Thursday, March 23, 2006

Death by Garden Fork

The Place: Swindon, UK
The Vic: Poodle, standard. Name of Wellington.
The Suspect: Boone, Christopher John Francis. 15 years. Autistic savant.

But young Boone didn’t do it, and he’s defying the cops, the neighbors, and his own father as he tries to unravel the mystery of “Who Killed Wellington?”

“I like Sherlock Holmes, but I do not like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was the author of the Sherlock Holmes stories.” (p. 88)
Christopher likes Holmes so much, in fact, that he names the book he’s writing (as a school project) after a line uttered by the world’s most famous P.I. in his story “Silver Blaze” [Dec 1892, The Strand Magazine].

“The curious incident of the dog in the night-time” [2003], in reality a novel by one Mark Haddon, is Christopher Boone’s chronicle of his freelance investigation into his furry friend’s “murder,” and alternately (literally every alternate chapter) his commentary on life in general.

What Christopher J. F. B. doesn’t know is that his “detective game” is going to lead him to secrets he never knew existed about his neighborhood—and himself.

Thanks to a concisely chaptered plot, I finished the book in a single day, pleased to have done so. It is a novel that could be described as ‘tricking’ the reader into thinking. A well-researched look at autism and a brief study of the nature of consequences.

In summary:
Superbly written, poignant yet realistic, “Curious Incident” easily absorbs the reader.

Monday, March 20, 2006

“You know what the definition of a hero is?”

Last year I sadly missed “Serenity” in the theater. Just as sadly, I have only seen hatcheted ‘full screen’ copies for sale (all the Joss Whedon infatuates must have devoured the good copies instantly) in the local stores.
Then last week, when an unfortunate series of events took me to Northerly Texas, I found my silver lining in the opportunity to view the long-anticipated vision.

For the uninitiated, “Serenity” is the big-screen climax to a prematurely-canceled FOX show called “Firefly,” set five centuries onward of us.

Back in ‘02 when “Firefly” aired, its setting and premise were abnormal enough to rate front-coverage by various TV publications, but just unorthodox enough to preclude many serious recommendations to anyone but heavy-duty nerds. But heck, I have a nerd’s taste.
I also distinctly remember that the show’s timeslot clashed with my schedule. In fact, the day that I managed to weasel in an hour for the program was the day that cancellation went into effect.

Did I use the words ‘abnormal’ and ‘unorthodox’? Oh my. It is, you see, a sort of space opera western. Cool, huh?
(O.K, so purists would probably criticize my use of the term space opera, but it gets the idea across well enough.)

I have yet to see the TV show (now long-available on DVD), so I can only comment on the film portion. Which, it could be said, ‘blew me away.’

The crew of Serenity, a Firefly-class transport vessel, are a motley bunch of bandits (pirates?) whose arsenal stretches the range from an H&K smg to a severed lever-action Winchester “mare’s leg” ala Steve McQueen.
Ship’s Captain Malcolm Reynolds, defeated hero of a long-gone civil war against the totalitarian Alliance, seems to be scratching to find his place between resistance fighter and outright rogue. His first-mate, veteran of the same platoon, is struggling to keep her skipper from disappearing into the dark-side due to their mutual violence.

There are others worried about Mal Reynolds’ soul, including an almost-family preacher-man and a professional buddhist beauty. In fact, everyone’s primary concern seems to be that Reynolds isn’t quite sure anymore what he believes in, if anything.
And this is one weakness that a very scary enemy does not share.

In the end, the only thing keeping the Captain from losing himself to the crime he lives is a 90-pound passenger of 17 who is more of a danger to Serenity than her crew knows. She, and the very serene villain dispatched to recover her secrets.

In the end, “Serenity” was everything I had hoped and more. A powerful tale about the power of ideology, convictions, and love (though it goes overboard on the love part at the end) with a truly frightening bad guy (they don’t make many of those anymore), it is a film not to be missed.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Chicago Postlude

Friday morning I had three Dunkin donuts and a small cardboard container of chocolate milk for breakfast. (Minus the small cardboard container.) That’s the first time in years that I’ve had chocolate milk. Actually, that may be the first time since I learned to talk coherently that I’ve had the stuff. Not that I dislike it at all, it just never occurs to me to get it instead of the ‘real thing.’ (As a note, even this time I wasn’t the one who picked the chocolate variant out for myself.) But, yeah, it does actually taste pretty good for an infrequent break. Not to mention the fact that I’m pretty sure it completely beats up on ‘reduced fat’ melk, the other option in this case.

