and the Skittles. May I add the Lemon on one side and LIME ON THE OTHER original wave of Nerds, from like 1985 or so? Unnnnggghhhh why can’t they bring back Lime Nerds in that half-box…. Unnnngggghhh

    • Lime *NERDS*?!? Oh, yeah. There’s strong justification for a time machine right there! I used to be a bit of a NERDS fetishist but I came to it late. I don’t know that I ever had them in lime. Sounds lovely.

Leave a Reply