Cheap Drinkin’ Wednesday – Week 1: Happy Juice

by FRANK THOMPSON

Welcome, friends, to the kickoff of Cheap Drinkin’ Wednesday! This no-doubt-soon-to-be-famous weekly look at the less expensive beverages on offer around our fair city will hopefully enlighten as well as entertain. The Girl and I will be purchasing, taste-testing and evaluating various libations that will appeal to the budget-conscious as well as those simply in search of a cheap buzz.

Our maiden voyage begins with the insouciantly-named HAPPY JUICE. Marketed as a “premium malt beverage”, this crimson elixir comes adorned with a smiley face…or is it?

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The casual imbiber should take note of such subtle clues as the devilishly leering grin on the seemingly innocent logo. There’s evil in that bottle, friends. Pure alcoholic malfeasance in a non-recyclable. Note the malevolent cast of the eyes; the expression that says “you may have the time of your life, or you may wind up pantsless in a dumpster behind a Popeye’s chicken.” Adventure awaits, but you pays your money and you takes your chances…

…which brings us to the economics of the whole thing. Let’s be honest. If you’re anything me, the only reason you might consider drinking this glorified day-glo turpentine is because you can’t afford Chateau Lafite. (If it makes you feel any better, Happy Juice could also be called Chateau La Feet for its very specific bouquet, but more on that in a moment…) A buck-eighty gets you a full 24 ounces of this Jus Du Joie, leaving enough change from a fiver for a big-ass bag of pork skins and a Chunky.

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The color of Happy Juice is not one generally found in nature, which adds significantly to its allure. A murkily iridescent red, it glows with a sort of evil seductiveness, promising much more than it will likely deliver. (The hot tattooed stripper of cheap beverages, if you will.) There’s also something vaguely medicinal about it, beyond the taste similarities to store-brand Robitussin. It’s Dr. Jekyll’s devil’s brew, or perhaps something in a hypodermic in one of the shitty Star Wars prequels nobody liked.

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To call Happy Juice a heady concoction would be not only an understatement, but far too lofty a description. A powerful smell of premium unleaded mixed with Fruity Pebbles head-butts those whose noses get within arm’s length of an uncorked container.

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This is rocket fuel, friends. Make no mistake. This is the overture for a little performance we call Jo-Jo And The Amazing Technicolor Throwup, playing nightly in parking lots and municipal trash cans across the land.

After giving the Happy Juice a few moments to breathe, The Girl and I decided to give it a shot. (No, seriously, we both considered getting a gun and shooting it while we still had time.) For a moment we were befuddled by the etiquette of the whole thing. Does one decant before pouring? Is Happy Juice considered a wine? A beer? A mixer, even? (I must tell you all sometime about the wino my college roommate and I feared we had killed after giving him an extra-large cup of MD 20/20 and Skol vodka, which he promptly chugged. But I digress…)

We settled on tumblers, which seemed appropriate. A jaunty clinking of glasses, and bottoms up…

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Imagine if you will, a base of cold, flat off-brand lemon/lime soft drink. Something sold by a down-at-heel grocery store and called Melon Yellout or Mountain’s Day, in cans with color schemes and logo shapes identical to the real thing. Open it up and leave it out overnight. Now add some rubbing alcohol to the point that you start to develop anxieties from childhood associations with that smell and the proximity of a doctor’s needle. Got it? Now think of the Jello served in individual cups in grade school lunchrooms, melt one down and throw it in. Top off with Zima, Old Spice, and Listerine yellow.

Happy Juice is neither happy nor juice. Angry Chemical Slurry would be much more accurate.

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The Girl and I looked for something to kill the aftertaste of stale Pop-Tarts and Windex. I went with salsa, she with dill pickle chips, which proved the most effective. Neither of us can attest to the intoxication brought on by Happy Juice, as a single sip was enough for both of us. I can only guess, but I don’t imagine it leads to a good drunk. Swilling Happy Juice is never followed by smartly dressed Gatsbyesque misbehavior and witty repartee. Undershirt-clad louts in doorway shouting ineffectual threats at grubby neighbor children, yes. Noel Coward around the bar at Antibes, no.

After giving the rest of the bottle a proper burial, we noticed the sink draining much more quickly and efficiently than before. Make of that what you will.

HJ1

The verdict? Happy Juice is likely to appeal to those for whom such dandified concerns as taste, smell, and overall palatability are immaterial when compared to getting smashed quickly. May be of passing interest to teenage girls, who will abandon it for Boone’s Farm after the first good hangover. Again, only speculation, but a Happy Juice hangover has got to be beyond painful. If you ever experience one, please don’t tell me about it.

NEXT WEEK: Colt 45…BANG!!!

Wine, Women (kind of), and Jazz!

