Gone are the 'Gasms

A hot summer day. A bored Features Department. The boss on vacation.

That’s when the cry would rise, clear and strong, over the terminals and cubicles: ” ‘Gasms!”

It was time to organize a mass order from the State Soda Shop, for the best milkshakes anywhere, full of real ice cream and in any flavor the heat-fevered mind could devise.

The term, and the clarion cry, came from Bob Langford, one of the unfortunates who attempted, briefly, during my 15 years at The News & Observer, to manage The Moose. Most of them are off meds and rehabilitated now.

The term meant what you think it does, a milkshake so good that it was an ultimate experience of delight. But it also referred to a specific flavor: real peanut butter and chocolate syrup with vanilla ice cream.

“I used to order the ‘heavy chocolate,’ a custom-made ‘Gasm with half a bottle of Hershey’s,” Bob, who now works for Back Home Productions in Raleigh, said recently. “I could have three or four ‘Gasms a day back then. Now, one and I need a nap,”

Don’t we all.

My favorite flavor was Oreo. For that, the woman at the counter would grab a packet of Oreos from a nearby rack, pound it to bits with her fist and add it to the vanilla ice cream and real-by-God whole milk. She’d use chocolate ice cream, if you wanted, but I tended to stick with vanilla. The chunks of cookie made sipping the shake through a straw difficult – I nearly passed out once when I sucked too hard on a blocked chip – but it was good.

It was about a block from The N&O’s back door to the shop. But on a hot day, carrying a dozen or so foam vessels of frigid creaminess, the trip felt as long as Lawrence of Arabia’s trek through the giant desert in the movie.

Friday was the State Soda Shop’s last day of operations, its building giving way to progress, I guess.

But where, oh where, are folks going to get their ‘Gasms now?

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