First posted on January 29th, 2012 on The Cold Slither Podcast - CW post link
I don’t eat at McDonald’s. Not anymore. Sure I drive around and see fast food restaurants that call themselves McDonald’s but it’s a lie. That place is gone. I know because I’ve been there. To the real McDonald’s. The McDonald’s of the 1980’s.
McDonald’s never really did much in the way of food variety but what it did, it did well. Their menu was so simple and elegant that it could have been poetry…or a song. In fact, it was a song!
You had burgers, fish and chicken all served on buns. Then your finger foods: fries and Chicken McNuggets. (Chicken McNuggets were so ingrained into my childhood brain, that for much of my young life, I didn’t understand the concept of a nugget not being “Mc”. In my life all nuggets were McNuggets.) Adults ate strange and mysterious foods. Sandwiches with special sauce…Sandwiches so sophisticated, that the components had to be kept in separate compartments to prevent cross contamination and a huge upset in the balance of cool to hot sides.
The meals I enjoyed didn’t have special packages or special sauces. They had something really special…a prize. A prize that was a toy to whatever quality cartoon franchise had the deal at the time. There is a reason people still collect with McDonald toys from the 1980s and it reason is they were fantastic. Of all those wondrous Happy Meal Toys, my favorites were the ones that weren’t licensed at all. They had McDonald land toys, Denier monsters and space robots and yes, my friends, the legends you heard are true…at one time McDonald’s had transforming toys. But not just any old vehicle to robot “transformer”. No! These intergalactic warriors transformed from robot to McDonald food! And though these toys eventually led to the cancellation of both The GoBots and the Transformers; there was a bright side. Finally we could answer that age old question; could an Egg McMuffin defeat a Quarter-Pounder in hand to hand combat?
I would hurry through my Happy Meal which was usually a cheeseburger, fries and an Orange Drink! A beverage that, to this day, I still don’t know if it was Hi-C Orange or an honest to goodness menu item called Orange Drink. (If you know the answer to this, please don’t tell me whether that was the official name or not. It was and will always be orange drink to me!) The dessert to round-out your dinner were the always delicious McDonald Land Cookies…not apple slices. In the 1980s if any Mickey-D’s clerk would have attempted to sell a kid apple slices they would have been slapped right across the face and then relieved of duty. McDonald’s had NO time for any of that hippie crap.
After eating, the usual routine was to leave the boring confines of a 1980’s fast food restaurant and step through the doors into an amazing world. McDonald Land! And let me be clear, by McDonald Land, I don’t just mean the playground, I mean McDonald Land.
Created in the same wonderful acid-induced, costume-puppet madhouse that brought HR Puffinstuff into the world. This was a place that a kid felt like he could really become a part of…at least, I always did. It was a world with armless fry-loving monsters. And a clown who wasn’t some hipster playing soccer or rollerblading (with full padding). Our Ronald McDonald was to busy for that noise. Battling Captain Crook, keeping the Fry Guys in line and monitoring the ever changing worldview of the sometimes evil / sometimes not evil milkshake loving purple blob creature known (to those who survived) as Grimmace.
There was Big Mac Cop, trying to bring some justice into that crazy mixed-up world and maybe stop the Hamburgalar’s rein of terror. It wasn’t easy. The streets of McDonald Land were not always a friendly place and sometimes you had to bend the rules and teach that scum a lesson out of their own playbook. After all, with Mayor McCheese constantly breathing down his neck, looking for results and both his badge and ass on the line; sometimes he had to do what he had to do.
But now all those things are gone. The mini live-action cartoons that used to be the commercials have been replaced with overproduced nonsense that makes you think McDonald’s is a place where kids go to grab some carrot-sticks in between tennis and ballet practice.
The awe-inspiring playground with their larger than life depictions of those wonderful characters have been removed and sold. What passes as a kids play area at the “new” McDonald’s is a terrible place. A labyrinth of futuristic brightly colored tubes that looks more like a giant nightmarish hamster track than anything that a normal red blooded American child would play on.
A lot of suckers out there will tell you that “You can’t go home again.” I’m here to tell you, that’s just hogwash. I can go home; all damn day!
McDonald’s, on the other hand, that my friends is a place to which you can never really go back.