This is a simple column by a complex woman.  
Dumb-asses need not apply.
If you flatter yourself to be
a bright spot in the universe
and aren't offended by "psychotic breaks,"
If you're a little frightened, well, all the better.
We kinda like you like that... with hot sauce.

“dammit with the Coke” 

I’m going to try one more time, to explain about this addiction I have to Coca-Cola, then, it’s done. The stubborn OC-D in me has to get it all out. 

Then, maybe I can move on to other topics, such as “Why ‘Extreme Makeover: The Home Edition’ could be ABC’s last chance at glory,” “Curves: The Religion That’s Turning Me Into An Atheist,” and “If ‘American Idol’s’ Jasmine Doesn’t Stop Smiling Her Hawaii Tourism Aloha Campaign Smile Soon...” 

[Wait! Wait! Wait! Get back to the addiction!] 

Oh yeah... my precious Coca-Cola, that cool, refreshing drink, inspiration to a thousand childhood picnics and block party barbecues, salve to a million childhood hurts and rejections, the only adult beverage befitting a large NY style cheese pizza while the world whizzes by the storybook window of my imagination. 

I can’t really remember when I first heard the siren call, maybe it was early on, to quiet me, soothe my stomach (from infant to 3, I’d suffered from chronic pain and discomfort down there), after the Bacchus-D vitamin drink (found only in Korea and Korean markets) wore off. But during that Korea-to-Japan-back-to-Korea fragment of time before I could remember names, dates and places, the only soda I really drank came in an orange bottle. I drank it after I roused from a brief coma after slipping off a cliff above a construction site near my ghetto Sonyuri town, an orange life preserver in a drowning sea of unconsciousness. 

For sure, Coca-Cola and I met up in Kentucky, around age 4, when my father got stationed near Louisville, then promptly bailed for parts unknown in Vietnam, leaving his non-English-speaking Korean war bride and none of his two young children behind to fend for themselves, serving a few months or year sentence in debtor’s prison for bailing on his obligations in the interim. Through the kindness of a handful of German-Americans and Korean expatriates, mother and children survived, one child (in particular) with a lotta help from that all-American pastime, washing down the day’s troubles with a tall, icy glass of an all-American byproduct of an overproduction of wealth, suburban style. 

I admired the green-blue-colored bottles the elixir came in. Whenever we’d go out to a restaurant – a Chinese one in Hawaii comes to mind right now – I’d always spot two things first, the jukebox (mommy, I want a quarter to play music) and the Coca-Cola machine, the kind that also had the rusty-metal bottle-cap opener attached at the bottom, and I’d pull and pull and Pop!, put the smoky opening close to my nose and take a deep whiff of the carbonation escaping, a constant reminder of the “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo” memories of my youth, backseat, rolling hills, stops for cattails and lightning bugs, crushes on neighborhood blonde boys, smashing my knee on what passed for a bike, games with Leggos and Bright-Lites. 

I admired those bottles so much that when I finally came to my senses and connected bottle with collection, they’d gone out of style for the plastic things. I looked high and low, at the time, trapped in a paradise known to the world as Hawaii, which meant (see “The Rock” or “Rock Fever”) hunting around the Hello Kitty toys and everything else in untranslatable Japanese for $12 Coke bottle artifacts at Ward Warehouse. 1988-‘89 ... such a blur. 

I managed to acquire four or five bottles, two from the ‘50s, with the logo engraved into the glass instead of the white paint, one with brown fluid inside (sure, that’s really Coke, sure) and the cap intact. Later, when trapped in Tampa, FL, I ventured into a shopping mall (there’s nothing for the likes of me to do there but go into an air-conditioned mall and pretend to window shop, or sit around in the dark in the living room of my air-conditioned apartment hoping the rumbling trucks, cat screams and burning garbage outside doesn’t close in on me), somewhere in Citrus County, whereupon I found a treasure trove of collectors’ items in Coke memorabilia, including three choice advertising posters from each past era, the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, each representing what had been important for those times. 

The 1950s poster had a brunette diner waitress serving up a glass of Cola with a sandwich made from Wonder bread on her tray, presumably off to serve her 100th war hero. In the 1960s, it was Coke on ice, the ice served in a delicate blue and white China bowl, no brunette or any other human in sight. And for the 1970s, my favorite perennial shot for a man in the desert: a gigantic, fresh from the barbecue grilled, grease dripping from every carnivorous orifice, triple-decker hamburger, with a Coca-Cola glass filled with ice cubes and Coke, the glass itself rounded on top, narrow on the bottom, dripping in ice sweat, again, just sitting there, untainted by human hands. 

They’re hanging above the dining room, a constant reminder of the diet I refuse to go on for the 49th time and occasional inspiration for the ever-increasing days I can’t think of anything decent to eat that doesn’t remind me of the days I’ve had stomach flu and nothing appealed to me but a bath and a nap in a body-sized toilet. 

Every Coca-Cola addict knows that you can’t eat a burger, taco or pizza without its soul-fulfilling tonic close behind. I’ve personally witnessed heathens try to down a couple of juicy slices from a Sbarro’s with fruit punch or, God forbid, milk, and just wanted to dump a cooler full of Coke on their ignorant heads. 

They don’t know what they’re missing. 

Nothing beats a Coke and a resultant smile when I’m hating the world, feeling beat down, fat, ugly, unwanted, unworthy, fill in the blanks. I’ll take it with a meal, through crushed ice, every time. But in a pinch, I prefer it straight from the predominantly scarlet red can, pop the top, sniff the smoky ambrosia floating away and gulp, gulp, gulp, problems? what problems? 

Just the sight of either a bottle or a can elicits a strange Pavlovian reaction that combines nostalgia for my past, youthful exploits and innocence therein, with hope for the future—as reassured by that recent commercial of the young pretty black lady walking down the street handing out glass bottles of Coke so casually, you’d think she was handing out pennies instead of such priceless treasures, street value, rivaling crack. 

Scientists and nosy types have been trying to figure out, break down and analyze to death the appeal, secret and otherwise, of Coca-Cola. From speculating upon its origins – who could forget the urban myth of cocaine in the early stages of manufacturing? – to surmising its appeal from the list of ingredients – it’s not just the caffeine, or the carbonation, or the sugar – to arguing about said sugar versus fructose substitutes, which some aficionados (okay, junkies) go so far as to travel down to Mexico and parts un-American just to capture the way they still make Coke, with real cane sugar (they polish the brown out of it with real bleach, the bleach people clean clothes with, I’ve heard). 

Regardless of specific breakdown, appeal, whatever, the addiction exists. I knew a co-worker for about 15 minutes before she had to be wheeled to the ER for what turned out to be the result of eating and drinking nothing but Coca-Cola day and night. (I tried that, and still gained weight.) The amount of residue in her system caused her to constantly double over with pain, as if her gall bladder was throwing out stones. She’s fine now, but Coke-free, and working somewhere else. 

I try not to over-imbibe, hard as it can be. My life being a roller coaster one day and tumbleweeds the next, hard is an understatement. 7-Up, ginger ale (merely a mix of 7-Up and Coke, y’know), Dr. Pepper, none of these substitutes will do; besides, they’re all from the same soda family, so what’s the point. 

Right about now, as I type, I’m doing without, actually contemplating the rest of my life without Coke, sugar or caffeine (not to mention dairy in general), as the next, last-ditch grasp at reclaiming a normal body and sane level of energy, instead of sloth-like inertia. 

I suppose I should take down those three posters hanging above my dining room first...


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