Ages and ages ago, in a different life in a different place — high school, I think — I saw a lady walking a dog. When I say dog, I don’t mean a golden retriever or a bulldog or anything else that looks reminiscent of the proud, noble beasts that patrol mountains under the moonlight, howl and lick their bottoms with authority. When I say dog, I mean some malformed little creature looking half-rodent, with a pushed-in face and a profile that couldn’t eclipse a housecat’s. It had short, stubby legs and groomed hair and that expression — the glazed-over, dumbly happy expression that you can only associate with the domesticated animal. A look that says too many generations have passed since this thing new what being an animal actually meant. Indeed, this little dog was a no animal. It was an aminal.
I saw this poor creature and simply couldn’t reconcile it with the thing that we had made it from: the wolf, the jackal, the fox. Hell, it wasn’t even a coyote. And realizing how far this little shitburger of a pooch had been unnaturally selected, I couldn’t help but tell myself: “We really fucked up dogs.”
When I started college and suddenly had to go to the grocery store on my own, I was walking down the aisle that has all the stuff that I like to call “addition and subtraction.” It’s what we use to keep clean and pretty; things that either take away the bad parts or accentuate the good parts. I needed toothpaste, and that seemed like a simple need to fulfill. Goo that tasted like some kind of mint or something, to rub on my teeth in an effort to prohibit my oral real estate from housing any more metal.
In short order, I’d realize that, like the noble dog, human kind has also fucked up toothpaste. See, when I was young, we had toothpaste. That’s it. You had Colgate and Aquafresh and a few other brands that don’t leap to mind at this midnight hour. And you bought the brand you liked and that was the end of it.
But no. No no.
Today, the toothpaste aisle is a richly textured tapestry of choice — horrible, horrible choice. You can get toothpaste with bleach, with non-abrasive bleach, with micro-scrubbers, with fluoride, without fluoride, with calcium, with various other minerals that I hadn’t realized belonged in my mouth to begin with, with baking soda, with cavity protection, with plaque fighting enzymes and with special mini-capsules that break up sulfide deposits that can cause the foul horror called halitosis. And even worse, you can get flavors. Lemon. Apricot. Cinnamon. Even a choice between peppermint, wintergreen and spearmint. (I can’t tell the difference.) I was overwhelmed. Every choice seemed to be at the expense of another possibility.
Bastards, all of us. “We really fucked up toothpaste.”It didn’t seem to me that anything could get so bastardized as dogs and toothpaste. Of course, I wasn’t thinking hard enough.
Last week, we went out for Spencer’s twenty-first birthday party. The rest of the group arrived a little late at the restaurant, which gave Spencer and I a lot of time to look over the drink menu, which offered a special martini section.
Ever since I came of drinking age, I’ve had a soft spot of martinis. They just look so cool. Sophisticated glass, clear sloshy stuff inside. And you even get a little representative of the fruit and vegetables section of the food pyramid to remind you that you’re eating healthy. At first, I crutched by on dirty martinis, with the olive juice masking the overall alcoholic taste. Now, I go for the real thing, as I’ve learned that the best martinis mix the liquors in a perfect harmony that takes the bite out.
Oh, and you get hammered way fast.
To me, martinis represent the elite of drinking. It’s James Bond and monocles and people who know how to hold their liquor and don’t water it down with the sugary extras.
Now, I’m at the restaurant and perusing this menu of alleged martinis and I realize that the place only actually offers one full-on, indisputable martini. The rest: sham martinis, with the punch mitigated by fruit juice and sugar and color — color! in a martini! — and things that make the whole experience palatable for people who don’t actually like to drink. These are drinks for people who think the glass will lend them a slimmer silhouette. These are drinks with names like “Flirtini,” “Mangotini,” “Tartini,” “Babe-tini,” “Winitini,” “Femme-a-tini,” “Ladytini,” “Off-Violet-But-Not-Quite-Magentatini.” It's a parade of increasingly awkward verbal portmanteaus, each representing a drink that should not exist, much less be drunken.
And, for the third time in my life, I stop and shake my head. “We really fucked up martinis.”
(Oh, and I suppose we’ve done a number on the environment as well. Some might say that goes without saying. But really! “Mangotini”?)