I’m Here to Remind You of the Mess You Left When You Went Away, Rockport Taco Bell #70027 (1995-2018)

Dear Rockport Taco Bell #70027,

It’s hard to sit down and write you this letter. I’ve felt like I haven’t had the time to process the complicated feelings that are flooding my brain, as I grapple with how to manage this new person you’ve asked me to become. Because I didn’t have much time to process the news, did I? Just a short, nearly content-free 200 word blurb by our local news team, alerting me (and an unsuspecting public) about the abrupt closing of the “Taco Bell” side of your split franchise, located just over the border in the unregulated, lawless, asphalt-and-gasoline-soaked commercial zone next to the trailer park, sandwiched between Rockland and Rockport.

Taco Bell in Rockport Maine

I guess I should have seen this coming. Recognized the signs. Because you sent me a million signals, didn’t you, Taco Bell#70027? I guess after even your 23 years, I never learned to listen to you. Well, I listened, perhaps. But I didn’t HEAR you, not when you really needed me. I’d grown complacent, even accepting of your faults, even as they seemed to stack up out of control. I watched as your overworked, skeleton crew staff handed out painfully sub-par preparations of your limited time offerings, each more insane and ambitious than the last, each Dorito-dusted taco shell woefully underfilled with 88% beef slurry, each thick rope of caulking-gun reduced-fat sour cream smeared recklessly into already-broken chalupa shells, orange grease oozing impotently into a paper package. How many corporate memos were ignored? How many glossy posters illustrating proper Crunchwrap folding procedures, were crumpled and thrown into oil-spattered dumpsters, green steel swelling in the summer heat? How many warnings did we fail to heed, as you spiraled farther and farther away from me, the emotional gulf between us eventually growing too vast for either of us to bear any longer?

You were always a bit of an oddball, Taco Bell #70027, always marching to the beat of your own mariachi. There was that peculiar triple-redundant drive through window made out of bullet proof glass (retired just last year), which made it seem like you had been robbed so many times, that having direct physical contact with your employees presented a danger to both them and us. But we both know you never got robbed that often, don’t we, Taco Bell #70027? It was a lie we both accepted, you never admitting that you weren’t nearly as hardened as the facade you offered the world, and I never daring to look into the eyes of the person handing me my 64-ounce blue Mountain Dew Baja Blast.

After all, how could Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell co-exist under one roof, in one location, anywhere but in my sweatiest fever dreams?

Your mother told me once, that you had always struggled with your dual identity. You didn’t know that I talked to her, did you? She told me that even when you were young, you showed signs of a split personality.  After all, how could Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell co-exist under one roof, in one location, anywhere but in my sweatiest fever dreams? I should have known you couldn’t carry the burden of both brands, should have known that asking anyone to serve both pickle-flavored pressure-fried chicken out of the same overworked kitchen as a Beefy Frito Quesarito™ was a recipe for inadequacy and failure. After all, your dad knew all along; that’s why Yum Brands stopped offering split Taco Bell/KFC franchises years ago, making you the last of your schizophrenic breed.

(I’m sorry. I know our therapist told us not to throw labels around. I’m really trying, here.)

My friends even tried to warn me. “How can you eat that,” they would ask pleadingly, “Knowing how inauthentic it is,” as though the ability to recognize that tacos made out of Cool Ranch Doritos may not be the way someone’s 100 year old abuela is making them in a cinderblock puebla outside of Juarez City, somehow makes them more sophisticated culinarians. But I always defended you, Taco Bell #70027. “Mira, notions of ‘authenticity’ are the sole burden of the white bourgeoisie,” I would clap back, “Now pass me another dozen packets of Diablo sauce, hermanito!”

Taco Bell in Rockport Maine

I guess I’m just sad, Taco Bell #70027. Sad to see another beloved chain wither and vanish, even though some websites are estimating that location’s annual revenues at close to half a million dollars. Sad to see another fundamental right of human existence like “access to Taco Bell” (or the Wendy’s, or Tim Horton’s, or J.C. Penney, or Denny’s that all came before you) get flushed away in our town’s seemingly limitless appetite for ever more Dollar Trees and Tire Warehouses.

But that’s what a breakup is, isn’t it, Taco Bell #70027? For every Double Cheesy Gordita lost, there’s a new opportunity. Who knows, maybe I’ll even see you around sometime, like when I go to Belfast to visit your cousin, The Area’s Last Remaining Bank of America ATM, or when I’m forced to go to Augusta for any godforsaken reason whatsoever. Because that’s all I have left. I’ll cling to the dreams we once had, those hypothetical conversations I had with loved ones about the potential for making a Nashville Hot Chicken burrito by combining elements of both sides of your menu, or the promise of online ordering which allowed infinite combinations of your ingredients into bizarre Frankenstein creations limited only by my imagination. I’ll remember those moments of unbridled joy and inspiration, and I’ll speak fondly of our time together.

When I see one of your commercials, Taco Bell #70027, I’ll try to focus on the good times we had together, will try to remember you the way we were, just two young hopeful kids against the world, before we got bogged down in…all of this. All I ask, is that you do the same.

Truly Yours,
Malcolm

*We reached out to Taco Bell’s parent company, Yum Brands, for a comment on the closing of this location. We received no response to our multiple inquiries, each one escalating in intensity and forthright demands for explanation, but will continue to update this post as new information becomes available.

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