Drinks Weird Sodas

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It’s Friday. It’s 3pm. Stop working, sit back, and read about me trying not to barf. This is the BEST kind of post for an afternoon like this, and you know it.

So a few weeks ago, my friend gave me a batch of weird sodas for my birthday. I’ve decided to “live blog” it. I drank them in the order of which I least dreaded them.

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Brownie Root Beer was the first one I drank, the only safe one. I drank the entire bottle. It was delicious. Nothing ominous about this one, except for maybe the words CONTAINS MILK. I generally find milk to be “A BAD CHOICE” since it sometimes makes me cramp up and cry for hours, but in this particular instance, it came in peace.

This soda takes the “caramel” and “cream” parts very seriously. This doesn’t have the chemically root beer flavor I’m accustomed too — instead it’s a very rich, creamy, affair. No terrible aftertaste. I like it.

Little did I know, this will be the only thing I like.

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Peanut Butter and Jelly Soda. Seems weird but harmless enough. I went into it naively, expecting to like it.

First sip: this is weird, mindfucking. Tastes like peanut butter…and then jelly…and then what can only be described as “chemical cardboard” — no wait, that’s the peanut butter flavor. No, maybe jelly. God, I don’t know what this is or what this tastes like.

At this point the brain just goes “yuck, dude.”

Second sip: “saltwater brine shrimp.” I don’t know where this flavor profile is coming from, but I think it’s my brain’s way of saying stop fucking drinking this shit.

“Seriously, not kidding, dude,” it says.

Third sip: I really really really hate this. At this point I cannot describe it as anything other than pink fluid awfulness.

Little did I know, this will be the only one I made it to three sips with.

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Moxie. Moxie claims to be Moxie the oldest continually produced beverage in the United States. It has entire fan clubs online. It has a notorious taste that people pride themselves in acquiring. Hence, the name, it takes a certain amount of moxie to drink this. I was excited to try it and find out just what that notorious taste was.

First sip: EDIT: First millisecond of first sip — Oh gee, this is good, a cola — ACCCKKKKKKK AAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGG SICKKKKK IT TASTES EXACTLY LIKE STOMACH BILE. I’M NOT KIDDING.

It’s extremely bitter. Bottom contents of your empty, writhing stomach, praying to the porcelain Gods bitter.

Second sip: Umm, the back of my throat is doing that tightening thing that happens before you puke. I have a rock of a stomach (except for milk; milk is bad) so I’m certain I won’t puke, and that my throat is only doing that because of the brain/bile association.

To be safe, THERE IS NO THIRD SIP.

Little did I know, that feeling of nausea would not go away.

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Buffalo Wing Soda — with the nausea I’m currently experiencing, I can’t even begin to describe the extreme hesitation it took me to bring this to my lips. I took the tiniest sip humanly possible. I really don’t even know what it tastes like because I’m still battling my inner demons with that Moxie soda.

It tasted…tangy though.

Second sip: I decided to man up and just take a big gigantic swig of it, for science. AND I STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT THIS IS. Spicy barf? Tangy orange ranch? God, kill me.

There is no third sip, so alas, the world may never find out exactly what that flavor was.

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Finally Bacon soda. I don’t know if I can do this. It smells like Bacon Bits. Liquid bacon bits, liquid death, whatever.

First sip: Oddly, it’s not bad. It’s not drinkable but it’s not making me cry. Its has this super salty-soy-doing-an-impersonation of corn-syrup-glazed-pork vibe going on about it, but at this point, I’m willing to rate that as a positive.

Still. THERE IS NO SECOND SIP.

EDIT: About an hour later after compiling down all of my thoughts here, I went ahead and took another sip of the Moxie, after reading a bit more of the raving Amazon reviews. Like, to see if I could do it.

Final word: AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHACCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCK.

No.
no.
no.

Life Confessions: One Time I Bought My Dog a Coat

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One time I bought my dog a coat. She is not the kind of the dog that needs to wear a coat.

She is not a floofy thing. She is not a rat thing. She is not a dust ruffle thing. She is a mutt mixture of poodle and beagle thing, barrel-chested and part grizzly bear thing. She looks like the owl in The Secret of NIMH. (No she doesn’t — inserts the wife here — quite emphatically.)

