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Posts Tagged ‘coke’

The Real Thing

May 29, 2014 | by

The Coca-Cola Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo: Melizabethi123, via Wikimedia Commons

The Coca-Cola Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo: Melizabethi123, via Wikimedia Commons

On this day in 1886, Georgia pharmacist John Pemberton placed his first advertisement for Coca-Cola, in The Atlanta Journal. The rest, as we say, is history. Painful history, in my case.

I don’t think my parents had anything special against Coke; we didn’t have it in the house, but then, we didn’t tend to have junk food around. We snacked on carrot sticks and yogurt; maple candy was a major treat. But I remember my dad drinking Coke on especially hot days, and I know “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” was part of his repertoire. For her part, my mom would reminisce about trying her first Coke—while, thrillingly, listening to Freddy “Boom-Boom” Cannon sing “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans”—when her paternal grandmother came for a visit from Arkansas. Coke still felt like freedom for her, the taste of the forbidden.

But for me, Coke for some reason became the enemy. I had always received positive reinforcement for being “unconventional” and hoeing my own row—what could be a better bugbear (I imagine my thinking went) than a soda that was not merely an agent of tooth decay, but an opiate of the masses. In my mind, Coke was somehow tied up with everything I had dutifully internalized as “bad”: Sesame Street (which utilized advertising-style camera techniques and allegedly shortened attention spans), Amelia Bedelia (unchallenging), Cabbage Patch dolls (hideous), and sticker books (middlebrow). I wanted so badly to please.

Coke became my issue. What my parents had probably intended as merely a sop to oral hygiene quickly became, in my eager little hands, a self-righteous moral crusade. I shunned Coca-Cola with the zeal of a nineteenth century temperance advocate, and my sense of superiority was inviolate. Read More »

Green Car, Nightfall

November 14, 2011 | by

Photograph by Boosbob50.

One day when my father’s car overheated down in Chula Vista, he came home with beans in a can the size of an oil drum. “This is what the real Mexicans eat,” he announced. That sounded suspicious. We ate beans our mom cooked on the stove and supposed real Mexicans did the same. We gathered skeptically as my dad opened the can. “Look at these beans!” he beamed. He was ready to dig in without even heating them up. We stared into the murky depths. Nobody else wanted to try them.

One day as we headed north on Interstate 5, a radiator hose burst right by the big, hollow globe, tilting on its axis in El Toro. Two hippies hitchhiking on the on-ramp kept offering us their ten-gallon bottle of water. “Water won’t do it,” my father said. “It’ll run right through.” There was an Episcopal church there across the street, and the priest took us in for the afternoon. It was 103 degrees that day, but cool in the church. My brothers and I walked up and down the adobe halls for hours. We drank chocolate milk from cartons. The hippies and their dog and their baby and their ten-gallon bottle of water got a ride in a Volkswagen heading for Oregon, but we were there in El Toro till nightfall. I don’t know how my father fixed the car. Read More »


The Coke Side of Life

June 2, 2011 | by

“Liz Taylor knows it, the president knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.” —Andy Warhol

Evel Knievel on the set of Viva Knievel, 1977.

Coca-Cola is the brand par excellence, the marca di tutti marche, the brand the other brands dream about being (even though the brands never sleep). Nothing else is even close. When it comes to what a brand is, Coke, as they say, is it. According to the branding consultancy Interbrand, Coke has a “brand value” of seventy billion dollars, which is twelve billion more than its nearest competitor, IBM. That’s a strange measurement, brand value, because it takes several nebulous things into consideration, including probably love. While many people are fond of Coke, some of them to the point of addiction, who even likes IBM?

Coke’s status is not merely economic or pop cultural or emotional or psychological. Coca-Cola transcends those categories to compete in the broader realm of speech, of monosyllables. We’re told that Coke is the second most recognized word in any language, after okay.

There are 6.9 billion people in the world, and according to The Coca-Cola Company they drink 1.6 billion Cokes a day. I don’t have the figures for this, but it may be that right now the only thing people on this planet are doing more than breathing is drinking Coke. There may be more people drinking Coke this very minute than sleeping. There may be more people drinking Coke than awake.

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