Coke/Pepsi Variants

I’m at the pet store this weekend picking up as many cans of cat food as I can carry, which you know is a lot, so I’ve got two teetering towers in each hand — wait, let me put it in Lord of the Rings terminology since that’s all you seem to understand these days: You know in Two Towers where there’s the evil tower Friskatus that stabs toward the sky like a charred skeletal finger and the good tower Fancifeastus that gleams like a +4 two-handed broadsword? And they totally fight each other until Fredo shows up and says, “STOP IT STOP IT I BEG THEE!!!” And then somebody around here, I’m not saying who but his initials are almost ELF, starts bawling and cheering and singing songs in actual orc-tongue?

Anyway, it’s like that and I notice a little fridge of soda near the checkout counter, and it’s sort of like they’re saying: “Hey! Precious Puss-Boots needs treats but so does her precious owner!!! :-)” So I grab me a Code Red and start chugging.

Mountain Dew Code Red, Dr Pepper Red Fusion, Pepsi Blue, Vanilla Coke, 7-UP’s dnL, Sprite Remix, Pibb Xtra … is there any major soft drink that doesn’t have some kind of variant in rotation right now? And aren’t they all pretty wretched? I mean, I’ve knocked back my fair share of Red Fusion but I think, when you get down to it, I like Dr Pepper so much that I’ll take the variant even though it’s kind of sketchy. That and the crappy deli near my house had a buy-one-get-one-free thing going with those for seriously like a year, which helped.

But my primary reaction to the Code Red was: This was completely assembled in a lab. Pure chemical. I mean, Mountain Dew is already pretty distant from any sort of natural flavor — like it doesn’t even pretend to be lemon-lime or whatever — but the addition of Red just pushed it into total synthetic territory. Which, I’ll admit, was sort of sexy.

Anyhow, here are my capsule reviews:

Code Red: I can feel its nanobots building cities of refreshment in my heart.

Red Fusion: Like Mary-Kate, it makes me wish for Ashley.

Pepsi Blue: My teeth hurt and I feel sad inside.

Vanilla Coke: Remember on Family Ties when Tom Hanks was an alcoholic and drank vanilla extract?

dnL: Lime Life Savers in liquid form, i.e., blecchy.

Sprite Remix: Avoided even though it’s in the office vending machine because you said it’s sort of pineapple-ish, which sounds awful.

Pibb Xtra: Never seen in the flesh but very eager to try. It sounds more like what I’d want out of a Dr Pepper variant: Dr Pepper +4. Dr Pepper raised to the power of Dr Pepper factorial or some shit.

Jamba Juice

Dang, dude. Now I’m sitting here totally wanting a hardcore smoothie, like posthaste. As you know, I came of age in California, and I think the whole concept of an entire store devoted solely to smoothies really came of age in that state, too (as did the whole “wrap” sandwich shop phenom). And yet the only smoothie place I frequented was Jamba Juice, a franchise that was often found right next to Noah’s, a franchise bagelry — sort of like how Starbucks and the Gap appear in pairs, usually sometime during the night.

And even though I consumed my fair share of their smoothies, sinking so far as to speak aloud their embarrassing names like “Peach Pleasure” and “Boysenberry Bliss” and specifically requesting the Fiber Boost supplement to keep me regular, they really weren’t all that great. Or they would be great once in a while, but you couldn’t depend on it. Sometimes too icy, or too tart. Sometimes the Peach Pleasure was way too orange-y for some reason. Just flat-out B.S. like that.

Oh but one thing that was consistently great was their pumpkin smoothie, which was only available in the fall and was basically like drinking a nice, refreshing cup of Pure Autumn. Cool, atmospheric, tinged with sadness.

Why there aren’t more (or any?) make-your-own-smoothie places I’ll never know. I’m a big proponent of make-your-own-sandwich bars, too. But I mean, you could theoretically get your own high-end blender and make your own smoothies at home, but I don’t want to keep tons of ingredients on hand all the time. I want to walk into a store and see where my bitch-ass whim takes me, is that so hard to understand? Didn’t we just blow up Iraq to make the world safe for make-your-own-smoothie shops?