Friday, Apr 20, 2018
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Longing for those treats of yesteryear? They're all here

Got the blues? Who doesn't in these post-Sept. 11 days?

Well, instead of tromping off to the psychiatrist or chanting with a maharishi, here's a better idea: Satisfy your yearning for the way things used to be by turning to Hometown Favorites, a marvelous Web site that offers surprising comfort in the pure nostalgia conjured up by the candy you ate as a kid, plus the cereal, soda pop, soups, sauces, desserts, and other treats of the '50s, '60s, and '70s.

Of course, anxiety and fear continue to threaten our peace of mind, and it's still hard to get rid of that lump in the throat.

But knowing that you can still order long-ago brands like Goobers, JuJubes, Necco wafers, candy cigarettes, wax lips, Moxie soda, Bosco syrup, Salada Tea, Malt-o-Meal hot cereal, Aunt Jemima pancake mix, and Sarsaparilla - and have them delivered right to your door - must mean something in these dire days.

Hometown Favorites specializes in foods of yore, and though some of the products are available in Toledo supermarkets and at The Andersons, there are hundreds more that you'll never find on local shelves.

For example, when's the last time you saw a packet of Sen-Sens, those tiny breath savers that tasted like a combination of licorice and soap? Or Teaberry gum, pop rocks, Skybars, Heath and 5th Avenue bars?

Or Mary Janes, licorice smoke pipes, and Oh Henry candy bars (“Public Energy Number One”)?

The site boasts 400 old-time foods for sale, but candy is the specialty.

Also check out the recipes and reader comments, and a page listing old products with new names (Forever Yours are now Milky Way Dark bars, Kraft Caramels are now Farley Carmels).

Gift baskets and boxes of candies by the decade are also available for online ordering.

The writer as performer

Watching gifted artists and performers ply their trade is one of life's great pleasures - a painter creating a landscape, an actor delivering a soliloquy, a rock guitarist banging out electric chords, a singer belting out a show tune, a pianist playing a sonata, and so on.

But what of the writer? He labors alone at what the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas described as “my craft or sullen art/exercised in the still night/when only the moon rages/And the lovers lie abed ...” There is no audience or applause for the poor, isolated writer ... until now.

In a rare experiment that capitalizes on the possibilities of the Internet, Robert Olen Butler, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, puts himself front and center at a Web site that shows him in the cursed throes of writing a short story. We hear him in the act of creating the story, his computer keyboard making fitful noises as he arm-wrestles his muse. He types, stops, types, coughs, sighs, swallows, clears his throat, and types again.

With Web surfers as his newfound audience (the free Real Player download is required), we hear Butler attempting to explain aloud the logic and nature of the story he is writing in the confines of his office at Florida State University, where he teaches. And we hear him reading the story back to himself as he writes paragraph after paragraph, negotiating the sense and rhythm and trajectory of the story as it spills out of his brain.

Thanks to a camera trained on the computer screen, we also get to see exactly what Butler is writing - “every comma stroke, every lousy, rotten, awkward sentence, every blind alley, every bad metaphor,” as he told the New York Times in an article published earlier this week.

Butler began writing his short story online Oct. 30. He starts at 9 p.m. Sundays through Fridays and finishes about two hours later with an e-mail question-and-answer session with those who sat in on his writing “performance.” He plans to finish the story Nov. 20 - next Tuesday. Get there quick.

This is a ground-breaking lesson on what it takes to turn half-formed thoughts into words with an afterlife. It is also a daring experiment that may well turn the idea of teaching English composition on its ear. Butler isn't afraid to bare himself before an audience as he struggles to carve sense, maybe even eloquence, out of the fumbling ideas making their perilous way to the written page, rewrite after rewrite.

If you miss the live sessions before Butler finishes the story Tuesday night, the live video sessions are being archived for future viewing. But do try to see and hear the author live online. It's a bravado performance.

If you have a Web site to recommend, send an e-mail to

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