The Summer of Loko (bonus pod)
An audio essay about Four Loko's glorious heyday + the strange saga of Bar 9Eleven + boozeletter HBD!
I wrote a short essay last month called The Summer of Loko. Here’s how it started:
The year is 2010. Obama is two years in and about to get clowned by the Tea Party. In the next few months, “Airplanes" by B.o.B. feat. Hayley Williams is poised to receive 3.2 bajillion minutes of play on your iTunes account alone. Vaping is in its fringe-y, pre-Juul phase, and Big Tobacco still hasn't totally given up on capturing America's lungs of tomorrow with innovative new combustibles, so if you frequent the right (read: wrong) bars, you might score a few promo packs of Camel Crush, those cigarettes that allow you to downshift from regular to menthol from one drag to the next.
Enter Four Loko…
Today being Memorial Day, Summer 2021 is underway in earnest. Will the post-pandemic party energy match the caffeinated chaos of Loko’s seminal moment? Who knows! But in any case, I’ve recorded an audio version of the essay for those of you that prefer listening to reading. You can listen to it in the player above, or on Spotify.1 Enjoy the summer, folks. May your immune systems be vaccinated, your Four Loko tallboys full, and your minds as empty as Amazon’s gestures towards giving a shit about its workers’ well-being. Onward.
“We don’t celebrate 9/11 that way”
A bar in a Fort Worth strip mall made the rounds on Twitter the other day, see if you can figure out why:
Hmm! The New York Post (I know, I know) followed up with the bar in the wake of its viral moment to ask “what the fuck, man?” and did not get very far. Basically bar owner Brent Johnson opened his restaurant on 9/11/01, and 13 years later he heard a “sobering statistic” that a “‘high percentage’ of Americans would wake up 15 years to the day of the attacks and not remember the tragedy” so he decided to rename the lounge area of his restaurant after the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil to… help remind everybody, I guess? (No word on where that catalytic stat came from, but we simply mustn’t get caught in the weeds.) More from the Post:
“We don’t celebrate 9/11 that way, but when I heard those figures, I just thought you know, that’s kind of a tragedy,” [Johnson] said. That’s when he decided to rename the lounge area, previously dubbed “Charlie Bar” after a former employee, after that fateful day. Bar 9Eleven also includes decor with a narrative timeline of Sept. 11 that compares Rio Mambo’s opening morning with the events in New York, Pennsylvania and in DC.
My favorite detail of this very strange saga is the branding choice to stylize the bar’s name as “bar9eleven.” Makes it sound like one of those amenitized apartment buildings that named after their mailing addresses that always have like 17 furnished units listed on Zillow for egregious rents but hey there’s a movie room and a common space with a pool table that you might use at some point so maybe it’s kind of worth it? Anyway, back to Fort Worth.
“If you don’t have all the facts, you probably going to have a negative reaction,” Johnson told the Post. “I may lose a few customers on this… But what will not happen to people who come in my restaurant — this restaurant that opened that day — what will not happen is they won’t forget.” (Don’t worry, that double-negative is probably just a transcription error.) Mock and condemn all you want, but it seems like there’s a market for getting drunk while never-forgetting (never-forgetting drunk?), as according to the Post, bar9eleven has been doing business under this name for over five years. Make of that what you will!
Happy birthday to Fingers!
That’s right folks! Ye Olde Boozeletter is one year old this weekend. I published my first story on Memorial Day Weekend 2020, a meditation on the boozy, intergenerational American horror story of pool parties and suburbia. I’ll have a more proper anniversary post in the next week or so recapping How Far We’ve Come™. But considering I’m typing this poolside in the South Carolina sun, and my laptop fan is ripping and snorting like a two-stroke leafblower that someone filled with diesel by mistake, I’d better just leave it there for the time being. Thanks as always for reading and supporting this project. I appreciate you.
The intro/outro music to this episode of The Fingers Podcast is SKA Podcast / YouTube / Channel Intro by NaturesEye, sourced via Pixabay.