Private Eye | You Never Know: Difficult times & the return of the Chelada 

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The only thing I want to do right now is put some distance between last week and today. I lost two brothers in two days, which started a difficult weeklong journey I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Um, since this period also comprises Orthodox Lent, maybe I should be more honest: Actually, there are a couple of people I’d wish the difficulty on, but not a similar event to precipitate it. Anyway, last week is in the past only according to the calendar. In all other respects, my family is left with the memories of last week, now and always. We’re left with decades of good memories, too, so it’s not all bad.

Among the good is the reassurance that comes from the grace of having so many fine and wonderful relatives, friends and associates, along with total strangers who left gifts, e-mails and messages of condolence. From my family to all of yours: Thanks for the words, the hugs, the tears, the stacks of cards and for the flowers that have transformed my house into a virtual botany project of sights and smells. Thanks for the food, too.

Neighbors and relatives mostly brought food. I gained weight with all the cookies and pasta. I started drinking coffee in earnest again. Thanks, Yvonne. I put brandy in it. Thanks, you-know-who.

Between the brandy and the reality that concentration is difficult in difficult times, I barely noticed the rest of the world. City Weekly produced one of its best issues ever last week and I played but a small role in it. It was our annual Best of Utah issue, so I also missed the grand soiree that accompanies it. I heard more than 500 of my closest friends were there at Port O’ Call doing just fine without me.

I saw the pain in the eyes of family members of young Hser Ner Moo, but know little about what actually happened to her. I understand there’s a custody battle going on in Texas over the well-being of hundreds of children, but I’ve only read the headlines. They say David Archuleta advanced another round on American Idol, but I don’t know what song he sung. I watched part of the NCAA men’s basketball finals, but had no clue how those two teams got there.

I have no clue, really, about what to do next. But I’m not going to sit here wallowing, either. When I opened my Best of Utah issue, I came across an ad for a new Budweiser product, a blend of that fine Bud and Clamato juice. It was a Gump moment. They’re trademarking their concoction “Chelada.” The chelada has been my friend since my nightmare spring break vacation in Cancun, where its discovery was the only bright thing to come from a week spent with violently ill college students.

I introduced Utah beer drinkers to the chelada in this column but, instead of being hailed as a pioneer, I was scorned by bartenders all over town who blamed me for their carpal-tunneled wrists caused by squeezing so many limes. In yet another odd coincidence in my life, I had just drunk my first Clamato chelada in San Diego at the Old Town Mexican Café the very week before I saw the ad. Stirred by the quest for truth, I decided to write about them. Then, last week happened and I forgot. Then, I saw the ad telling me to get over it.

I’m forever witness to strange coincidences. I’ve written about them before—somehow hailing the same cabbie five times in one city, for example. I expect such weirdness. In San Diego, home to hundreds of places to eat, we got in a cab and headed to Old Town. Of dozens of Mexican eateries there, we chose the Old Town Mexican Cafe, which is great, by the way. The next day, I got an unexpected call from Al Santi who used to own Lumpy’s. When I told him I was in San Diego, he told me to eat at the Old Town Mexican Café because a friend of his owns the place.

Well, it wasn’t that weird, but a little bit. A good friend is a mucky-muck at the San Diego Reader, which is City Weekly on steroids. For five days, I considered calling him but never did. On the last day in town, we took a cab to Mission Beach and, on the return trip, asked the cabbie to drop us off in Little Italy for some mangia. In that big city, the cab let us off exactly in front of the Reader office. In a few minutes, I was chatting with Howie. It could only have been the chelada.

A recap: My Cancun chelada calls for a tall, salted rim glass, about two inches of fresh squeezed lime juice, ice and beer. A regular thirst quencher; a poor man’s margarita. In the immortal words of Ben Fulton, “yummy.” In Cancun, they told me adding Tabasco creates a michelada. In San Diego, beer and Clamato form a chelada and the michelada is defined as the beer, salt and lime Cancun chelada. Confused by this bicoastal disparity, I never asked about Tabasco sauce.

Yet the confusion continues on at my favorite Albertsons beer display. Mere cases away from the Budweiser Clamato Chelada (housed in a glorious megacan) is the Miller Brands chelada offering called Chill, said to be inspired by the Mexican chelada of lime and salt. I asked the checkout person how both beers could be called chelada. He said, “Well, they call that fish Sushi, don’t they?”

They do. That’s what life has been for me this week—a plate of sushi and a six-pack of chelada—you just never know what you’re going to get.

 

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