She is a little brown dog — a plain brown dog — the kind of dog that if you put a bow in her hair, it will somehow make her look worse. When we first got her, I posted her puppy picture and an anonymous internet commenter said she looked like she smelled bad. I deleted it, but he wasn’t exactly lying. She is the kind of dog that looks like she smells bad.

(NO SHE DOESN’T — inserts the wife here — although we often laugh and tease the dog about that comment.)

Again, she is not the kind of dog that needs to wear a coat. And yet, I bought her one last year, right before the supposed polar vortex.

Let me go on a tangent for a moment. Remember when the Weather Channel was a pleasant, muzak-playing slideshow of temperatures and five-day forecasts? Now it’s a mutated, deformed beast of its former self. I consider it one of the scariest websites there is, next to Fan Fiction Forums and WebMD.

For instance, if I go to WebMD, I’ll come away convinced I have Esophageal Cancer when I only have heartburn. And if I go to Weather.com to read about the rain, I’ll come away doomsday-prepping for a monsoon.

That’s how I ended up buying the dog a coat. I was certain we were all preparing for The Day After Tomorrow conditions. I was certain we were all going to insta-freeze. The weather forecasters all acted like it was going to be the thousand-year storm of sub-artic hell. Having not grown up in a particularly cold-weather region, I bought it. I bought it literally. I mean, I bought the dog a freaking coat.

Go ahead, tease me. Around here, I regularly got off school for less than a snow-flake. Some kids fondly remember their epic snow days — I remember mine as sludge-rain days.

I also did my True Marylander Official Duties during an Official Freak the Fuck Out Weather Event, up to and including:

– Buy a gallon of milk
– Toilet paper, yo. Lots of toilet paper.
– Fill up the gas tank
– Buy enough food to survive World War III
– Buy the dog a coat

The thing is, I didn’t just get any old dog coat/sweater-vest thing out of the junky pet section at TJ Maxx. Dude, I went NUTS and bought a fully-insulated, waterproof, polar-fleece coat WITH A BUILT-IN TEMPERATURE GAUGE ON IT.

Why?

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Whyyyyy?

I’ve been making her wear it outside lately just to get my money’s worth out of it. Poor dog.

Oh My God, the Browser MS-DOS Games. My Own List.

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Last week, the Internet Archive put up over 2,000 MS-DOS games you can play in your browser. It feels like I’ve found the thing that’s been missing in my life. I’ve found some significant, formative piece of myself that I almost forget existed.

By thirty-four years-old, I’ve re-visited and re-claimed most of my childhood nostalgia; I’ve collected back my Ninja Turtles figures and fired up the old Nintendo more than once. And yet a huge chunk my childhood went completely obsolete and unreachable. Because unlike albums that were issued to CD or VHS tapes that later came out on DVD, those old computer games didn’t make the leap to newer formats. They just stayed there forever on those floppy disks.

There’s no way to definitively list the must-play games available on the archive. I’d argue there is no such thing. So many of these games act as demonstrations for what computers can do — or would go on to do. As games, most of them are dull, yet as historical artifacts, they’re marvels.

There’s also just something unique about the way we interact with computers. Just as our browser history would reflect some primal element about ourselves, the games we once interacted with on the computers reveal an interesting imprint. Therefore, there is no single list of games you must play — there is only our nostalgia, oursevles, and maybe our parents’ seedy connections to pirated floppy disks. (Hi Dad.)

Here is my list:

1. Oregon Trail

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Everyone has this at the top of their list. At first I thought our collective nostalgia for this was boring and predictable, but then I played it the other night with the wife. Holy shit. It’s still so so good. It teaches you about geography, history, budgeting, planning ahead, and most importantly, dysentery.

I was way too cocksure when we came to the first river in the game. Confidently, I exclaimed, “always ford it,” and pressed with A to ford it without any hesitation. I lost all our sets of clothes, an ox, AND drowned the wife. Well, crap.

Bottom line: This game still rules, listen to your wife and take the ferry, and some day I’ll have to brag to you of my God-like hunting skillz.

