How Facebook is Like Mezcal
By Kelly Dean
Next to my mailbox grew a large centennial plant, also known as an American Agave plant. It was huge, easily four feet tall, five feet across, with blue-green eight inch wide spikes with one-inch long thorns sticking straight out all along its lumber-like leaves. It’s like twenty cricket bats with nails driven in them.
It was awesome: the plant-equivalent of owning a big piranha or Komodo dragon. But both of those are already illegal in the Sunshine State so I own this plant instead.
And like all Floridians, who are at varying stages of fulfilling some life-fantasy of beach-dwelling, booze-guzzling, flop-sweating, sun-soaked, wrinkled, sexy decadence — until that 9pm bedtime — I had thoughts of making my own mezcal out of the impressive plant.
Tequila is technically made from blue agave, but any agave can make mezcal. So “tequila is mezcal, but mezcal isn’t necessarily tequila.“ The experts say.
Making mezcal would be the kind of an immature thing, really. Something you’d consider doing if you were having shots with your 19-year old fraternity brothers while listening to Van Halen and lighting the mist from an aerosol spray can with a cigarette lighter to torch a bong — right next to the drapes. Or deciding to drive to St. Louis to touch the Arch, but when you sober up, you realize the Arch is still 800 miles away.
Not that I’ve done those things.
Nonetheless, the plant was getting really out of hand. And it didn’t exactly exude happiness. It’s kind of evil-looking. Neighborhood dogs got their weenie poked when they peed on it. I’d get the major stink-eye and find poop in my mailbox, although that could have been from my mail carrier.
My mail carrier, a seemingly nice lady, began delivering subtle hints that the plant was too big every time she delivered a box or package. She wasn’t being obvious about it at first, when small packages showed up with crushed corners, loose tape and other such minor faults.
It was when packages started showing up with stab wounds, muddy footprints, a voodoo chicken claw and O.J.’s bloody glove that I finally got the hint. She hated my plant; and to be honest, so did I, eventually.
Unfortunately, quasi-friends — who said they’d help me turn this alien nightmare into Mescal Especial while we were all drinking beer in a boat near a sunny sand bar — suddenly disappeared when I wanted to experiment with my ready-to-be harvested go-go juice.
“Yeah, I think you’re supposed to roast its heart. That’s how they make the good tequila. So it has to be the same for simple mezcal.”
“Great. Where’s its heart?”
“Down inside there somewhere.”
An overly large American Agave plant is a spiked, stabbing, tissue-slicing medieval catapult payload conceived by a satanic, sadistic, torture-happy monk. It’s a star-shaped exploded death star with ridged spears and daggers splaying out in all directions, capable of viciously cutting a human victim into multiple pieces by just looking at it.
Or so says the letter from my neighbor’s lawyer.
It ain’t no petunia.
Every ten to twenty years — a metaphysical sign that Mephistopheles is about to scratch his privates — a large demonic flower stalk shoots out of the middle of the agave 15 feet into the air, maybe to function as a lightning rod spear for a cloven-hooved minion named Bob.
“You know, that stalk is edible, as food,” says my buddy — named Bob.
“But, you have serve it with roasted black cat, wolfsbane and eye of newt,” I said. “I ain’t got no newt.”
I sure as hell ain’t gonna go lookin’ for its freakin’ heart. I’d nearly bled-out already just trying to get my Val-Pac coupons out of the mailbox. I couldn’t imagine hacking away at this thing with a machete like a crazed zombie hunter. “Take. That. You. Bastard!”
So here I am with this wicked plant, full of glorious booze and no friends to perform the ritual.
Therefore, to save mankind, and maybe get a date with my mail carrier, I decide to talk to the friendly guys who are putting in the nearby sewer line to see if they’ll use their backhoe digger to remove the offending urchin. They’d already turned my whole neighborhood and yard into a moonscape putting in poop pipes so why not pull up the last vestige of vegetation too. It’s so Armageddon-like.
I didn’t expect help from the workers. I had once complained to their boss about a huge pile of dirt they had left at the end of my driveway. They moved the dirt — sort of — but not before leaving me a sign of how they felt about my complaint. They cleverly sculpted the ten-foot tall, twenty foot wide pile of dirt into the shape of a huge hand flipping off my house. I didn’t know you could create fine art with a backhoe. I was kind of impressed, actually.
