Adicción: Flautas

My new addiction to bubblegum came as the result of my new addiction to flautas. So I’ve been pretty busy, obviously.

I ate at a lot of restaurants this summer. This was partly because many of them are within walking distance of my new apartment, and partly because I don’t like to cook, and partly because I want to be poor for the rest of my life. One of them was Cafe Pierpont, which, despite its pretentious name, is actually just a Mexican restaurant. I had eaten there once before with a friend, and our dinner was interrupted by a Mexican fellow who played the guitar and sang songs. He asked if there was any particular song we wanted to hear, and before I could say, “No, please don’t sing anything, for the love of all that is good,” my friend said, “Anything you like!” So then he started singing and playing, and my friend and I had to just sit there and listen because, ironically, it would have been rude for us to interrupt his singing with our talking, even though he had interrupted our talking with his singing in the first place.

Anyway, I tried Cafe Pierpont again this summer, and a marvelous series of events transpired. First, the guitarista was nowhere to be seen. Then, I told the waitress I was considering the chimichanga and was debating between beef and chicken. She said that if I’m a chicken fan, I ought to get the flautas.

“Oh? Why is that?” I asked, taken aback by the presumptuousness of the hired help.

She said, “Because they’re pretty much the same thing, except they have chunks of chicken, whereas the chimichanga has shredded chicken.”

Now, I’m generally afraid of new things, and I’m usually a chimichanga man, as discussed in chapter 8 of my autobiography, “I’m Usually A Chimichanga Man.” But if the flauta was essentially the same thing as the chimichanga except with better chicken, then I stood to lose nothing by trying it. “Yes!” I declared. “I will have the flautas!”

And have the flautas I did. Oh, my friends, I wish you could have tasted them. Maybe you have been to Cafe Pierpont in Salt Lake City and have tried them. If not, sell everything you own, buy a ticket and get here immediately. (They close at 10.) The flauta is chicken, cheese and sour cream all rolled up inside a flour tortilla, which is then deep-fried (deep-fried!). They bring you two of them, each bursting with flauta goodness, too much to eat in one sitting, so you have to take one home to have at midnight when you’re watching that day’s episode of “Jeopardy!” that TiVo recorded for you (assuming you are me). The flautas are flautastic!

I returned to Cafe Pierpont the next day to have more flautas, and several more times in the subsequent weeks. I was in love with the flautas. The flautas loved me, too, though the oppressive laws of our state prohibited us from being joined together legally as man and flauta. Still, our time together was bliss.

Here’s where the bubblegum comes in. At Cafe Pierpont, instead of having a bowl of mints for patrons to take on their way out, there’s a big barrel of bubblegum. I don’t know why. Maybe they figure their food is so powerful that mints would be useless against it, so they gave up and put out something that tastes good instead. Whatever the reason, they’ve got this tub of Dubble Bubble there. When I was a kid, you could buy a piece of this at the Circle K for 3 cents, and then it went up to 5 cents. Today, with inflation, it’s probably $20. Anyhow, it’s free at Cafe Pierpont, so I started grabbing a handful every time I was there.

The thing is, I was never a regular bubblegum chewer. I love the flavor, but I hate the effort: all that chewing and chewing and chewing and never actually getting to EAT anything. It feels so futile, not to mention fatiguing. If they could come up with a bread or a meat that tasted like bubblegum but that you actually got to eat, I’d be all over it.

Since the Dubble Bubble was free for the taking, I took some and instinctively popped a piece in my mouth. The flavor was as good as I remembered it, and the enjoyment of blowing bubbles — one of the least dignified things you can do with your mouth in public, I’m aware — was still a treat. I found myself chewing a piece now and then at home, as I worked at my computer. It was free, so no big deal, right?

A couple weeks later, I was at a grocery store and happened to see a package of 10 pieces of Bazooka Joe for sale near the register. The price was 69 cents, or 6.9 cents per piece, which is only slightly more than the 5 cents it cost when I was a kid. I figured what they heck, I’ll go ahead and buy some. Who’s it gonna hurt?

Now, Bazooka Joe is not as good as Dubble Bubble. It is grittier and is wrapped in really dumb comics. These comics are the least funny things in the world, even less funny than Jay Leno or birth defects. The list goes like this:

Least Funny Things in the World:
1. Bazooka Joe comics
2. birth defects
3. Jay Leno
4. your mom dying
5. Al Franken
6. one-legged puppies
7. award-show jokes
8. Bob Hope (pre-death)
9. Bob Hope (post-death)
10. your dad dying

Nonetheless, I bought the Bazooka Joe and began chewing it when I didn’t have any Cafe Pierpont-subsidized Dubble Bubble on hand. That is when I realized I was addicted, when I actually BOUGHT some bubblegum, and when I began chewing it even though I didn’t really enjoy it anymore.

That is where we stand now. I crave flautas constantly and I chew gum whenever I’m sitting at my desk. Why can’t I ever get addicted to something healthy, like exercise, or bathing? Why must it be things that are deep-fried or sugary? Or better yet, deep-fried AND sugary? Hey, why can’t they roll the flautas in cinnamon and sugar? IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?!

The word "flauta" is fun to say, too, especially if you pronounce the "t" as a "t," instead of as a "d," which would be the natural American way to say it: "Flau-ta." When this column appears on a future volume of "The Snide Remarks Collection," read aloud by me, you'll be able to hear what a fun word it is.

It's Spanish for "flute," because of the way the food is shaped. Just so you know.

The list of the Least Funny Things in the World took more effort than you'd think. Even the order was difficult: I reversed the positions of the last two items again and again before finally deciding the Bob Hope items should be next to each other so that "your dad dying" could be at the end. (Notice that Bob Hope became funnier after he died.) I had Carrot Top on the list for a while, but he's an easy target. He was replaced with "award-show jokes," which I was reminded of while watching the Emmys.

I was distressed to learn in the summer of 2007 that Cafe Pierpont had closed. Evidently the building acquired a new owner, and that person was an evil bastard who wanted to turn Cafe Pierpont into something else.