Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Red Bull and the power of taste

In one of my earliest entries on here I talked about the possible "Inappropriate Attachment to Objects" that may come along with an autism spectrum disorder. I've been thinking about this for the past month and this phenomenon is not just isolated to physical objects, but rather senses as well.

For those of you that are friends with me on Facebook you might remember the story of me trying to find Red Bull Cola last November on my way to and from Washington D.C. What was so relevant about this cola? My story with Red Bull dates back even before I discovered the cola version.

I have account of this in my book, Finding Kansas, but want to share it again. The first time I ever had Red Bull was on my way to Las Vegas when I was to be an instructor for a month. I drove out on I-70 and stopped in Denver for the night. I awoke at 2AM and could not go back to sleep due to excess excitement and left the hotel and got a full tank of gas and then a Red Bull.

I don't know if anyone likes the taste of Red Bull the first time they drink it. I, honestly, thought it was nothing short of repulsive. Something funny happened as I drove through the tunnels with Lynyrd Skynyrd's Free Bird playing in the background; the taste wasn't that bad. Call it one of my "firsts" but the taste wasn't that bad anymore.

Slowly the ritual became that ANY time I left in the morning I had to have a Red Bull. Each weekend I flagged for the Saint Louis Karting Association I would stop and get a Red Bull as the sun came up.

With each drink I relive that trip through the deserted tunnels of West-central Colorado. With each drink I relive the Sunday's spent at the kart track. It's not about good taste, or about an energy drink, it is about the memories tied to it.

My first taste of Red Bull Cola wasn't the best. I was walking to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2009 for the Indy 500 and a Red Bull car thingy (you know, the cars when the big can on the back. They look weird and deserve the term "thingy") was handing out free drinks. I tasted it, expecting a Red Bullish like taste, and I hated it. I discarded fast enough that no "first" would be established. I made sure no memories would be tied to that drink.

Flash forward 6 months and the 2009 SKUSA Super Nationals in Las Vegas. Red Bull was a sponsor and was the only energy drink on-site so I was thirsty when we had a break and a Red Bull Cola was brought to me. I thought about asking if there was anything else, but thought better of it and gave the Red Bull Cola a second chance.

From that second chance I drank more Red Bull Cola than should be legally allowed. I couldn't get enough of the stuff, but again it had nothing to do with taste. Just as Red Bull had been associated with the freedom of heading out into the unknown, alone, Red Bull Cola was about leadership and the hardest flagging job in the world that is the best five days of the year for me.

Red Bull Cola isn't the most readily available drink on the market so when I find it I make sure I stock up on it. As I think I mentioned in my Jefferson City article, I stop every time I pass the Kingdom City exit West of Saint Louis because the Petro station there has some. With each drink I feel connected to my memories. My memory is already videographic, but think of it this way, through the taste I experience it again with fuller detail. Not only can I see it, but I can taste it.

Those are the positives about sense of taste. For the good there are also bad. These aren't a sensory issue, but rather they invoke unwanted memories of times I don't want to live again.

I know for a fact I will never, NEVER, try gazpacho soup as it will be associated with Linda and the experience I had in Minneapolis in 1999 (read my book on this issue). Also, I have a hard time with Black Cherry soda for the same reason. I still drink it, but I occasionally will have a hard time handling my emotions during those times.

Tastes are powerful, almost as powerful as the sense of smell, and I have never shared this associative memory system in terms of taste. I'm sure we all have this to some degree which is why places claim to have food, "just as grandma used to make it" because taste can take us back to a better time. Like many other issues I believe this is taken to the extreme for me. Certain foods or drink will take me back to the highest point in my life, or other tastes will bring me to the realization of what was and no longer is. If I refuse a food or drink it may be because I simply don't like it. Then again, I may not want to relive the memories that are associated with it.

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