Uncle Eric’s Grab Bag

This week, I’m gonna reach into Uncle Eric’s Grab Bag and pull out a few leftover items that did not fit in previous columns because they were oddly shaped or just plain too fat.

I’ve been saving this first item for nearly a year, but it’s been sealed in a freezer bag so it’s still fresh. On Aug. 28, 2004, The Salt Lake Tribune ran an obituary that began as follows:

“Mary Earleen Labrum died August 26, 2004 and joined her beloved husband, Ken, who unexpectedly died almost eight years ago. Mom passed away from a broken heart and complication of diabetes.”

The medical explanation is compelling. “Mr. Labrum? I’m Dr. Kensington. I’m afraid your mother has passed away. The cause? A broken heart. Well, and diabetes. But mostly the broken heart.”

Are you already making up your own alternate versions of this? I know I am.

“Mom died of loneliness, and a heart attack.”

“Mom died of melancholy with a side of being hit by a bus.”

“Mom died of depression and sadness and cancer and grief.”

But it is not my place to mock the obituaries of deceased Utahns. No, wait. Yes it is! But that’s the only one I have handy. So instead I will tell you about the bumper sticker I saw on a pickup truck a few months ago. It had an image of a fireman, accompanied by these words: “I volunteer to fight what you fear.”

That is awesome, Mr. Fireman. It is awesome that you have volunteered for the fire department so that you can fight the things I am afraid of. And you know what the most awesome part is? That you posted a bumper sticker bragging about it.

“Yeah, I’m a fireman. I totally fight things. You know the things you’re the most terrified of? Yeah, that’s what I fight. Oh, and I volunteered. I don’t get paid or anything. I just volunteered to go fight scary things. Nah, I’m not a hero or anything. I mean, OK, you can call me that if you want. But I would never call myself that. I’m just a guy who volunteers to risk his life. Volunteers, mind you. Did I mention that?”

You volunteer to fight what I fear? What do you fight, spiders?

Next we come to the matter of Entenmann’s. This maker of fine baked goods has been around since 1898. Well, the boxes that their products come in say “Quality Since 1898,” anyway. Maybe they’ve been around longer than that but the stuff they made before 1898 was crap.

Anyway, like most 107-year-olds, Entenmann’s has a hard time using the toilet or appealing to young people, though it is the latter problem that has caught my eye recently. In an effort to seem cool to teenagers, Entenmann’s has introduced a line of “Extreme” snacks, each bearing the “Extreme” logo and a drawing of a guy on a skateboard. One of the snacks is called “Grab ‘Ems,” described as an “extra tasty donut 4-pack.” In other words, instead of the normal eight donuts to a box, these Grab ‘Ems come with only four. This is to facilitate easier grabbing. Goodness knows we’ve all tried to grab a box that contained eight of something, only to be frustrated at its unwieldiness. But four! That’s perfect for grabbing. You grab your skateboard in one hand and your box of Grab ‘Ems in the other and you’re set, dude.

Also in the donut family, there is a product called “Shrunken Donuts,” described as “super tasty mini donuts,” and there are 12 of them. In other words, they are the same donuts as in the other boxes, only smaller. The key here, though, is that they are shrunken: Entenmann’s didn’t make a smaller donut; they made a regular donut and then shrank it. HOW DID THEY DO THAT?!?! AND ALSO WHY?!?!

But my favorite in Entenmann’s line of Extreme-ly desperate attempts to woo young people is a box of cookies called “Extreme Skarf ‘Ems.” That’s right, they are little chocolate chip cookies meant for skarfing, even though “skarf” is not a word. If they’d called them “Scarf ‘Ems,” that wouldn’t have been extreme enough. But spelling stuff with a “k” is totally extreme. Or should I say “ekkstreme”? (Answer: No.)

And how do all these things tie together, to make this a cohesive, well-structured column? They don’t! But now Uncle Eric’s Grab Bag is empty, so we can finally launder it and put it back on the shelf in the hall closet, where it’s out of the way. See you next time!

[ The “background” for this column is pretty much IN the column: I had some items lying around, waiting to be included, and so I tossed them into one article. I suppose they all fall under the heading of “Things I Read Somewhere,” but that’s pretty broad. And you know who else is a pretty broad? Julianne Moore. ]