Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cracklin' Oat Bran: Living in Danger

I'm listening to the song "Standing Outside a Broken Telephone Booth With Money in My Hand" by the Primitive Radio Gods, and thinking about Cracklin' Oat Bran. For some reason the two seem to fit. Maybe it's the hollow rectangular shape of the cereal recalling an empty phone booth. Maybe it's the lightly toasted oatmeal taste syncing in my brain with the ethereal piano solo at 2:41. Maybe its the fact that both are outlaws of sorts -- Cracklin' Oat Bran with its unorthodox shape, Primitive Radio Gods with their one-hit-wonderness, both relegated to the sidelines of popular culture, both enjoying a sort of forlorn cult status from the fringes of our popular imagination.

Whatever the reason, Cracklin' Oat Bran has been on my mind. For a good while. Well, for a few days. Until Saturday night, I had actually never tried the stuff. Now I realize it's the XTC or the Beta Band or the Zombies or the Action of the cereal world -- revered by few, forgotten by most. And that's fine. Because mystique is very becoming on cereal, and Cracklin' Oat Bran is nothing if not mysterious. Its squared-off edges and geometric cuts and hard angles seem manufactured in some grey North Korean factory or some underground Montana bunker, infused with military precision and the vestiges of a time when, as Abe Simpson once put it, men's haircuts were so sharp you could set a clock to them.

The texture is firm, unrelenting. It bends to no man and no milk. It bites back, so dense with potential that each break is a mini explosion. Rupturing that stolid square is like toppling a building, smashing a mirror, lighting a match. The taste is sweet and savory. Gina said it tastes like an oatmeal cookie, and I love oatmeal cookies, and I must agree with her. Wally said he's a fan, and he would know. Ellen said the cereal used to be available in bulk in large vats with large plastic scoops at her college, and that the cereal drove the co-eds wild, and that it's perhaps her favorite cereal, and that it's the first cereal she ever discussed with me when the topic was broached. "Crunchy, Sweet Oven-Baked Oat Cereal." "Standing Outside a Broken Telephone Booth With Money in My Hand." Indeed.

Cracklin' Oat Bran is nothing like the Vines, because I hate the Vines. It's not much like Doveshack singing "Summertime in the LBC," either. But it is like Ace of Base's "Young and Proud," or Ace of Base's "Living in Danger," or even Ace of Base's "Dancer in a Daydream," because those are pretty cool songs, all cold and calculated and sweetly sinister and kinda fucked by the establishment but nonetheless worthy of love. You could buy four Ace of Base songs on iTunes for $3.99, or you could buy a 17-ounce box of Cracklin Oat Bran', and I wouldn't fault you either way. Nourishment is nourishment. Taste is taste. Cracklin' is Cracklin'.

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