When I was a little boy my brothers and I called it biggin juice. I'm assuming this name came from my dad telling us it was for big people only.
As a teenager I called it pop. In fact, a heated debate on the proper label of that sweetened, carbonated, often caffeinated beverage ended in pop and soda factions that still exist today.
A few years ago I began switching between pop and soda interchangeably. This came about when Jeremy and I topped off a trip to Stinkweeds with a visit to their former neighbor Smeeks, a bygone candy shop that boasted a decent selection of bottled beverages. While my high school self and fellow pop factioneers would be upset by my toe-dipping into soda territory, I can't lie to myself by saying that "bottled pop" sounds better than "bottled soda."
Whatever you choose to call it — because — and this was my argument in high school — whether you call it pop or soda is simply a matter of opinion — pop and I have had a pretty unhealthy relationship over the past couple years. As my trips to Stinkweeds with Jeremy became a regular occurrence, so did my soda purchases at Smeeks. From there I sought out restaurants that served my new lesser-known soda favorites: Boylan's Ginger Ale at Joe's Real BBQ. Lime Jarrito's at Filiberto's. During my first trip to Kansas City when we were merely boyfriend and girlfriend, I was particularly excited when Sarah took me to Blanc Burgers and Bottles, whose bottled soda selection is the best of any restaurant I've seen (try the bacon Gouda fries)*. And I soon discovered that most Mexican restaurants in the Phoenix valley and, really, any self-respecting restaurant, served Coca-Cola in a bottle, sweetened not with corn syrup, but with far superior cane sugar**.
*We ate so well that weekend.
**There are few things that have the singular, iconic taste of Coca-Cola sweetened with sugar.
I began looking for specialty sodas wherever I could find them: BevMo has an excellent selection and World Market carries a few favorites, like Bundaberg's Ginger Beer. I found a decent selection of Mexican sodas at Food City. I didn't hoard these beverages, but it wasn't rare to find two or three bottles waiting in my fridge.
Around this time, I noticed something about myself. I was gaining weight.
I have since attempted to quit drinking pop several times, and fewer times did I see any sort of success with that. One such success came a year ago, when I swore off pop for a couple months. I decided to indulge one evening while sitting with Sarah (who was then 24 hours away from becoming my fiancée) at Port Fonda in Kansas City. As I sipped a Mexican Coke I thought to myself, This is great. But I don't need this. And I felt great knowing that I didn't need pop in my life.
In my last blog post I talked about how I began drinking Mt Dew every morning as a way of dealing with a constant buzz of anxiety that crept in almost every morning. The sugar helped kill the anxiety. Well, initially anyway. After a few minutes, I seemed to lose control over most of my thoughts. This didn't help the anxiety, of course, because it allowed anxious thoughts to creep in and multiply unfettered. So in the end, that concentrated daily dose of sugar and caffeine made me feel worse.
I don't remember the circumstances, but I remember a period over several days where I didn't have any Mt Dew. Headaches ensued. I decided it was time to stop. No more soda or caffeine for me.
I kept that up for a couple weeks. Then I switched to Coke. Now most days I have a can of Coke in the morning and in minutes I notice the same effect: diminished control over my thoughts. I've noticed the same thing when I stop at QT for a donut on the way to work or if I grab something from the vending machine after lunch.
So here I am, typing this blog post, swearing off soda once again (and while I'm at it, swearing off morning QT stops and vending machine trips). I'm not giving it up for my entire life, but for a season. I don't know how long this season will last. Perhaps until the time when I can take a sip of Coke and say to myself and actually mean it —
I don't need this.