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Last month I wrote about cruise ships. This month I write to you from the polar opposite from cruise ships which is, of course, Minnesota. The main differences: No ocean, no palm trees, and 60 fewer degrees. The similarities: Wal-Marts at every stop and lots of Caucasians. I have always admired the conviction of the Minnesota settlers because, well, they stayed. Here is a sample conversation from the 1800’s:
“Hey, I understand if we go west there are beaches and gold.”
“Ya sure. We think we’ll just stay here and see how this storm plays out. If it gets a bit cold we’ll invent gravy.”
Every Hawaiian should get the chance to experience Minnesota before global warming makes it the new Tempe. The word “cold” is given new meaning the first time you feel your nipples cut your undershirt. It makes you realize that January day in Hawaii locals described as “cold” was, in fact, merely “tepid.”
The main reason I mention where I am is to tell the tale of a Minnesota trip some years ago when I got to visit the SPAM factory, or as we Hawaiians call it, Mecca. The three basic things you learn from reading my column are:
1). I graduated from Iolani
2). I come up with a lot of Dog the Bounty Hunter jokes
3). Hawaiians love SPAM
When I tell people that in Hawaii SPAM is sold at McDonald’s or 7-11, they often times don’t believe me or they are baffled. They rarely become hungry. One family who had seen me went on a vacation there and emailed a picture of the McDonald’s menu to me, which is exactly what the internet was invented for, proving visually of a cultural processed pork product prevalence (say that 3 times fast).
The nice folks at the comedy club in Minneapolis called down to Hormel to let them know that their comedian wanted to come down and take a tour. They wanted no part of it. Over the years SPAM has always been one of the most popular topics for comic fodder, recently moving into the number 7 spot past airline food. The last thing they want is a comedian coming by. It would be like Roger Ebert wanting to visit Eddie Murphy on the set of “Norbit 2.”
When the comedy club manager mentioned that I am Hawaiian, however, the call completely changed. They were more than eager to meet a Hawaiian and excited to have me come visit. Wow, I was getting kamaaina treatment 3200 miles from the islands. So we got into the car for the trip to Austin to complete my life’s pilgrimage.
Once there I grabbed my bib and shoyu packets and headed for the front door. I actually thought there would be a tasting room like the wineries have. “Here is our Spammy-Blanc 1992, a bold brick with hints of peach and a cinnamon finish.” Sadly, they do not have a tasting room. And there has never been a peach within 10 miles of a SPAM can.
I was a bit disappointed that we never got to see the actual factory. We took a little museum tour sharing the history of SPAM which, at first, was kind of interesting. But I have a brain defect that whenever more than two educational pieces of information enter my head, I automatically begin to think of balloons, or ducks, or uninvented pie flavors. If I wanted to know about the historical facts of SPAM I would have paid attention in high school. I’m not sure if they taught that in high school because, well, I wasn’t paying attention. I, like many Americans, don’t want knowledge. I want to see machines and conveyor belts and oompa-loompas singing songs and dancing.
I asked my tour guide if we could see how SPAM was made and I was immediately whisked into a small room with a mirrored wall and asked who I was working for. I wasn’t sure why I couldn’t see the process but after some thought I realized it’s probably not something most of us should see. It’s not exactly getting juice from a grape. It’s like a David Copperfield show. If you see how it’s done, it may ruin the magic. Yes folks, this would be the first ever metaphor using David Copperfield and SPAM. We made history, people. Couldn’t have done it without you.
One very cool thing they took me to see was the warehouse where all the SPAM swag is located. Anything and everything you can buy with a SPAM logo on it was in that building. It was awesome! You could dress completely in SPAM-labeled clothing. They had underwear, pants, shoes, shirts, and even a leather-sleeved letterman’s jacket. Of course, you wouldn’t date much but you could do it. When I asked if I could get something she gave me a beautiful three fold paper with online purchasing information. Amazingly, I already owned half the stuff in that warehouse.
I really do appreciate how wonderful they were to me (that is, once they found out where I was from). They showed me pictures of Hawaiians who had visited and had nothing but nice things to say about Hawaii, or as they pronounce it, “Chaching.” Hawaiians eat 7 million cans of SPAM per year; a per capita average of 6 cans per person…uh…banana caramel, that would be good pie.
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