Because the Moxie Man Said So

I may have lost my mind, or part of it. But I recently bought a 12-pack of Diet Moxie.

Yes, Moxie.

If you’re from New England or Pennsylvania, you might know it, or even tasted it. I was a young boy of nine, somewhere in Massachusetts at a relative’s house. 1968 rings a bell. In those days, soda came in bottles, some very fancy, almost works of art. I opened the refrigerator door, and there was one bottle of Moxie.

Hmm, I thought. Same color as Coca-Cola. It looked good standing there. The day was warm and I was thirsty. I asked if I could have it.

I’m not sure if I was warned, but permission was granted. I opened the bottle with one of those wall mounted openers (do they still exist?) And then I took a sip.

It was sweet – at first. Then within seconds came the aftertaste, the mother of all aftertastes. Even now, it’s hard to describe. It’s like suddenly your tongue is coated in a dreadful, sulfurous, chemical bath of awfulness.

What the hell, my nine-year old brain thought. What the hell?

I can’t remember if anyone was laughing or even if anyone was watching. But no one blamed me for setting the bottle on a counter and walking away.

Over the years I saw the odd Moxie sign and other paraphernalia. The memory of that sip always came back to me. Each time I shuddered anew.

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So last week, I was in the soda aisle of Market Basket (my girlfriend calls it Basket Market), thinking I needed a change. I was tired of Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, and Diet Dr. Pepper. And what should present itself but a shelf full of my old friend, Moxie.

Moxie comes in cans now. On the side of the box and on each can, the old Moxie lettering is still there, as well as Moxie Man. He’s a good looking dude, a contemporary of Babe Ruth with a white suit and glossy, movie star hair. Moxie Man glares out at you, pointing. “Drink Moxie” is the caption underneath. I obeyed and grabbed a good supply of the stuff.

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I planned to drink my first Moxie at work, with my lunchtime sandwich. I figured food might kill the taste if I really hated it. Came the day, I was ready. I cracked the seal, and after giving Moxie Man a thumb up, took a sip.

It wasn’t bad. Then it was. But not that bad. Or maybe pretty bad. I don’t know!

I managed to finish the can, and I’ve had two more since. Hey, I wasn’t crazy about my first sip of beer, either, but then I got wise. It might be the same with Moxie. I love acquiring a taste for things that most people don’t like. Progressive Rock, anyone? So, it’s Moxie for me, for nine more cans at least.

Moxie Man, I shall do it.

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Holly Jolly Holly Jolly, Oh

Music has always been a large part of my holiday.

It’s there on the radio, weeks before. It’s in the stores. It’s on TV, and YouTube. I looked up one of my seasonal favorites there, even though I own the album.

It’s called Winter Song, by Angel.  (You’ll have to look up, or imagine, the awesome video.)

I figure it’s impossible to hear every Christmas song ever recorded in just a few weeks. Some I missed, like I Believe in Father Christmas by Greg Lake, and the Eagles’ version of Please Come Home for Christmas. I’m sure I’ll hear them again.

But I did hear a few others this season. In no particular order…

Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses. Funny lyrics, sung with attitude. “A&P has provided me with the world’s smallest turkey.”

Frosty by Jimmy Durante (“…and two eyes, made outta coal”)frostythesnowman-character

Rudolph by Burl Ives (“But do you recall, the most famous reindeer of all?”)

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee

Father Christmas (Give Us Your Money) – The Kinks

(I would have loved to post the video here – it’s great.  But WordPress said no.)

An oddly speeded up version of Bing Crosby’s Mele Kalikimaka. (Now why would they do that?)

And that awful Paul McCartney song, you know the one. It’s the Jar-Jar Binks of Christmas tunes.

I have two Christmas CD’s in my car. One is the Peanuts soundtrack by Vince Gueraldi that almost everyone seems to have. I listened to it all the way through on a long car trip.

The other is by the Kingston Trio from 1960, called Last Month of the Year. Very good but it brings back bittersweet memories. The Trio are still around, stopped in New Hampshire last year for a show.

By now I’m a little Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole’d out, but there’s always next year.

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Walking Home, by Sonia Choquette

If I ever decide to take a long excursion on foot, whether it be the Pacific Crest Trail or the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain, I know one thing I’ll do first. Break in those walking boots.

Because aching feet are just not fun. Sonia Choquette found out the hard way. In her one month plus pilgrimage, she always felt her feet were “on fire.” Ouch. But she also found out much more.

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In Walking Home: A Pilgrimage from Humbled to Healed, the author describes the long walk/hike on the Camino, taken after the deaths of two close family members and the breakup of her marriage. Would the solitary hike leave her feeling healed and whole again?

