Small Obsessions…

I love bottle caps.

There’s something so alluring about them. They’re like little metal gems. So varied, and often so artistic. I don’t think any two collections could be exactly alike. Some people collect paintings. I would, if I had the money, I guess. I’ll always collect bottle caps. Somewhere out there, a graphic artist put her or his time and brainpower into designing that cap. I appreciate that. We spend a lot of our time surrounded by art that we don’t even think about. Some people downplay it because it’s commercial art, intended to visually buttonhole us and ultimately weasel us out of our hard-earned dollars. I don’t think that’s completely fair.

It’s one thing if you bought the drink with the cap, but when you find one out on the street or in the grass, or best yet, someplace completely unexpected, then you start thinking about the story behind it. Where’d it come from? Who threw it away? Every bottle cap, whether you bought it or not, has a story, as hokey as that sounds.

I considered collecting them seriously once when I was ten or so. Maybe younger, maybe older, I honestly don’t remember how old I was. I had a gigantic brown shoebox in the hall closet filled with maybe thirty or forty old beer caps from brands my father drank. My father has always been an adventurous beer aficionado— every so often he likes trying small breweries for interesting flavors.

Most of the caps I collected were typical, ubiquitous brands you can find at the grocery store—Heineken, Miller, Michelob. Dad rarely had American beer, though. He never did, and still doesn’t buy Budweiser—can’t stand the stuff, ha. Yeah, there were a lot of typical caps there, but a few of them were real finds—stuff from tiny labels my dad purchased on a whim and would probably never try again.

One evening I looked inside the closet and opened up the shoebox only to find it empty. I scurried into the living room and called out into the house at no one in particular. “What happened to all the caps in that shoebox?”

“I threw them away,” Dad said.

I don’t remember exactly what he said after that, but he basically implied that I was being silly for keeping random crap in a shoebox in the hall closet. Yeah. That one still hurts a little, actually. Parents just don’t understand.

Now I’m older and I can collect caps without anyone threatening to throw away my precious cache. Still a little wary of being called silly, I generally keep my collecting to myself. This year, I decided to start collecting seriously again.

I was inspired by a family trip to Nigeria. I’ve never seen soda in a can in Nigeria. Coke, Pepsi, Sprite, Fanta, malts*—all of them in glass bottles, with metal tops. The metal tops are interesting, because they’re made right there in Nigeria by the local bottling company, under the authority of the Coca Cola Company. The local bottling company also makes caps for British beverage company Schweppes. I have several caps from bottles of Schweppes Bitter Lemon, which tastes exactly like its name implies. There’s a stamp all around the edge of the caps that states this, thus making these caps unique to Nigeria and possibly the only place in the world you can find them, even if some of the designs themselves might be found elsewhere.

In Nigeria, I very discreetly took the caps from all the beverages I was politely offered. I felt pretty slick actually, ha. Luckily for me, most of the people who offered drinks actually opened them in front of me and left the cap on the table. And amazingly, they didn’t warp the caps beyond recognition.

*I mentioned malts. Malts, or maltas, are beer-like but non-alcoholic beverages. And they. Are friggin’. Crack.

At first I didn’t like the stuff—the first brand I had tasted like a combination of chilled soy sauce and dissolved malted milk balls (I assure you, not every brand of malt tastes like that, and even that brand has redeemed itself in my book). But wow, did these things grow on me. As far as I know they’re not popular in the states, but they’re consumed a lot in West Africa, Latin America, and some island nations. I’m finding that a lot of these brands are imported from places like Denmark, too, and I know Guinness makes a variety of malt, so I guess you can find them in Europe, too. We buy ours from ethnic markets, considering the fact that we’re, well, “ethnic”.

This is the most badass malt I’ve ever seen. First of all, it’s one of the biggest bottles of malt I’ve ever seen. That’s a lot of tasty beverage, right there. Secondly, it’s imported from Barbados. How awesome is that? I may never visit Barbados… but I’ve got one of their malts. Thirdly and coolest of all, it’s got a friggin’ tiger on it. A tiger! And check out the cap! Now that’s a purdy addition to the collection. I’d been holding out on drinking it just to take these pictures.

It’s kind of funny, because I never really stopped collecting crown caps. Over the last twelve years, if I found a really cool cap, I’d keep the darn thing. Sometimes I’d lose it, because I didn’t really have an organized place to put them, but I’d try to keep it. In fact, I have a little box of treasures. It’s a colorful tin box from Sanrio I’ve had since the third grade. Inside of it I have what’s left of a marble collection, hand-written original drafts and omitted scenes from my past fiction works, old holographic Pokemon stickers from their heyday, iron pyrite… stuff like that. Treasures.

When restarting my collection, I looked all over my bedroom for caps I might have stowed away. And what do you know? I found three in that special box. I was amazed at their age– the oldest of the three I traced back to the year 2000. Yeah– I’d had it for nearly a decade.

Well, in the mean time, I’ll keep hunting, and if I find anything particularly striking, I’ll be sure to share it here.

P.S. – Obviously, I’ve solved the iPhoto problem! Sweet!


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