After the film it was raining, a light steady rain. Ruthless neon on the wet streets like busted candy. ― Denis Johnson, Nobody Move
[one_half padding=”4px 10px 0 4px”]I don’t see them around much anymore, that cool thrill that enlivens a mouth and freshens breath. They used to be everywhere: doctor’s offices, bank teller windows, on the reception desk of every office in the United States, and scattered in little dishes around funeral homes. I spent way too much time in funeral homes as a child, so I know these things. They were the one candy my parents rarely minded me sneaking though they were careful to make sure I didn’t walk out with a pocket full. They were gentle, soothing, just sweet enough to satisfy that sugar craving but mellow enough to not overwhelm one’s mouth. Take a swig of soda while you had one in your mouth, though, and things just might get a little crazy in there.
I’m talking, of course, about the little individually wrapped peppermint candies that are, probably even now gracing a dish in the viewing room of some funeral home. We wouldn’t want our bad breath to bother the deceased, you know. They went by different names. Spangler Candies called theirs Starlight Mints while Brach’s called theirs Star Brite Mints. What relationship a peppermint-flavored piece of hardened sugar has to do with anything related to astronomy I’m not sure, but everyone called them star-something. White candies with stripes of red, they didn’t have an expiration date and the only way for them to go bad was if they somehow managed to get wet. One never knew if the candy had been in the bowl a day, a month, or a year; it didn’t really seem to matter.
What we don’t like to talk about, and quite likely the reason we don’t see as many of them anymore, is that every place of business set out mints because everyone smoked cigarettes, but no one liked smoker’s breath. I grew up in a day when it wasn’t unusual to walk into a business, especially one dominated by male employees, and the air be thick with cigarette smoke. The more people smoked, the more one could be sure there was a dish full of mints sitting nearby. While no one really cared about the effects of second-hand smoke, they did care about how their breath smelled. Having bad smoker’s breath was a far worse social offense than was the actual act of smoking, especially when attempting to comfort the family of the deceased.[/one_half]
[one_half_last padding=”4px 4px 0 10px”]If we’re totally honest, peppermint candies were far from being my favorite because, while they did provide a cool thrill that made listening to adult conversations slightly less intolerable, they took too long to dissolve in my mouth. I never have been the most patient person on the planet. I like my sugar rush to come quickly, strong, and preferably coated in milk chocolate. If I was sucking on a peppermint, it almost always meant I was somewhere I didn’t really want to be, waiting on my parents, trying really hard to not get in trouble despite the overwhelming level of boredom that came with visiting people who were sick, or dying, or already dead. Poppa was the compassionate one. Me? I wanted to get home so I could ride my bike.
Unlike yesterday’s photo where I was able to find pre-packaged bits and pieces of candy, I had to buy a couple of bags worth of peppermints and crush them each myself. The task was not easy and thank god the little things are individually wrapped or there would still be pieces of peppermint scattered across the studio floor. Once sugar reaches the crackle stage, breaking it damn near requires a sledgehammer. Creating enough crushed candy to cover not one but two bodies sounded as though we were undertaking a major construction project. Lord knows I’ve not spent that much time with a hammer in my hand since doing string art back in the fourth grade. Preparation for this shoot was one of the most time consuming ever.
I love how the peppermint just scatters loosely across the skin. I cannot help but look at this picture and think of the holidays, and winter, and Santa Clause, and peppermint faeries. Then, because I’m a child, I have to giggle at the use of the word faeries.
Using peppermint for an art project like this was doing the candy a favor, I think. I saved them from sitting endlessly in a cut glass dish next to a dead person and gave them a brief but exciting life covering a naked person. What a cool thrill that had to be for the peppermint. Actually, the models didn’t seem to mind, either. Cool thrills all around.[/one_half_last]