Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thanksgiving Break Special Feature: Sailor Jerry Spiced Navy Rum

*Post-post disclaimer: This post is a deviation from the style I had intended the site to have, but I have decided to sacrifice humor for relevancy; awkward high school reunions are anathema. *

The first thing one will notice about this rum is that the bottle is particularly attractive; it has a rustic sort of style about it. The second thing one will notice is that it is 92 proof—that’s a bit more alcohol than your average, run-of-the-mill rum. But unique is the game that Sailor Jerry plays. Maybe it was the atmosphere and situation in which this liquor was consumed, but it was social sustenance within a cheap steel flask. So what the hell does this delicious rum have to do with thanksgiving break? Thanksgiving is a time when college students across the country flock back to their hometowns for a dinner with the family and reunions with friends that are always better when imagined. For the sake of this review, the latter scenario will be the focus.

Like the trance-inducing Malabar caves of Forster’s A Passage to India, “catch-up talk” in a hometown bar has a way of wearing on your consciousness so that you develop an increasing numbness to it as the night goes on, while simultaneously becoming more and more benignly annoyed with everything. Despite any steps you might have taken to alienate yourself from the people who had left a bad taste in your mouth—people you’ve either spent only minimal time with or people you’ve spent countless hours with—you’ve placed yourself in a situation that commands such satisfying isolation to stop, if for only a couple of hours.

Listening to the past three years of high school acquaintance #23’s life can deaden your senses and make you realize that your role in such a conversation can be performed just as effectively by a robot that nods its head and says “oh cool,” “right,” “ah, nice,” and “I see” every 8 seconds. “Still living in the city, huh?” “Moved back in with your parents, right?” “Got a job at the mail room? That’s cool.” “Oh, you’re married now? Awesome.” Condescending, unsolicited critiques of fashion, aggressive declarative statements about what band currently sucks the most, semi-obscure pop-culture references injected awkwardly into a conversation nobody really wants to be a part of; all of it is annoying just as much as it is inconsequential. Quality conversations you attempt to strike up with people you willingly call on the phone every couple of weeks cannot stand up against the voluminous barrage of chatty bullshit that seems to permeate your personal space from all angles. You’re reminded of the reasons why don’t keep in touch anymore.

You’ve been subjected to the puerile drivel that exhausts from the mouths of people who love the sound of their own voice long enough. Annoyed at being an audience member in someone’s four-hour monologue, you excuse yourself and make your way through the drowsy, dingy dining area into the bathroom. There, you unscrew the cold cap of your flask and take a slow swig—the frustrations of all-but-forced socialization with people you see only a handful of times a year but still that’s too much collect in your throat and are washed away with this rum. A slight taste of vanilla echoes in the chasm of your mouth, and you realize this is one of the few pleasant experiences you’ve had since you stepped into the bar. The aftertaste is sweet, lingering just long enough for you to savor it, then disappears quietly, like fog in the sunlight.

The soft sting of the alcohol swirling into your stomach takes your attention away from the dull mental anguish that introduced itself within the past hour just long enough to make you forget to recall it, and thus gives you a new bout of energy to listen to the explication of things irrelevant. You walk back, trying not to listen to the stentorian clacking jaws of the chattering cattle around you, and once you’ve sat, you’ve found you’ve developed a mental barrier that dampens the banter (when it cannot deflect it entirely).

Sonic pollution hangs in the air, the by-product of a person who speaks more than they think. Your role tonight is that of a perpetual listener, and nobody has any intention of making conversation a cooperative effort. You relegate your careful, quietly constructed insights and opinions to your own head; it’s clear input is not wanted here. Eventually, your windowpane of serenity shatters under the hail of small talk, and you’ll find that you have to refresh yourself in order to endure, in order to put up with things you thought you graduated from.

The thought of coming back in two weeks for yet another holiday break is something that will require more than two weeks to prepare for.

Social anesthetic. $16.99/fifth.

- Mike.

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