Don't Touch Your Mustache Five years ago, I was back living in Fargo after having spent two years away at college. Over the course of the summer, I fell in love and was fallen in love with for the first time in my life. Of course, I'd believed I'd been in love before, but this was the first time someone had loved me back at the same time. It was a heady tumultuous time for me, emotionally, as I assume it is for everyone the first (and every subsequent) time this happens. That complicated and glorious summer surely ranks as one of the best spans of three months I've experienced in my quarter century futzing around this planet. To argue whether it qualifies as first, second, third, etc on the Top Five Best Quarter Years kind of misses the point, though I rarely turn down the chance to wallow in memory lane.
It was good. We can leave it at that for now.
As all good times do, it eventually ended, and when it did, it was primarily my fault. No one walked away clean and unhurt or happy, but at least we all walked away.
I've been thinking about this a lot recently, partially because it seems all the movies and TV shows and books I've been absorbing recently have been about high school(Rushmore, Garden State, "Freaks and Geeks," and the graphic novel "Blankets"), but mostly because I just recently came back from my first visit to Fargo in the five years since I'd left the smoking rubble behind. I went back for the wedding of my ex-girlfriend, followed the day after by the baptism of her 9 month old son (odd, that the wedding would be following 9 months after the birth of the son--it was my understanding that traditionally, those times would be exactly reversed--but this is probably why they don't trust me with children. Or weddings).
It was a mini-high school reunion for me a couple of years early, and mostly, turned out quite well. The night life in Fargo leaves a lot to be desired, of course, and it was distracting not to have car alarms constantly going off or the roar of street noise, but the important part--the people I loved and still love--that hadn't changed. Oh sure, a fair number of them had gained a lot of weight and lost a lot of hair or were digging themselves out of the train wreck they'd made out of their life (but never all three at once, surprisingly), but so have I. It's to be expected. I highly recommend that you go see the people you loved and see how they are.
On my last day in Fargo before returning to the Big Apple, I was handed a familiar looking bottle by one of my fatter, balder, better friends. We had lived together during that ineffable summer, and, already dreaming of things beyond Fargo, we'd decided to better ourselves in self-destructive ways. That is, we'd find new and interesting forms of alcohol. This was before I was even old enough to legally drink, and my steps towards heavy drinking tended to involve surreptitious exchanges of unmarked bills for paper sacks in darkened parking lots. While one of our friends thought he was the pinnacle of civilization because of his tendency to buy only the most expensive rums and "single malt" scotches (something unheard of to us), we decided to follow a separate friend's advice...we followed this Tourette's Syndrome-suffering aspiring-martial-artist, and started exclusively buying sake and plum wine. Mostly because it was cheaper. And katanas are cool. (Interest in Japan tends to take backdoor routes).
We tried sake in as many different forms as you can find in Fargo (more than you'd think, less than you'd like). We tried expensive sake, we tried cheap name brand sake. We tried it chilled. We tried it heated up. We drank it after shots of tequila, of rum, of whiskey, of flaming Bacardi 151. We managed to transform chess into a drinking game involving our alcohols. But we never managed to enjoy it. The one thing we never actually tried it with was sushi. Or rice. Or anything remotely Asian. We were chumps.
I thought I didn't like sake until approximately 9 months ago. The scars of that summer--psychic, emotional, and alcoholic--took a long time to heal.
And so, my last day in Fargo, when my good friend, ex-roommate, and fellow alcoholic traveler handed me the last remaining bottle from that time, which he'd held on to for five years (not out of nostalgia, but just because it was so nasty), I couldn't help but be touched. This Japanese Plum Gekkeikan, which the bottle itself helpfully tells me how to pronouce (Gay-Kee-Kan)--as nasty as it tastes (and it is nasty--like cough medicine that's been left long enough to expire)--triggers in me a stream of memories much like Proust's tea-biscuit. All these memories come flooding back, and as wretched as this stuff tastes, I can't help but drink it happily.
The rest of you should avoid it like hemlock, though.
Plum Gekkeikan in Brief
Quality: C Taste: Sickly sweet rotten plums, with a codeine aftertaste (without the actual codeine) Aftertaste: Cough syrup, with sugar. Strength of liquor: 26 proof - 13% alcohol by volume. Strength of hangover: I can only imagine that if you manage to drink enough of this to be hungover, that the morning breath taste would be just about the worst thing imaginable...even worse than orange juice and toothpaste combined. Final recommendation: Unless I'm missing something important about this, this is to be avoided outside of very specific circumstances. Really, I do have to start discovering alcohol that doesn't taste so bad, or just continue reviewing favorable alcoholic memories.