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While on vacation in Florida, there’s only one thing that I think the kids love doing more than swimming in the pool. And, no, it isn’t going to Disney World. We don’t do that while on vacation. Probably because all of us, from the youngest to the oldest, knows that a day at Disney in July—which is the particular month when at least 2% of the world’s 196 countries descend upon a single state in the union—would be about as enjoyable as being tied to a chair and force-fed scoops of spoiled mayonnaise. It’s just not anything we want to do. The heat, the lines both inside and outside the park, the miles of walking—it’s all rather nightmarish for us. When we’ve visited Disney, it’s been in September. You know the Buzz Lightyear ride? We rode that one something like fifteen times in thirty minutes. Only a handful of people and no lines.
But in July, after a full day of swimming, playing board games, or visiting shops, the Thoma family gathers together on the couch—snacks in one hand and the TV remote in the other—and we watch Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.
The main purpose for this, first and foremost, is to close out the day together as a family watching something that keeps all of us intrigued. But there is a second purpose, a parental purpose, and that is to teach my kids that going into the ocean is a horrible thing to do.
Oh, boy. Here we go.
“But, Reverend, the ocean is a magical place full of wonder and beauty. Do you really want to rob your children of the opportunity to—”
Let me stop you right there. Yes, I do, so zip it, Cousteau. In reality, the ocean is about as magical for a human being as the tank in the grocery store is for the lobster. When we’re in the ocean, we’re willingly adding ourselves to a more vulnerable place on the food chain. You’re food. I’m food. And not just for a singular predator, either, but rather for countless numbers of creatures that would love to take a bite. A lobster has one enemy in Kroger and that’s people. In the ocean, we have sharks, eels, jellyfish, barracuda, squid, and more sharks. And I’m guessing that once any one of those beasties gets a bite and figures out that most of us are so succulently marinated in fast food grease, a nibble won’t be enough. It’ll want the whole McHuman sandwich.
And by the way, you do realize that only 5% of the ocean has actually been explored, yes? We know more about Mars than we do our own ocean. I’m sure there are plenty of things living three miles down in the dark that might consider migrating to the coast if they actually met and tasted us.
For all that Shark Week is for educating the general public regarding our so-called misunderstanding of ocean life, it does a pretty good job by way of its frightening narration and its episode titles that include words like “monster” or “serial killers” to keep this particular fan base from ever stepping foot into anything other than a bathtub or pool.
And one last thing—just to be fair—if a shark came waddling up from the water with his family on their way to see the magically beautiful place we call the Grand Canyon, I wouldn’t start circling and hassling them. I’d give them their space and let them enjoy their time. I certainly wouldn’t feel the need to eat them, especially when there are plenty of places on I-40, just south of the canyon, to stop for lunch. When sharks can start returning the favor, I’ll think about slinking into some speedos and going for dip. I might even bring along a flask for sharing what we humans find pleasurable up here on the sunny side.
But I wouldn’t bring the Jack Daniel’s Gentleman Jack. That is, unless, I was intent upon insulting my newfound underwater friends, thereby making them more inclined to eat me.
While the nose of this Tennessee whiskey is quite agreeable—giving over singed barrel planks, mashed blueberries, and what seemed like sort of an orange-lemon combination—the palate comes along and betrays its potential. It turns first toward artificial sweeter and then circles back around to something salty. I imagined soggy asparagus.
The finish leaves similar dents in the hull of expectation. There’s charred wood pulp stirring in sugared water.
Like I said, I wouldn’t bring this stuff along. I’d probably pack The Balvenie 17-year-old SherryOak for starters, but I’d have some backups in the boat on the surface. Maybe something along the lines of Bulleit Frontier Whiskey, or the Michter’s Single Barrel Straight Rye. All three of these are not only generous, but they make for good starters with noobies.
Still, you Cousteau-types should know that the whole time down there in the depths, I’d have an itchy finger on my spear gun’s trigger, most likely regretting not having done more research to find out if they make such things as underwater plasma cannons.