Hostess Bankruptcy: Why Twinkie Will Survive

Life is short, except for shelf life. All the rivers run into the sea, but the Twinkie abides. It will long be an icon of comfort food, a spongy link with a time when coffee was a nickel, Camels made you healthy, and your brother was the Beaver. This world never existed in reality, and now even our Twinkie is gone, in the blink of an eye. We must press on, somehow.

High in the aisles of junk that passes for food today, the everlasting Twinkie is on display no more. This sweet icon of Americana will now be collected, not consumed, its cash value qua artifact rising even as its food-value stays frozen forever, at the number zero. There may be heavy trading and speculation, Atlantic crossings, perhaps even a Twinkie Bubble and a Twinkie Crash. In its natural state, which is dropped on the ground for a lucky dog to find, it resembles something that should be poked with a stick.

A Twinkie passes rapidly through the human or canine gut like the masticated chyme it becomes after chewing, and from there we draw a curtain. But any whole specimens saved by the fall of Hostess will be stored like holy relics in a deep vault, for future archaeologists to unearth. In a language yet to be invented, they will pull out this cellophane-wrapped, slug-shaped, toasted confection and say, “WTF? IDNO. SHT? Y/N/MYBE --WTFX2!, ‘TWNKE, -HOST-‘ !!GOD-THNG?”

Scientists will not eat it, not even lab rats. It will wind up in a museum, probably. Too bad about the library at Alexandria, the Mona Lisa, all the lost empires grown stale and sucked down into the dustbin of history, but Twinkies will remain. It is what they do best.

In my long life, I have eaten many, many Twinkies, and Sno(man’s)Balls, as we used to call them, Ho-Hos, Ding-Dongs, plus numerous insect parts and crunchy pelletized rat exhaust. On a reservation in South Dakota in 1967, I once traded my last Twinkie to an old man in a blanket for a piece of homemade fry bread, and thus made a new friend: Seven Teeth Left. 

That’s what he mumbled when I asked him his name, but we were both chewing. He taught me to say Fuck You in the Crow tongue. I will tell you, to pay that Twinkie gift forward: Epi-Ha! It is an excellent battle cry, and can be said to Death when it comes for you or takes a friend, as a joke, he said. Ah, golden days of my lost youth, with ever-fresh Twinkies in my backpack and a thousand yearning horizons.

One summer in Colorado, when a black bear decided to stroll alongside my parked Volkswagen convertible, tossing a Twinkie in a far arc over the windshield helped steer the beast away, the correct direction. The Twinkie belonged to my first ex-wife. She loved them very much. We are no longer together, perhaps even because of them.

The best Twinkies of my life have been the ones I didn’t eat. In childhood, they were a kind of mysterious, expensive holiday food, but the holiday was on no calendar. My Danish mother did all the baking, for which she had the same natural aptitude as clubbing seals.  Growing up with woodstoves, the only heat setting she ever learned was Full Fracking On, ignoring the scientific principle that baked goods tend to incinerate at prolonged high temperatures.

Finding a Twinkie in my school lunch box would have meant the magic holiday had finally arrived. But it never did. My mother’s cookies were tarry, burned ceramic-tile biscuits that the local squirrels walked around.

So in the fifth grade, when I found a Twinkie in the school bathroom, way up on a tiled windowsill, wrapped and uneaten, my amazement and wonder totally redlined, not to return at that intensity for a whole decade…

That was the night of my first acid trip. There was a Twinkie on the outdoor table, and after several subjective months of planning, it occurred to me to eat it, somehow.  Everything seemed very simple and basic, full of Zen and the Holy Spirit. Such being the case, eating or not eating that single Twinkie became a moral and philosophical issue.

It followed that if I unwrapped the cellophane and it spoke to me, this would prove its consciousness at some level. I already suspected a degree of sentience, because it had been communicating telepathically about unwrapping it. Eating it was either very wrong, or very right. Somehow it compelled me to open the wrapper, with a label reading “HOSTess.”  I elevated it, to my nose.

The sense of smell is most closely connected to memory, but 300 micrograms of lysergic acid boosts the effect, much like connecting your laptop to all the Crays in Langley. And then a dim, dusty, smelly vision came out from its cranny between my ears, of that long-ago Twinkie on a bathroom sill. Are you kidding, absolutely not. No, I didn’t eat it, not out of logic or good sense, nor even because it was suspect. There was no reason. Maybe it told me not to.

This one said the same, for sure. Not in so many words, perhaps, but I understood what it wanted: to be given as a gift to the universe, set free from the cellophane, not added to the plaque on my arteries. I peeled the wrapper and floated out to the edge of the deck, casting it out into the darkness of the Rocky Mountains. It may have been eaten by Coyote himself, this ancestor of the Last Twinkie Left On Earth. Goodbye, old snack. Epi Ha!