Tag Archives: chewing gum

Lame Adventure 423: Chew on This

Recently, I traveled to the land of my living ancestors: San Francisco. For much of the week before I left Manhattan, I diligently prepared for my getaway. I thoroughly cleaned my sanctum sanctorum, did laundry and made sure all of my bills were paid. I had even placed my Father’s Day card in my duffel bag weeks in advance, so there was no way I would forget to take it.

Hearts and flowers-free sentiment.

Hearts and flowers-free sentiment.

As sentimental as I get.

As sentimental as I get.

The pre-planning for my trip went spectacularly. I even remembered to get gum.

Gum is an issue with me. I am not a gum chewer. I don’t like the taste and I think that chewing it plays Russian roulette with my dental work. But, I always chew gum during take off and landing because the plane’s cabin pressure wreaks havoc with my ears. One of the consequences of not being an aggressive gum chewer is forgetting to pick up gum. As a passive gum chewer I often have to purchase it at the airport and pay more. This time, not only did I remember to pick up gum in advance, I considered where to get it.

Instead of going to my neighborhood everything store, Duane Reade, I decided I would try the guy at my corner newsstand. I was in the mood to bargain. His selection is vast. Instantly, I was overwhelmed. I knew I would prefer a minty flavor, but when I started reading the ingredients, it all looked like a nauseating concoction of chemicals. I have been eating predominantly organic all year to compliment my fitness routine. I didn’t want to put any of this crap in my mouth, but I had no choice due to my ear situation. So, I relented and decided to go with original flavor Trident.

Newstand Seller: A dollar fifty.

Me: Really? Are all of these a dollar fifty?

He pointed at a few packs of bubble gum.

Newstand Seller: These are a dollar.

Me: Well, that’s a drag. I don’t chew bubble gum. In fact, I don’t chew any gum. I’m just getting it because I’m flying on a plane.

I put the Trident back. He reached down and handed me a pack of Stride Sugarfree Sweet Peppermint flavor.



Newstand Seller: You can have this one for a dollar.

I bought the bargain pack of Stride that reeked of mint and headed over to the laundromat to fold my clothes. As I’m folding I start thinking about my pack of bargain gum. I realize that I’m so unfamiliar with Stride, in my head I’m referring to it as Strive. As I am securing my socks (none went missing this load; I felt victorious over the machine), I wondered:

Me: Did he sell me that pack of Strive for less because it’s made in China? Could a key ingredient be lead?

Suddenly, I feared deplaning with incubating stage three tongue cancer. Is it conceivable that I’ll say hello to my sister upon arrival and goodbye to my sex life upon return?

It appears that Mondelez Global LLC manufactures Stride in East Hanover, New Jersey. Even though every ingredient sounds straight out of a mad scientist’s laboratory, Stride has its own Wikipedia page, which eases my mind considerably.



That makes no sense since Ebola, phenylalanine, and possibly one of my ancestors, (the) Village Idiot, have their own entries, too.

About phenylalanine, that’s in my pack of Stride. But why? It’s an amino acid that’s found naturally in breast milk, but unnaturally in gum for complicated reasons that almost make my head explode. One thing I know for certain: I am not going to put Stride in my pie-hole.

Hey look, a pigeon was on the ferry to Angel Island!

Hey look, a pigeon was on the ferry to Angel Island!

Angel Island with (possibly) pigeon-free sailboats in foreground.

Angel Island with (possibly) pigeon-free sailboats in foreground.

So, I visit the organic department of my market, Fairway, where I unload $2.38 on two packs of made-in-Rhode Island Glee Gum. It’s aspartame free with no artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or preservatives and “made with Chicle for rainforest conservation”. Excluding the “resinous glaze, beeswax and carnauba wax”, coupled with the sky-high probability that Glee Gum is a frontrunner in the Department of Tooth Decay, it seems like a safe alternative to the oral deathtrap that is Stride. After balking about paying a dollar fifty for a pack of Trident, I end up paying $3.38 total for three packs of gum to chew on the plane.

Glee gum with little guy who does not look glum like purchaser.

Glee Gum with happy dancing little guy who does not look glum like Glee Gum purchaser.

Appropriately, I have no idea what I did with that pack of Stride. Hopefully, it did not fall behind a chair and is now in the process of burning a mint-scented hole in my carpet.

Thurber the family dog, "Your gum problems are so first world."

Thurber the family dog, “Your gum problems are so first world.”

Lame Adventure 387: Any Given Sidewalk

On a pleasant summer evening in mid-August, I was walking down my quiet residential street on the Upper West Side when I encountered a mother walking up my block hand in hand with her inquisitive son, a lad of about five. His attention was focused on the sidewalk.

Sidewalk in question.

Sidewalk in question.

Lad: What are all these spots?

Mom: Gum.

Lad (in disbelief): No!

Mom: Yes! All these spots are chewed gum that someone stepped on again and again and again.

I blew past them both fighting the urge to declare:

Me: Not me!

Upon reflection, I’m glad I kept my defensive pie hole shut because in point of fact, Mom is right. I am someone who has indeed stepped on all that blackened, flattened gum “again and again and again”.  And so is she and so is the lad and so are you, if you’ve ever pounded any New York City pavement. Everyone that sets foot on the sidewalks of New York steps on it, even if it is grounded into the street for decades, you cannot avoid it. It’s everywhere like rats and pigeons. For added authenticity there could have been a little bronze splat under the foot of this statue of legendary New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia.

The Little Flower

The Little Flower

Where's the bronze gum splat under foot?

Where’s the bronze gum splat under foot?

