Wednesday, May 9, 2012
This past weekend I took a quick jaunt up the coast to Portland, Maine. While a great foodie town and all-around wonderful place to visit for lobster and beyond, the reason for my trip was for a book signing, not dining. The event was in Lisbon Falls and celebrated Jim Baumer’s Moxie: Maine in a Bottle.
I’m always happy to visit Maine, as I’ve spent many a summer there on family camping trips (Two adults, four kids, and a canine in a pop-up camper; I’ll let you fill in the rest.) Nowadays I head up on the Amtrak Downeaster for good food, family, friends, and fun; Maine hip-hop is often involved.
I’m sure you all know what moxie means, right? Well, in case you don’t, I personally enjoy the brief description here. I feel like the only people I’ve really ever heard use the word are Mainers, in such statements as “He’s got moxie!” My strongest association with the word, in fact, is when I was given a Moxie girlz doll (right) by my great aunt upon finishing my doctorate. (In jest. I don’t still play with dolls.)
It may therefore be understandable to some, if not most, that I had absolutely no idea Moxie was the name of Maine’s official soft drink. I got the metaphor in Jim’s subtitle—Maine in a Bottle—but missed entirely the literal meaning. This gave me considerable amusement upon arriving at a small country store that was almost entirely orange and featured quite the panoply of Moxie products, including the beloved beverage as well as t-shirts, baseball caps, ice cream, bumper stickers, and beyond. I was fairly shocked given I don’t recall ever seeing this product and I’ve been to Maine dozens of times. Okay, then, the book is about the state of mind and the soda itself. Sure. Now I get it.
Here’s a brief recap to give you a better sense of the scene.
The setting. PKN enters a very, very orange store, surrounded by the Moxie Man logo looks stunned, feels like a moron. Clearly out of the loop. (Think: you’ve just entered Willy Wonka’s factory and had no idea he made chocolate.)
PKN (to shopkeeper behind ice cream counter): “Hi! Wow. I had no idea Moxie was a real thing.”
(Why would I possibly ever say that?)
Shopkeeper: “Do you drink soda?”
PKN: “Umm…no, not really…”
[Why are you even still talking?]
[Tries quickly to recover.] “I mean, unless it’s mixed with bourbon, or something…”
[Attempt unsuccessful; the shopkeeper appears unamused. Crap—is this a dry town?]
“But I’m happy to try some. I’d LOVE to try some!”
“What does it taste like?”
Shopkeeper: “Well, the first taste is terrible, and you’ll want to spit it out. The second is a bit better. And by the third, you’ll realize why we consider it the fine wine of soda. Now, take a sip, let it roll around your mouth a bit…”
[Well, with an advertisement like that, I can’t wait!]
PKN takes sip. Projectile vomits.
I’m kidding! Back to the true story.
PKN: “Oh, okay… it’s kind of like root beer.”
Shopkeeper: “Would you like to taste the ice cream?”
PKN: “Sure.” (tastes ice cream) “Anyone ever drink Moxie ice cream floats?”
Shopkeeper: (laughing) [I am now being mocked, and deservedly so.] “I’ve made millions of ’em. There’s a line down the street every year during the Moxie parade.”
[There’s a friggin’ parade?]
PKN: (laughs) “Oh, sure. Right…”
[Slinks away, humiliated.]
Oh, and this is why I don’t normally drink soda, by the way.
Unless used a mixer, as I mentioned, although that’s very rare as you may infer given my penchant for creative cocktails like pomegranate martinis, blackberry margaritas, and strawberry-bourbon lemonade. That said, there is a time and place and, both humbled and inspired by my Maine Moxie trip, I brought a can back to Boston for a so-called Country Girl (bourbon+Moxie). It would make the perfect ending to my trip, obviously, and I was looking forward to a little moxology of my own.
Got home, unpacked, went for a run, showered, filled my glass with ice … and then remembered that I was out of bourbon.
The solitary can of Moxie thus remains in my fridge, leading to what I believe to be silent mockery by the Moxie Man every time I open the door.
And my continuous humming—to the tune of “Macho Man”—“Moxie, moxie, man … I-want-to-be…. a moxie man.”
Cool ad. Great message.
For the concept, that is, not the soda.
Just so we’re clear.