Sunday, October 18, 2009

My father, continued.

When I was a kid things were very different than they are today. It's been said that it would have been easier for Napoleon to go back to Roman times than to go ahead 50 years. Such is the pace of change in the world today. Anyway, back to when I was a kid.

Back then, there were milk men. In our neighborhood, the local diary was called Dellwood and milk in thick glass bottles would be put in an insulated galvanized steel milk box that you had by your back door. This was real milk; skim or 2% or soy hadn't entered our consciousness. And we drank a lot of it--it was a requirement according to my mother or we'd be hunch-backed with scoliosis or get rickets or something horrible, so we got four quarts two times a week and drank milk at every meal. The idea of drinking soda at a meal was absolutely alien to us. Good families just didn't do that.

As always, my father was thinking. Of the many battles in our little tilted home, one of the most regular was over the drinking of the milk. You couldn't leave the table if you didn't finish your milk, it was that simple. That rule was as inviolable as the sun rising in the east. My father was thinking, how could he make drinking milk better, easier and more fun.

One evening my father came home with a cannister about the size of a can of supermarket coffee in a brown paper bag. "This is it," he proclaimed. And he pulled the can from out of the bag with a hand-lettered label on it that read "Purple Cow."

"I never saw a Purple cow," my father recited.
"I never hope to see one.
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I'd rather see than be one."

Purple Cow in my father's incarnation was a vitamin powder impregnated with freeze-dried grape juice. How he concocted the stuff, I couldn't tell you. He had no lab and no chemistry training but somehow he did. He grabbed my still-full glass of milk and a teaspoon and mixed the powder into my drink. Instantly my milk turned a borscht-like purple.

"Drink it," he ordered. "Drink it."

I wasn't exactly a finicky eater (or drinker) but the idea of purple milk repulsed me. My father grabbed my glass and slid it over to my older, more-tractable brother. "Drink it," he ordered and my brother took a tentative sip.

"It's delicious," my father proclaimed, "it's full of vitamins and it's fun. It's good for you."

My brother winced down another sip. And then slid the glass back to me and I did the same.

"It. Doesn't. Taste. Good. Dad." I said between gags.

"It's delicious," my father repeated. "Drink up." I complied. I knew when my father got this way there was no arguing, there was no way out.

For the next few weeks we saw very little of my father. He was out morning, noon and night trying to find a buyer for "Purple Cow." The thing was, it did taste awful, chalky, bitter and ugly. But to my father (who likely had never tasted it) it was manna from udder.

He never did find a buyer, ultimately gave up the cow and moved onto something else.