Saturday, October 18, 2008

Those Were the McDays

I really miss McDonald's.

Books like Fast Food Nation and movies like Super Size Me are exposing the health hazards of these types of restaurants. The big message now is to eat healthier and steer clear of fast food. Too much of this stuff will kill you.

Okay, I get it. I know that Quarter Pounders and hot apple pies will clog my arteries and add chins to my face. But let's face it; McDonald's can be really tasty. Is there anything better than a large fries, fresh out of the bag? I don't think so. (Especially those stray, bonus fries that hide at the bottom of the bag.) Anyway, it's the whole aura of McDonald's that I miss. It wasn't just a meal, it was a destination.

When I was a kid, McDonald's had an alternate universe known as "McDonaldland". I never read Alice in Wonderland, so I couldn't tell you the difference between the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter. However, I can tell you more about McDonaldland than I can about the very state of Connecticut that I live in. McDonaldland was the realm of Ronald McDonald, the Clown Prince of the franchise, but there was so much more to this magical place.

McDonaldland was ruled by a guy named Mayor McCheese. His head was a giant cheeseburger with eyes and a mouth. (I guess in McDonaldland, you are what you eat.) He also had a purple top hat and sash that signified his rank as a public servant. Besides representing the citizens of McDonaldland, he also represented cheeseburgers, and he was not shy about it. You might cringe at the thought of a politician with such overt biases, but I found it refreshing. There were no hidden agendas with The Mayor. You knew where he stood at all times. It was usually next to a table full of cheeseburgers.

The Mayor's right hand man, and enforcer, was a burley dude called Big Mac. Big Mac was a cop, one of McDonaldland's Finest, and he kept the peace. Big Mac was charged with protecting the citizens of The Land from the many dangers under the Golden Arches. His arch nemesis was a vile creature known as The Hamburglar. His true identity hidden behind a black mask, The Hamburglar was always in the shadows, terrorizing the hungry people of The Land by constantly stealing their food. Ever the enigma, the only words we ever heard from this fiend were "Robble, robble, robble." What did it mean? Was it a message, a warning, a threat? Or was his mouth just full of stolen hamburgers?

McDonaldland actually boasted a roster of villains that could rival that of Batman or Dick Tracy. There was Captain Crook, the pirate who loved Fillet of Fish and The Gobblins, whose insatiable appetite for French Fries kept McDonaldland in a constant state of high alert.
They weren't all bad though. There was also a host of friendly characters who inhabited this world, like The Professor, the lovable Grimace and later on, Birdie the Early Bird. (I'll deal with Birdie later.) Each was known for their love of a particular menu item, and as kids, we would rally behind the characters that stood for our favorites. I was always partial to the Grimace, myself.

Unfortunately, like many things in life, McDonaldland eventually lost its' shimmer. Maybe it started when that obnoxious Birdy showed up for breakfast and made us dread the sunrise. (The Early Bird gets the worm, and gets on my nerves. Nobody should be that cheery first thing in the morning.)

Then the Mcflood gates opened; The Gobblins became The Fry Guys and they even softened up the Hamburglar's look to be cuddly rather than sinister. By the time the anthropomorphic Chicken McNuggets showed up, it was all over… or maybe I had just out grown it all.
Now eating at McDonald's is different. It's just another place to grab a quick bite. The colorful characters have been replaced by apathetic servers who constantly screw up your order and charge you a quarter for an extra packet of sweet and sour sauce. It doesn't even taste as good as it used to. Never mind the guilt associated with eating that stuff. It's just not the same anymore.

But sometimes I sure wish I could go back in time and have one more Shamrock Shake in that special place where they always put the "happy" in Happy Meal.

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