Kage Baker would have loved the weather lately – here in California, anyway. We’ve gotten the edge of a storm from New Zealand, a great river of tropical air that has passed over white sand and blue water to get here; the sky is full of clouds with patterns like moire silk, and the air is soft enough to stroke.
True, it’s also 91 degrees and the humidity is much too high – but the tropical atmosphere has a definite charm. Shed enough clothes and drink enough cold fluids and this is a treat. Certainly it’s better than the rest of the United States right now – we’re neither drowning nor on fire, and our continuous little earthquakes don’t even worry us, let alone make the news. (We had a 4.2 a few days ago, and a heat rash of 2’s and 3’s runs up and down the state every day.)
Kage depended on cold Coca Cola to keep her going. Hell, even when frost was forming visibly on the windows, she drank Coke – it was her fuel. No other cola would do. She’d turned to Coke Zero when it appeared on the market, because it tasted more like real Coke than any other reduced calorie stuff – but when word got out that Mexican Coca Cola was using real cane sugar …! Kage was ecstatic.
The only places we could find it were Costco and some of the weirder rare soda stores here in LA, but we made the pilgrimages. The last year of her life, that was the only Coke she drank – as she pointed out, what the hell did she have to lose? Weight was dropping off her, so she sure didn’t need diet soda anymore!
Alcohol, alas, was forbidden her, but I used to put umbrellas and grimacing tikis in her drink glasses anyway. I think she liked the trappings as much as the rum … and she developed a fondness for the various flavours of Gatorade, so we could keep up the rainbow potables for her amusement.
Iced tea was out of the question, too, because the only kinds she liked were Snapple brews: they all had green tea in them, and you can’t drink green tea when you’re on chemotherapy. The stuff is so effective, it helps the cancer cells resist the chemo – how’s that for an advertisement, eh?
Me, I have always been fond of plain old cold water. I’m just not very interesting … I like whiskey, but it’s simply not a hot weather drink. Besides, I’m not supposed to drink alcohol right now (thank you, damned heart), which also rules out my personal favourite: beer. I drink a great deal of coffee every day – good stuff, too, I’m a dreadful snob – but when it gets into the 90’s like this, one longs for something cooler.
At one point, Coke made a coffee-infused cola – Coke Blak. With an umlaut or something over the O. It came only in elegant little 6-ounce bottles, in measly four packs: it was as black as ink, had a very slight body to it, and tasted fantastic. I don’t like soda – but I liked that. I could guzzle it like Kage gulped an icy ordinary Coke, and get 10 times the buzz. And its Mexican version (usually available here in Los Angeles) was also made with good old cane sugar.
Alas, I haven’t been able to find it in over a year. It was the only Coke I ever liked, a wonderful hot weather drink, and it has vanished into foreign lands and the Twilight Zone. In desperation, I have found that a 1 to 3 mix of strong coffee and regular Coke, served very very cold, can approximate it. It’s not quite the same, though.
But then, as we get older, very little is. Is it? I understand Kage a lot better now, her fierce insistence on not losing things the way they used to be … I’m not tracking down childhood favourites on EBay, like she did, but I surely would like to find Coke Blak again. Not even the Vermont Country Store has it: though I’ve found HerbalEssence shampoo and wax Halloween vampire lips and Bluegrass perfume there. Also Glass Wax. And Tangee lipstick. And Garibaldi biscuits. They’re the provisioners of memory, those guys at Vermont Country Store.
For now, though, I’ll have to keep pouring my own Coke Blak. With a bottle of Mexican Coke, of course, to improve the flavour.