After my holesome breakfast, I sat in the room reading until lunchtime, at which point I loaded everything up and headed over to Thai Spoon for another one of their fine meals. Once the food was down, I struck out for home. Kinda.
First there would be a significant walk, a wacky bus ride, and a period of train travel.

On the way into Chicago, I had my roll-around bags attached to one another in a “train” of sorts, which proved incredibly problematic in boarding any form of mass transit, not mention climbing the tiny, steep, rectangular flight of stairs with which Amtrack has equipped its “superliner” coach cars.
So, on the way out of Chicago, I rigged my briefcase uncertainly to the larger rolling case and proceeded with one roller dragging from each arm. It actually put a lot more pull on each arm than merely carrying the fifty-pound attaché in one hand, but that’s no problem for a guy like me.
Rather, the difficulty was that roll-around luggage is designed for people with short legs. Shorter legs, anyhow. The brainless things kept creeping up and hitting my feet, legs, etc, forcing me to walk in a strange and very laborious waddle with more or less outstretched arms to keep from upsetting my baggage with every step.

Once through with the walking and the bus, we had arrived at Union Station again.
Inside, Chicago’s Amtrack port has a waiting area similar to what you will find in an airport, and thus very unlike what you will find further south. Trains vary in many ways from Chicago to Austin as, for example, in the north people actually ride on trains.
I might note that, probably due to the above numerical fact, Amtrack workers are much more amiable in colder regions. At the smaller Illinois stops, multiple station agents mill about, jovially laughing with and waving goodbye to travelers. Lower on the map, ticket sellers sit solitarily in empty shacks, boredom slowly infesting their minds. These hermits seldom smile, and generally view the one or two transients who wander through their domain as intruders who only serve to make the monotony less organized.

The train was boarded earlier than originally announced, and I found a seat in the same car of the same train I rode up in. The ride up had lasted twenty-nine hours. This one would last thirty-five.
During that 35hr period I found myself, as before, going to the tiny downstairs bathrooms regularly just to be able to stand up for relatively brief periods of time, favorably within a locked room away from the populace above. I also took in Disney’s “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” and that night watched Cameron Crowe’s “Elizabethtown,” ostensibly about ‘life’ (as it chronicles a cellphone’s power to prevent Orlando Bloom from allowing an exercise bike to repeatedly stab him in the chest), but more realistically an exercise in personifying pointlessness.
Actually, Elizabethtown’s extended cellular conference/holding call gave me nightmares about my own cellphone during that night’s fitful train-board sleep. Truly, the most humorous thing about the picture was that to achieve it’s message of life’s importance it poached Billy Crystal in “Mr. Saturday Night” and Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life.” (I would say that, at least, was appropriate considering that was titled A Bug’s Life.)

The golf film was more enjoyable than the second feature, but I largely found myself contemplating what a couple of 14s (that is, 14-inch diameter speakers) could do for the audio’s clarity over the sound of a moving railcar.
As to “The Greatest Game Ever Played” itself, it has a fascinating historical narrative at its base but combines it with rather annoying graphics and strings of overstated dialogue.
Good (if a bit repetitive) music by Nancy Wilson, a number of outstanding actors, a few satisfying visual montages, and a generally agreeable story make it a good movie that anyone with kids (or who is stuck on a train) should appreciate.

I tried to spend as much time as possible reading and, as I had already finished “Tevye,” I now have the pleasure of being able to say that I began the Railroad Stories while personally traveling by rail. And these are some absolutely brilliant creations.

This trip there was no smoker’s symposium in the lounge car and—though the train was in general more fully filled than before—the ride was generally quieter. In the observation car, I did have a pleasant if brief conversation about education, college football, and climate layers.
This trip also had its smokers, of course, but they were much more considerate than the others. In this case, the most noteworthy passengers may have been the pair of young ladies headed south to meet a couple of guys. Noteworthy, because the lateness of the train caused their dates (one would assume) to become aggravated and disavow their plans to meet with the girls.
You’re getting in how late? Forget that!
One of the two responded to that swell cell conversation by going to the lower level of the next car up and getting smashed on multiple Coronas.
Don’t worry, the other called a different friend residing at their destination who agreed to pick them up in the wee hours of the morning and give them a place to spend the night.

