(written and posted in 2002)

     It was one of those places we jokingly swore we'd never set foot in. Yesterday, though, Barbara and I paid a visit to one of the very citadels of maya, the new Krispy Kreme doughnut shop at The Willows, Pleasant Hill, California.      At least we didn't go to The Willows just for that purpose! No, we had shopped for groceries at Trader Joe's. As an afterthought, on the way out, I decided I wanted to try a cup of Krispy Kreme's coffee.      Walking toward the newly-built structure, I experienced a kind of bizarre parody of the approach to a pilgrimage site. The Krispy Kreme building has features that bear a humorous and absurd, though (I hope!) unintended resemblance to an eastern Samadhi! I also had the strange sense that as we walked toward the building, we weren't getting any closer. The edifice dominates the immediate landscape in such a way that, had it been designed for a more "serious" purpose, one might call it "mythic".      The "doughnut mecca's" architecture included, for me, bizarre visual reminiscences of the real Mecca's Kaaba, Egyptian temples, even Baba's Samadhi, with small cubic structures—minus the Tomb's religious symbols, of course—rising from each corner of the roof. Another feature of the white, rectangular building that reminded me of a colorful Indian temple is the trim that runs all the way around the perimeter, just below the roof, in several brightly-colored lines.      Amused to be walking toward something that might have arisen out of a Roald Dahl novel or a fairy tale, we finally reached the transparent glass door and went in. I was struck by the degree of chaos inside. We quickly realized there was no way to get a cup of coffee except by queing up in the rather long doughnut line, and I was quick to assert to Barbara that I still had enough integrity to go elsewhere, rather than waste our time waiting.      That was when we spied the doughnut factory! Behind a clear glass wall, to the right of the line, and with a special "observation deck" so that children can get an even closer look, dozens of little blobs of dough were making their way along a metal conveyor belt, part of a shiny system of gizmos that brought to mind Henry Ford, Rube Goldberg, a clock's insides, and, again, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", all in one glance. Ravel's "Bolero" might be an appropriate sound track, as the pieces of dough plop from an even more arcane mass of metal trays, rising and falling by means of gears and pulleys, into a bath of boiling oil, then "climb" up onto the conveyor belt and are moved ever forward in the enexorable process of becoming a doughnut.      No holes were observable in the doughnuts while they lay on the trays, and then, suddenly—voila—at a certain point, holes! Part of the marketing genius of the Krispy Kreme people is the inevitability of lively interaction among customers watching such spectacles as they wait in line. Barbara and I, for example, joined with people behind and in front of us to try to ferret out exactly where, and how, the holes appeared. (I suppose the appearance of the hole demarks the "doughnut form" from the "pre-doughnut form".)      Anyway, at a certain point along the conveyor belt, the doughnuts enter a sort of Niagara Falls of thick, white, liquid icing. Barbara and I had recently seen at an airport pastry shop, the memorable figure of a woman whose entire job seemed to consist of one-pointedly slathering Cinnabuns with icing. I guess her job is history, or soon will be. After the icing bath, the doughnuts roll along a little while longer, before handlers either box them, place them in a display case, serve them to customers, or—in another spark of marketing genius—give them out randomly to the children, and even some adults, waiting in line!      What may be indescribable—you may just have to go and see for yourself, if you dare,—is the way watching the doughnut factory in action makes a sort of idiot out of you! The whole process is mesmerizing!      Doughnuts, on the one hand a "forbidden fruit" of which none of us are ever supposed to partake uninhibitedly, also represent a simpler, fairy tale world, where "a little sugar makes everything better". The rhythm and the shininess of the machines makes you feel like you're watching "something". What you're watching is, in fact, practically *nothing*!
     As Barbara remarked, the doughnuts Krispy Kreme puts out are mostly air, with a little bit of sugar, flour, and grease from the oil—not much more than a titrated "essence" of doughnut. Like one of the other ingenious companies of modern times, Coca-Cola, the Krispy Kreme people manage to create an aura of mystique around a product that is practically nothing at all, and what little it is totally lacks nutritional value.
      Barbara also pointed out that the '40s and '50s music playing inside the
doughnut shop takes one back to the days before nutritional labelling and awareness were common.      I used to live in Myrtle Beach. Krispy Kreme was an old, southern doughnut (the company uses that spelling, not "donut") company with three stores in the Grand Strand. They were greasy, dirty places with no mystique at all. I would occasionally stop there for coffee when I was driving my taxi.      In the past decade or so, some marketing genius has gotten hold of this rockbottom company and made it the most "chic" thing going. There's still "nothing to it", but Baba says there's literally Nothing to ANY of Illusion! In fact, Krispy Kreme is an obvious metaphor for Maya itself.      I'll say one thing, though. Barbara and I had a great time standing in line, talking with other folks, watching children whose faces lit up with every bite of their doughnut and whose wide-eyed observation of the factory put them in every bit as much a fairyland as at Disney World. Children also delighted in wearing the paper Krispy Kreme hats they received as "favors" that double as free advertising. If there's any "moral" to this story, it might be: BUY STOCK IN THIS COMPANY!
(note, two years later: who would know the country would be overtaken by
Atkins, South Beach, and other low-carb diets? Krispy Kreme stock plunged
45 % this year!)

     back to Prose


What Remains is the Essence, the home pages of Max Reif     

Please introduce yourself !
If you enjoy anything on this site
or want to comment on any of it,
why not send an e-mail my way

Sign my Guestbook