By Trinessa Dubas
Hey Columbia. I love being in a spot that I can recommend for your future Wine Down Wednesdays.
This week I am suggesting Liberty Tap Room and Grill 828 Gervais St. I was there on Tuesday and the first thing that happened was my chance encounter with a dear friend. I was already digging the ambience. People seemed to be enjoying their meals and the energy was above high. This made for good conversation until shortly after, my friend and I parted ways. I then sat at the bar and tried to figure out a good opening for this entry and, well…this is what you get!
Thursday night (6/26) join Dorae Saunders as she presents Leading Ladies of Cabaret. Comedy House 2768 Decker Blvd. The show will have opened on Wednesday night, but I didn’t have anything to fill in Thursday nights spot this week. This show is over the top fun! The “ladies” are great. Join some of Columbia’s best performance artists as they lipsync and twirl their way to the top hun-ty! Show starts at 8. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door.
Hallelujah! Friday (6/27) there is another play opening and this time it is at Harbison Theatre Midlands Technical College 7300 College St. CTC presents The Hallelujah Girls. After the death of a friend and re-appearance of an old boyfriend the ladies of Eden Falls, Ga. gather for a day of fun and laughter in a day spa. Show starts at 8p and tickets are $18 (military, student and senior discounts available).
As per every Friday so far this summer, there is plenty to do. And an abundance of music will be playing. USC School of Music Recital Hall 810 Assembly St. will present Summer Chorus 1: Mozart’s Requiem at 7:30. This beautiful blend of music and talent is FREE.
On the North Main side of town between 4-8pm A Night Out With Neighbors Fundraiser will be hosted by the Eau Claire Community Council 830 Wildwoood Ave. It will be afternoon into evening full of music, fun and games as well as community information. Dinners for eat in or take out will be available starting at $10. Tickets can be purchased at eauclairecommunity.org. proceeds from this event will go to Neighborhood Action Programs.
And one thing before I let Friday go. Sister Care of Columbia is presenting Sounds of Summer featuring Terence Young at 701 Whaley 701 Whaley St. Tickets are $25 and will benefit Sister Care of Columbia. Show starts at 8p
I’m going to have to repeat a venue for Saturday (6/28). Comedian Rodney Perry will be carrying host duties for “Off Chain” at Comedy House. This is one funny brother and I am sure he and his guests will bring it. Two shows will run Sat 7p and 9:30pm and one on Sunday at 7p. (if you’ve read this early enough you can catch the show Opening Friday night @8). Tickets are $15. two item minimum. comedyhouse.us.
I don’t usually add Sunday, but there is so much love to go around that I had to spread the words. Two places to be, thank god for different times. Sunday (6/29) head out to Mama’s and the Tapas 931-A Senate St as the Daisey Mack Project Presents The Vintage Jazz Brunch from 3-7pm. This event takes place every third Sunday of a month and is sweet music to my ears. There is no cover charge and free parking (Woot-Woot!). By now most people know that I am a friend and fan of The Dubber. Join me as I support this brother and his musical partner Brodie Porterfield at Jakes’s 2112 Devine St. The two are joing together to give this audience a chill atmosphere and music to fill your soul. Doors open at 6. Cost is $5 and there will be drink specials.
You gotta love Columbia. So much to do, hear and see. Grab a friend, go have a bite to eat and enjoy the rhythms. This will be a busy week for me as you can surely read. I will be on… the… go, so if you see me, you better speak!
Honey, I’ll see ya!!

AN EVENING OUT – PART II

BY FRANK THOMPSON

Well, it’s been about a month since I last posted, but with all the plasma “donating”, yard sales, scratch-off lottery investments, negotiations over day-old pastries, fighting winos for discarded garments, and other activities related to being Broke In Columbia, I’ve been rather busy. If memory serves, we left off with the first half of the “Cricket/Thicket Whoop-De-Doo” having just finished, and The Girl and I were headed for our next stop…

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The ubiquitous Lizard’s Thicket, that gustatory temple to all that is fried, cooked with bacon grease, and/or slathered with butter, beckoned with its promise of down-home goodness and mouth-puckeringly sweet tea. Its desserts, each gooey and carrying a truckload of calories, awaited us, as did the warm, buttery corn muffins reminiscent of those grandma used to make (if your grandma made better cornbread than mine did). As heart-stoppingly tasty as the food is, what really drew us to the Ticket was the potential for theatre verite. If one is inclined to people-watch, the Thicket offers a cultural and societal cross-section which can provide hours of free entertainment. But first, the food…