Where are these legions of gum-chewing-spitting-sidewalk-defacing masses and furthermore, who are they? One workday evening, while standing on the platform in the Chambers Street subway station, I noticed that I was near three gum chewers: a male hipster in his twenties, an adolescent boy and a plush, middle age woman. I wondered if any of them had ever spat their spent gum on the sidewalk? Then, I took my wonder to the next level, were any of these individuals serial gum spitters? Could they have inherited this trait from a long line of gum chewing and spitting ancestors?

Since I am a natural born weasel with a penchant for self-preservation, I kept these burning questions to myself, but I do think they are something, forgive the pun, to chew on. Someone, somewhere is doing a massive amount of gum spitting on the sidewalks of New York and apparently they’re a-okay with it. Possibly for them, this habit is as natural as breathing, bitching or writing on bathroom walls. Odds are good that these are people we have met, actually know, dated, married or maybe, just maybe,  you’re one of them?

Freshly stepped on.

Freshly stepped.

Confession: for the past twenty years in response to thousands of dollars of dental work, I only chew gum when on a plane. I have never in my life ever spat a wad on a sidewalk, but decades ago, once to impress a date, I spat it in a trash can. I misfired and it landed on the side. Inside the can. But it was a pretty wussy spit. I sensed she thought I looked like a fool and I never did that again.

There are a few blackened gum blots outside my apartment building and I wonder if any of my guests might have put them there? I even noticed a wad of spit gum in the hallway where I work. Who did that? Serf or management?

Wad perfect.

Wad perfect.

When Milton and I toured Louis Armstrong’s house in Corona, Queens, I noticed a blackened disc of flattened gum defiling the front steps of the jazz legend’s home.

Did Satchmo do this?

Not even Satchmo’s front stoop is spared!

The modern chewing gum industry was born in 1876 in a factory on Vesey Street in lower Manhattan that was started by Thomas Adams, the dominant gum maker in the early 20th Century. He produced many brands including Chiclets, Tutti Fruiti gumballs and my childhood favorite, the first flavored gum, Black Jack. When I was a youngster, I would stick this black licorice-flavored gum on my front teeth to make it appear that they were missing. While other girls my age were playing Barbie, I was fantasizing that my front teeth looked like Muhammad Ali had knocked them out. In 1962 Adams was sold to Pfizer. Today, it is owned by Cadbury Adams and headquartered in New Jersey. Even though the Vesey Street factory has long since closed, for the past 137 years, gum chewers have continued the tradition of littering the sidewalks of New York.

Classic gum splat. Vintage or recent?

Classic gum splat. Vintage or recent?

There is a company called Gum Busters that’s dedicated to the thankless task of cleaning gum off pavement. They claim that it only takes 24 hours before a freshly spat wad can turn from a bubblegum pink color to a blackened disc the size of a half dollar where it can live in perpetuity.



As for whoever these many closet gum spitters are, I have no idea, but one can only hope that they get what they deserve: sticky payback under the soles of their shoes … or someplace far worse.

Subway seat: don't sit here.

Huge wad of gum on subway seat.

Lame Adventure 137: Some of New York’s Least Finest

Milton and I recently attended a weeknight preview screening of Sofia Coppola’s upcoming release, Somewhere, at the AMC 34th Street Theater, a few blocks west of Herald Square.  We arrived early to ensure ourselves good seats in the middle of the middle of the theater.  As I led the way into our chosen row, I hit my brakes a seat shy of dead center when I noticed a wad of gum strategically placed on the cup holder of the once most select seat in the row.  I pointed a finger at the abomination.

Me:  Look at that.

Attention getter

I lean right, giving Milton a better view as he leans left and peers over my shoulder.

Milton:  That’s disgusting.

We remove our layers of coats, hats, and scarves and settle into our seats next to The Contaminated One.  I take out my camera and proceed to shoot photographs.  As I show Milton my pictures on the viewfinder we discuss this bit of anonymous moviegoer DNA.

Me:  Who would do something like that?  It’s so hostile.

Milton ponders before delivering his verdict.

Milton:  A real New Yorker.  Who else would be both inconsiderate and original?

"Hey, I'm going to get popcorn. Keep an eye on my gum."

Milton:  Whoever did that probably heard that if you stick gum on your seat, it serves as a bed bug deterrent.  Soon enough, we’ll all be doing that.

I doubt that Milton’s bed bug deterrent theory has any credence, but that choice seat was people-averse in an otherwise sold out screening.  Something else unusual is that we were not asked once, “Is that seat taken?”  It was evident that no one wanted to take it.  Some gum chewing New Yorkers might be inconsiderate slobs, but most New Yorkers, whether gum chewing or not, do have a threshold when it comes to their proximity to something gross as evidenced that night.

For anyone inclined to see Somewhere, by all means go but go fast for once it opens later this month it may not be in theaters for very long.  It’s a beautifully acted and photographed wisp of a story set in the Chateau Marmont hotel that has a strong European sensibility, which might bore the daylights out of mainstream filmgoers with a penchant for special effects and traditional narratives.

The Rudes, the couple sitting next to Milton had no qualms spontaneously talking in a normal tone of voice during the middle of the film, completely distracting everyone within earshot.  Since I am rather hard of hearing, at first I thought their utterances were part of the soundtrack.  Milton thought that they were under the impression that they were in their own private screening room – apparently oblivious to the few hundred guests, and the dozen that were around them flashing near-psychotic stink eyes.  Although Milton wanted to beat them both with a gum-decorated armrest, he resisted.  A woman sitting in front of The Rudes finally gave them a loud “Shush!”  That message penetrated their granite skulls.  I’m grateful that they remembered to leave their yapping punt dog at home.  Too bad they forgot they were in a movie theater when they started gassing about who’s going to pick up the fish for dinner.