July 1949: With the first paycheck from my summer job making plastic feet for shoe displays at the Johnson Shoe Company, I sauntered into the Velvet Freeze, near where the street car turned, and bought Pepsi-Colas and double orders of fries all around for the gang.

Of course, only a few were there — including the proprietor of my heart, Rosemary De Branco, she of the one thousand and one pastel-colored angora sweaters and simple strand of pearls — but it gave me a certain swagger.

Pepsi, and other sugary colas, played a big part in my youth. Paddy Carr and I used to play a con game in the alleys behind Skeeter O’Neal’s saloon on hot summer days. The driver of the beverage truck, a surly big-fisted Polish guy not from the neighborhood, would always pause in his routine of rolling in beer barrels, and take a break at the bar for a short one. When we knew he was sipping, we would steal a couple of bottles from the truck and run for the tall grass.

We could have taken a whole wooden case, but we weren’t thieves, and we always confessed it on Saturday. The Blessed Mother loves drunks and cola drinkers. Everyone, yes, everyone, even you dear reader, sitting there with your beer or tequila shot, has a summer cola story, and we all had a favorite: Royal Crown, Dr. Pepper, Coca-Cola. Pepsi was the favorite in my coven because the bottle was bigger than Coca-Cola. Some fell in love over a warm Moxie. Go figure.

Remember back porch nights and drive-in movie theater romances when the sale of a cola came with two straws? Yes, you do, and you remember those lips on the other straw, and the eyes above them that held you in a trance even in the flickering gray light from the screen. You don’t remember the movie that was playing, but you remember her, and even today when you sip that cola, it reminds you of her. Yes, it does.

This all comes to mind this hot summer Sunday morning, as I read that Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, the best three-day town in America, is running a strange game to ban sodas and other sugary drinks that are sold in Brooklyn Bridge sizes in the city that never sleeps.

They say that Mayor Michael is making a full-out effort to combat obesity in the boroughs. No more will Julio be able to buy a 20-ounce cola to share with Rita Marie on a hot-summer-brownstone-steps day in Washington Heights. No more will Kevin, Ryan, David or Ricky be able to walk into the Velvet Freeze, slam a few bucks down on the counter and order big gulps all around. The new rule says 16 ounces or walk.

They say that if those of us who come to the barbecue with soda, suck up 52 gallons of the brown stuff a year, all go cold turkey and order big green bottles of Pellegrino instead, we will all lose 10 to 20 pounds of fat in the same amount of time. I’ve tried it. It doesn’t work.

Will such a draconian rule play here in vacationland? Of course not, especially as the fearsome wave of summer humidity rolls over us. A dark cola is de rigueur for summer picnics, barbecues and perhaps even extramarital trysts. I’m just trying to cover all bases.

As I sit here in the shade of my orange Pier One cafe umbrella, dreaming of Pepsi nights and Royal Crown days, I can’t imagine Rosemary’s Linda Darnell red lips, sucking up a straw full of Pellegrino or Perrier, even as I enjoy it myself.

I will be thinner by twilight I’m sure, but then it will be the magic hour of Pinot Noir. Goodnight Rosemary, wherever you are. I’m a big boy now.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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