Her one companion on this journey is a rubbery, green, six-inch figure named Gumby. Her childhood friend, Gumby serves as a totem of sorts, providing a sounding board to the author’s ups and downs. Some days he gets to ride up front, clipped into her backpack. Other days he’s unceremoniously stuffed into a pocket, like a set of car keys. Everyone who sees the little feller smiles.

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It takes a while for Choquette to find her rhythm on the trail, and in her book. Each night is a new town, different hostel and a varying diet of food and human company. She meets Camino Patrick, a doppelganger of her ex-husband, also named Patrick. A smooth talking Greek puts the moves on her after a few glasses of wine. A frantic woman loses her wallet and calls off the hike, just like that.

There are wonderful innkeepers, and terrible ones. A simple thing like an elevator after a hard day’s hike can represent a major miracle.

Also there are churches, many of them, along the way. They serve as a shelter from bad weather, a place to rest the feet and soothe a hurting soul.

Ever since I saw The Way, a movie starring Martin Sheen, I’ve been interested in this trek. I might make it there someday. Now that I’ve read this book, I feel more prepared to take it on. I’m hoping it doesn’t take a major life change to nudge me there, but even that might be okay.

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Favorite quotes from Monk

He’s the guy.

 

I don’t know how he did it, but he did it.

 

You’ll thank me later.

 

She’s the guy.

 

We should wait for Natalie. She’s in charge…of saying the right things.

 

Here’s what happened.

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You can taste the symmetry.

 

It’s a blessing…and a curse.

 

Here’s the thing.

 

Unless I’m wrong, which, you know, I’m not.

 

I have nature on my hands!

 

I’m seriously considering you for employee of the month.

 

I just solved the case.

 

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Melancholia – Movie Review


I have to admit, this is one of the nicest, most orderly End of the World movies I’ve ever seen.  No zombies, no cannibals, no Mad Max type degenerates terrorizing a handful of survivors.  If the world has to end, this isn’t a bad way to do it:  a humungous rogue planet comes into contact with our own, with explosive results.  Ka-poosh!  And it’s all over.

But it happens in slow motion, over the course of days.  Just enough time to tell the story of a newly married couple, Justine (Kirsten Dunst)  and Michael (Alexander Skarsgard)  Justine is a sufferer of depression, or what the Greeks called melancholy.  Her wedding night is a roller coaster of emotions seen in her face: utter happiness, followed by disgust, disinterest, and an unshakable bone weariness.


Her new husband notices all this and tries to help.  In a private room he gives her a picture of an apple orchard he just purchased, a place they can rock sedately and enjoy their golden years.  Justine says to him, “I’ll keep it with me always.”  When she gets up to rejoin the party, she leaves the crumpled photo behind.

Throughout the night-long wedding reception, no mention is made of the celestial bad boy coming our way, called Melancholia.  The bride’s brother in law, John (Kiefer Sutherland) insists that top scientists have certified that the larger planet will simply fly by, giving those on Earth a fine show.

But top scientists have been known to be wrong.  Differing viewpoints predict a Dance of Death involving the two planets; think of a tetherball wrapping itself around a pole.


The marriage ends before the night is over, guests leave, and left behind on John’s large estate are Justine, her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), her nephew Leo (Cameron Spurr), and John.   Melancholia is now close and bright enough to be seen in the daytime.  Is the planet leaving for good?  Or coming back?  A homemade wire and wood device made to track the planet’s movements seems to suggest both.


Birds stop chirping, horses plunge and whinny, and the Earth’s atmosphere thins and makes it hard to breathe.  Lights and power go out and even batteries stop working.  As disaster approaches, Justine seems to be handling it fine, while Claire and John begin to lose their wits and composure.  Their actions and reactions are interesting to watch, and make us think how we ourselves might handle this situation.

A long montage in the early part of the movie shows us just what is going to happen, so it won’t be a spoiler to tell you how it ends.  It really does end.  But seeing how this group of people spend their last days on Earth is a fascinating study of our universe, our planet and the characters that populate it.

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Last Day In Ecuador

Friday, March 18, 2011.  It was the last full day of our Ecuador trip, and in some ways the most important of all. We were going to meet Stella’s sponsor child, Sibel.

Originally, our group was going to meet the children and their mothers at an amusement park.  But at the last minute, this was changed to a water park in the outskirts of Quito, roughly a 40 minute bus ride away.  We brought all the gifts, plus foodstuffs we had bought at the supermarket days before.   Stella was very excited as the bus pulled into the park.

