“You can’t change something that’s classic,” seventeen year old Wisoncsin native Mel Cyr told The Wall Street Journal in response to the recent appearance of regular Coke in white cans reminiscent of the brand’s Diet Coke packaging. Coca-Cola’s agreed to bring back the red can we’ve been so conditioned into loving, but there’s still some debate as to whether or not the color is all the company changed. Some seasoned soda drinkers claim the white can Coke tastes, for lack of a better word, “funky.” Coca-Cola claims they didn’t tamper with Coke Classic’s formula, but since when are we supposed to believe a multi-national beverage conglomerate?
I tracked down a few white can Cokes in my neighborhood this morning, and as someone who is more familiar with Coke than most of his relatives I can assure you the soft drink in these cans offers a lighter, less intense flavor of Coca-Cola. It doesn’t taste like Diet Coke, mind you—there’s none of that aspartamy chemical swish. The stuff’s just got less bite than real Coke. It tastes like they upped the sugar and lessened the, uh, whatever it is that makes Coke so bitter. I don’t want to use the “P” word in describing this Yuletide curiosity, but I’d understand if you felt that way after pouring some down your gullet.
Of course, a Coke product that tastes similar to their main competitor harkens back to the 1985 New Coke debacle, an episode regular readers know is one of my obsessions. Is white can Coke leftover New Coke that the company had previously banished to remote Micronesian islands? Is Coke in such dire financial straights that they decided to re-introduce New Coke covertly for the handful of Americans who actually preferred it to Coke Classic? Did somebody make an “uh-oh” at the Coke plant, accidentally whipping up a batch of New Coke for the next two months instead of the regular stuff? Obviously I cannot answer these questions before I take a road trip to Atlanta with a private investigator.
In the meantime, can we get a lobby going to start calling this stuff “Honky Coke?” Is that offensive to people from Newport, Rhode Island? Get back at me on that one, Internet.
– My quest to confirm/locate/obtain New Coke in any given form remains a Rhode Island-sized fail. I recently lost the only eBay auction I’ve seen for a can of the stuff in the past year. I’m beginning to seriously regret not booking tickets to Micronesia last summer when I had the dough for it.
– Speaking of quests, I went all the way to Newtown, CT, last weekend to look for Animal House writer Doug Kenney’s grave in the freezing cold. I couldn’t find the shit. Later, I remembered reading once that ol’ Doug may have been cremated. The Internet offers conflicting information regarding this National Lampoon staple’s final resting place. Well, how am I s’pposed to pay my final respects now, ya MO-RON? If I ran a cemetery, I’d either alphabetize all my graves or offer maps for first time visitors. That would have people a helluva lotta time.
– Speaking of incredulity, some guy tried to start a fight with me today as I was exiting the subway because I didn’t back off when he put his handbag down in the middle of the turnstile lane I had just entered. “What, now I’m supposed to move?” he stuttered angrily before calling me a “fucking asshole.” I would have stomped this foul cretin into the ground, but I didn’t want to mess my hair up (plus I’m a bigger wuss than David Guest).
– According to this book I’m reading about Superman’s various media incarnations over the years, some time in the 1950s they filmed a black and white version of “Superman” for television where all the actors wore giant dog heads. I believe Clark Kent’s canine name was Bark Kent. This isn’t the sad part; the sad part is this incredible footage has never seen the light of day and probably never will. Greatest tragedy since the failure of “Golden Palace?” You bet.
– Pamela Anderson’s nipple is imploding (if you haven’t seen the horrifying picture I’m referencing here, make sure your Internet connection is working – I swear to God that’s shit’s on every website today). It’s a shame, because her face is still moderately attractive in that melted-down Barbie doll kind of way.
– I might soon be under the employ of the man with America’s craziest mullet.
– I shaved the other day for the first time in about a month and noticed I now have a rather prominent double chin.
Tonight I received my first report from Betsy, the girl in Palau who agreed to investigate the alleged presence of New Coke/Coke II in that region of the world on my behalf. Her initial news is not positive:
“I’ve been looking, but Palau is way way way more advanced than Yap* and it appears that there is no New Coke/Coke II to be found here. If I have any friends traveling to Yap, I’ll be sure to tell them to look. I’m sorry to bear this bad news!”
* = supposed New Coke stronghold.
