I love soda. Even though I don’t really drink it that much anymore, soda has played a very significant role in my life. Growing up, we always had two-liter bottles of Coke and Sprite on the kitchen table. It’s what we all drank with every meal, or in between meals whenever we were thirsty. If we had McDonald’s or Burger King for dinner, my parents always let me Super Size my meal. The rule was, as long as I finished everything that I had ordered, I could get anything I wanted. It was some sort of lesson about waste, I don’t know. So there was never any objection to letting me consume a small garbage pail sized cup filled with carbonated sugar water. And I always finished, because soda is delicious.
Soda was so central to our family that it was a huge deal if we didn’t have any. There were two or three years when we all gave it up for Lent. I know it’s what the Lord wanted, but it was torture. I especially remember one year, I was in second grade, and Pepsi released Crystal Pepsi right in the middle of our soda fast. Finally, a soda for my generation, but all I could do was sulk around at school, listening to all the other kids talk about how awesome it was. That Easter, when we were released from Lent’s crazy prohibition, the Easter bunny brought us a lot of it, and I remember sitting outside of our house just chugging as much of it as I could, trying desperately to make up for weeks of misery and deprivation. Looking back, it was kind of a weird soda. It must not have been that good, because I don’t have any other memories of it besides from that one day. And it got discontinued pretty soon afterwards. My family always drank Coke anyway.
One time we all got Wendy’s for dinner, and me being the asshole oldest brother, I pushed the plastic “diet” button on the lid of one of my brother’s soda, and then I told him that mom had accidentally ordered him diet. I teased him until he was crying. My mom ordered me to stop, so I did, but I while I said out loud that it was a regular Coke, I was all the while looking at him in the eye with a smirk that communicated nonverbally, “Hey, mom’s only making me say that it’s regular. It’s totally diet.” He flipped out and refused to finish his dinner, so I finished it for him, including his regular Coke.
When I went away to school, I used to visit Costco maybe once a month and buy as many bulk packs of canned Coke that would fit under my bed. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I would drink at least eight a day. Towards the end of college, I had a pretty serious affair with Arizona Green Tea, which isn’t technically soda but, chemically speaking, I don’t think there’s much of a difference. I found that the absence of carbonation made Arizona easier to chug, and therefore consume more of, in a single day. Also, all of the bodegas around school sold it in these giant cans for ninety-nine cents, and so instead of having to make a trip to an actual grocery store for soda, I could satisfy my craving at any hour of the day, right outside of campus.
Like I said, I really don’t drink too much soda anymore (I’ve since switched to beer, which is basically soda for adults) but there are certain occasions where I always get one. Whenever I’m at a Mexican place I’ll get a bottle of Mexican Coke, because everyone says it tastes better with the real sugar, and everyone can’t be wrong, right? (In this case, everyone is totally right.) Also, whenever I’m buying hot dogs off the street, I always get a can of grape soda. There’s just something about the hot dog-sauerkraut-mustard-Dimetapp combination that I find irresistible. I’ve never seen grape soda sold anywhere else.
My friend Ben told me about a McDonald’s by his place that has this futuristic computer controlled Coke machine with over a hundred different soda flavors. Every time he tells me about it I get so pissed, first because I haven’t tried it yet, but second because I don’t think they’ve yet introduced these dream machines for home installation, and I know that when I finally do get to try it, I’m going to be totally addicted.
One day I’m going to make a pilgrimage to Atlanta to visit the Coke museum (but that’s it – airport, Coke Museum, airport, and straight back to New York) where they allegedly have this whole wall of fountain drinks offering every single Coke product that’s ever existed on this or any other planet. I’m going to bring a six-gallon jug and I’m going to fill it up with Surge.
I’m pretty sure that, in the Bible, Jesus had actually turned all of that water into soda. But soda hadn’t yet been invented, so nobody knew what to call it. When they finally wrote down the story generations after his death, it was incorrectly described as wine.