I am staring at a Coca-Cola bottle I stole, unwittingly, from the Mercury Cafe in Regina, Saskatchewan. Is this green-tinged translucent beauty for which I used to pay 8 cents for a small and 10 cents for a large, not including the extra 2 cents if I were choosing to drink it outside the diner, an anachronistic signal from my past? No it is not. Rather it is a retro model, freshly delivered from the Coca-Cola factory each week, directly to the Mercury Cafe I am told. And so, not unlike the rest of us, the Coca-Cola Company, too, has a yen for the past (or at least to humor the yen for its customers who have a yen for the past).
Generally speaking, everyone, when given the opportunity loves Coca-Cola. Not to besmirch Pepsi or Crush or Barq's (or those flexuous bottles from Fanta) but I've met many, many people who've had an adhesion (synonymous to an addiction) to Coca-Cola. Some noteable members of this Coca-Cola caucus include Ron, with whom I'd taught swimming at the YMCA and who drank upwards of a dozen cokes a day, and my present colleagues, Jay and Mike and Peach, who, whenever I see them, are ever sipping from a can of coke. I include myself in this caucus. Whenever I have a shot of bourbon I always mix it with Coca-Cola, one dram of bourbon, three ounces of coke.
And so dear readers, both cola and uncola drinkers alike, I invite you to march right alongside me in my Coca-Cola callithump on this first day in 2011, whilst I reminisce.
I quite remember the cold, crisp taste of Coke during my lazy adolescent days of confusion and hotness. Coke then indeed, was both delicious and refreshing. I remember that if you could chug-a-lug a coke you would get the hiccups. I remember if you added Lik'em Aid to Coke you would purposely spray the cafe ceiling.
I remember that things went better with Coke. Potato chips, 5 cents for a small bag and 10 cents for a large bag of plain, barbecue, or salt 'n vinegar, were wonderful to munch and wash down with Coke. Pretty Boy, a teenage friend of mine, purchased a Coca-Cola drink and Caramilk bar practically every Summer day, then punched out Nashville Cats on the juke box. Chocolate sweets and top forty hits have always gone better with Coke.
Coke was the real thing, even when my future was not. Those days I was unaware of collectivistic and individualistic cultures; those days I had political and religious attachments. Those days the richest in town were the most affluent and included a few wheat farmers (those who didn't spend their winters in the beer parlour), the bank manager, certain school teachers, and the municipal secretary.
Those days one could buy a stick of licorice or a plug of licorice for 2 cents. A small package of cigarettes cost 39 cents, a large pack 45 cents, or two cigarettes for five cents from a pickle jar down at the pool hall. Those days Department of Highways crew members in the field earned $1.74 per hour. Labourers in the private sector could earn upwards to $2.50 an hour. A fancy new brick house could be built for $40,000. and a brand new Chevrolet could be purchased for $2400. Gasoline was 43 cents a gallon. Beer was $3.40 a dozen, $1.70 for a six pack, and 21 cents a glass. Water was free.
Those days were Rockwellian.
These days I am a busker with those days hazed in romantic nostalgia. This Coca-Cola bottle that I stole from the Mercury Cafe is significant to my past and my present. This Coca-Cola bottle used to represent a wonderful world.
It still represents a wonderful world -- Coke is it.