Nevertheless, I approached a sewer guy anyway to avoid digging out the chain saw and crucifix. “Hey, Nice Man, could you possibly use that backhoe to maybe pull out that God-forsaken plant next to my mailbox for me, pleeeease?” I smiled all toothy-like.
He just stares at me. I add, “I’m trying to get a date with my mail carrier but she hates my stinkin’ guts because of that plant.”
“Oh, I see.” He winks. He clicks. He adjusts. “You know that’s an agave, don’t you? It’s a centennial plant. You can make mezcal out of that puppy.” He says reverently.
“Really?” I feign to Captain Obvious.
He then goes on to put me into a short verbally-induced coma explaining all the stuff your charming narrator already told you. I zoned out and thought about how funny the word Portuguese sounds; I wondered what color taupe might be; I pondered why fish don’t have testicles; and I thought, if you smoke cigars in a backhoe, is it a tobacco backhoe? I chuckled.
I tuned back into the conversation, just in time to realize that this guy also thinks the “tequila plant” has that tropical Florida-mystique mojo that people move here for. It’s becoming Florida Man one brain cell at a time. It’s hippies turned into yuppies — who make babies and become divorcees — then retirees who act like hippies — who can’t pee driving RVs — and riding Harleys in the Keys.
After Mr. Backhoe goes blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah for a while, he agrees to put my agave to the Death Claw.
I go inside and drink a Margarita. After a while, I look outside and my old green friend is gone – just gone. I actually feel a sudden twinge of loss. Sentimentally, I think back when my darling Agave was only just a tiny little baby dangerous-stabbing-plant instead of a full grown life-threatening-dangerous-stabbing plant.
I think of the old times we shared together: the large bloody gashes on my hands; the puncture wounds to my legs; the lawsuit my neighbor threatened; and of course, my incoming mail folded into coffin-like shapes and occasionally covered in nasal discharge.
I paused and looked around curiously. I must admit, I’m a malcontent and can’t help it. I just couldn’t stop wondering where its plant corpse had gone to. I had imagined sea monster root tentacles attached to its evil Spike Ball of Hades. I wanted naked pictures with it.
I didn’t expect the man to haul it away for me. I wanted to pretend that I was going to still make mescal out of it: sun-roast it for another couple of months while it lie there in my lawn like Freddy Kruger’s baseball glove.
I’d then invite my worthless friends over, ask if they wanted it, act disappointed and roll it into my trash dumpster to scare the hell out of my trash guy (who’s evil, but I that’s another story).
So I go outside and smile at Mr. Backhoe and say “thanks … person … dude … man … you know … I didn’t catch your name. And where’d you put the agave?”
“Merrin’s my name.” He says. “And we buried it eight feet down in the sewer line, near the mailbox.”
“Wow. Fitting. Deep.” I nodded.
“It ain’t goin’ nowhere,” we both said in unison.
Later that night, it dawned on me Mr. Backhoe’s real name was the same name as that old priest in “The Exorcist.” It kind of creeped me out for a bit, but I drank a Bloody Mary and convinced myself that he said, “Farrin,” not Merrin, like the really, really, really common American name of — Farrin.
I finished my Bloody Mary, and wound down. It was really late, about 9:30. Then out of nowhere, without reason, I remembered that Father Karras’ mom was named Mary in The Exorcist! My eyes zip to my drink and hear a loud orchestral strike.
Oh for the love of Pete! I can’t get a break! Why would I remember that? I can’t even remember my own password – and it’s my birthday! And I remember that obscure detail?
It gets quiet.
“Dimmy, Dimmy, why you do this to Agave, Dimmy? Why Dimmy?” That old lady was creepier than Regan! And Regan puked-up green Agave goo all over the freaking place!
That night I dreamt I was sitting on the toilet, listening to incredibly loud water droplets for some reason.
Then suddenly a flower stalk shot out of the toilet bowl and impaled me right up my butt and straight out my eye socket – Vlad Drakul style – up twenty feet in the air I go. I’m all flailing around all bloody and gurgly.
And I realize that’s how Facebook is like mezcal.