Remember those old Mountain Dew country cool ads? These were the ads that came before the days when Mountain Dew was target-marketed to morons. In the 80s, Mountain Dew ads were almost indistinguishable from ads for Busch beer. They generally involved a group of buddies gettin' together and throwin' themselves into lakes and rivers while hooting and slammin' back a few cans of the Dew. For our friends in the Home Nations, this is the sort of thing we do in America. Every day.
It's from these commercials that I got the idea of Mountain Dew Moments. Well, it's from these commercials that Jim Moore got the idea of Mountain Dew Moments.
Moore is an old friend of my dad's. When I was 11 years old, I was allowed on a rafting/camping trip down the Guadalupe River with my dad, Moore, Phil Archer and several other quick-witted beer-drinking Texas journalists. One of them a cameraman named Austin (which is the coolest name ever [a]), who had a certain fondness for flinging himself into perilous situations. When one of the rafts overturned and got stuck in the churning of a section of falls, Austin tied a rope around his waist, the other bit to a tree, and went in after the raft. How's that for macho? He risked his life to save an unmanned raft!
One day, when the group was stopped for lunch, Austin climbed up a tree and positioned himself to jump in the river.
"Is it deep enough for you to jump from there?" Archer asked.
"Hope so," Austin said, and he flung himself into the water.
It was deep enough. Over his head, And instantly I was scrambling up the tree to mimic the act. Moore spotted this and, recognizing that an 11-year-old shouldn't jump into a fast-moving river without supervision, shouted to Austin: "Stay in there for a second. The Cope spawn wants to re-enact your Mountain Dew Moment."
A Mountain Dew Moment is one that is particularly memorable. Not necessarily life-changing or at all important, it will probably still end up on the end-of-life video montage.
Mountain Dew Moments don't necessarily have to be action-based. For me, they are often surreal swells of emotion. The time the child bride and I went to a mariachi festival, and a massive 30-piece band performed a mariachi version of Frank Sinatra's "My Way" and something about the performance ignited the crowd to a standing ovation and I looked behind me and saw 20,000 people on the Coors Amphitheatre lawn seemingly stretching up into the Chula Vista night sky, all of them going completely mad and the applause was so loud that all I could do was howl -- that was a Mountain Dew Moment.
I tell you all of this to try to underline the strangely magical, stars-perfectly-aligned moment that occurred at 2 a.m. on New Year's Day in a pub in Skerries, Ireland.
The child bride and I were visiting our friend, Claire. Through her we found ourselves in a gathering of the old Skerries crew. Everyone knew each other, had grown up with one another. For those of you playing along at home, it was a bit like being at someone else's high school reunion, but a high school reunion where the people actually know each other. At my high school reunion, people kept shouting my name at me and I had no idea who they were.
On New Year's Eve we bundled into the upper floor of the Joe Mays pub, where some idiot had thought it a good idea to set up a karaoke machine. As you can almost certainly guess, it was a shambles. The last thing one wants as they close the book on a year is a squad of screeching drunkards belting out "Like a Virgin" and "Sweet Caroline." Phrases like "the wheels have come off" and "it's gone horribly pear-shaped" were created for evenings like this. By midnight there was no karaoke, just background music to the amplified screeching of intoxicated women. It was like some ridiculous neo-Dadaist performance art.
But then came that blessed moment, the Mountain Dew Moment when we all clicked into one another amid the opening strains of the Pogues' "Fairytale of New York." Some groaned, some cheered. But then we all sang. Every single person in the pub was there in that moment. All of us singing so loud, so full that we couldn't even hear our own insufferable voices. For 4 minutes and 35 seconds we just didn't care. We reached a state of Zen. We were one.
It was so perfect, so exquisite, that the karaoke machine was shut off immediately afterward. There were no protests -- even through the gallons of Guinness and Miller (b), we collectively knew we had reached our peak. There was no possible greater moment. We could do no more. It was absurd. It was beautiful.
And that's how 2008 began for me. We spilled out into the cool Irish night singing whatever came to our heads, staggering arm-in-arm, ready for this life. Whatever the hell it's got for us.
(a)Reportedly, my parents originally planned to name me Austin, after the city of my birth, but my grandfather -- who everyone knows as Breezy -- thought it sounded stupid. In my early 20s, I seriously considered legally changing my name to James Austin Cope, but there are already plenty of reasons for my friends to make fun of me. I didn't need to add changing my name to that list.
(b)I don't know who was buying my drinks -- it wasn't me -- but somewhere along the line it was decided that because I am American I should be drinking American beer. As I say, since I wasn't buying (big up the Skerries crew) I had no recourse to complaint.