' ' Cinema Romantico: The Small Pleasure of a Clearly Canadian in the Fridge

Friday, February 10, 2023

The Small Pleasure of a Clearly Canadian in the Fridge

Some while ago, My Beautiful, Perspicacious Wife and I were watching an old episode of “Frasier” and the eponymous psychiatrist removed what appeared to be two blue-tinted bottles of water from his refrigerator, one for himself and one for his brother Niles. My Beautiful, Perspicacious Wife and I simultaneously wondered if the Brothers Cane were enjoying a nice Clearly Canadian. Minimal research indicated that, no, the Crane boys were not drinking Clearly Canadian, but a blue bottled Welsh mineral water called Tŷ Nant. Fair enough. But you understand our confusion. Though originally introduced in 1987, Clearly Canadian was a sparkling water most associated with the 90s, at the forefront of the so-called New Age Beverage Movement. That’s ostensibly clever marketing dross that I nevertheless can’t help but love. Because if New Age music sought to effect inner peace and tranquility, that’s how those Clearly Canadian bottles looked to me, sparkling water as spiritual transcendence. Their old TV spots wanted you to believe the water was absorbed straight from some Canadian lake and I did it believe it, at least in the way I still believe in the Loch Ness Monster, each Clearly Canadian bottled in Banff National Park.

Bottling source for Clearly Canadian, at least in my imagination.

It was that, I suppose, and a simple case of teenage envy. My parents did not buy Clearly Canadian and my best friend’s parents did, or at least, they bought it once, and I never forgot the thrill of twisting off the blue cap with the maple leaf. I don’t remember ever having it after that, or even asking my parents to purchase it. Clearly Canadian was expensive, after all, and that’s why I remember my best friend’s mom chastising him when he asked if we could have a second Clearly Canadian after our first. But I remembered that story, and I told it to My Beautiful, Perspicacious Wife after we mistook Tŷ Nant for the Great White North’s pseudo-signature beverage. And lo and behold, at some point in December when we were grocery shopping and waiting in line at the checkout, My Beautiful, Perspicacious Wife nudged me and pointed out a nearby Clearly Canadian display, causing my heart to skip a beat.

Turns out, after riding high in the 90s, Clearly Canadian briefly stopped production in 2009 on account of corporate mismanagement, the management style most preferred by corporations, forcing it to file for bankruptcy in 2010. Robin Levinson King wrote about it for The Star in 2015 and the company’s founder Douglas Mason suggested the company’s biggest mistake was not selling out to Pepsi when it had the chance. Of course, small brands selling out in the 90s was a cultural no-no, which it makes it ironic and so, so melancholy that the bankrupt sparkling water’s only chance at a twenty-tens resurrection was an American venture capitalist. But then, you get old and realize more battles are lost than won.

To that point, if I do nothing at the grocery store but rail about these obtrusive aisle displays, transforming the entire shopping experience into an Escher painting of hell, there I was ogling one of those very displays I despise, poring over each bottle and its flavor like appraising vintage wine. Getting old is not all bad, and if as a kid, the items in the fridge are at the decisions of the adults, once you are the adult, the ball is in your shopping cart. And though it was 2 for $5, I just wanted one, settling on Mountain Blackberry, imagining a Royal Mountie harvesting those blackberries straight from British Columbia.

I drank it on New Year’s Day during the Rose Bowl, the highlight of my annual anti-social calendar, and after one sip, detected a familiar taste and checked the ingredients and woah, there’s cane sugar in them hills! Did you know that?! In my memory, Clearly Canadian was pure refreshing water but no, it’s just Capri Sun in a conical bottle. Still, I enjoyed it. We bought another one during our last trip to the grocery store. Oh, maybe the M*llennial M*rxists will dismiss me as just one more commodity fetishist, but if aging, in all its accumulating aches and pains, appointments and errands, is akin to a refrigerator that really needs to be cleaned out, I like having that one bottle of Clearly Canadian on the top shelf of the fridge, seeing it each time I open the door, a New Age beverage beacon patiently waiting for the day when I need its liquid serenity most. 

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