My grandpa used to say that for every ideal thing that exists in the world, there are 10,000 people determined to find innovative ways to fuck it up. He was a foul-mouthed topiary enthusiast, my Geegaw. Ironically, he nearly died after a chainsaw accident in his front yard while attempting to sculpt a boxwood into Jayne Mansfield. A man's got to know his limitations.
But his fondness for carving up perfectly good shrubbery aside, grandpa abided by a simple philosophy: leave well enough alone. He had no use for things such as dog sweaters (“Goddamn things are already balls of fur, what do they need a sweater for?”) new Coke (“Original goddamn Coke is shitty enough.”) and born-again Christians (“Get it right the first time, assholes.”).
I've got the old pants-shitter on my mind because I recently ran across a wonderful little crime against nature that would have sent him into the stratosphere. It's called Palcohol, and if grandpa had lived long enough to get wind of this crap (instead of letting me get wind of his crap), it would have been the thing that killed him. Believe me, death would have been the best outcome. Way better than getting upset. Because by the time Papa Coffee Drawers passed on 20 years ago, his bowels were as out of control as Kanye West on live TV. When he got upset, the shit really hit the fan. And the sofa, the coffee table and, occasionally, the ceiling.
Palcohol is (and I'm going to take this slow because it's just that fucked of an idea): Freeze. Dried. Alcohol. Powdered booze. Instahooch. Maybe the strangest thing about Palcohol is that it’s not a new concept. Over the past 40 years, several companies have tried to bring this loco powder to market. Chances are you haven't heard of any of them, though, because they were doing something excruciatingly silly.
It is possible that you've heard of Palcohol in the past few weeks, though, thanks to the media firestorm (ok let’s call it a media smokedrizzle) touched off last week after reports that the federal government OK’d its powdered pow for sale to the public. This turned out to be untrue, as detailed in this Fortune article by Dan Mitchell. But let’s set aside for a moment the fact that Palcohol will almost certainly wind up in the powder heap of booze history, and instead have some fun imagining what might have been.
According to Fortune’s Mitchell, prior to being “outed” by the media last week, Mark Phillips, the guy who created Palcohol, “had extolled what he saw as the product's chief virtue: basically that you can sneak into places where you're not supposed to drink. He cited movie theaters and college sports events as examples.” The material didn’t sit well with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, and has since been removed from the Palcohol website. Only to be replaced, oddly and hilariously, with claims that are far more intriguing. To wit:
- “Doctors and nurses have contacted us inquiring about using Palcohol as an antiseptic, especially in more remote areas.”
- “Two companies, one from Sweden and another from Canada have contacted us about using Palcohol in their windshield washer fluid for cars.”
- “A livestock supplement company is interested in incorporating Palcohol into its business.”
- “We have had several inquires from people who want to make emergency fuel out of Palcohol.”
So it’s gonna be used to feed cows, clean Volvos and disinfect critical care patients in Botswana, eh? Well that certainly sounds like something I’d like to put in a margarita and introduce into my central nervous system while lounging by the pool. And hey, no worries if I spill my drink in the pool, because it can also be used like chlorine to reduce the bacterial residue in the water.
Plus, the possibilities for practical jokes are almost endless. Most of us have a friend who used to be an absolute wildman, but has since gotten sober. Don’t you miss partying with that big dumb galoot? Well according to the erstwhile FAQ page on the Palcohol site, “when you add Palcohol to food, you're not really adding flavor to the dish, just alcohol.”
You know what that sounds like to me? It sounds like you’re one five-year-chit-celebrating Palcohol-seasoned cake away from having your bestest booziest buddy back again. He’ll never know what hit him. Until he’s cleaned out all the liquor stores in a five mile radius and his wife’s got a divorce attorney on the line, of course. Look on the bright side, though. You got your old wingman back and he’s better/worse than ever. Thanks Palcohol!
Phillips, mind you, is a changed man after his media comeuppance. It’s forced him to reexamine his values. And today’s Mark Phillips isn’t likely to endorse any of these untoward uses. Quite the contrary, he appears to be more than a little peeved about “the media coverage [that] has focused on the perceived negative aspects of powdered alcohol,” and upbraids rabble-rousing media types for stoking “hysteria and fear that Palcohol will make it easier to get drunk by snorting it, make it easier to sneak alcohol into stadiums, movie theaters, schools, etc. and… easier to spike someone's drink.” Such suggestions, he claims, “couldn't be further from the truth.”
Which must be why he originally put all that stuff about snorting, sneaking and spiking on Palcohol’s own website (before he changed it). Phillips claims he was simply “experimenting with some humorous and edgy verbiage” when he suggested you "start your day off right” by sprinkling a little liquor on your eggs. Anyway, hey, never mind. It’s not there anymore, and there’s no such thing as the Internet that finds anything embarrassing and keeps it forever.
It’s like if you hired a billboard, and for a week (just a week!) you put up a big sign that said "fuck brown people." If anyone asked you’d just say you were “experimenting with some humorous and edgy ways to talk about interracial sexual relations." Everyone would totally forgive you.
And look, I get it. As a writer, I have a natural impulse to want to have fun with words. And I have a lot of experience with carefully walking those comments back so as not to get sued into oblivion by [[REDACTED]]. For instance, check out what I’m about to not say:
Mark Phillips has his head up his ass.
See? I said it at first, but I was just experimenting. So I unsaid it by crossing it out. I think after that emphatic cross-out I’ve made it clear that Mark Phillips has not got his head up his ass is the absolute truth.
But at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what I think. (And if I had a nickel for every time I heard that, I'd be someone who doesn't know how to ask for a better rate.) Because the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has smacked Phillips down harder than any of my carefully chosen HurtyWords(TM) ever could. On April 21st, just 13 days after issuing a label approval to Palcohol, the agency revoked it saying it was “issued in error.”
Which means that, against all odds, something very important has happened here. Someone has actually proved that once in a great while a federal agency can do a thing that makes a stitch of goddamn sense. Perversely, Mark Phillips has restored my faith in government. And if there's anything my grandpa would have liked,
it’s a pervert it's Uncle Sam taking a stand against the defilement of something as pure and perfect as alcohol. Somewhere up there, I bet grandpa’s smiling… and contentedly shitting himself while watching Wheel Of Fortune. You do you, Geegaw. You do you.
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