Thursday, January 1, 2015

Bottled Soda and Seltzer as Story

A placid body of water, or a seascape at low tide become metaphors for the calm, meditative mind.  In stark contrast, pictures of pounding surf or wind-swept swells convey a roiling sense of menace and unrest.

You were considering such metaphors last night, when you poured some of the contents of a bottle or carbonated water into a tall glass, where a stack of ice cubes lay, and atop them, a wedge of lime.  The locale was a loud and louche saloon on lower State Street, shortly after you and your companions had finished dinner.  

They had purchased tickets to a New Years' Eve performance at the Grenada theater, some seven blocks away.  This saloon stop was to be one of several planned for them, with no need to consider driving until after the scheduled performance and, undoubtedly, coffee.

Given the quality of the meal and conversation, spirits of the inner and outer sorts were high, your companions intake of cocktails not yet enough to separate the levels of shared conversation, a fact that drew you into closer inspection yet of the carbonated water.  

In simple terms, your companions were not at the alcohol level where their focus, or lack thereof, separated them from your state of mind, body, and, if you will, spirit.

Thus, more thoughts yet about carbonated water, leading to a protracted discussion of memories of neighborhoods, both in Los Angeles and New York, of so-called seltzer trucks, delivery vans carrying siphon bottles that dispensed water infused with carbon dioxide, producing that most remarkable beverage known variously as soda, seltzer, and the more informal "fizzy water."

In your family tradition, seltzer water was often used as a digestive aid, sometimes for serving with cocktails, but most commonly for a beverage known as egg cream, which contained neither egg nor cream.  Egg creams were, to you, pure alchemy, introduced to you by your paternal grandmother.  

An inch or two of chocolate syrup, preferably Fox's U-bet, an inch or more of cold milk, and the balance of a tall glass with seltzer water.  Ah.  You slathered at the thought, resolving to track down a place where siphon bottles are to be had.  You're pretty sure Gelson's Market carries Fox"s U-bet, although your father on occasion made do with Bosco, but don't tell your grandmother.

You were fascinated by the dance of bubbles in your glass, sipping the effervescent, lime-tang crispness of your bottled soda water, taking in the conversation about you, but drawn back to the most significant product of pure soda water, the bubbles.  When carbon dioxide is pressure-forced through plain tap water, the transformation to seltzer is completed.  

The round of drinks, including your club soda, purchased at the louche bar, ushered your dinner mates on toward that plateau where the drinker is separated from the non-drinker.  If you'd not had to drive home, through downtown traffic, there is some thought you might have joined your dinner mates at their level of conviviality.  

But in a moment, the matter became clear.  They were on one level, you another.  They saw you on your level, you saw them on theirs.  Another excellent metaphor.  Story--where the participants are at different levels.  The levels can be social, moral, political, sobriety-related.

Along comes the most delicious metaphor of all, at least of a piece with the splendid meal of recent consumption.  Plain water, however delicious it may taste, thanks to its trace elements, is pellucid, having only a few ways to go, toward ice, toward a boil, or as a receptacle for some added color.  Nice as it is to have about, in particular when you are thirsty and need hydrating, it remains what it is--water.

Plain water is not story, because it lacks the fizz, the dance of bubbles, the potential seltzer has for overflowing when you shake the bottle or remove the top too slowly.  Plain water does slake thirst, but it does not drive tiny elements of energy into your awareness, producing a tingle in your mouth and on your lips.

Depending on your plans relative to alcohol, a seltzer-based drink delivers alcohol to the bloodstream faster than uncarbonated water.  Depending on your plans relative to story, a narrative driven with bubbles of such excitements as suspense, tension, frustration, and surprise can deliver a more demanding and haunting presence than a narrative that doesn't produce fizz when shaken.


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