Arrrrr! Come, me hearties! Gather 'round the mizzenmast, and hear a tale of adventure and plunder.
'Twere in the year when Obama became President o' the United States, it were. The seas were awash in pirates of the scurviest sort, and one couldn't find a decent harbor in all of North County. Why, I heard tales told by old salty dogs of sloops full o' six or seven young blackguards--"minivans", I think they were called, and if I've ever seen a sorrier sort of sailing ship, then I'll buy another round for all o' yer--these "minivans" would come swoopin' inter a harbor, be it Rite Aid or Walgreens, and ark itself across two or three spaces. Have you ever seen the like?
Aye, I see by the blanchin' o' the skin around yer eyes and the drool from yer quiverin' lips that ye have.
Well, it were in dark times such as those when I found myself doin' some maintenance on my own little bit o' sea-sailin' savvy, the Ninety-Four Ford Aspire. Arrr, it's a good vessel she be. Well, I were shinin' the sides, as it were, when I saw a black sail on the horizon. Then, sailin' before the wind as if it were fleein' the demons o' Costco themselves, into my own little bay came a decrepit old barque of a ship. Tough as week-old Pringles she looked, and battered as a parkin' lot pine tree. Over the railin' swung an old dog as tough and rangy as any I ever saw, with smoke risin' from his beard and a wild look in his eyes. 'Twere the beard I clapped eyes on first, for not only were it a-smokin', it were yellow, yellow as the sun at mid-day. Well, of course, I knew the old dog by his reputation.
"I thought--I thought you were dead," I said. I'm not afraid to tell ya that my knees were a-knockin' a wee bit. If ye knew him, ye'd have been knockin' some yerself.
"We Yellowbeards are never more dangerous than when we're dead."
"Well, what do ye want with me?"
"For my crew. We're goin' after it, laddie. The El Dorado."
The El Dorado! I see ye've heard of it too--of course ye have. When old sailors gather over their pints of sarsaparilla or grog, a tale of the El Dorado is good for a week's worth of dinners. The fabled, lost Golden Soda of the Spanish Main! 'Twere the Dread Bottler Goya who were supposed to have captured it, once. Well, if Yellowbeard was on its trail...
I wasn't sure which scared me more, going after it, or not going.
Six hours later, I was sailing on his old barque. He'd introduced me to the rest o' the crew--a rough bunch, but he'd be needin' hard boys if he sought the El Dorado. In the galley, a washer-woman stooped over the table. At first I thought her back were bent, but then she looked at me.
"If he asks ye for a map, best give it to him," she moaned. Never did see her stand up straight from that table.
Anyway, we sailed for months until we found our way to Primo's Island. I'll not darken your dreams with the details of what we found, boy--the slow-roasted barbecue outside, the endless bins o' corn, tomatoes, and mangoes, nor the carts sellin' Popsicles--but in the end, we found ourselves lookin' at the thing itself. The El Dorado, the Golden Soda of Goya. It stood out on the aisle, shinin', sort of--I'd never seen aught like it, and never shall again.
It were a yellow-gold color, with a heathen idol on it. I've not seen that yellow since my days as a youth, but when I saw it, it chilled me to my marrow. It was the exact color of the cheap swim goggles I once had, through which the beauty and terror of the sea first showed themselves. A yellow like that comes from no natural drink. Well, the Kibbitzer--one of the saltiest o' the crew--looked and said "Aye, that is a natural color, but only the color of the markings on snow, if ye ken my maning!". Then th' Kibbitzer capered, gamboled, rolled her eyes, and did a somersault.
Never quite understood the Kibbitzer.
But Yellowbeard, he just laughed. He grabbed the bottle and opened it.
Well, the boys and I stepped back. Who knoes what heathen poisons would pour from something like the El Dorado. Yellowbeard breathed deep, the vapors from the bottle and the smoke from his beard mingling as they were sucked up his nose. The bo'sun asked him what visions plagued him, what smells he smelled?
"Arrr...they be faint, my lads. It put me in mind o' the tropics, boys. Banana. But faint as a moon through a witch's cloak."
And then he took it. Laughed. And drank.
Well, what happened to him I'll never tell a soul, boy. But those of us who came back made a vow, that every year on this day, we'd tell the story of Yellowbeard and the El Dorado. Except tonight...well, tonight, I'll tell you what I've never told another soul.
I drank the El Dorado too, my boy. I can't really describe it--at first, it didn't taste like much. But as it stuck in my mouth, I tasted a bit of the banana Yellowbeard spoke of, before he...he...OH GODS I CAN'T SAY IT!
Sorry, my boy. The taste, yes, the taste. Banana? Lemon meringue? Metal? I can't say. Faint, yes, but lingering. I can't say if it was supposed to be fruit, but...well, the Kibbitzer took one sip, grimaced, said "Ewww,", and then went into a fit on the floor of the disco.
Oh, yes, it were in a disco. Gods help me, a disco.
I can't tell you what it tasted like, my lad, for it were not quite like anything else I've tasted. Banana meringue is the closest I'll come. But I'll tell you this--it was in a disco for a REASON, my lad.
Where and when: purchased August 2009 at Primo's Market, Vista, CA
Quaff rating: 2.0. Errrrr. Arrrrr. Hurrrrr. I'd not seek it out again.
Cough rating: 1.0. Not so foul as the bilge, but not so sweet as the sight o' land after a month at sea.
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