AT GOLD'S THIS MORNING I finished my final set of squats, but when I went on to deadlifts I realized that I had run out of steam. So I got a "Perfect Aminos" energy drink from the cooler. It was bright orange and came in a bottle with a squirt top, which is why I picked it. There were a lot of other kinds of energy drinks and thirst quenchers and body builder-type beverages, but this was the only one with a squirt top like a bicycle water bottle. Given a choice, if you can pick something that doubles as a toy, that's usually the way to go. So I pulled up the top and directed a long squirt into my mouth and I really liked it. It made me feel good, and reminded me of something nice, but I couldn't think what. It tasted like diluted artificial fruit juice and chalk, with some sugar and something else, but it was good. I mean, it wasn't really good good, but I liked it.

After my first set of deadlifts I had another squirt and swimming up from my memory was what about it that I liked. It tasted like a 50-50 bar. The kind of popsicle that was half frozen orange juice and half frozen ice-milk, swirled together. Just like a 50-50 bar, but melted.

On red-hot Fresno afternoons sometimes our mother would take pity on us and let us buy ice-cream bars. Usually it had to be hot enough for the tar on the road to melt before she would spring for it. Ice-cream bars were pretty expensive. A dime, I think.

The thing that got us started jumping up and down and making a case for ice-cream was the sound of one of those trucks with a loudspeaker broadcasting part of a children's song, Three Blind Mice or Pop Goes the Weasel. But just the first few bars, again and again. I guess the guy in the truck doesn't hear it anymore after a while. White noise, like a clock ticking or the washing machine. We called him "the pling-pling man." Because of the sound the truck made, prowling down 119-degrees-in-the-shade streets trolling for sweaty dimes.

I liked 50-50 bars because they were so different from anything else. Usually things were just one flavor and texture, but a 50-50 bar, if you got bored with one thing there was another thing there, too. A popsicle wasn't like ordinary eating. It was like eating a toy. That's what I liked about "Perfect Aminos."

August 19, 1994