Sunday, January 10, 2016

The soda dream

Creating clerkmanifesto is exactly like running an experimental soda factory. Each day is an invented new flavor. I roam the world looking for exotic or unexpected ingredients: lavender flowers, turnips, grass clippings, passion fruit, green tea, maple syrup, espresso, crushed pecans, earth, honey, clay, coconut, smoke. I attempt to distill my strange flavors in my lab full of cauldrons and glass tubes, alembics, gleaming pumps and centrifuges. Things boil and trickle. A thin syrup slides down a worn brass chute into a crystal beaker. The smell is almost right. One drop of vanilla, an extract of red cabbage to make the soda a lovely pale blue. The drink is intensely carbonated into extra thick, stout glass bottles that are strong enough to handle the extreme fizziness. What is it today? Blue lavender grassy honey soda. Is it good? Well, you know, it's particular. Good is a strange word for it.

I wish sometimes these really were sodas, my twisting, absurd, cheeky essays made out of mint and coarse black tea, minerals and mandarin peel, but it doesn't matter. Close enough.

And I think, what if all the stores around here carried my beautiful, wrong sodas, and it's such a dream that I, futilely, make 144 bottles of every flavor every day. My wife, a few friends, my close people, a couple co-workers, some strangers who stumbled by all grab a bottle. Every couple of weeks someone leaves a note. "That chocolate smoke soda was interesting", the note might say, "I liked how it had no sweetness."

And after all that I have maybe 128 bottles left. I put them in the deep caves that wind back in my cellar, stopped only by the deep waters of the Mississippi River. 

The Mississippi River. I sure would like to bottle that one day. If only I knew its flavor. Peanuts? Tobacco? Oak gall?
I go down into those soda catacombs with my flashlight. The pale jewel colors of the sodas twinkle with a brilliant shy moment of glow through their thick glass containers as the beam of light sweeps across them. What was this old pale orange one? I can't remember. I pry off the top of it to the sound of a cheerful gassy hiss. I am expecting something oranges, or sweet peppers, but it has the taste of flowers, honey, roses, chamomile. It's soft and bitter with a hint of white pepper. I remember this one. There are 130 of these remaining, lined up perfectly on their deep shelf.

I suppose if it really was like this, and I was out buying endless cauldrons and vanilla beans, pumpkins, honey, spinach, pollen, and figs, canisters of CO2, I would have long ago given it over, broke or overwhelmed. But here at last is the triumph of the intangible. Here is the joy of my metaphoric world:

My space here really does go on forever, borderless, every bottle is pristine and fresh and perfect forever, and every conceivable ingredient in the great, mighty and endless universe, is free, everywhere, for the taking. All I need to do is notice that it's there.


  1. I like the metaphorical and the actual. I'll drop by for my chocolate grass soda any day now.

    1. Thank you. One would think that would sound kind of bad, but... it actually sounds like an appealing mix of flavors: grass and chocolate.


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