And their destined station was the same as mine; thus we arrived at the same time of night/morning in the darkness of the same city.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Lions of the Field (Museum)

Yesterday (or maybe the day before; passage of time is a little fuzzy away from my normal schedule) it struck me that my old friends the Tsavo lions were somewhere in Chicago. I was pretty sure.

I have been intrigued by these two ever since, at the age of 12 or so, I read an article detailing the story of a pair of overly-large yet maneless male lions who led a reign of terror in East Africa for about a year from 1898 into early ‘99.
(My interest was such that as a boy I even named a cat that was for a time in my charge ‘Tsavo.’)

Impervious to guns, able to leap tall defenses in a single bound, silent, showing a wicked intellect for slaughter, and generally unafraid of anything at all, the two feasted on (what is generally estimated at) 135 to 140 workers busy building the Uganda Railway (through what was then a densely thorned jungle-wilderness). Including indigenous people digested, the actual figures may have been much higher.

Britain’s Colonel John Henry Patterson was the overseer of the railroad construction job until the lions shut it down. At that point, Patterson was compelled to do something and, drawing upon his experience bagging tigers in India, proceeded to spend nine months diligently stalking the stalkers.
In the end, the lions who didn’t want the Tsavo River crossed by a rail bridge were revealed to be not so entirely impervious to bullets as had been thought. But it took a whole lot of direct hits to prove it.

The saga of Col. Patterson hunting and defeating the demonized duo inspired the adventure side of my adolescent nature, and the scientific/naturalistic mysteries present fascinated the rest of me.
This should be made into a movie! I discovered it had been already. There have been two films based upon the Tsavo lions: Arch Oboler’s “Bwana Devil” of 1952, and “The Ghost and the Darkness” of 1996. I have seen neither.

Africa as a continent has been home to a number of oversize, reportedly demonic carnivores who have consumed men with enough apparent cunning to almost convince westerners of their [the creatures’] supernatural creepiness.
The famous Tsavo Two, a significant number of other less-publicized maneless lions from the same general area, Gustave the colossal croc…
Enthralling, actually. Although they all turn out to be mortal at their end.
And what gets really sinister is when these ‘super-carnivores’ start using their skills to slay simply for some type of pleasure, no longer consuming their kill. Or begin fearlessly parading through villages filled with the helpless, while still avoiding anyone with enough firepower to deal them hurt.

O.K… Getting back from that tangent:
I remembered having read that the lions were mounted and on display in a museum in Chicago. But what museum? Ordinarily it would take me seven seconds online to find out (I had even been to the museum website a few years ago to check out a picture of the remains), but I haven’t access to a computer in Chicago. (Over the past few days I’ve been writing these chronicles out long-hand for retroactive posting upon my return.)
So, I turned to the yellow pages left in my room. I seemed to recall the museum being something like “the Natural History Museum of Chicago” or “Chicago Natural History Museum.” None such in the book. So I ran my eye down the listed museums and decided that “The Field Museum” sounded right somehow…
One page back I found an ad for the Field Museum, and the logo on it reminded me distinctly of the one on the website header I’d seen a few year ago. The typeface, with a line and words set on it top and bottom... It was, I decided, it.

And the Field Museum (of Natural History; or, of Chicago), apparently named for Stanley Field, was pretty much within sight of the hotel. Right on Lake Michigan. So I walked over.

Inside I bought tickets (including those to the special exhibit on Pompeii), gleefully noting a reference to “The Man Eating Lions of Tsavo” in small letters almost lost behind a bunch of big ones about “Sue,” the world’s most complete Tyrannosaurus rex. Sue is clearly the museum’s chief pull, with her name and skull plastered all over the museum (not to mention Chicago). I mused that T. rex was no longer the largest known flesh-eating dinosaur (there are several much larger), and that many scholars are vehemently proclaiming him (or her, in Sue’s case) a mere bipedal buzzard. But the length of time T.R. spent with the title of “largest non-veg dino,” and more particularly a specific cinematic theme-park, have of course still given Susie the Skeleton a hold on little kid’s daydreams.

I now knew my friends from Land of Carnage (Tsavo translated) reside here. But I was fairly certain of that already. I only now hoped my felines weren’t on loan somewhere. (That’s been known to happen when I show up at a museum for a particular exhibit.)

