The place do all of the ice cream truck drivers go when the summer season ends? Sitting at my air-conditioner-less home, I’ve steadily puzzled concerning the vans that appear to whirl across the block each hour in my Detroit neighborhood: Some blare the normal ice cream tune, others a tonal rendition of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” every truck with an uncommon array of decals from American flags and eagles to an unlicensed drawing of The Simpsons.
However there’s a common fact: on the twilight of summer season, the ice cream vans will quickly disappear. And no episode of tv extra completely encapsulates the mourning interval on the finish of the season — to not point out the comings and goings of 1 suburban ice cream truck — higher than The Adventures of Pete & Pete’s “What We Did on Our Summer Vacation.”
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For kids of the ’90s, The Adventures of Pete & Pete is a wealthy, nostalgic time capsule. As soon as once more, I’m confronted with plaid outfits and boldly coloured jumpers, to not point out the huge calculators, radios, and face-enveloping glasses that pervaded the period’s center and elementary faculties. Listening to the ridiculously catchy opening credit, that includes the indie tune “Hey Sandy,” instantly transports me again to days spent lounging on the sofa after faculty watching reruns on Nickelodeon. (For a lot of followers, that nostalgia is crystallized much more because the present is frustratingly onerous to seek out on-line — Nickelodeon’s latest announcement that it might launch a streaming web site devoted to its ’90s hits, sadly, doesn’t embody Pete & Pete.)
But as an grownup returning to the present, I discover that it holds up in a method lots of my different favourite childhood exhibits merely don’t. The present’s pop-culture cameos assist: the New York Dolls’ David Johansen as a site visitors cop, Steve Buscemi as a profession counselor, and Iggy Pop as the daddy of Nonna, a younger Michelle Trachtenberg, all pop up. However extra crucially, every plot is fastidiously crafted to attraction not simply to youngsters, but additionally to adults now outfitted to understand how the characters populating childhood — whether or not actual or fictional — appear to lose a few of their surprise with age.
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Within the episode, the 2 red-headed brothers named Pete (Massive Pete, performed by Michael Maronna, and Little Pete, portrayed by Danny Tamberelli) change into preoccupied with mysterious lifetime of ice cream truck driver Mr. Tastee. Of their suburb of Wellsville, it’s the primary sighting of Mr. Tastee — a smiling swirl of vanilla comfortable serve with white gloves and a pink striped go well with — that marks the official begin of the season. As Massive Pete places it, “No one knows who he is or where he comes from, but when that first really hot day in June rolls around you just know the Tastee Mobile is coming to the rescue.”
The Petes’ frequent sidekick Ellen (Alison Fanelli) begins her summer season sweating it out in her uncle’s drive-through Qwik Pik photograph sales space, studying A Temporary Historical past of Time by Stephen Hawking, till someday she stumbles throughout a packet of pictures from Mr. Tastee. “Right in this envelope is our one chance to find out Mr. Tastee’s true identity,” she teases to the Petes, earlier than noting that wanting on the pictures could be towards the principles. However the contents of the package deal are far too tantalizing for the children, and Little Pete rips it open to disclose the key lifetime of Mr. Tastee. Because it seems, Tastee’s stack of pictures is crammed with snapshots of his world travels in entrance of landmarks — although at all times whereas carrying the swirly mascot head, and at all times solo.
The second is one thing akin to seeing your trainer exterior of college, and turns Mr. Tastee into one other one of many city’s eccentric characters, which features a superhero named Artie, “the Strongest Man in the World”; a bully who’s signature trait is consuming open-faced sandwiches; and the boys’ mom Joyce, whose metallic plate in her head receives its personal shoutout within the present’s opening credit. By this summer season boredom-driven invasion of privateness, the kids make it their mission to forge a deeper relationship with the ice cream truck driver they barely know. Their efforts are in the end rebuffed, and Mr. Tastee abruptly skips city.
In seemingly weather-based retribution for his or her crimes, a heatwave hits Wellsville and causes a Nice Blue Twister Bar panic. Hordes of sweaty, zombie-like youngsters scream his identify on the street. Others hallucinate Mr. Tastee and commerce rumors about his whereabouts. Blind billionaire Mrs. Vanderveer (Kate Pierson of the B-52s) wonders round her yard apologizing to her former lover Leonard, aka Mr. Tastee. Tastee feels misplaced without end, till someday, throughout a staring contest with a queen bee atop a water tower, Artie spots the Tastee Cell on the horizon.
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The seek for Mr. Tastee turns into the children’ summer season obsession. Ellen furiously stalks Mr. Tastee in a notably low-tech method, recognizing his ice cream truck and masks within the background of Qwik Pik buyer journey pictures. Little Pete, in the meantime, retains a lookout from the highest of the diving board on the native pool whereas feuding with the lifeguard. Massive Pete turns to good quaint detective work to seek out the wayward ice cream man, interviewing Cloghaven Seaside’s Sludgesickle peddler Captain Scrummy (Michael Stipe of REM). It’s Scrummy who, past declaring Massive Pete a “bonafide Sludgesickle man,” reveals how the children violated the ice cream man-customer relationship. “Aren’t we here on the first hot day of every summer?” Scrummy asks. “Aren’t we? Don’t we carry 49 different flavorific flavors including Pineapple Blurt? What else do you want from us?” What else do we would like from our ice cream truck drivers, certainly. “I don’t know anymore,” Massive Pete concedes, acknowledging that Mr. Tastee may not come again.
Regardless of being on display for just one episode, over time, the plastic-headed Mr. Tastee has achieved a cult standing worthy of his personal T-shirt design. The episode is all of the extra outstanding on condition that it was technically the primary 25-minute episode of the collection. “What We Did on Our Summer Vacation” was really designed as a back-to-school particular when it aired again in September 1991, increasing the Pete & Pete universe past its authentic 60-second Nickelodeon vignettes. Sequence creators Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi have a knack for taking the unusual issues that occur naturally on the planet and translating them into one thing much more delightfully absurdist by means of the eyes of a child. Elsewhere within the episode, the boys’ father, Don Wrigley, reveals a completely useful 1978 Cutless Supreme on the seaside whereas metallic detecting; the common feeling of childhood disappointment with finish of summer season trip is channeled into Little Pete and Artie symbolically beating up the ocean; and an ice cream man merely doing his job turns into an elusive highway journey fanatic with a secret identification.
It is a children’ present after all, so Tastee does finally return on the cusp of fall to select up his pictures. The ice cream man’s mystique is a metaphor for the spirit of the summer season: splendidly candy, however momentary and melting away shortly. “I’m an ice cream man,” Tastee declares. “I am what the summer is — fireflies, thunderstorms, butt sweat on the car seat — and when it all goes, I have to go with it.”
Even if you happen to’re an grownup, even if you happen to’re a sweater climate proselytizer, it’s simple to narrate to that tug of loss within the last weeks of summer season trip. With out taking itself too severely, it’s how the episode captures this sentimental second — that feeling of one other summer season sliding into historical past — that makes “What We Did on Our Summer Vacation” such important Canine Days viewing.
Brenna Houck is the editor of Eater Detroit and an Eater.com reporter.Editor: Erin DeJesus
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