Flavor of the Week
I was recently in San Antonio. I think it was last month. Time still hasn’t quite righted itself, has it? But the when isn’t really a part of the story. It’s the where, and the what.
Where: a gift shop in a San Antonio shopping center that fate or karma or God on High directed me to. I’d driven my rental car out of the airport hoping to find something good for lunch, a few hours to kill before I had to return to the airport and pick up my director/friend for the drive to Hill Country. I didn’t know where I was going, I didn’t open Maps or Yelp. I just followed the signs on the highway and chose an exit, and when I pulled off the road to consult the Internet, I found I was already where I’d been trying to get.
I didn’t eat in the gift shop, of course. I ate at a lovely place I can only describe as a hip Texan deli. Then I got a fancy cup of iced coffee, the extra expensive kind, just how we like it in California. And then, I closed out my time at this dream emporium by visiting a gift shop.
What: A porcelain toothpaste dispenser. It was made by Marvis1, the company that makes the first luxe toothpaste I ever laid eyes on. I wasn’t even in America at the time, that’s how luxe it was — I was in Rome, in 2004. I bought a silver and cerulean tube at a drug store in Trastevere, and the flavor, “Aquatic Mint,” has reminded me of Italy ever since.
Nowadays, there are many more flavors of Marvis toothpaste on the market, each with its own unique color, rampant on a tube of silver. “Jasmin Mint” is purple, “Ginger Mint” is orange, “Amarelli Licorice” is black. And my father has collected them all.
So when my eyes fell upon this precious toothpaste dispenser, I thought for a moment that this, too, was a discovery by way of divine intervention. Sure, Christmas was half a year away, but what do you get for the man who has every… kind of toothpaste? I took closer look.
The mechanism of the dispenser was simple but elegant. One simply had to thread the end of the tube through a metal spindle, and twist that spindle like a screw as the tube got used up. Eventually, you’d reach the point where there was no more tube left to twist, and then you’d be out of toothpaste and it would be time to thread in a new tube.
It was simple, it was elegant, it would fit easily into my carry-on. Alas, it was clear that this wasn’t a useful gift for my dad. See, he doesn’t use one tube from beginning to end and then start on the next. He keeps all those flavors so that he can use a new one each day. It’s a habit that is an astonishing confluence of elite taste and childlike playfulness. Which, come to think of it, is a pretty great capsule description of my father himself.
As his child, I have inherited some of that same spirit. I don’t have seven toothpaste flavors (I simply don’t have the drawer space!) but this mindset — “try them all, keep things interesting” — shows up in other ways. I prefer to change things up by week, rather than by day. Duolingo2, for example. If I’m asked what language I’m studying on the app, I inevitably take a deep breath before answering, knowing that I’m about to reveal a deep truth about what kind of person I am, a truth that fills me with a confusing mix of pride and embarrassment.
Sure, I could lie. I could say “French,” and leave it at that. But the truth is, I do a French week, then an Italian week, then a German week, and then a Spanish week. The new week starts on Mondays, and I keep track of what language is up next by using the acronym “FIGS.”
My dad, in contrast, has taken on Duolingo as a kind of retirement collegiate course. The app’s telltale duh-ding! resounds again and again from his iPad Pro each morning and sometimes in the afternoon and in the evening. But it’s always Spanish. Siempre. And yet, there’s almost nothing I could tell you that would more surely pinpoint me as my father’s daughter than my FIGS system. It’s the spirit of the thing, the sense that it’s an interesting world out there if you keep an eye out. That we have but one life to live, and we might as well taste every toothpaste flavor while we can. If you’re into that kind of thing.
It occurs to me now that I could have bought that dispenser for myself. After all, I only have one tube of Marvis toothpaste — Aquatic Mint, my favorite flavor3. And sure, it’s not my only tube of toothpaste, but it’s my only fancy tube. It’s for special occasions, I guess. Like…when I feel like a change of pace.
Probably, it’s a gateway tube. Maybe someday, I’ll find myself in a different home, with a different bathroom, and maybe there will be an empty drawer just begging to be put to service as part of an updated flavor-of-the-week system. Maybe I’ll have children, and I’ll teach them that this is just the way of things with Flaxbarts.
“It’s a family tradition,” I’ll say, “passed down from generation to generation. It’s how we mark the passage of time. Flowers blossom and wither with the seasons. But our people keep time by flavor.”
In other news…
This week on Maximum Film!,4 Drea surprised me by plugging The Mirror Game’s slating in the upcoming Woods Hole Film Festival, which has a digital element. That means that if you’d like to watch The Mirror Game at home between July 30 and August 6, you can do so by buying a ticket from WoodsHoleFilmFestival.org (and if you happen to live near Cape Cod, come in person! We’re screening at 8:30pm on August 1.).
On Sweet Valley Diaries, a three-part series recently came to a close, which brought together my former Chicago Ladies in Comedy co-founders, now living in LA! Rebecca Russell and Sommer Austin joined me for the episodes on Books 65-67 (well, just Rebecca for Book 65), which tell the tale of how the Wakefield family threatens to come apart at the seams when both parents get busy at work. Thrilling drama, as ever!
I went to a Dodgers game on July 4th and the sun was in my eyes, so now I am the proud owner of a new hat.
Tragically, this is not sponsored content.
I am pretty sure it’s not the same one I bought in Rome in 2004. That would be gross, right? If I were using 18 year old toothpaste?
This is one of the two shows I produce for Maximum Fun. Sometimes I’m on this show — and this week is one of those times! I give a quiz about the Seven Deadly Sins at the end of the episode.