Brett and the Chocolate Factory

August 28, 2006

A year ago, I had one of the best experiences of my life. I found the Golden Ticket and got to visit the Chocolate Factory.

When I was a kid, I fell deeply in love with Charlie Bucket and his adventure in Willy Wonka’s amazing chocolate factory. I didn’t have it as bad as little Charlie, but our life in rural Arkansas wasn’t exactly feature material for the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” either. I identified so much with Charlie and his deep, visceral desire to see at least one of his dreams come true. Naturally, I knew I would never see the oompah loompahs, or ride the invisible elevator, or inherit the vast fortune and genius of Wonka, but such escapes of fancy were clearly something I wanted; I read the book at least two dozen times. I guess it remains the dear fantasy of children. Here’s a website I found of children’s drawings based on the story.

A little more than a year ago, the Johnny Depp remake of the old Gene Wilder movie version of the book came out. Our local independent bookstore teamed up with a real-life chocolate factory in town and ran a promotion on Roald Dahl’s books. For every Dahl book you bought, you were given a chocolate bar from Granny’s Chocolates of Gilbert, Arizona. Hidden in a select number of these bars were Golden Tickets! These tickets, like the one Charlie found, admitted the carrier and one guest to a magical and marvelous tour of the factory.

I went to the store and bought a new copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and a copy of Danny, the Champion of the World (my favorite Dahl tale, in which a young boy learns how to fight classism by poaching pheasants with his incredible father). I got two chocolate bars. On the second one I hastily opened, the glint of gold quickly peeked out. I had won a Golden Ticket! I ran around the bookstore shouting and actually started to cry a little bit I was so excited and overwhelmed. I was actually up nights wondering what it was going to be like inside. It was hard to wait for the day to arrive.

At this time, Lily my daughter was not even a year old. Clearly, I would not invite her–she wouldn’t enjoy it or vaguely remember it. My son Tom was also quite small, not yet three-years-old. So, we dropped them off at their grandparents, and I took my wife, Alex. This may have been some selfishness on my part; this was my dream come true, and I didn’t want to spend it chasing after a toddler in a possibly dangerous factory.

So, the big day arrived, and Alex and I drove to the factory and got ready for surprises beyond all our imaginings (at least I did). The other ticket holders lined up at the door. They were not like me in at least two ways: none of them was even remotely as excited as I was, and all of them were under the age of ten. The bookstore and factory staff lined us up for introductions–mine was a little sheepish, but nothing would slow me down. We got to see some pretty neat stuff, albeit no river of chocolate, lickable wallpaper, everlasting gobstoppers, or hordes of oompah loompahs. But we did see the main ingredients of chocolate bars, we got to see the machines, and there were plenty of samples.

The young folks who ran the factory were pretty cool, though bemused by my presence among the shorter winners. It turns out that they and Alex and I had all just finished reading Candyfreak by Steve Almond. It was a fun read, but it could never pretend to touch the beguiling Charlie.

One Response to “Brett and the Chocolate Factory”

  1. Matthew Says:

    What a great story. I can just see you running around the bookstore with excitement.

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