The ramblings of a freelance writer, novelist and avid reader.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Remarkable Patriotism of Coca-Cola

This whole Month of Fundays thing is more difficult then I originally thought. I think I need to be more organized, with more ideas. So today’s post is what I want A Month of Fundays to be like, but I’m not actually doing that month of blogging yet. I’m taking a Month of Fundays out for a test drive because I can’t get my mind around the logistics of it all.

For now, I’m just going to write about today – 4th of July (because I won’t be posting this until the 5th). It’s the Fourth of July! That’s fun in and of itself. Go, America!

Back to the grind after vacation, I woke up bright and early this holiday morning because I had to be at the part-time job hobby by 7:00. I’m married to a British man and I wasn’t sure how long the part-time job hobby would keep me, so although we had a few backyard BBQ invitations, nothing was set in stone. In the end, Chris and I went to the MN Landscape Arboretum in the afternoon. For those of you in MN: the arboretum IS open even with the State Government Shutdown. For those of you not in MN: the government is shutdown because the lovely politicians can not come to an agreement about the state of our state debt/budget and how to get money to pay for it. I have EXTREMELY STRONG OPINIONS about this, but as I’m not blogging about my political stance right now, I won’t bore you with those details. However, I would like to point out that although the general populace in MN doesn’t much seem to care whether we are shut down or not; I really think we all need to wake up and have extremely strong opinions about failing governments in general…and not just stomp our feet because the State Lottery is not playable during a shutdown (Seriously random guy in the line at the gas station doing the foot stomping: What the hell is wrong with you?!)

MN Landscape Arboretum, that’s where I was. It’s open, very nature-like, and pretty much just awesome…It may seem a little odd that my fun day had me thinking about America, since I was just lamenting my return to the country, my state government is shut down, and I have EXTREMELY STRONG OPINIONS about the cons of socialism and my country in general. But here’s the thing: It’s my country! And I get to have all of these feelings because my country – for the most part – is FREE. Men and women died – and are still dying – to make it so. There’s a lot wrong, but there’s a lot right too. And I can write about it, rant about it, and tell you what I really think – without fear of imprisonment or death. So yes, celebrating America is a fun day in my book.

Celebrating it with a British man may seem odd; but he chose this country over his own even before he chose me. One of my favorite Fourth of July memories happened just two years ago – the first year Chris and I were married and his mum came for a visit. We had a big family picnic/firework watching at Normandale Lake’s annual Bloomington Summer Fete. The irony of sitting on blankets outside in the middle of a MN summer, celebrating my country while completely surrounded by British citizens (Chris, his brother and his mother) was not lost on me. But I was mostly impressed by their awe and excitement, and also those familiar Fourth of July things: The smell of corn on the cob and tang of bug spray, sunscreen and sweat in the air; the fireflies dancing in the reeds around the lake – outshone by the red, white and blue light-up jewelry around children’s necks, wrists and ankles. The sound of fireworks exploding into the thick, humid night sky followed; the sky growing increasingly thicker by the smoke screen and burnt powdery, sulfur fire smell. It’s really hard to beat the fun-ness of The Fourth. Go, America! I say again.

Did I mention the MN Landscape Arboretum? Chris and I headed out to that giant garden in Chanhassen. We stopped for cash and water at the shops, and I picked up a coke, too. It was hot today, like Amazon HOT. For those of you who think of MN as snow and cold, July & August are mostly filled with 90 degree days and lots of sticky humidity. I don’t drink a lot of sugar soda, but when it’s really hot and I know I’ll be spending most of the day walking, I grab a Coca-Cola. It’s not frequent at all, but as I was watching two idiots drag-race down 494, sipping my coke and musing about the flowers I’d be seeing shortly; it dawned on me that my last Coca-Cola happened just a week ago on a very hot day in London. That day found me being quite touristy at the Tower of London and The British Museum. I grabbed the coke after viewing an over-whelming and over-stimulating plethora of Egyptian mummies and Ancient Greek architecture (British Museum, you are amazing but you have too much – give some antiquities back already – but not The Rosetta Stone, you should always keep that so I can view it frequently.) but before hitting up the massive gift shop. I remember thinking, this coke doesn’t taste right. I don’t mean how coke always tastes wrong, like the sugar forms strings and then those strings grow on your teeth like fur and you feel like you should shave your teeth after consumption. No, it still tasted like that, but more like it tasted off. I’d forgotten these thoughts until my highway trek on this Independence Day. I realize now the coke didn’t taste off at all, I was just drinking it in the wrong location: Coca-Cola tastes like America. Forget your apple pie, watermelon and hot dogs – Coca-Cola is America in a bottle! Other things taste like London ¬– things like a Snakebite and a Pimms Cup. Lilt tastes like the UK and Stella too, but Coca-Cola is decidedly America.

The arboretum was beautiful, peaceful and summery. Although there were plenty of families around enjoying their Fourth, I still felt calm, relaxed and secluded. Chris took pictures, I smelled flowers and we chatted about nothing but everything; a perfect way to celebrate our Independence Day. Tonight, while I’m writing this we are watching the neighbors grill in their front garden in a fire pit; we’ll join them for s’mores later – and fireworks of course. I’ll turn on the TV and watch some of the Boston Pops celebration and probably not for the last time wonder what it would be like to get on a plane at dusk in New York and fly to Los Angeles low enough to see the fireworks sprout up all over the nation. I bet that’s amazing!

I’m not sure what my Month of Funday question/thing is today? Possibly: How do you celebrate? Or: Think of and drink a beverage that embodies your town, state, region, country. Watch some fireworks. Eat outside. BBQ. Walk through a garden. Apparently I had an entire month of fundays in just this one day. Feel free to answer/comment with any of those things. Or, more ideas for The Month of Fundays project!