Goddammit. It stands to reason that if one of Yap’s more civilized neighbors lacks a certain kind of soda, the small Micronesian island itself might also be void of said beverage. Yet the reverse is just as probable—the Republic of Palau is 300 miles outside of Micronesia. Maybe pop distribution is totally different in these two seemingly similar places. Hell, soda variety differs by the block here in Brooklyn. I never really know what I’m going to find if I’m visiting a bodega for the first time. Outside the city? Forget it. It’s a whole different soda world in places like Jersey and Connecticut.
My point is I’m not ready to admit defeat until Betsy or someone else tells me, “Yeah, I went to Yap and there’s nothin’ doin’.” Perhaps a call to the Micronesian Embassy in Manhattan is in order. I don’t know how they could help me, but it would be fun to confuse a few bureaucrats. I also can’t forget American Samoa, where New Coke is also supposedly quite prevalent. Man, I’m going a long way to try and verify the accuracy of one lousy Wikipedia entry.
No, this is more important than that. How often have you heard of a soda being banished to the other side of the world? It’s like Coca-Cola couldn’t just let New Coke go. They had to punish it for failing. If this rumor is true, it proves the people running Coca-Cola are way more insane than we thought they were.
In case you’re just joining the party, here’s a look back at all the blogging I’ve done regarding this story so far:
Readers with any leads pertaining to New Coke are encouraged to speak up in the comment section.
No word yet from my operative Betsy, who landed in Palau several months ago. I take this to mean one of several things:
1. Betsy is too busy enjoying tropical island life to do some idiot soda fan’s bidding.
2. The rumored wealth of Coke II in that part of the world is just a myth.
3. There’s another Betsy in Palau who has no idea who I am and junks all my e-mails.
Actually, Betsy’s eerie silence could mean ALL of those things. Creepy. Another friendly reminder just went out to my friend of a friend. We’ll see if we hear anything this week.
I can now officially confirm JG2Land correspondent Betsy has reached the foreign island nation of Palau where, in addition to wakeboarding and practicing law, she will investigate the alleged bounty of Coke II in neighboring Micronesia (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, school yourself). I would like to officially thank Betsy now for offering to look into this on my behalf. I would also like to express my hope that the family of roaches living in her bathroom quickly find a new residence in Palau to infest.
Regarding the tome I’m working on that spawned this global New Coke search, I’m almost done hammering out the proposal. Once that’s done, I’ll get to print out a zillion copies, stuff ’em all in manila envelopes, and send ’em to every literary agent and publisher on the planet to see if anyone gives a flying crap about my silly little soda book. Hopefully that process will be less maddening than it was in 2005 when I was trying to get my Star Wars book published. Hopefully the price of stamps hasn’t risen to some exorbitant amount. Hopefully all the rejection letters will be printed on nice, expensive paper I can sell to out-of-work stockbrokers who long for any reminder of the cushy jobs they once held.
Yes, the following sodas are covered in JG2’s obscure soda field guide:
– Crystal Pepsi
– New Coke
– The Jones Soda Thanksgiving Pack
– Big Red
– all forms of Mountain Dew
– Hubba Bubba Bubble Gum soda
– Dracula Soda
– Aspen Apple
– nearly every other weird fizzy you can think of
Thanks for your interest, folks. Stay tuned for more pop updates as they come in.
Concerning my quest for New Coke: the Yap Visitor’s Bureau has yet to respond to my e-mail, and every time I try to call the Government of American Samoa, an extremely scratchy recording tells me all circuits are busy. I feel like I’m dealing with an old girlfriend who doesn’t want to talk to me anymore. Micronesia, I thought we had something!
There is a ray of hope, though. A friend of a friend is soon traveling to the Republic of Palau, an island nation whose closest and largest neighbor is Yap. This person has agreed to take up a New Coke investigation on my behalf. Her name is Betsy and I must give her the maddest of props. Her reports will be posted as they come in.
The other day I decided to e-mail Coca-Cola and ask them point blank about the rumored bounty of New Coke in the Pacific Rim. So far, I’ve been redirected to two or three different people, none of whom have even attempted to answer my question. I can’t imagine they’re too embarrassed to talk about New Coke; there’s an extensive essay about the stuff on their website, one that refers to the maligned beverage as an “intelligent risk” that “re-energized the brand.”
Intelligent risk? Re-energized the brand? Sounds to me like they’re almost proud of New Coke. So they should be downright happy if Micronesians and Samoans are guzzling enough of the swill down to generate any kind of profit, right? Well, we’ll see what they have to say.
By the way, thanks to everyone who’s supporting this silly quest of mine. You will be graciously thanked in the book.
