Click here to see a slide show of Denver's converted Kwik-E-Mart.
Newspaper was my favorite high-school class. It was sixth period, after lunch, and while most kids dreaded going back to school for the afternoon, the newspaper staff loved it. But I hesitate to say that it was journalism we loved, because what we did at the East High Spotlight was a far, far cry from journalism. I was on the staff for three years, editor-in-chief my senior year, and in that time, I don't think I made a single phone call for a story. Quotes were invented, entire humans fabricated, very little spellchecked — and we wondered why we didn't take home any of the high-school journalism association awards (except for my third-place School Related Opinion piece, bitches). No, what we cherished was the freedom of the class. Our sponsor, Dave Rivera — God rest his soul — essentially gave us the final say on how we wanted to spend our time. Not many teachers trust you enough to do that. And for the most part, it worked. Sure, there were some kids who'd use the time to wander the halls and pull fire drills or incite gang violence, others who would copy homework assignments due in the next period, but there were always a handful of people who, like myself, would actually put the paper together. After talking about The Simpsons, of course.
Every day, without fail, four of us would walk into room 210, say hello to Rivera, sit down at desk chairs arranged to face each other, and proceed to break down every single moment of the two Simpsons episodes that Fox 31 had graced us with the night before. This was not mere I-enjoyed-my-stories-last-night talk. This was a meticulous, borderline-creepy breakdown of every single joke and gag, every line of dialogue. We studied The Simpsons the way people in lower economic brackets study engines or welfare forms.
No, I didn't get laid in high school.
But it was okay, because I had The Simpsons, the heyday Simpsons, the fifth and sixth season, Conan O'Brien-written Simpsons — "Homer Goes to College," "Deep Space Homer," "Boy-Scoutz 'N the Hood," "The PTA Disbands," the absolute classics that were already in syndication then — and we sopped them up the way people in lower economic brackets sop up whatever sustenance they can get their hands on, usually some sort of bean dish or gruel. But after about twenty minutes of our obsessed discussion, Rivera would give us his get-on-with-it-nerds look and we would retreat to the three computers in the back room and start churning out copy.
After I graduated from high school, I figured out how to get laid and The Simpsons started to suck. But while it was a far cry from the show I'd fallen in love with, it was better than most of the stuff on television — and still is. To this day, nestled in my soul, there's an intense, flaming love and respect for the show that will never die.
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So imagine my shock and delight when I walked into my neighborhood 7-Eleven at Third and Broadway the other day — on the hunt for some stick-shaped meat and perhaps a bag of Doritos that I could open, then cover with delicious, gooey nacho cheese — and discovered that it had been transformed into a Kwik-E-Mart! Unless you've kept your eyes and ears completely shut to any sort of information from the world outside your house — like people from lower economic brackets trying to avoid a court summons — you're aware that a Simpsons movie is coming out this month. In the marketing move of the decade, a dozen 7-Eleven stores in North America have been turned into caricatures of Springfield's famous, Apu-manned Kwik-E-Mart — and one of them is in the heart of the Baker neighborhood! The clerks there are even wearing hideous Kwik-E-Mart shirts!
"We had a lady come from Iowa," says store franchisee Sandip Mali, who thinks his affable nature and Indian ancestry may have helped his store get chosen for the promo. "I mean, I guess I can understand the people from Nebraska and Wyoming, but Iowa! That's a trek She spent about $100 here and spent two hours taking pictures. She was having so much fun."
But not as much fun as Sandip's having. Although he hasn't crunched the numbers yet, he figures the store is at least twice as busy as normal, possibly three times as busy. That's money in the bank, and he'll keep banking it through the end of July, when the promotion ends. And then all that will be left of the Kwik-E-Mart will be a memory of a time when fiction met reality — 3D Homer, anyone? — and we basked in the whimsicality of it all by buying cans of Buzz Cola and subsequently eBaying them for $35.
After that, The Simpsons can continue churning out more episodes that will never be as good as they once were, I can resume writing for a newspaper — and 7-Eleven can get back to selling overpriced items to people from lower economic brackets.