2. Leisure Suit Larry

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I didn’t know this until just now, but apparently Leisure Suit Larry still exists. It’s an active series with new games that still come out. It’s an adult-themed game, where you can do stuff like have sex with a prostitute, contract a sexually-transmitted disease and die shortly thereafter. This fate may be avoided by buying a condom at the convenience store. This is all, of course, in barely-above Atari-grade graphics, which would have been on a neon green monochrome monitor.

I shouldn’t have been playing this game in 1988 when I was eight years old. I wasn’t allowed to play it. The game even had a rudimentary “parental control” on it that made you answer five general knowledge questions that kids wouldn’t know the answer to, before letting you into the game. It’s true that I spent more time playing that trivia game trying to get into the game as a child than I did actually playing the game. Most of my nostalgia, sadly or fortunately, is for that.

3. Life and Death

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Before the Internet made us all experts at diagnosing our illnesses, there was this game. It was a hospital game where you evaluate, diagnose, and operate on patients. And in this game, everything always led to abdominal surgery. Having flu-like symptoms? Abdominal surgery. Having stomach pains? Abdominal surgery. No one got out of that hospital without abdominal surgery.

And really, no one got out of that hospital. I killed every last patient. That was the fun part. I’m not even sure there was any other goal to this game.

4. Avon

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This is a text-based game. I’m not even sure if it was THE text-based game I played, but I can’t remember anything about it, and for some reason, the word Avon sticks out. But yeah, text games evoke a certain kind of nostalgia for me — even if that nostalgia is actually a grim reminder that I wasted away HOURS of my precious, dwindling childhood playing this shit.

5. Trolls

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Likewise, I’m including Trolls in the hate-nostalgia category. The acid-neon graphics could make your eyes bleed eternally in a Lisa Frank afterworld. My dad had snagged this game from his seedy underworld of pirate computer gaming (it looked like Shredder’s lair in the Ninja Turtles movie, I liked to imagine.) He got it for my sister, who was a Class-A Troll Fanatic (I’m certain that’s a real categorization.) Anyway, I hated trolls and STILL played the hell out of this game, which in turn, made me hate trolls even more.

6. Avoid the Noid

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I’m pretty sure I never got past the first level of this game. I’m pretty sure I never got past the second floor on the screen there. That was probably the biggest thing about these games — most were unplayable for a myriad of reasons. Gaming was like the Wild West with no quality control and no instruction manuals.

7. Girlfriend Construction Set

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Another text-based game, another game I probably shouldn’t have been allowed to play. As one reviewer put it best, “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll lose at Strip Monopoly, you’ll put up with this jealous bitch and her dumb friends, you’ll remember the adventure forever.”

In fact, that review sums up every last MS-DOS game, ever. You’ll remember the adventure forever.

Christmas Guest

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I’ve learned this. Grief is a guest. It’s easy to treat it as an unwanted guest — to leave it unattended in the other room, to not even ask if it wants a soda or anything. Don’t be a jerk to grief. Go in there, sit down with it, get it a damn soda. Be an adult — offer it that soda in a glass with ice. Acknowledge it.

Last Christmas, the first without my mom, we did my family’s Christmas exactly as if my mom was there. We went over to my parents’ house at the same time as always, my dad wrapped all the gifts she had bought us before she died, even his own, signed them from her, made her signature dishes, decorated the tree as she had, etc, etc. And we sat there, around her tree, opening her gifts, listening to the Christmas station she always played, etc, etc.

It was grueling. It was painful. It was like we were putting on a play and acting as ourselves. And the actor playing the role of my mother was Grief. It sat in with us, taking her place.

Not one second after we left, I got in the car with my wife, and I announced, “we are never, ever doing THAT again,” as I ripped the knife out of my gut.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why we did that — why we re-created a Christmas with mom without mom. None of us decided to do it consciously. It just happened. The obvious answer is we knew no other way. It was only a month after she died. What else were we supposed to do? Just magically forge a new tradition right then and there?

I wish. I wish things could magically create themselves. Life would be easier that way, if we didn’t have to trudge through the hard stuff first.

That’s all it was — the re-creation, the theatrical play. Just a trudge. Nothing more, nothing less. I shouldn’t be so hard on myself about it.