Oh, and I'm thinking about adding a related song for every Month of Fundays post. Simon & Garfunkel's America seems appropriate for today.


  1. I completely agree about Coke tasting like America, it's the very essence of America in that when I have my post-Thanksgiving, leftovers mash-up sandwich, it feels wrong to have it with any beverage besides Coke. As for a beverage that embodies Minnesota: it's always going to be apple cider. For me it's a fall beverage, but it tastes like Minnesota in the fall. Also, whether we admit it or not, most Minnesotans are major apple connoisseurs, and having the U of M engineering all these new apple types doesn't help that distinction. My friends from out of state think we talk way too much about apples here.

    And I don't have a Funday idea, but I do have a fun fact (granted, you seem to know quite a few more of my fun facts than anyone else): Fanta was invented in Nazi Germany since the Coca-/cola company couldn't get their standard flavor syrup into the country, but they had access to fresh Spanish oranges by way of Vichy France. The drink caught on and now it's popular all over Europe, and extremely sub-par in the U.S. due to the lack of actually orange juice and real sugar.

  2. I'm pro- many socialist ideas. Just thought I would get that out of the way. EXTREMELY STRONG OPINIONS about stupid rich people aside,

    Milk, specifically skim milk, tastes like America to me. While my mother hates the stuff (she had to drink the rehydrated powder kind in DP camps as a kid), the propaganda machine that is our school system drilled it into her head that her daughter should drink a great quantity of milk. Since she was terrified that I would get fat (jokes on her, I guess), she raised me with only skim milk. And I loved it. Still do. I can sit down with a giant, 32 ounce glass of the stuff and swig away. When my husband and I go to our friends Scott and Amy's house, we four adults sit around drinking milk with our dinner as most would drink wine.

    However, when I lived in France, my host family thought this behavior quite odd. They felt that milk was only for babies (which makes sense), and grown-ups shouldn't imbibe. They were nonplussed to find that I was old enough to drive in my country but still consumed the lactations of cows. You could say they didn't think I should drink AND drive. Sorry, lame joke.

    So ever since that time, I feel myself (a Frenchism if ever there was one) very patriotic when I drink milk. Take that, flag-pin wearing government haters!

  3. I am inspired to comment on the political musings. "I really think we all need to wake up and have extremely strong opinions about failing governments in general," you wrote above. And while I believe you meant "wake up" as in "start to notice and do some damn thing," I immediately went back in time to a dark, dark day when I literally woke up and had an extremely strong opinion about my failing government. It was the day after the 2004 election when my "fellow" Americans (who I have thenceforth disowned) re-elected Satan to the throne of our country.

    Never have I been more distraught. Naturally, you know I am a bit of a depressed person, especially where human beings and their actions are concerned. But never in my darkest nightmares did I really believe that so many of my fellow Americans would do such a dastardly, suicidal, asinine thing as to re-elect the village idiot from Texas who has his hands in the pockets of the oil sheikhs, who has his heart in the dreams of the billionaire elite, who cares not a hoot about nature or the planet...

    I never thought it could happen. I never thought that human beings could do such a decrepit thing. I never, never thought I could wake up with such an awful taste in my mouth and long to be a Canadian.

    I definitely woke up with political opinions that day and every day since, but alas, I am still so far afield from my fellow Americans that I will vote for Obama again in 2012 instead of miscellaneous Republican who wins in the polls currently.

    What has happened to my country?

    Perhaps if we went back to a day and age when Coca-cola was for sure the only REAL cola in the US...yeah, I can't pull that together.

  4. @Anna - I already miss your fun facts and I did not know this one - so thank you! Yes, apple cider. I can see it. Also, just because I adore the honey crisp and can taste the difference between it and a pink lady and a zestar, does not mean I'm an apple connoisseur...oh, wait...grrr...fists of mild irritation...mmmm...apples! Also, since you've just been to the UK and I know you had some cider there, you should try Crispin. A MN local cider (yes, the alcoholic kind) served with lots of ice (not so British there). It's awesome and probably the beverage that best describes Mariah (a little bit MN and a little bit Great Britain coexisting in a tangy, yet refreshing beverage).

    @Mara - I'm SO agreeing with your French family, you crazy milk drinker. You're an adult!? And skim, really? That's watered down milk-not-milk. I read your response out loud to Chris - he says a glass of whole milk is great with baked beans on toast; clearly he is also insane. I do agree with your America comments though - I can't imagine anyone but Americans sitting down to dinner with a glass of skim milk; also, whenever I think of milk in general, I think of the MN State Fair and the all-you-can-drink milk booth right next to Sweet Martha's Cookies.

    @MC - Did that rant make you feel any better? I hope so. I watched the local news with reports of the State government shutdown breaking length records and no talks even in progress; and then I watched the "World" news with reports of Obama calling a special Sunday session to try and reach a decision with the National Debt crisis...and all I can say is BOO! We seem to be at such a stalemate lately. You know how Northern Ireland has a number of peace walls up to protect both religious sides. Sometimes I wonder if we should start erecting peace walls to separate both political sides here. I fear our country is exactly split down the middle and no good will come of the over-aggression on both sides. At some point violence will ensue. Unlike the Northern Irish - who seem to be heading out of their dark ages and into something more peace-like - and I hope mending, we are heading straight into our dark ages unless our political parties start to compromise. One thing for certain - if that crazy loon of a Republican, who is apparently first in the early polls, actually becomes the Republican candidate for president and runs and wins?!?! I'm denouncing my state and my country and moving to Chris' country. Yes, I know the UK government is not perfect and the entire world is having issues right now, but there's only so much you can take. Seriously, who even likes that crazy woman?!