I went to the bluebell ice cream factory once.
Well, I think I did, at least. It was back when I was living in Oklahoma. This was also back when I was six.
I get older and memories crack into snapshots, tiny little photos on a news feed that I have trouble figuring out how to scroll.
I think I went there. It’s not as clear as when I went to space camp or the ropes course in North Carolina.
We were at both those places for three days and I only remember certain things: we snuck into a haunted house in North Carolina. I was terrified, but there was this girl and…
I also remember that it rained one night in space camp. The roofs were made out of tin. Very unlike a spacecraft, I thought. It sounded like a drum line all night long. No one got any sleep.
I remember two things about bluebell:
- We got to eat ice cream at the end. I was disappointed that it tasted exactly the same as the bluebell ice cream you’d buy in a store, never making the connection that of course it would.
- It wasn’t even a little bit like Willy Wonka.
It was cold and polished steel. People walked around in what I thought were haz-mat suits and nothing was growing anywhere in sight.
People weren’t especially jolly.
There weren’t even indentured dwarves.
It was very un-magical.
Sometimes you don’t think about things until it’s too late. It’s why I like to meditate. I don’t just think about the day, but I try to let my mind wander wherever it wants to go. Sometimes it thinks about dogs. Sometimes it thinks about butts. Mostly it just thinks about mountains, but sometimes… sometimes it creates revelations.
The revelation created today was how much Gene Wilder affected my life even though I never met the man. He and John Cleese were always my heroes. Even without knowing it, they were who I tried to emulate when I preformed.
I’d always imagined myself being a Gene Wilder if I pursued acting: utterly bizzare and hilarious.
Being brilliant in everything I did.
I decided to write instead of act because at some point I became wary of most people, but I still wanted to be Gene Wilder. Wild this, Wild that, make it Wilder, man. Something funny and absurd but heartfelt. Something that will make people cry at the end of it all, as the rocket soars up over the city and you see the smile on a young boy’s face as he realizes it’s not just an ice cream factory.
It’s a world. It’s packaged goodness, coming out of a machine and being driven to places where people can buy it and eat it up and help their day out just a little.
That’s what I try to tell myself even on the worst days of Starbucks. You really are giving people sugary joy in a cup. Maybe a wink and a smile, make it Wilder, and you can brighten someone’s day.
Want to change the world? There’s nothing to it.
And so I was disappointed no one turned into a grape or got shrunk and there weren’t any orange slaves or a river made of chocolate when I went to the cie cream factory, but I realize now that I shouldn’t have been.
Because ice cream factories ship joy.
Little boxes of happiness. Little tubs of Willy Wonka and Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles. A round welcoming face, curly hair and occasionally a weird mustache.
Ah, there are so many things I wrote for you.
A tourist mistaken for an Area 51 general. A middle school music teacher who accidentally summons the court of Oberon and Titania. A down on his luck actor who talks like he’s from the Canterbury tales. A fake General Lee who just wants to win the re-enactment of the battle of Gettysburg for once.
Just one time.
So what about ice cream, anyway?
It’s magic. Just like Gene Wilder was magic just like everyone you ever admire was magic, and one day you’re going to wake up and find out they’re dead. They’ve been all used up, like the gross, sweet soup that’s always left in the bottom of an ice cream bowl.
And so you rinse it and the liquid spins down the drain. It goes down a pipe and into another pipe and into a bigger pipe and out to see.
Where maybe some fish enjoy it.
And it’s magic.
There’s a lot of things that are magic.
Almost everyone is magic.
But one day they’ll run out.
So do this.
Just tell them.
Walk right up to them and say it.
Just tell them.
Because you don’t want to do it too late.