Now listen up, children, and gather 'round while I tell you a tale. A tale of a terrible curse that began in 1884, in Lowell, Massachusetts; a curse which still stalks the Earth to this very day, in search of unwary victims. A tale of horror. A tale of suffering. A tale... of The Great Memphis Moxie Massacre.
It began on a Friday, much like any other Friday... well, except that this particular Friday was the first day of the Mephit FurMeet anthropomorphics-fandom convention which takes place in Memphis, TN, over Labor Day weekend, so it was actually somewhat unlike most Fridays in that I happened to be in Memphis at the time. (At the Holiday Inn Select next to the Memphis Airport, to be specific – and I do mean right next to the airport!) As is their usual custom, the proprietors of Shanda Fantasy Arts, Mike & Carole Curtis, were hosting a small pizza-and-bad-movies gathering of friends in their hotel room after the dealers' den closed for the evening. This year, the gathering was to feature Moxie, Screaming Yellow Zonkers, the seemingly-interminable feature-length claymation Pogo for President, and a disturbing Star Trek parody called Hick Trek.
Little did any of us realize that Hick Trek, which can best be described as "The Wrath of Khan" meets "The Blue Collar Comedy Tour" (and if that description scares you, it should), would not be the most horrifying item to be served at the Curtis' party that night.
Mike had brought three 20-oz. bottles of the stuff, presumably under the delusion that any of us would actually drink more than a sip or two of this deadly elixir. (To be fair, Mike hadn't tasted Moxie before either, so he had no way of knowing the sheer, unimaginable scope of the evil he was about to unleash upon his unsuspecting guests.) Dixie cups were distributed, ice was provided, a half-shot sample of Moxie was doled out to the dozen or so of us gathered there and, after a few tentative sniffs, the Moxie was tasted...
Up until that moment, the worst soda I had ever sampled was Shasta's chocolate soda. I was ten at the time, and innocently trusting in the inviolability of the Prime Candy Directive: "Anything With Chocolate Will Be Good." (I firmly believe it is the brutal shattering of that childhood belief that turned me into the bitter, disillusioned adult that I am today, and I think Shasta owes me a few million dollars for willfully inflicting such lasting psychological damage.) Since then, I have survived such mutant sodas as the ill-conceived and vaguely-unpleasant Pepsi Blue, the much-maligned and unloved Crystal Pepsi, the bizarre (yet not entirely unpalatable) Bubble Yum Bubblegum Soda, and even the feared Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray Soda. I actually enjoyed the oft-mocked Holiday Spice Pepsi and the short-lived but tasty Raging Raspberry Pepsi and Strawberry Burst Pepsi (are we noticing a trend here?), and I have laughed – laughed, I tell you! – in the face of offerings which have felled those of less robust constitutions, such as Dr. Pepper Red Fusion, Pitch Black Mountain Dew II (yes, it's a sequel to Pitch Black Mountain Dew, "this time with a sour bite!"), and Sprite Aruba Jam Remix. Surely, I thought smugly as I raised the Dixie cup of Moxie to sample the oddly tar-like liquid therein, having conquered so many other unworthy soda foes, I had tasted the worst that the carbonated fizzy-water industry could inflict...
I was wrong. So very, very wrong.
It took only a few brief seconds for the True Apocalyptic Horror of Moxie to manifest itself upon the palates of all present. Remember Keystone's "Bitter Beer Face" ad campaign from a few years ago? Well, we all had Bitter Moxie Face, which is even worse. (Alas, I have no pictures, as I hadn't thought to bring a camera with me. Then again, even if I had, I probably wouldn't have had the presence of mind to take pictures whilst in the grip of Moxie's evil.) The soda – this evil, evil soda – was immediately and unanimously declared the vilest concoction any of us had ever tasted, rivaling even cold coffee or tamarind-flavored Kool-Aid (yes, such a product does exist, god help us all) for sheer awfulness. Even the legendarily nasty Shasta Chocolate Soda can never hope to match the sheer evil that is Moxie. Next to Moxie, Shasta Chocolate is merely "quasi-evil, the Diet Coke of evil, just one calorie, not quite evil enough."
The worst thing about Moxie is that it doesn't have the decency to actually hit you with the full force of its awfulness right away. Rather, it lies in wait just long enough for you to think "hey, this isn't that bad", then it suddenly jumps up and sucker-punches you in the taste buds once your guard is down. Supposedly, Moxie's taste comes from wintergreen and gentian-root extracts, a combination that results in a flavor that's vaguely reminiscent both of a half-flat root beer, and of a marshmallow marinated in soy sauce. And yet, the marshmallow-soy sauce-root beer flavor is strangely tolerable, at least during the initial sipping process. However, the second you stop sipping, it hits you with this godawful aftertaste that is absolutely, indescribably hideous. If you brewed a pot of coffee using a particularly cheap "Chock Full O' Low-Grade Robusta Beans" brand (coughcough
FOLGER'S coughcough), mixed it with a few handfuls of greasy ashes that've been sitting in the bottom of your charcoal grill since your last 4th of July barbecue, then spiked it with a shot or two of NyQuil... actually, that would probably still be less revolting than the nastiness Moxie leaves behind.
Fortunately, Matt McCullar had brought along some Mexican Coca-Cola to share with the group, which we all descended upon like Max Von Sydow going for the holy water after Linda Blair's head starts spinning around. (These Holy Grails of True Coca-Cola, made with real cane sugar and bottled in glass, can be found in grocery stores and convenience marts all over Texas, which is yet another reason why our great state is better than yours. ) Fortified with paper-cup chalices bearing the Most Sacred of Colas, the Curse of Moxie was quickly dispelled.
Incredibly, and somewhat disturbingly, Moxie actually seems to have a devoted following, particularly in the northeastern U.S. There are even some who praise its "unique flavor" – voluntarily, even! – particularly in Maine where, I'm led to understand, there's a core group of devotees lobbying to get it declared the official state soft drink. As far as I'm concerned, they can have the stuff.