While others write graphically about their soft-serve escapades in steamy lick and tell exposés, my soft-serve affair involves more telling and less licking. Ice cream holds no special place for me. And what little ice cream I do consume is of the rock hard, scoopable variety. Although my preferred ice cream might be a high-cost, high-butterfat product, I’m not a snobby connoisseur of craft ice creams served at micro-creameries. In my world lactose is not something you enjoy. Lactose is something you tolerate – like that thick and sour Greek-style yogurt which has become all the rage with hipster Milklennials. They “partake” of the grassy, Grecian yogurt to inject a little culture into their colon – 6 billion lactobacillus acidophilus cultures.
I’ve always thought cow’s milk should be for baby cows. That’s what nature seems to have intended for mother’s milk. It’s for baby whatever’s; and not meant for race car drivers who’ve just won the Indianapolis 500. But what if the nipple was on the other teat. Suppose there were entrepreneurial cows who froze human breast milk, ground Oreos into it and then served it to their calves?
When I moved to that other Mile-High City (Reno) I found myself unaccountably drawn to the DQ (the Dairy Queen) and I wasn’t comfortable with this newly developed menace. The Dairy Queen was fast becoming a royal pain in my arse and I began experiencing my first soft-serve panic attacks. How could this be? I’m a guy with sophisticated Haagen-Dazs tastes. I don’t visit cartoonish ice-cream stands serving-up viscous mucous to weak-willed addicts in need of a sugary opioid fix. And yet it’s all I wanted to do. I visited a nutritionist to determine what was happening to my once worldly levels of dietary awareness. She said my nutritional acumen was being rapidly depleted by a rare disease known as LOST (Late Onset Sweet Tooth).
Who was I becoming? What was I becoming? Maybe it was the mile-high altitude. Maybe it was the contradictory dissonance of now living in the “Biggest Little City in the World” or maybe it was the endearing way Johnny Cash shot a man here just to watch him die. But for whatever reason the DQ called to me like a Commandment just begging to be broken. As my LOST grew more serious, I began going to church every sundae. Sometimes 2 sundaes at a time. WTF (What the Fudge)? More on this later. For now let’s examine how I got into this predicament.
I’d done just fine without the DQ for decades and just assumed they’d been subducted into the magma of my human fault zone like Play-doh, Slinkies and so many other childhood mainstays I’d shed. Crudely put, I ain’t needed no dipped cone, no upside down Blizzard and no Dilly Bar – the DQ made me no never mind. Plus they didn’t even sell real ice cream, they only sold the extruded soft-serve kind. And I don’t do well eating anything that’s extruded from anywhere – this is not the kind of imagery that promotes an appetite.
Normally the DQ and I are worlds apart. They purvey schlocky, sugar-infused treats to easily-pleased huddled-masses, while I on the other hand, dine in my lofty tofu tower on sustainably-harvested, ethically-sourced comestibles. Oh how my walls came-a-tumblin’ down when I heard the DQ’s siren call. You might wonder what the DQ could possibly offer a renaissance man with such sophisticated tastes. One would never find me patronizing a Dairy Queen unless it was in a condescending tone and certainly not for a chocolate-dipped cone. How could I, a man who once went on a red-potato juice fast, be attracted to something so vulgar as the empty-calorie kitsch of their signature Blizzard? Well it was a slippery, creamy, gooey slope. And once I started to slide down its sugar walls I was LOST.
I Bet the DQ Gives Good Cone
I go back a long way with the Dairy Queen. When I first visited the DQ decades ago it was called the DP – the Dairy Princess. She didn’t get coronated until the early ‘70’s and she’s kept her crown ever since despite faddish low-carb diets and fattish high-fructose corn syrup. We know the DQ may not present us with the healthiest options, but do we ostracize her for her royal love handles? – No. In fact we seem to enable our sovereign Dairy Queen. For example her deep-fried Cheese Curds come in at a whopping 1050 calories – that’s enough energy to put a shift-manager into low earth orbit and keep her there for a week.
In truth there’s very little that’s dairy or regal about the Dairy Queen – unless you consider the Royal Oreo Blizzard something monarchical. I do recall their Brazier Burgers. What in the hell is a brazier anyway? (45 seconds later after googling it). Well it’s some kind of pre-historic charcoal grill; but more to the point, who gets hamburgers at a place specializing in ice cream – that doesn’t even serve ice cream; just soft-serve, air-impregnated fluff. Aren’t you glad your life isn’t as complicated as mine?
Enter the Wizard of Omaha
So who’s behind all this extruded goofiness? Well none other than goofy-like-a-fox Warren Buffett. His Berkshire-Hathaway holding company bought DQ in 1998. Obviously this American Pharaoh of Finance thought there was great value hidden beneath a thin veneer of drizzled fudge. In fact on Mr. Buffett’s watch, the DQ has seamlessly incorporated the burger side of the house with the ice cream parlor side of the house under one roof – it’s called DQ Grill and Chill. Brilliant. What’s next, a chain of self-serve restaurants called Warren Buffett’s Buffet? With the added star power of Warren Buffett, my attraction to the DQ and its 6400 stores in 25 countries was now complete – I was enamored of the franchise both gastronomically, and now corporately. The DQ had become a full-time obsession mitigated only by the fact I needed to sleep occasionally.
