Aug 7, 2010

Selling Purple Drank to the Gentiles: Keeping Lemonade Stands Safe and Legal

Officials in Oregon shut down a local lemonade stand this past week because its operator, 7-year-old Julie Murphy, failed to produce a restaurant license when confronted by the county's Health and Safety inspector.

My initial reaction upon reading this story was complete disbelief.  Have we become so concerned with regulating every aspect of our society, that our children cannot participate in the summertime joy of selling tangy beverages in dixie cups to thirsty patrons?  Fast food chains can market fecally contaminated ground beef on a daily basis, but little Julie Murphy can't sell a cup of lemon juice and sugar water to her parched neighbors? Well, slap my ass and call me a mad cow.

But then the debacle caused me to reflect an event from my own childhood, an event that perhaps even lends a tiny shard of validity to the inspector's concerns. 

When I was a kid, my parents used to shop at Spag's, a giant discount mart in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. Spag's was a local institution, a bargain emporium where one could find any number of completely random items at rock-bottom prices. From pepper-jack cheese, to Barbie Dream Houses, to rubber hip-waders for shellfishing, the fun of Spag's was that you never knew what you were going to find on any given visit; their stock really depended on what old man Spag found cheap on closeout or overstock that week.

Anyway, on one particular visit, a large canister of generic powdered grape drink, or “purple drank” as we call it here in Oakland (not to be confused with the recreational codeine/cough syrup cocktail favored by rappers and pro-Athletes everywhere), made it into our shopping cart. I can’t remember if I slipped that fucker in clandestinely while my folks were distracted over a potential purchase, or if I caught my dad in a moment of weakness and he agreed to buy it for me (as my mother surely would never have done so), but somehow the big-ass can of discontinued and expired purple drank powder made it home with us that day.

This story would seem to have a happy ending, i.e. me living happily ever after with a lifetime supply of purple drank, if not for one thing—when we got it home, my mother wouldn’t let me drink the stuff. She was a health-conscious Jewish mother, and giving her daughter sugar water mixed with large quantities of FD&C Red and FD&C Blue was tantamount to child abuse in her eyes. And so, I was forced to stare down that unopened canister of drank in our cupboard for weeks—tantamount to child abuse in my eyes.

Of course the reasonable thing would have been for my mother to have thrown the purple drank in the trash the moment she discovered its existence in our home. But again, being a Jewish mother, she didn't believe in wasting food (regardless of its obvious toxicity), and so, that canister remained in its place on the shelf, taunting me incessantly, until one Easter Sunday in April, when I had a play date with Amy Bernstein.

Truth be told, Amy and I were not really very good friends, but she was one of the only Jewish kids I knew, and consequently the only one available to come over on Easter.  We didn't have a whole lot to talk about, and being that it was Easter in then-blue law-governed Boston, just about every single business was shut down, rendering us pretty much housebound. Television broadcasts that day consisted of Vatican services and The Ten Commandments.  We were very, very bored. 

Then my mom had an idea.

"Why don't you girls make a lemonade stand? People will be leaving church soon and it's a hot day.  You might make a lot of money!"

We thought this was a brilliant idea.  One problem, though: we didn't have lemons or lemonade mix. 

Again, the light bulb in my mother's head went off.  She went to the cupboard and produced the canister of purple drank.

We spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon hawking copious volumes of expired, generic purple drank to parched churchgoers. It was a sight to behold, two grubby Jewish kids positioned strategically between two of the city's most prominent Catholic churches, quenching the thirsts of hordes of gentiles in bonnets and lightweight wool suits. 

Indeed, it was a Jewish Easter to be remembered. Our drank stand was so successful that we burned through that big canister of drank within a couple of hours. Better yet, we earned enough money to stock up on half-priced Peeps and Cadbury Creme Eggs the next day at CVS. Forgive me if I sound presumptuous, but I really think Jesus would have been proud.

Anyhow, back to little Julie Murphy in Oregon--there's a happy ending to her story, as well. Officials later called her to apologize for overreacting, and told her that her stand was welcome to reopen for business.  You can watch Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogan eat crow here.

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Douglas said...

Love it.

You're taking to blogging like hot Catholics to purple drank! And happy fragging birthday!!

tsada kay said...

Thank you, D! Also, it's NOT MY BIRTHDAY!

Miss Absurd said...

communion wafer? check
Christ died for our sins? check
purple drank? check

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