I recently participated in an awesome sketch-comedy show called Ladyface, featuring five of Denver’s funniest ladies in a non-stop sketch bonanza. If you aren’t aware of Ladyface, now you know, and you should check them out at www.ladyfacedenver.tumblr.com. The theme of the show was summer and each performer was asked to share an anecdote or summer memory. Here’s mine.
In 1992, my parents packed up the whole family and took us to Cape Cod for the summer. My older sister was an Olympic-track figure skater and she had broken through the glass ceiling of what she could accomplish in Colorado and so they took her to an elite, training center where she could train with the man who was coaching both Paul Wylie and Nancy Kerrigan. Stunning, toothy, thoroughbred champion Nancy Kerrigan. And thus commenced an entire summer of me watching Nancy Kerrigan in the morning, filing those images away in my twelve-year-old cerebellum, and then vigorously masturbating to them in the tiny Cape Cod bathroom that I shared with my two sisters.
I remember a lot from that summer. I remember the Barcelona Olympics. I remember playing in the Cape Cod Baseball League – I was a Chatham A – I remember Nancy Kerrigan and swimming in the ocean almost everyday; but more than anything I remember drinking Crystal Pepsi. Because that was the same year that Pepsi decided to release their brand new Crystal Pepsi in a few tester cities, one of which was Denver, Colorado. This meant that while the rest of the country was sucking down regular Pepsi like a bunch of fucking idiots, the good people of Denver were asked to suck down Crystal Pepsi and report back with what we thought. And prior to loading up our blue Mazda MPV mini-van with our Chesapeake Bay Retriever and heading for New England I convinced my dad to make a pit stop to purchase ten cases of Crystal Pepsi.
I explained to him that Denver was a tester-city, that they wouldn’t have this in Cape Cod and thus it would be a hot commodity, a fool-proof venture. And for some reason my dad gave in. Maybe he was impressed with his son’s entrepreneurial acumen and wanted to encourage my first humble efforts at capitalist enterprise. A burgeoning Larry Flynt, he may have speculated. Maybe he thought the venture would work. More than anything, though, he had to drive 2000 miles in the car with just me and the dog – my mom and sisters’ flew out. He probably just didn’t want to have me bitching the entire time. Whatever it was, it worked. And I spent a good portion of the drive coming up with my sales pitch.
And then I got to Cape Cod and never sold one can. Not one. Because Crystal Pepsi was fucking disgusting. Know how I know? Because there’s no such thing as Crystal Pepsi anymore. Christ, Pepsi is disgusting. And Crystal Pepsi tasted exactly like Pepsi but with just a little bit of cancer in it. Or at best, like chunks of a removed, benign tumor floating around at the bottom of the can like coffee grounds. It was foul. And that little fucker in that photo up at the top of the post? Well he sat with dozens of cans of Crystal Pepsi on the beach damn near everyday, trying hard to up-sell vacationing New England sophisticates for two bucks a can. Sophisticates who had never even heard of such a thing and really wanted nothing more than to be with their family on the beach, eat a few lobster rolls, maybe watch the Sox make the playoffs.
Conservatively, I’d say I drank 150 Crystal Pepsi’s that summer. My sisters drank a few, a few kids on my baseball team were curious and sucked a couple of cans down, but I drank nearly every one of those Crystal Pepsi’s. I have the vestigial wings to prove it.
So much changed after that summer. I’d go back to Denver, to puberty and scary girls and then high school the year after that; my older sister would have to hang up her figure skates due to hip injuries, and Nancy Kerrigan, well, she had a Tonya Harding baton in her future. And we’d all look back at that time when our lives intersected in Cape Cod and we’d remember the more innocent times. A time when anything seemed possible. A time when the “Dream Team” first graced the Summer Olympics. A time when the Chatham A’s made me a starting pitcher. A time when PepsiCo actually thought anyone would drink their clear, sweet disaster. It was the Summer of Crystal Pepsi.