When you leave Detroit, you have it in your mind what your “new hometown” will be like.
How’s the weather? Unbearably hot and humid for three months, but otherwise nice.
Is the traffic worse than 696 and the Lodge? Only if you have somewhere you need to get.
Are there people my age? Yes!
What you don’t think about is how frequently you’re going to be reminded of home. Occasional homesickness? Sure, but that will pass. In a few years, you think, you will forget about ever living in Michigan and become a “native” of your new hometown.
Atlanta is different.
There is no way to get away from Detroit.
You expect, when living in Chicago, to see Michigan and Michigan State gear. You don’t expect to see Tigers hats in Atlanta. Yet, we’re here.
There are at least seven classmates from the North Farmington High School (Go Raiders!) Class of ’97 in Atlanta. Seven. I see a few often, most of them rarely. Which is a bummer, but life happens.
There is a rite of passage when you meet your first Detroit Ex-pat.
You ask where to get Faygo.
I did it when I moved here, and I’ve directed countless other transplants to the random Package Stores (the Atlanta name for Party Store; weird, right?) where they can get a bottle of Red Pop. My local Rock N’ Rye source is the Buford Highway International Farmers Market. They have six shelves of the stuff.
Side note: If you’re in Atlanta and are inclined to be amazed by ridiculous grocery stores, check out the Buford Highway International Farmers Market. Anthony Bourdain quipped that it “makes no sense at all in the best way possible.” It is one half Supermercado, one half H-Mart, one half Russian market, and it has the largest and weirdest produce you can imagine. You can get a whole fish cut up in any way you can imagine just 30 feet from the person making corn tortillas by hand. The place is insane and I love it.
Back to Faygo.
Does anyone really drink it?
I mean, I know that it’s a Detroit thing, and, along with medicinal Vernors and delicious Bumpy Cake, it’s something that we associate as Detroit Food.
But do you know anyone who keeps Faygo in their house? And drinks it? Regularly?
No knock on it, but I don’t think that I ever opened a friend’s fridge and saw a can or two-liter of Moon Mist waiting to quench a lunar thirst.
There are only three occasions where I saw people drinking Faygo.
1. Birthday parties. Who doesn’t remember eating pizza and being sugared-up with Grape Pop and frosting and running into the parking lot of the Metropark while your mom (or someone else’s mom) chased you yelling to “stop, you little…”? Just me?
2. Baseball team banquet. Again, held at either a local park or in someone’s backyard. It’s almost as if people didn’t want Faygo in their house for fear of the harm it may cause. My mom once showed us where some Red Pop had spilled on the driveway the day before. It was still bright red. “See that?” she said. “It stained the driveway, and it will stain your insides.” That became her rationale for saying “no” when we nagged her to buy Faygo.
3. Meeting of Juggalos. I am not now nor have I ever been a practicing Juggalo, so I will leave this convention of “pop” culture to the social scientists and prosecutors.
So, what is the point of this diatribe on this staple of Southeast Michigan from a stalwart supporter?
It is that sometimes commiserating with the Lions fan you met in the parking lot of the Buford Highway International Farmers Market isn’t enough to stop the ache.
Sometimes having coworkers who grew up within an hour of your parents’ house isn’t enough to give you the connection that you’re looking for.
Sometimes you want — need — a taste of home.
Even a taste you never really had when you were there.
I’ll share a secret with you. If I am at the store and I see a bottle of Red Pop, I buy it.
I bring it home and leave it in the fridge overnight so that it will be super cold and delicious. I take it outside to my deck and pour it into a glass and slowly drink it.
It’s a moment for me to reflect on where I’m from and where I am going.
When my 7-year-old comes out and asks me for a taste, I turn and I look him in the eyes.
“No. It will stain your insides.”
Ben Salba lives in suburban Atlanta. He has a wife (still). He has two kids who are dying to taste Faygo. His favorite flavors are Red Pop and Rock N’Rye. His insides are already red, so his mom’s argument never worked on him. He does not know why she thought it would. She took that secret to her grave.