The vast lobby (Stanley Field Hall) houses Sue on one end, a couple of vegetarian dinosaurs on the other, and two incalculable mounted elephants between. Say what you like about the skeletons, those elephants have my vote for most impressive thing in sight. I’ve seen, touched, and ridden on elephants before, but I had never ever seen them a third this big. I looked around unsuccessfully for a sign designating one of them P.T. Barnum’s Jumbo (advertised as the largest elephant in the world).
Also in the hall were two signs sporting arrows and words saying “this way to the man eaters of Tsavo,” but they led me nowhere and I decided to tour Pompeii. A nice exhibit with lots of artifacts, lots of art, lots of volcanic information, and lots of dead people.

Back in the main museum area, I saw pretty much everything in it (though I’m told I did miss a huge flying fish stationed on the way to the bathrooms). Lots of dead animals, including Bushman the famous lowlands gorilla and the “Man-eater of Mfuwe,” another of Tsavo’s maneless monstrosities, killed by one Wayne Hosek on 9 September, 1991. The Mfuwe beast (below) is the largest man-eating lion on record. (Hosek’s kill beats Patterson’s out by a full half-inch in shoulder height.)

His picture is probably more representative of what the Tsavo Two looked like in life than their own mountings (top). I say this from early black-and-whites of the newly deceased lions. (The discrepancy in the duo’s appearance can be easily explained by the condition their skins were in by the time production began on the models.)

I found the 1898 Tsavo cats in the farthest wing of the museum, after a very winding trail of exhibits. I proceed to take a lot of photographs.
Twenty-five years passed between their having been shot and their skins having been mounted for the museum. During that time a lot of decay occurred, forcing a very difficult restoration job on the artists. In the end, much of the skins had to be cut away, losing the scraggily look one of them had had in life and cutting them down in size to about that of standard lions.
No matter, standing there looking at them was pretty cool. I really did feel somehow closer to J. H. Patterson’s true-life tale of carnage, cunning, and courage.

After the Tsavo sightings, I headed upstairs to tour the mineral exhibits, most notably the halls of gems and jades. In the jade area, I had a bit of fun scaring my fellow tourists with talk of a particular jade piece’s curse… Don’t worry, I made sure there weren’t any kids around to whom I might give nightmares.

And then it was onward to the gift-shop!
I picked up a couple of books on Tsavo and a slightly minimalist mug featuring an artist’s depiction of the Two (no more re-using the same Styrofoam cup back in the hotel!).
I also noted the VHS copies of the ‘96 film starring Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas, with a sign set up proclaiming “The Hollywood Blockbuster Hit of the Historic Events!” From what I’ve read of its plot, the flick bears very little resemblance to those historic events. And does it really qualify for ‘blockbuster hit’ status if domestic gross was only 70 percent the film’s $55 million budget?
The VHS copies, by the by, were twenty bucks each. Wal-Mart will sell you a DVD for five.

Half the gift shop was devoted to plush dinosaurs (mostly Sues), and there was a sector for plush lions as well. I passed.
Instead I dropped a measly four dollars on a beautiful little alabaster jar. My mom loves alabaster, but probably foremost in this history enthusiast’s mind was the knowledge that the best contender for “holy grail” status is an alabaster vial (not unlike this one) which might possibly have held the valerian oils with which Mary the sister of Lazarus anointed Jesus the Christ.
That ups the cool factor for me.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

On the Other Side of Town

This morning it was wake up, get up, and get moving.

Temperatures have been bouncing between a low of 30 and a high of 40F, but the high has no standard time for appearing. I’ve been told that sometimes the high point will be mid-morning with the low returning before noon, and at other times peak isn’t reached until the sun is about to set. Probably this phenomenon is merely a manifestation of the city’s winds.

And yes, it is windy. The thermometer really doesn’t actually matter around here—the wind chill factor is the only thing worth noting, but that is not a constant either. It is something, in fact, that changes over ten minute periods and can only be gauged by being stepped out into.
On the street I got some sickened looks from other walkers as I allowed the winds to blow my overcoat open and back. Personally, I’m enjoying the weather immensely.

The foot bridge to the Metra station is littered with gargantuan granules of salt to prevent freezing, as is every other bridge in the area. At the top of the bridge is an enclosure featuring the line’s ticket vending machine. Which, at least when it mattered to me, failed to recognize U.S. currency. Tickets cost two bucks more when purchased on the train itself, but the guy on board kindly knocked it off due to circumstances.

