American Pop This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   No longer are there neighborhood drug stores wheresomeone can order a milkshake, cream soda or chocolate egg cream. No longer dokids have time to sit and quaff a root beer with their friends at a small-townrestaurant. They can no longer yell "the soda man is here" and watch,overjoyed, as he administers the syrups: cherry, sassafras, vanilla and, the mostimportant, root beer. No longer do children drink old-time root beer; insteadthey consume commercialized and homogenized cans of fizz.

Don't be fooled- root beer and the "new" sodas are polar opposites on the beveragespectrum. Premium root beer has a biting flavor so outstanding and unmatched thatmost candy stores stock root-beer bubble gum, lollipops and hardcandies.

In the mid-1800's, a Philadelphia pharmacist concocted thefirst-ever mug of root beer; since then, breweries have sprung up all over thecountry. Today there are over 200 brands, each with a unique taste. Should youtire of drinking the many marvelous brews (who would, I do not know) you canmarvel at their names: Sea Dog, Old Soaker, MUG, Dad's, Blue Sky, A&W, IBC,Chug-a-lug and, my favorite, Sioux City Root Beer.

All other sodas arepackaged in tiny aluminum cans or one- or two-liter plastic bottles which, whennot closed correctly, transform the bubbly beverage into a lifeless liquid.Sprite doesn't have a distinctive flavor or lingering aftertaste. As Snoopy wouldsay, it's "blah." And try putting a scoop of ice cream in a glass ofMountain Dew. Yuck! (Just put two scoops of vanilla ice cream in a full frostymug of root beer and ascend directly to heaven.) Nearly all of these sodas havebeen around for less than 20 years; every few years we get a new brand with aname as shallow and commercial as our culture. They actually sound likemagazines: Sprite, Self, Vibe, Fresca, Sunkist. Can you tell thedifference?

Unlike other sodas, root beer has a purpose: it gives childrena chance to be adults. Remember when you were seven years old and could drinksomething with the word "beer" in it? Root beer is the drink of theimagination. Imagine yourself as a cowboy drinking at a saloon in the Old West,blowing root beer froth into a bad guy's face. Imagine yourself as a WWI fighterpilot relaxing with a root beer in a French cafe. Imagine yourself acrime-fighting detective, drinking root beer while prying inside info from thebartender. Can you do that with a Coke? I don't think so! Sprite, Fresca, Sunkistand others do not let you fantasize; they tell you what to think. It's MadisonAvenue images of beach-ball bonanza.

In a world of Sprites, Cokes andPepsis, root beer is a David among Goliaths. You never see root beer on themiddle shelf at a supermarket. It is always at either the top where you can'treach it or at the very bottom. So what happens? The supermarket shelves arepacked with prosaic pops, infinitely interchangeable. In restaurants, you ask fora Sprite, you get a 7-Up. You ask for a Pepsi, you get a Coke. Root beer, though,is root beer.

So what does soda pop say about our American culture? Itseems that a society so obsessed with doing as much as possible every day (work,sports, school, music lessons, dancing, drama rehearsals, homework) no longer hastime to sit down and enjoy a good old-fashioned root beer in a frosty mug.Instead we put in three quarters, in three seconds get a drink and in threeminutes choke down a generic can of pop. There's no time for relaxation orimagination.

The decline of traditional soda pop is just another instanceof popular culture usurping our heritage. Our culture has become commercialized,homogenized and McDonaldized. We can change our fate, though. By relishing rootbeer, we can return to our roots. Once people start enjoying root beer again, thepossibilities will be endless: our pop culture may again accept milkshakes, creamsodas and chocolate egg creams into its ranks of trendy beverages.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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