When I was a kid, my dad used to make a Kool-Aid concoction he’d call “Kool-Aid wine.” It was reserved for special occasions—Thanksgivings, birthdays, Super Bowl parties, that time Cops was in Pittsburgh (and on our block!) and we invited people over to watch, etc.—and many of my favorite childhood memories are connected to it, as this mysterious and delicious beverage was a defining, transitional and impactful lubricant.
Kool-Aid wine was the nectar of the gods, and its contents remained a conundrum. Of course, Kool-Aid was an ingredient. It was “Kool-Aid wine,” after all, not “Hi-C wine” or bitch-ass “Sunny Delight wine.” But I could never determine what else was in there.
Was it coconut oil? Pimento beans? Avocados? Old Bay? Pancake mix? Vanilla extract? Chicken stock? Melted Now and Laters?
The composition of the Kool-Aid wine continued to confound me. Until one day when I was 10 or 11 and I happened to be hiding in a living room closet with a clear view to the kitchen. And I finally was able to see what my dad used to make this exquisite and sublime refreshment.
Two packets of grape Kool-Aid. And a lemon.
That’s it. There was nothing special at all about the Kool-Aid wine. It was just regular-ass Kool-Aid with a Giant Eagle lemon squeezed into it. Although the mystery was solved, I had put so much thought and existential weight into the mythical and ethereal characteristics of this mystery ingredient that the anticlimactic-ness of my discovery made me cry. This was the day I became a man.
Anyway, since then, life has also taught me that some mashups and collaborations work, and some don’t.
For instance, last week I was in the mood for some lemonade but had no lemonade in the house. I did, however, have lemons and La Croix. So I decided to put both into the Ninja to see if I’d be able to make some lemonade with a twist. And I did! Except the twist was, “This shit is fucking terrible and tastes like carbonated hot dog water.”
And, sometimes, like with my dad’s Kool-Aid wine, the collaboration works.
The latter is true with the above painting of Michelle and Barack Obama as Justice (Janet Jackson) and Lucky (Tupac) from the movie Poetic Justice. It shouldn’t work. Especially since, when I first saw the painting, my initial thought was that this was a real-time rendering of how Justice and Lucky would look today, in 2018. It wasn’t until the third or fourth viewing that I realized it was Michelle and Barack.
Which then made me realize that although I hadn’t realized I needed a painting of Michelle and Barack Obama as Justice and Lucky from Poetic Justice in my life, I totally, absolutely, definitely needed a painting of Michelle and Barack Obama as Justice and Lucky from Poetic Justice in my life. And I only didn’t know that I needed it because I didn’t know it existed.
I’ve been waiting, for 25 years now, for something to replace the metaphysical import of Kool-Aid wine. And I think I finally found it.