Over Easy: On bread, buttered popcorn and big sandwiches

Dan Mackie (Courtesy photograph)

Dan Mackie (Courtesy photograph)


Published: 05-09-2024 5:01 PM

Spring is all a-bloom here in the Upper Valley, and we gallop from too cold to too hot too fast. It is a meteorological microwave.

It sends me scurrying to find my summer shorts, which reveal my legs as shiny white as an airport beacon. They are knobby, too, due to varicose veins. One section resembles a medieval map of the tributaries of northern France, while the other recalls floodwaters at the mouth of the Mississippi. Cartographers and phlebotomists agree the likeness is uncanny.

Fortunately, they cause little discomfort. Years ago our family doctor told me I’d never win a pretty leg contest and, you know, he was right. His assessment stayed with me, unlike some of the more useful medical advice I should have followed.

Of late I have been taking note of End Times for businesses that I frequented. You may have missed the closing of the Freihofer’s Bakery Outlet on Mechanic Street in Lebanon. My father used to call such establishments “used bread stores,” but they actually sold returns from the shelves of retail markets. Oat Nut bread went for two for $4, while two loaves (albeit fresher) might set you back $10 elsewhere.

For a time all bread sold for $1 on Fridays, so penny-pinching seniors lined up before the shop opened to be sure their favorites were still on the shelves. After I turned 65, it was my duty to join them. “I’m on a fixed income” was my battle cry. It was easy to arrive early, since my inner alarm clock thinks 5 a.m. is pretty swell. It is wrong, but what can you do?

Local Facebook pundits blamed the economy and Bidenomics for the store closing, one of 28 for the company in the East. I think the owners, Bimbo Bakeries, which calls itself “the world’s largest baking company with operations in 35 countries,” simply lost interest in the somewhat shabby outlets. Each store’s marketing budget provided a Sharpie and paper so changes in holiday hours could be taped to the window.

Still, they are gone, and I don’t think it was President Biden’s fault, though he may have been culpable in the demise of Sears, Studebaker and the Pony Express, probably done in by finicky OSHA rules.

I don’t think Biden had a hand in the closure of the Claremont Cinemas, which I had been to a few times over the years. It was a pretty big theater, by Upper Valley standards, but movie attendance is shrinking as home TV screens grow so large it’s almost unsettling. My brother-in-law had a screen so vast I ducked when a baseball pitcher threw a high fast one.

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It’s also possible that vanishing attention spans make it painful for people to sit in the dark for two hours focused on just one story, even with explosions, climate disasters, alien abductions, zombies and more. And that was just the remake of “Anne of Green Gables!”

We’ve come a long way from the movie houses of my youth, when Saturday kiddie matinees cost about 50 cents. With barely any adults in the vicinity, hundreds of feral children filled the place and yelled, screamed and launched fusillades of popcorn and Whoppers, during double-features like Pirates of the Bloody River and Custer’s Last Stand. Then, after hours in utter darkness, we returned to the sunlight like moles from their underground lairs, blinded. Sometimes parents forgot to pick us up. They weren’t on call like Uber. We could walk or sit outside and wait until they returned from the hardware store, supermarket or a trip to see relatives, and something somehow reminded them they had children, children they’d left at the movies.

And this, kids of today, is why cellphones had to be invented.

Of lesser note nationally and globally is the closing of a sandwich shop in Claremont we happened upon several years ago. The business named Best Subs Known to Mankind may not have served the best subs known to mankind entirely, but for me it was in the top three for this: Best Sub Shop Names Known to Mankind. I admired its bold, expansive claim.

We were big fans of the chicken Parmesan sub, made on a generous cut of soft Italian bread. The chicken was good, perhaps not up to the standards of Michelin-rated restaurants, but I suppose few of those serve subs. The sauce was fine, the service straight-forward. “Have a nice day,” they wished us, not always, but most of the time.

In my mind its subs were superior to those from the Subway chain which, according to the Washington Post, had more than 40,000 restaurants worldwide about a decade ago.

Go figure.

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.