I often fantasized about visiting the DQ to satisfy my LOST. And that’s where my interests remained – in the fantasy realm. I wasn’t about to breakdown and actually visit one – at least not without the permission of my wife. I had will power that, unfortunately, was quickly deteriorating into Grill and Chill will power. My slow descent into becoming my Dairy Queen’s loyal subject had begun. It happened like this: one day while segregating the 5% of the mail I need from the 95% that goes straight into the recycle bin, I just happened to catch a glimpse of a 4-color, high-gloss ad touting the DQ’s dazzling array of frozen confections. And there it appeared, like a fever dream: a luscious, naked Chocolate Sundae with whipped cream, bananas and pecans. You’ve heard the expression a “hot mess?” Well this was an irresistible “cold mess” and I was smitten like Nanook of the North. The beauty part was this seductive confection wasn’t located in some Forbidden City where only a frozen few could enter to experience soft-serve ambrosia. No. Thanks to George Washington, this was a public space open to anyone with trailer park tastes, willing to fork over a piddling $3.50 to experience the sweet surrender of licking the equivalent of the chrome off a trailer hitch.
However desirous I may be for the cold mess of a DQ Chocolate Sundae with benefits (benefits, in this case, being bananas, pecans and whipped cream), it would be unseemly for a high-octane, clean-food guy like me to be seen in one of these Frozen Opium Dens of Extrusion. I mean there are cameras in there; and with social media being all-pervasive, I could be exposed as a sham – a double-dealing junk-food eater posing as a virtuous and wise abstainer. To be spotted in such tawdry circumstances would cause the Hardiman® brand to suffer greatly under the weight of sweet, creamy hypocrisy. This simply could not happen. But surely there must be a way to get the frozen opioidal stuff into my hungry little hands without compromising my self-image – maybe through the cunning employment of a straw purchaser.
While repeatedly driving by the DQ on McCarran Blvd (nothing wrong with a little reconnaissance – look, but don’t touch) I’d always noticed a few straggling homeless people at the nearby intersection with their earnest appeals for help scribbled on cardboard. I occasionally contributed with the standard fee being $2 per “God bless you sir.” Perhaps I could entice one of my beneficiaries into purchasing not 1, but 2 Chocolate Sundaes with pecans, whipped cream and bananas. One for them and one for me and nobody gets hurt. Not a bad gambit. But that would mean dealing with people who were beneath me – not in the sense of achievements – but only because I’m 6’4” and most people are quite naturally beneath me. It was a stupid point, but I had other fears too. For example, once the transaction was completed there’d be the awkward, “No you can’t come live with me if you water my plants.”
I ruled out straw purchasers, and I certainly wasn’t going into a Dairy Queen in broad daylight or even in narrow nightlight. Things seemed at an impasse. I’d be denied what I wanted most. My secret shame, my guilty (but legal) pleasure, my decadent indulgence would go unfulfilled for want of intestinal fortitude. It was as if I’d been DQ’ed (disqualified) from my sundae. And then I saw it in the corner of the ad tucked just below “Best extruded desserts west of the Pecos.” It read: Drive-Thru window now open. They had a Drive-Thru window! I was in. I could disguise my voice, dress like an Uber driver and cover my license plate while I motored through incognito.
I carefully plotted the maneuver called “Operation Weekday Sundae.” The voice, the clothing, the license plate pixilater were all in place. And then I commenced operations. I picked a peak-traffic lunch time so I’d be lumped in with the rest of the loyal subjects as they were herded through the line. I’d enter the DQ Drive-thru pipeline an unsatisfied, glucose-deprived aspirant and I’d be extruded out the other end a carbohydrate-augmented mound of joy. My pulse quickened as I pressed the license obscurator while approaching the glitzy treat-filed menu board. I felt so dirty – and I liked it. I pulled my sombrero low over my clip-on handlebar moustache and felt the weight of guilty, but legal pleasure overwhelm me. There’d be no turning back now – especially since a Hummer had just pulled-up behind me. I couldn’t stop myself anyway. I rejoiced that this kind of pay-for-licking arrangement was still legal. The purchase went down like this:
DQ: Good afternoon and welcome to Dairy Queen home of the $2 all-you-can-slurp Blizzard, may I take your order Mr. Hardiman
Me: (in a Mexican accent) Who’s this Mr. Hardiman you refer to?
DQ: Well according to the VIN# on your windshield your name is David Hardiman am I right?
Me: (panicking, but sure-footed) Well it is his car, but I’m just getting something for a friend.
DQ: What’ll you have then, our flagship Dilly Bar or our A-1 Bacon Cheeseburger $5 Buck Lunch
Me: I just want a sundae with chocolate sauce, pecans, bananas and whipped cream.
DQ: And would you like to donate $1 to the Fund for Children that have no hope of living?
Me: (reverting to perfect English) Yeah sure! Anything. Just make with the sundae will ya?
After driving through (that’s why it’s called a Drive-thru I guess) with my sacrilicious goody in hand, some kind of canine instinct overcame me, because I drove my succulent little morsel far away from the kill so I could eat it undisturbed from hungry mouths and prying eyes. And as I devoured my little Glop of Horrors I experienced a unitive connection to the universe I’d felt only one other time – after playing the Dukes of Hazzard slot machine for an afternoon at Circus Circus. This was one powerful sundae. And the bonus part was I didn’t have to marry it or explain to it why there were little chocolate stains on my collar. Everyone knew damn well how they got there.
Now that I’ve broken through my DQ barrier, I’ve joined the mainstream and became a regular customer. In fact I joined Dairy Queen’s Frequent Lickers Club which entitles me to unlimited use of their Insulin Shock station. Over time the Dairy Queen has become my frozen sanctuary, my fortress of soft-servitude where I can draw from the highest powers available to me while experiencing a divine glucose rush. Where else can you find extruded truth for only $3.50 a serving?