After disembarking, it was a nice walk through cold and quiet streets to the University of Chicago grounds. A nice place.
Just inside my building of destination was one of many walls littered with flyers. Activities, roommates wanted, submissions requested, et cetera. At the top and toward the right was the first leaf to actually register with my head. It advertised Wednesday at 7:00pm, in Social Sciences Room 122, a meeting on Israeli/Palestinian issues. Featured was the name of one Hillel Halkin: renowned Judean and political scholar, and Hebrew translator.
Wednesdaythat means today, right?
Wow. It is Halkin’s magnificent translation of the Sholem Rabinovich (alias Aleichem) works ‘Tevye der Milkhiker’ and ‘The Railroad Stories’ (Halkin’s first translation from a Yiddish source) that I have lately been engaged in so happily. I had actually wanted to bring my copy from the hotel to read during lulls in the day, but didn’t for lack of large enough pocket.
And I must admit that, while I had hardly been familiar even with Hillel Halkin’s name before picking up his Sholem Aleichem, after reading his absorbing introduction to the book I have developed a massive respect for the man.
Seven o’clock. I’ll be there.

On campus it was a simple matter of finding a circular aimed at hungry freshmen to choose a breakfast spot. A relatively brief walk took me to Medici bakery (which also features take-out from the restaurant of the same name next door) where I dined on a large chocolate chip cookie. Washed down with milk rescued from a conclusion in someone’s cappuccino.
Nearby is Edwardo’s Natural Pizza, where one is a “guest” and not a “customer.” (The beautiful prices almost make me believe it, too.) I would later eat both lunch and supper there, more than satisfied by the magnificent pepperoni they dish out. The only bother is that I have never before in my life seen ‘Eduardo’ spelled with a ‘w.’ It is irksome.

I made a note of the three bookstores in the area, each of which I would visit during the day (though the antiquarian one with the primeval weaponry I only looked at through the window). At one I would buy one of the two Nero Wolfe books I had been missing from my collection, and almost buy a dozen other books:
John le Carré’s first novel (I sadly have yet to actually read anything of his, but $13 seemed high for such a thin paperback), some of the inimitable Tintin adventures from Hergé, a pleasing work on the Justice Department, not to mention a throng of very tempting comic collections.
I shouldn’t be allowed in bookstores until I am made independently wealthy by, well, whatever might make me independently wealthy.

I also hit the local markets to price things like canned goods and personally pick up a box of hot cocoa and a loaf of bread.

Back on campus I obtained a copy of the Chicago Maroon. The Maroon is announcedly an independent student newspaper. But it dates back to just before the Columbian Exposition (well-remembered judging by the number of establishments claiming to be ‘Columbian’) and seems to have acquired a level of official recognition, at least, due to the weight of tradition.
Maroon is brief, mostly immaterial, and healthily disjointed (meaning it has accepted contradictory points of view for its front page). It is also very well-written and a pleasure to read.

The time remaining (most of it) before the assembly with Mr. Halkin I spent in the research library with a visitor’s pass, brushing up on my knowledge of 1940s filmography.

Over at the social sciences building, people were arriving early. Actually, the room was beyond packed considerably before start time. The guy in front of me used his laptop’s WiFi to try finding out what was going on, but Wikipedia has no page on Hillel Halkin at this time. I gathered from the rest of the kid’s activity that he was supposed to cover this little gathering as a journalistic assignment.

The conference took the form of a debate between Mr. Halkin and Slate’s Christopher Hitchens, and most of the students present seemed to be there only for Mr. Hitchens.
As a debate it was acceptable, though Hitchens (who at first asked permission to use only two-thirds of his allotted time) took much more than his allowance in the opening argument. Not everything he said was actually rubbish, of course, and almost all of it was at least interesting. But it still remains that he consistently took long enough so as to leave Halkin not so much time to reply.

I was disappointed, but not totally so. The discussion on both sides was generally worth listening to, and Mr. Halkin did a very good job with the time available.
When it did end (late) due to Mr. Hitchens’ scheduled plane ride, I had to rush to the train station to catch a ride back to the hotel. In the end, my train didn’t materialize for another hour, leaving me feeling cheated out of not only the possibility of an autograph (as I’d left his book in my room) but also the chance to even shake hands with Mr. Halkin.
I’d had a camera in my pocket, and that would have made one nice picture.

