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DAN'S PAPERS, November 20, 2009 Page 26


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broken. The waiter left. Tasting it brought to my lips not the bouquet of toast or bananas or tulips or cherries or any of the other things that good water and wine critics report on glowingly when they describe the latest beverage. It brought to mind my immigrant grandparents. Both sets of them, settling near one another in Brooklyn from the old country, used to serve sparkling water with meals. They made the sparkling water themselves. They each owned these thick glass seltzer bottles that had elaborate metal tops you could screw off. The tops had a trigger at one end and a spigot at the other. It also had a place where you could screw in a CO2 cartridge, a metal cylinder about the size of your thumb that had compressed gas inside. When you screwed it in, it hissed and carbonated the water in the bottle, and that was that. These cartridges also were re-usable. Down at the store they had a way of re-compressing the gas into them from a metal barrel of the stuff. As I recall, the cost was a penny to recharge 10 cartridges. There was a phrase then that referred to this business that’s still in use today. It was and is “two cents plain.” “Two cents plain” was what it cost to get a glass of this stuff at a luncheonette. It was also called seltzer. It is still called seltzer. I was so sure that I was drinking “two cents plain” that I looked at this very chic liter bottle of the stuff that had been left on our table. On the side was the usual business of how good it tasted. Also NOT on the side was the usual ridiculousness about the product having 0 calories, 0 calcium, 0 iron, 0 Vitamin D and so forth

and so on. It just wasn’t there. Then there was this note on it that read how, through this very special hocus pocus, the beverage was being brought to the table without having been transported across the sea from somewhere else. It saved the environment. It was from the local, pure water, and was specially treated with this elaborate process to make it such a bubblingly wonderful experience. In other words, they made it in the kitchen with CO2 cartridges and seltzer bottles, which I might add is the environmentally right and proper way to make sparkling water, and better than paying all that freighter cost to bring it across the ocean from halfway around the world. So far, so good. Then I thought of something else. Tap water, always served filtered in fine restaurants with ice, is free. The bread and butter is free. A bottle of Pellegrino from the Italian Alps is six bucks. I called over the waiter. “How much is this sparkling water?” I asked. “Four bucks,” he said. He then launched into the wonderful way they had thought up to save the environment, and how in addition to everything else, I had just saved two bucks. Then he left. I had mixed feelings about my beverage after that. On the one hand, I didn’t like the designer glass bottle that seemed to try to pretend it was some grand water from a foreign land. On the other hand, I was saving the planet. Then on the third hand, it cost four bucks. Then on the fourth hand, a can of Canada Dry Seltzer costs exactly the same as a can of Coca-Cola at the deli. That kind of tipped the thing. I vote for

saving the planet. Two weeks later, at another restaurant, I discovered they were doing the same thing. This is a new trend and I’m all for it. Four dollars be damned. This morning I heard on the radio that at the San Francisco Airport, they have just installed a kiosk where you can buy carbon credits. It makes up for the pollution your flight emits into the stratosphere. You punch in your departure and destination, the kiosk makes some calculations and says that it will swipe your credit card for an amount, which will be between $1 and $60, depending on whether you are flying the short distance to Los Angeles or the longer distance to Singapore. If you swipe your card, apparently, the idea is you have the right to fly guilt-free. You’ve done your penance. Or have you? Turns out, the money they charge (a fine? a ransom?) goes first to pay for the kiosk and the company that installed it, and then after that to benefit a particular forest in northern California that The Nature Conservatory owns. There, I suppose, the money can be spent on one more forest ranger or on some fertilizer for the tall trees or I don’t know what. In any case, the plane still flies overhead leaving a trail of carbon emissions that pollute the skies and create the global warming that is destroying life on earth as we know it. I guess it’s something, paying this guilt money. Now if we can only get them to serve Two Cents Plain to all the happy campers up there in economy and first class, the earth will be saved. Right?

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Dan's Papers Nov. 20, 2009  

Dan's Papers, the 51-year-old bible of the Hamptons, is owned by Manhattan Media, a multi-media publishing company based in New York City,...