My Total Recall, Live

It’s simple sandwich, really.

First you start with your bread—Wonder bread.

That is the end of step one.

wonder bread

Then it’s a layer of sour cream.  Back in the 90s, my parents used to keep a massive gallon tub of it in the fridge. Kirti and Dilip had discovered Costco but not yet restraint.

So I applied this liberally knowing they would never notice. You should too.


sour cream


Chi Chis salsa goes on the second slice. Restaurant brand salsa added a feeling of fine dining. The restaurant is now bankrupt but the salsa prevails.

Add just enough to avoid excessive spillover.


chi chis


Finally, potato chips. Often, I would close the sandwich, hear the satisfying crunch, open it, and add a few more chips to my newfound real estate.

Add as many as you can stuff in there.  “Lays” for days.


And that was it. Salsa, sour cream and potato chips. Nestled between wondrous bread.

My sandwich didn’t have a name or at least a proper one. My cool friends were quick to call it gross. The nerdier ones elevated it to “travesty.” But they didn’t see what I see. Its taste was transformative and brilliant in its simplicity. Just 2 minutes from prep to mouth.

My sandwich had no nationality.  A triumph of gastronomy.

Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

Just another day in 1999

So throughout high school, I’d come home to an empty house and would make my creation. Sandwich in hand, remote control in the other, I’d turn on my favorite afternoon TV show, Total Request Live—a top 10 countdown of the best pop music videos.

It was hosted by Carson Daly.  If you took a lego person, donned it with the brown hair piece, and made it speak, you’d have your very own Carson Daly.

He even came with interchangeable parts. If Jay-Z was in the studio, Hip Hop Carson would be in a white tshirt and a black denim jacket, JNCO jeans and a seashell necklace if Avril Lavigne graced the stage, and on it went like this.

carson w kid rock

Carson in JNCOs. Pepsi in his koozie…like a boss.

carson destinys child

Carson in Timberland boots

Today’s episode starts with number 10: Blink 182’s Adam’s Song. Their songs typically upbeat, this was somber and addressed suicide.

Carson, visibly uncomfortable, trots out someone named Christina Aguilera on stage. Her debut song, Genie in a Bottle, encourages listeners to rub her the right way and, with that, song #9 makes me forget song #10.

Next is racial hopscotch.

[black] Dr. Dre’s Next Episode;

[white] Korn’s Make Me Bad;

[black] Sisqo’s Thong Song;

[white … ish]  Kid Rock’s Bawitdaba

These fill in numbers 8, 7, 6, and 5. Then the clash of the titans.

Newcomer Eminem takes the #4 slot. His song, My Name Is, is a parody of the songs surrounding him. With his feverish ascent on the charts, we both reject the status quo while fully buying into its rules. That leaves the trinity.

Britney Spears, N’Sync and the Backstreet Boys.

This story is not about who won that week. And if you’re the type of person who cares about that, this story is not for you. The show made it okay to like not just your favorite act, but all of the musicians that came onto the show.

Whenever I saw my goth classmates in their huge jeans and skateboards or kids in FUBU on the basketball court, we didn’t need to say a word, I felt like I understood them already. Also, they never talked to me … so there was that hurdle in the first place.

But it was nice to feel like I connected with them anyway—even if for a brief hour in front of a screen that bridged us all.

Present Day

I checked in on the new TRL reboot this October after a decade of the show being off the air. What I saw was a program struggling to find itself.  The show replaced Carson with nearly a dozen legos, half of them YouTube sensations and each of them in their exact uniforms that resonate with their followers.

How can a show bring us together when even the hosts are fractured into thousands of individual tastes?  An entropy of opinions.

We’re living in a world where we’re so sure of exactly what we want, who we are and who the other person is.

Oh, you’re into THAT music. You don’t know about this craft beer?

You voted for him?!

He shouldn’t have been on the street at night.

They were just Skittles.


end of paragraph


We just wanted to eat M&Ms and remain slim, shady kids, kids who rock. We didn’t blink because we all knew, in sync, that this street didn’t go back. Even though these were green days, they were infinitely preferable to the next episode. Though, I guess this is growing up.

There’s no way to turn back the clock and maybe we never stood a chance.  But do you know what’s still around and in spades?

Wonder bread.

Sour cream.

Salsa. Remember. The one from Chi Chi’s.

Potato chips.

It doesn’t make sense.

How could all these ingredients taste good together?  I’m still not sure how.

But don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

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