This evening Michelle and I decided to enjoy a night out with dinner at a new restaurant and a comedy show at the improv. The food was very good at this new place in Town and Country Village called The Yard House with a wide—if pricey—menu. After dinner, we strolled through Barnes and Noble to kill some time before the show started. We should not have done this. Once we got to the improv and got parked and got inside, all the good seats were taken. We had a partially obstructed view of the stage from the top level in a corner.
The headliner for the evening was Henry Cho, who—in case you are unfamiliar—is a Korean comic that was born in Tennessee. He was quite funny and we thoroughly enjoyed his set. I laughed hardest at his warm up act, a comic named Mike Speenburg who was relating the funny side of growing up in the 80s in the south. Hilarious stuff, Google him and listen to the Pizza and Corn bit or the Suicide bit.
Listening to Speenburg reminded me of my experience with suicides. I was in Boy Scouts when I was 11 or 12 years old in Newport News Virginia, back in 1975-ish. The scouts had (they may still have, I don’t know) these events called Jamborees where the entire pack would show up in scout regalia and set up booths and do things like crafts and activities and eat too much food and drink too much soda. There was even beer available for the dads who wanted it. Back in those days, society wasn’t under the impression that kids needed protection from life. There was such a thing as beer and guess what? Dads drink it. But not the scouts. The age limit back then was 18 and it was enforced at the vendors, even if the dads let their kids have a sip every now and then.
But I didn’t even want any. I had tried a sip once and gagged on it, so I never even considered drinking it again until I was 17. With beer out of the picture, soda (or if you’re from Minnesota—pop) was what was left. Have you ever gone to the soda fountain and had no idea what flavor you wanted? Well, one kid had the idea—and no, I don’t know or claim that this was the very first time someone thought of it—of getting a little bit of all of them. Just take your cup and hit each lever in the fountain.
Back then, the fountains had Coke, Dr. Pepper, Sprite, Orange, Grape, root beer and Tab (in the days before diet coke). The secret to this concoction was the proper level of the proper flavor. If you got all of them in equal portions, it was actually quite nasty; hence the name suicide. Leave out the Tab, minimize the rootbeer and keep the orange and grape balanced, and you had a pretty cool drink.
But flavor aside, it was just cool to drink a suicide. All the scouts in my troop went to make them that day. This was also in the days before free refills, so the soda stand operator monitored the activity closely. Also, since there were no refills, it was a treat to get a soda at all. We were all duly thankful for the quarter our parents gave us to get the soda, but just a “coke” wouldn’t do. It had to be a suicide. One, the name sounded dangerous. Two: the soda stand guy would yell at anyone who made one, so it had the whole forbidden thing going on.
I haven’t had one in years, though I caught my son making one. I asked him about it and he said “I invented this new drink.” Yeah. It gets invented every generation, and those of us who remember when it was our turn simply nod and get the pepto bismol just in case the flavor mix isn’t right. Of course, with free refills, the danger edge has been taken off, so I doubt it can be considered as cool as it once was.