PATRICK MCVAY

WRITER

My Musings

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Walk This Way

Several years back, I got wind of a free scotch tasting event that the Johnny Walker people were putting together in the South End of Boston. Details were sketchy, but really, what does a guy need to know beyond that there’s scotch and you don’t have to pay for it? I’ve been around the block a few times and was fully aware that I wasn’t going to be handed a bottle of Johnny Walker’s nice Black Label whiskey to share with my friend, but I still imagined it would be a pleasant, intimate scene, with important people sipping scotch beside wood-burning fires and chatting about current affairs or art, important people who would somehow mistake me and my buddy for important people.

This wasn’t anything like that. It was much more of a spectacle, with hundreds of individuals tightly packed into rows of chairs and subjected to flashing lights, loud music, and an unbearable emcee running from offstage into the round, a microphone clipped to his lapel so he could shout at us in a motivational way. The idea was to pump us up while steeping our brains in the latest Johnny Walker buzzwords. I really don’t need much motivation to drink scotch; it turns out I’m a natural at it. But Johnny Walker’s marketing people still wanted to get into my head so that I’d go off with a free Johnny Walker logo pinned to my lapel and make converts of others.

I’d totally forgotten about that lost night, during which my friend and I drank very little scotch, until the baseball playoffs started and some very wierd Johnny Walker ads started appearing. In these commercials, we’re shown repeated images of a man at various moments in his complicated but increasingly important life, the final one being a shot of him walking toward a small plane, looking back over his shoulder as the tagline “Keep Walking” fades in.

We TV viewers are meant to ask ourselves, “What new adventure is this successful scotch drinker off to while I sit here on my couch, drinking beer and watching baseball?” One can only hope he finds himself, at the end of his journey, herded into a large room with others and forced to endure an overbearing emcee talk about scotch, while he gets to drink but a thimbleful for his trouble.

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