Greetings to you, the lucky finder of this golden ticket, from Mr. Willy Wonka!  I shake you warmly by the hand!  Tremendous things are in store for you! Many wonderful surprises await you!  For now, I do invite you to come to my factory and be my guest for one whole day — you and all others who are lucky enough to find my Golden Tickets.  I, Willy Wonka, will conduct you around the factory myself, showing you everything that there is to see, and afterwards, when it is time to leave, you will be escorted home by a procession of large trucks.  These trucks, I can promise you, will be loaded with enough delicious eatables to last you and your entire household for many years.  If, at any time thereafter, you should run out of supplies, you have only to come back to the factory and show this Golden Ticket, and I shall be happy to refill your cupboard with whatever you want.  In this way, you will be able to keep yourself supplied with tasty morsels for the rest of your life.  But this is by no means the most exciting thing that will happen on the day of your visit.  I am preparing other surprises that are even more marvellous and more fantastic for you and for all my beloved Golden Ticket holders — mystic and marvelous surprises that will entrance, delight, intrigue, astonish, and perplex you beyond measure. In your wildest dreams you could not imagine that such things could happen to you! Just wait and see!  And now, here are your instructions: the day I have chosen for the visit is the first day in the month of February.  On this day, and on no other, you must come to the factory gates at ten o’clock sharp in the morning.  Don’t be late!  And you are allowed to bring with you either one or two members of your own family to look after you and to ensure that you don’t get into mischief.  One more thing — be certain to have this ticket with you, otherwise you will not be admitted.

(Signed) Willy Wonka

(from Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

Who has never hoped for that Golden Ticket that will gain him entrance to the places of his wildest dreams? 

On Saturday, I was walking along the street in Long Beach when I notice that a new candy store had opened down the block.  It was one of those upscale candy stores that was geared as much for adults as kids, with a large selection of exotic and nostalgic candies from the past.  Outside the entrance, a few adults were online waiting to get a signed headshot from some “celebrity” who was there to promote the store.   I’m pretty good at recognizing those in the public eye, but I had no idea who the celebrity was at first, even when someone told me that this was “Mike Teavee.” 

“Who?” I wondered. 

Then I saw a poster for the 1971 version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and immediately remembered the obnoxious kid in the cowboy outfit, one of the winners of the Golden Ticket to the factory.  Sitting here was Paris Themmen, who played Mike Teavee in the film.  I stood on line.  The woman in front of me was next.  She was thrilled to meet a character from her favorite movie.

“Can you please write “To Meg, Martin, and the two girls — Mike Tevee says, “I love TV, Willy Wonka Candy, and I love YOU!”

The actor quickly scribbled the message.  It seemed as if he’d done this countless times before at other candy stores and movie conventions.

Next, It was my turn.  I had never stood in line to get a signature before… well, other than for Crazy Aunt Purl’s book signing in LA, who then promptly stopped coming to this site after I told her to sign my book “Neilochka, I’d knit you a pair of socks anytime, anywhere.”

“Hey, how ya doing?” asked Paris Themmen, the former Mike Teavee.  I’m a big fan of the original Willy Wonka, and the books of Roald Dahl, but I wasn’t really prepared for this random meeting with the former child star. He seemed like a cool guy, and seeing that I was a little down in the dumps over things with Sophia, I saw this as a pick-me-up.

“Uh, great,” I said.  “Thanks for coming here.”

“What would you like me to write for you?” he asked.

I really had no idea.

The result:

After he handed me his signed photo, some pretty girl handed me a free “Willy Wonka” brand candy bar.  Now, if I were Mike Teavee or a character in Willy Wonka, I probably would have ripped open the packaging to see if there was a Golden Ticket inside.  Unfortunately, my first destination was to read the back of the wrapper for the nutritional information, where I discovered that this candy had more saturated fat than a pastrami sandwich at Canter’s Deli. 

“Hell, I should at least try it and see if Willy Wonka would approve.” 

I took one bite of this grainy, milk chocolate pseudo Nestle Crunch bar and I knew immediately that Willy himself would drown the producers of this monstrosity in a vat of chocolate (I later found out that the “Willy Wonka” brand is licensed to Nestle). It tossed most of the candy, which is probably the best thing for my cholesterol.

Besides, there was no Golden Ticket inside.

One day, I’ll get that Golden Ticket.  But it won’t be in a candy bar. 

Thanks for the photo, Paris (Mike Teavee)!

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Lillies of the Valley