There were no signs of the families in the parking lot, but after entering through a stone gate, we saw a crowd of people on the grass.  Various children were holding signs, and one of them was Sibel.

She was dark haired and pretty, with a serious expression.  Behind her stood her mother Yolanda, also pretty, a translator, and a minder from Compassion International, to make sure all went well.   Sibel gave a flower arrangement to Stella, then we both posed for pictures with the child.  After some pleasantries, we all trooped over to the indoor snack bar for some unusual ice cream bars.

After ice cream, Stella changed into her bathing suit and took Sibel into an inviting pool.  I was the appointed picture taker and didn’t want to get wet, so I snapped away as the two of them splashed and swam together.   Stella was smiling happily, and Sibel seemed to be relaxing a bit.

For lunch we had chicken and rice, then went back to the pool.  There was one water slide, but much smaller than the ones we knew in the U.S.   We all lounged around while they swam, and I took pictures of Yolanda and the interpreter.

In the mid-afternoon, we paused to exchange presents in the snack bar.   Stella had a large bag of gifts for Sibel and her family, and they gave Stella six white and red roses and two plaques.  It was a happy, emotional time.


It was then time for the children to board their buses.  We all gathered on the grass where we’d first met the children, for a large group photo.   It was now starting to rain.  The photo took a while, then we walked with Sibel to her bus.  Crying, she said goodbye to Stella and I, and back home they all went.

Our group got back onto our bus as well, and we stopped at a marketplace to pick up some souvenirs.  I bought a tee shirt and two table runners for the folks back home.

The last dinner at our hotel was an Ecuadorian feast in a private room.  Goat meat, calf hoof soup and serviche shrimp were served, along with rice and pasta.  Stella and I left a bit left early to explore the hotel grounds a bit more, then we went off to rest.  Our wake up call would be at 3 am, and we needed to be packed and ready by four.

Our Ecuador adventure was at an end.  Those seven days went by fast, but they were deep and meaningful, unlike any vacation I’d taken before.  Stella may go back someday, to check on Sibel and help her succeed in her world.

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Restaurant Review: McDonald’s!

When the long-awaited McDonald’s opened on 237 Main St, long lines of people waited to get in.  My interest was piqued.  I simply had to find out why, and bring back a full report.

I came in around two o’clock, to avoid the lunch rush crowds.  Walking in though the glass doors, there was no one to greet me, but I noticed people waiting at a long stainless steel counter, so I joined them.  I had heard of this “self-service” concept, but now here I was, trying it out.  This was going to be an adventure!

As I waited, I studied the menu with colorful pictures, high up on the walls.  My, those hamburgers and other treats looked delicious.  But I wasn’t very hungry, and decided a milkshake would best satisfy my sweet tooth.  A nice young woman took my order.  “With whipped cream and cherry?” she asked.  Oh no, without, I replied.

When she came back with my (small) vanilla shake, I noticed there was ample room left in the clear plastic cup.  I enquired if she might put a bit more shake in, since I wasn’t getting the whipped cream and cherry.   She relayed my question to a supervisor, who didn’t answer but took the cup away and briskly filled it to the rim.  I thanked them sincerely and left the counter.

But now, where to sit?  There was no host or hostess to guide me, so I walked among the tables until I found an empty spot.  Sad to report, the tabletop was not as clean as it could be, with definite signs that someone had been there before me.  I sat anyway, and took in the ambience of the room.

It was very bright, with so many windows.  Curtains would be a nice touch, I thought.  And the voices around me seemed loud and shrill, especially when a child acted up.  Back in the kitchen, people were shouting and pans were banging.  My goodness, what a boisterous group they were.


I sampled my milkshake, which was tasty but very thick.   I decided to remove the lid and stir my shake with the plastic straw they provided me.  I must say that if all the food here was this good, I’d have to return in the near future.

I thought someone, maybe the nice supervisor, might come over to ask how my food was, or if I needed water.  A glass of ice water at that time would have hit the spot.  But no, I was unlucky.  The only worker I saw was sweeping around a nearby table and seemed not to notice me.

Since I had paid for my milkshake ($2.19 plus tax) at the counter, I was free to leave at will.  I almost left my empty cup on the table, but with a start, went back to retrieve it.  I would have to be my own busboy, I thought, chuckling to myself.


Next time I shall sample one of those hamburgers, and perhaps some “fries.”   Heavens, I’d recommend this restaurant to everyone, as long as they don’t mind the lack of personal service.   They are open 24 hours (!) so you can come in any time.  Tell them the Eatery Beat reviewer sent you.

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