My dad and sister had also bought tiny gifts acknowledging the baby last year. Who was, at that point, something between a clump of DNA and a tadpole. I felt deeply uncomfortable opening those gifts — just a baby hat and a Ravens “future linebacker” tree ornament. At one month pregnant, anything could have happened at that point. Those were terrifying gifts on multiple levels.

And yet those tiny gifts were like seeds that have sprouted fully into wrapped, shiny, big boxes this year. Now we have a six-month-old, and he has tons of presents. Not that he cares, although I like to think babies show their appreciation by how desperately they try to cram the wad of wrapping paper down their throat. And by that measure, my kid is obviously thrilled.

We’re hosting Christmas at our house for the first time. Of course, Grief will also be a guest this year, although it won’t be playing a starring role, and it’ll be just stopping by to say hello. I’ll welcome it to stay as long as it likes, but it keeps having to run. It stopped by last night, but only for a few minutes. If it shows up today, that’s cool, whatever. I bought it a special soda — the Cranberry Splash kind. If it shows up tomorrow, I’m armed with glasses full of ice.

I’m armed with plates full of wasabi deviled eggs, cornflake casserole, baked brie, spanakopita, mini crabcakes, brownie brittle, popcorn, fudge, cookies, egg nog, and cider. That’s a good spread, eh? I’m not just all Pop Tarts and dollar store candy, folks.

Merry Christmas out there. Forge on, trudge on, surf on.

Fear and Loathing in Breakfast Choices

This December, I have sort of gone on a Hunter-S-Thompson-esque bender in breakfast choices. I’ve gone deep into the rabbit hole of things that should never ever ever be consumed for breakfast.

1. Pop Tarts. This is food. Look at this. THIS IS FOOD.

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I ate an entire box of Pop Tarts by myself. Which, you’re thinking, is no big deal. No — it is. I ate the Value Pack. The big box. And I don’t think my wife ate a damn single one. Let’s just hope that science comes up with a cure for whatever eating sixteen Sugar Cookie-flavored Pop Tarts with little cartoon beavers printed on the shellac frosting gives me. Let’s just hope.

How are Pop Tarts even a socially-acceptable breakfast food? Have you ever asked yourself this? Does it even say “breakfast” anywhere on the box?

Have you ever noticed how agonizing the wait is to toast a Pop Tart? Like, it’s not even that good to begin with. It’s just a dry, cardboard-like cookie. And yet I cannot WAIT to eat it when I take it out of the package. I cannot wait that additional minute-and-a-half to toast it. So I rarely ever toast my Pop Tarts.

The Sugar Cookie flavor is great. It’s basically vanilla on vanilla on vanilla. An entire box. A value pack.

2. And when I wasn’t eating Sugar Cookie Pop Tarts, I was eating Sugar Cookie Crunch.

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Certainly, this is a more socially-acceptable breakfast. Sure, it’s just a re-hash of Frosted Toast Crunch, but you can’t deny the warm fuzzies you get from looking at this box artwork. And while I don’t remember anything remarkable about Frosted Toast Crunch, I loved and devoured through this box of Sugar Cookie Crunch.

3. The same can be said for Holiday Sprinkles Cookie Crunch.

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This is just Sprinkles Cookie Crunch part-deux, a cereal that already came out a few years ago. But re-dress it in Christmas colors, and I can’t resist it. And again, even though I don’t remember anything remarkable about the regular old Sprinkles Cookie Crunch, I actually wake up in the morning craving and salivating for this Christmas version.

Or maybe I’ve just eaten too much sugar for breakfast this season, and now my body is just addicted and expecting it.

4. Then there’s this. Whatever this is. It’s — it’s — CHRISTMAS LOG.

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WHAT IS CHRISTMAS LOG?

I ATE IT AND I STILL DON’T KNOW.

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NO SERIOUSLY, I DON’T KNOW.

I ate it for breakfast though. Not the whole thing, but like, a solid portion of it. There’s only been 23 days in December so far, and I’ve managed to eat sixteen Pop Tarts, two boxes of cereal, and a “solid portion” of Christmas log. I don’t even know how this is statistically possible.

Don’t worry guys. I take a multi-vitamin everyday. It magically undoes everything bad you eat and makes you healthy.