As some/all/none of you know, I’m currently working on a book about obscure, forgotten, and failed sodas throughout the history of the soft drink industry. I don’t know when I’ll be done or when it’s coming out or who will be publishing it, but yes, I’ll try to get you a free copy.
This week, the majority of my research is revolving around the current whereabouts of New Coke, a.k.a. Coke II, the infamous and hated beverage that replaced regular Coke for seventy-seven earth-shaking days in 1985. I haven’t seen a can of Coke II since before I had pubic hair, but I know it’s been lurking in the dark corners of U.S. retail for a long time now (a heard a rumor around the turn of the century that a convenience store on the edge of Chicago still regularly stocked bottles of New Coke on their dusty, out-of-the-way shelves).
Wikipedia, that almighty God of knowledge and information that’s ALWAYS RIGHT ALL THE TIME NO MATTER WHAT, claims the Coca-Cola Company ceased production of New Coke in 2002. However, the aforelinked Wiki passage also states that the despised drink maintains popularity and continues to sell in a couple of the darkest corners of U.S. retail—the Micronesian island of Yap and American Samoa. That means one of two things:
1. Wikipedia LIED and Coke did NOT cease production of New Coke in 2002 or
2. Citizens of Yap and American Samoa are drinking six year old cans/bottles of soda.
I’m more inclined to believe the former, although I wouldn’t immediately dismiss the latter. This is a multinational corporation we’re talking about here. No point in throwing out old product when a profit can be made somewhere!
I have no full-time job and I just sold my car, so I’d have no problem taking a quick vacation to one of these exotic Pacific Rim locales to investigate this matter. Did the fizz that nearly destroyed one of America’s most beloved institutions actually find a home on the other side of the world, and if so, how old is the Coke II these Micronesians and Samoans are drinking? Yes, it would be simpler to just e-mail Coke and ask them what the hell is up, but c’mon, they’re gonna lie. Remember, multinational corporation = pure, unadulterated evil.
So I looked into plane tickets to Yap—$2,476 round trip. Not completely outrageous, right? It’s a thirty-six hour trip, though, with a ten hour layover in Houston (yes, you read that right) and another two hour stop in Guam.
I think if those layover times were reversed, I might seriously consider booking the tickets right now. However, I vowed a long time ago never to spend more than nine hours and fifty-three minutes in Houston, and I can’t go back on my word just for Coke II. So going to Yap is out. I couldn’t find any flights to American Samoa, so that’s off the table, too. Bummer, but hey, what about contacting someone in Yap directly? I don’t know anyone over there, so I dialed up the website for Yap’s visitors bureau and fired off the following e-mail:
Dear Yap Visitors Bureau,
Greetings from Brooklyn, NY. My name is James and I have what you might consider a strange (albeit small) request. You see, I am an author currently working on a book about soft drinks in this country and across the globe. One of the beverages I focus on is New Coke, or Coke II, the infamous product Coca-Cola decided to replace original Coke with in 1985 to disastrous results. Coke II has not been available in this country for years; in conducting my research, however, I discovered that this failed soda is apparently still produced and popular on your soils.
I feel I cannot complete my book in good faith without having sampled Coke II (I was a mere child of six when it was first released and didn’t become aware of any “new” Coke until long after the fact). I currently do not have the funds to travel to Micronesia myself, so I ask you from the bottom of my heart—is there any way you or someone in your office could please go out, purchase a couple cans of Coke II, stick them in a box, and mail them to me here in the U.S.? I will of course reimburse your country for the soda and the postage. You will also receive a hearty thanks in my book when it is published (sometime next year, I imagine).
Please consider this request seriously. It is not a joke (even though it seems like one). If you can manage to complete this task for me, please mail the sodas to:
James Greene, Jr.
229 Clermont Ave #4
Brooklyn, NY 11205
I thank you in advance and wish you and the citizens of Yap a great, peaceful week.
James Greene, Jr.”
You’ll note I did not mention the Coke II they’re allegedly drinking may be over half a decade old. I don’t want to be responsible for a widespread panic in Micronesia. I also lied about not having enough money to get to their neck of the woods. I figured that was easier and less bizarre than saying, “I refuse to spend ten hours in Houston.”
I will let you know if I here anything back from the fine people of Yap. I have a bunch of government phone listings for American Samoa; I’ll probably call the President or one of his underlings in the next day or two to see if A.S. can hook me up.
If any of you out there reading this can direct me to a secret stash of Coke II somewhere in the continental forty-eight, holla atcha boy. So far, eBay has yielded nothing. Plenty of Crystal Pepsi, though.