Oh well.

As an aside, Halkin’s article at New Republic on Salman Schocken (whose Schocken Books published Halkin’s version of Milkhiker) is online for TNR subscribers.

Requisite Travelogue

During the course of the 29hr train ride, I knocked Tom Clancy’s “Clear and Present Danger” off my list. Good book.
I also took in Sholem Aleichem’s “Today’s Children,” the first of the Tevye stories to marry a daughter off. It will, of course, not be the last.

Yesterday was my first day in Chicago, or at least the first I saw more of it than could be seen from the irritating rail system that yanked me as a transient to connecting international flights a couple of times. Let’s face it, under those circumstances taking the city in doesn’t make it onto one’s agenda.

After arriving at Union Station there was a walk to the Sear’s Building (which believes in clinical security) to buy a Chicago Transportation Authority pass. (Note to the traveler: You get those things around the side at the “Sky Lounge” gift shop, not by walking in the front door. As I learned.)
Then it was another walk and a subway ride to Roosevelt, and yet another walk. I didn’t mind my attaché case loaded with a solid block of fifty pounds’ reading materials, but those darn roll-arounds I had with me… I decided Chicago would be more fun once I had shed my luggage.

The hotel is right across the street from a wing of ‘Chicago Columbia College,’ and I am finding it fun to watch the drama exercises going on beyond the windows. Certainly it is an arts building, since rooms not filled with script-readers have music stands. Not to mention the, erm, eclectic dance class going on late at night.

My first action upon arriving in my room (aside from releasing my bags and dropping my brown leather overcoat) was to shave. Have I ever expounded on my razor? It’s a really sweet little instrument; I’ll have to post about it some time.
Next I used the supplied coffee-maker and Styrofoam cups to boil some water and make some Nestlé hot chocolate. The water’s own flavor burst past the cocoa powder, but the hot beverage was soothing despite it. I have since learned how to make a more pleasing cup even with the supplied conditions.

The hotel I am staying in is cheap (an always comparative term, of course), but does its best to look fancy. Fancy, meaning the ice machine has a card-swipe. O.K, so the swipe is for the room key, but I’m afraid to ask if my ice comes out of the fifty-dollar deposit left downstairs.

Just after dark, I struck out on the street to find a nice supper. There’s a college next door for pity sake, so wholesome and affordable feeding must be nearby.
Sure enough, right where Columbia College (no relation to the U in NY) and DePaul University buildings cross paths, eateries have sprung up. First to catch my eye was a combined Dunkin Donuts/Baskin-Robbins (I’ve never had one of their 31 flavors). I passed them up for a place called “Thai Spoon” at 601 South Wabash.

I ordered shrimp-fried rice (a personal favorite) to go. Comforting atmosphere. The restaurant is set up in not a huge amount of space (downtown Chicago is surely murder in rent), but it is arranged so well as to be roomy. At least half the tables had college students at them. Many of these kids happily and freely conversed, but somehow it was still so sedate that the others couldn’t have imagined there being difficulties studying with their meal. A really nice little restaurant.
One of the employees arrived in the waiting area with my take-out food, but with plastic forks rather than the advertised spoon.

Outside, I carried the pickings back to my room, past the noisy el-trains (so nice), and the parked cars that almost invariably have their emergency blinkers working away all night long here.

The rice was much darker than that from most oriental food-stops, and the shrimp were of the small variety. (My hometown joint makes a point of loading up with the largest shrimp available.) But there were just the right number of them, and I’m guessing the by-volume ratio of shrimp to rice is higher here in Chicago.
Man, that food was good. Really, if you’re ever on S. Wabash with an empty stomach and a five dollar bill, try out Thai-Spoon-That-Gives-You-Fork.
That’s called cooking.

I paid a buck and a half at the Pepsi machine down the hall in the hotel for a 20oz Sierra Mist, just because I needed a cold drink. Strangely, before this February I had never tasted Sierra Mist, but in this one month I have found myself quite a few times thirsty in unfamiliar places with virtually nothing else available.
It’s a good-tasting drink, but it’s still definitely soda, which puts it down on my list below whole milk, Perrier, orange juice, hot chocolate, et cetera. But, like all soda, on the go it is much more readily available than any of those.