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If one is vegan, overly health-conscious, or simply not into southern/soul food, there are salad options, but the pickings are admittedly slim. For those of us who have long adopted the “to hell with it, something’s gonna kill us all eventually” mentality toward eating, however, the cornucopia of choices is bounteous, indeed. The Girl went with what I like to call the “gravy plate”. Country fried steak with gravy, mashed potatoes with gravy, and some other vegetable I can’t recall, largely because it was either gravy-colored or hidden beneath the gravy. She was kind enough to share, allowing me to reinforce my long-held belief that (all together now) BROWN FOOD TASTES GOOD. You could put Lizard’s Thicket gravy on an old tire and it would taste good. Maintaining the monochromatic theme, I followed suit with fried chicken, rice & gravy, blackeyed peas and fried okra. I suppose the okra was technically green under the fried part, but that still counts as brown. Actually, it was red after I put ketchup on it. (Stop making that face. It tastes good.) The corn muffins did not disappoint, each giving off the faint scent of bacon retained from what I envision as ancient muffin tins, greased liberally before being filled with cornmeal mush and popped into the oven. (I frequently imagine the kitchen staff dancing around in cheerful Disney-inspired kitchenwear and singing musical numbers about the joys of cooking. The world in my head is a jolly place.)

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I doubt this really happens

The grand total for this feast was around $20, including tip, which would be enough to qualify the Thicket for “Broke-Friendly” status, but we haven’t even started to talk about the entertainment factor. You see, EVERYBODY goes to the Thicket. Cutting across social, economic, and cultural lines, this melting pot of humanity provides almost limitless people-watching opportunities.

Of particular interest to me was the rather large woman tucking into a cheeseburger two tables over while maintaining an ongoing monologue about her (presumably) husband’s shortcomings. Referenced only as “Earl”, this poor soul is apparently unable to get ahead at work, maintain his youthful physique, communicate intelligently, sexually satisfy his wife, tie his own shoes, or “do a gottdamp thang rite” in the eyes of this woman. She was accompanied by an anorexic octogenarian whose obvious deafness gave her the ability to bear the monologue cheerfully, interjecting a vague comment of attention every few minutes.

“Well, ah’ll tellya pore ole Earl just caint. Do. Sheeut. I done tolt that man a hunnerd times if he don’t stann up ferhsself, ain’t nobody gonna. He just won’t listen. He. Will. Not. Listen. He hangs out all nite drankin with them boys from the tire plant an thennhe jus’ cain’t thank clear the next day and gits all messed up at work an’ I told him, I did, I says Earl. Earl, I says, you cain’t drank like that no more, and he just sit air n’says uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh. Idee Claire, I’m ‘bout done withim…”

“My, my.”

“Oh, that ain’t the HALF uvvit! Last weekend as soon as the race was over, I tried to get him inner ested in you know…gettin’ bizzy. He just fumbled n’ pooted around fer a minit and FELL A-DAMN-SLEEP! Now how am I s’posed to feel ‘bout a man whut I cain’t even git to stay awake? An I had on that new Snoopy nightgown I got from the Walmart an’ everthang.”

“I see…”

“An lemme tellya sumpin’ else. He was s’posed to get his psoriasis checked out last time he went to the doctor, and he didn’t even do that rite! I mean, he got the rangworm looked at, but didn’t say nuthin’ bout the other. I swear ‘fore gawd, Earl could screw up a one-car funeral…”

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how I imagine Earl’s homelife

…and so forth. After a few minutes the novelty of hearing Earl’s shortcomings catalogued in detail grew thin and I shifted my attention to the group I called the pissed-off Cleavers. Remember the family on LEAVE IT TO BEAVER? Well, they were there, but each was angry with the other three. Mom and Dad and two sons sat in strained semi-silence. At a glance they appeared strikingly normal. Very middle class, well-dressed and polite, they could have posed for a Chamber of Commerce ad or church brochure had it not been for the stony-faced irritation that radiated from their midst. Monosyllabic responses to similarly brief questions were offered in a semi-grunt and no eye contact was made by anyone. Amazingly, given their palpable disdain for each other, they all ordered dessert after their meal, only to consume it in a presumably angry silence. Of course The Girl and I gave them a backstory including wildly unlikely infidelities, drunken brawls in the manicured front yard, and domestic violence that generally ended with gunfire.

Old people tend to enjoy visiting the Thicket, which gives rise to the inevitable Old Guys Drinking Coffee table. Usually the largest table in the room, this oasis is the opposite of that shared by Complaining Large Woman and Deaf Companion. Here merriment and jolly laughter reign supreme, as do old stories of exploits back in the day. Well-worn cardigans and snazzy driving caps are de rigeur, as is at least one medical ailment which will be discussed in great detail. I believe they get extra points or an honor of some sort for working the terms “goiter”, “the gout” and other such references into the conversation. There was a time in my life when the members of the Old Guys Drinking Coffee table seemed unspeakably ancient and decrepit. Now they just seem old. Give me a few more years and a pair of yellow sansabelt pants, and I’ll be slurping Sanka with the rest of them.

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Having finished our meal and people-watching, The Girl and I passed on dessert, knowing we would be back…for we had other thrifty adventures and cost-efficient merriment to pursue. Stay tuned for more…

-FLT3

Having a life on the cheap

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