Tag Archives: drinking culture

“Spodies”: Social Drinking Tradition for Seattle Teenagers

Text:

WD: “Spodies are, in Seattle and maybe other places, but they are social events, generally they happen on Fridays, Saturdays. Basically, a bunch of high schoolers go to public parks—there’s a bunch of spots that each have code names, so one is called ‘The Rock,’ one is called, ‘Woodlands,’ some of them are the names of the park, but some of them are other things. You fill a big container with alcohol and also juices and stuff, so it’s like a punch bowl. You do that, not every weekend, but a lot of weekends, high schoolers just go and get drunk in these parks, but the thing is that the police come literally every time because they know exactly where the spots are. So, the events only last for, like, two hours and then you have to run off into the park.”

Context:

The informant is a 20-year-old college student from Seattle, Washington. He never attended a “spodie,” but described it as a common, well-known tradition among teenagers in the Seattle Metropolitan area. While in some areas, the word “spodie” refers to the actual drink, among his peers it referred only to the event. WD never attended a spodie but knew that people at his high school—generally the “athletic students” and “cool kids”– attended them, so they do indicate social status. The prospect of being chased by the police is part of the event’s appeal, he said, as rebelling against authorities appeals to teenagers. The risk of getting caught and punished is thrilling to young people. 

Analysis:

I think that spodies, like keg parties or more common teenage gatherings centered around drinking, reflect social status. One’s attendance signifies a kind of insider status, as a person must have the social ties to know that the party is occurring and also know the meanings of the locations’ code names. The punchbowl of miscellaneous alcohols and juices is also distinctly teenaged. Since teenagers cannot legally buy alcohol and probably cannot afford to provide it for an entire party, they make a convivial ritual out of individuals mixing whatever they can find. Spodies therefore give young people not only the chance to get drunk, but also provide an opportunity for social bonding.

            I would argue that spodies also appeal to young people because they allow them to participate in a longstanding tradition of rebellion that is unique to Seattle. Spodies allow the consolidation of a community of Seattle teenagers, many of whom likely heard about spodies as children and excitedly anticipate becoming old enough to participate in them. They are appealing in their novelty. The events are therefore a kind of rite of passage as well, indicating one’s ascent into high school or teenage life. The expectation of getting caught also compels young people to participate in spodies, where they can experience the thrill of reckless rule breaking and evading punishment. Spodies being a group activity offers a layer of protection to individuals, a sense of solidarity between the attendees and of being invisible in the crowd. One can interpret running from the police in this group context as a form of group bonding and connecting with a regional tradition.

Fighter Pilot Bar Rules – An Air Force Tradition

Context:

The informant, GW, is my father. He was a fighter pilot in the United States Air Force during the late 1980s/early 1990s and participated in operation Desert Storm. I have heard him tell many stories from his time in the Air Force throughout my childhood, so I asked him to tell me some of his traditions to collect for my project. This was an informal interview in our household. This description followed a description for a specific fighter pilot bar game, Crud, which can be found in the archives under the title “Crud – A Fighter Pilot Bar Game”. 

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Main Text:

GW: “There’s rules inside the bar too, right? You can’t, so this is the before the age of cell phones, right? But if you, if your wife called to ask where you were, while you were in the squadron bar, that was a round for everybody. If you wore your hat in the bar that was a round for everybody. If you left your hat on the table that was a round for everybody. If you left your hat on the bar that was a round for everybody. If you rang the bell that was a round for everybody. All these rules were written of the wall of the bar, of any fighter bar that you’d walk into. And always the last rule in the rule set, because people would go ‘I don’t get it. How am I, why do I keep buying people drinks?’ And then you’d go ‘Well the rules are right there on the bar’ – of course you wouldn’t point cause that’s impolite, you’d use your elbow – you’d go ‘The rules are right there on the bar all you gotta do is be familiar with those.’ Well the last infraction is reading the rules in the bar is a beer for everybody.”

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Analysis:

The many rules of the bar serve to reinforce the fighter pilot culture that exists throughout every aspect of their lives. It serves as insider knowledge and a way to tell who the initiated are within a group at the bar. In a way, it is also an initiation ritual in itself, as the uninitiated would be brought to the bar and forced to buy many rounds for everyone else until they got the hang of the rules themselves.

Fighter Pilot Naming Ceremonies and Traditions

Context:

The informant, GW, is my father. He was a fighter pilot in the United States Air Force during the late 1980s/early 1990s and participated in operation Desert Storm. I have heard him tell many stories from his time in the Air Force throughout my childhood, so I asked him to tell me some of his traditions to collect for my project. This was an informal interview in our household. The interviewer is indicated as SW in the text.

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Main Text:

GW: “Another tradition in fighter squadrons, it’s been globalized to most of the squadrons in the air force now I guess, but um I think it really started as a fighter pilot tradition. I think, I don’t know. I don’t know what the original etymology of the naming services, naming ceremonies was but um, when you show up at a new squadron, and each squadron had their own traditions. I was in the 335th Chiefs, was our squadron. And when you show up in the Chiefs, um all of the initiated, all of the guys that have been in the squadron and have been to, we’d have Chiefs parties about once a month. Um, the um, ya know obviously in the military there’s rank structure and whoever had the highest rank is the person in charge. Except for at Chiefs parties, where the longest tenured person in the squadron, so the guy who had been in the squadron the longest, was the Old Great Chief. And he was in charge of the Chiefs parties. And it didn’t matter what rank he was.”

SW: “Yeah, cause you could very obviously have someone who’s been in the squadron longer who is not the highest rank.”

GW: “Yeah, usually a captain was the Old Great Chief. And obviously the squadron was run by a lieutenant colonel, which is two ranks above a captain. So if the squadron commander was gonna come to the Chiefs party, which all Chiefs parties were totally optional you were just a complete wuss if you didn’t show up. Um, he, ya know, squadron commander didn’t have to come, we had squadron commanders that opted not to come, right? But if they came, for tonight you are the commander, ya know? The, uh the Chiefs parties, the Old Great Chief presided, and he had the council, which was the next four longest reigning members of the squadron, who were on the council. Um, the Old Great Chief was responsible ultimately for selecting the name of any new members of the tribe. He would take suggestions from the tribe, who would shout it all out, and then council would retreat into the teepee and meet about deciding what the name of this new chief was going to be and then they’d come out and announce it.”

SW: “Is there an actual teepee?”

GW: “Yeah, of course.”

SW: “I did not know this.”

GW: “Yeah, we had a teepee, and the Old Great Chiefs chair was a big chair that sat up about this high (indicating about three feet) because one of the rules is that no one can be higher than the Old Great Chief. So no one in the tribe can be higher than the Old Great Chief, so if the Old Great Chief drops something and bends down to pick it up, everybody else has to get down on the ground, right?”

SW: “What if you’re just tall?”

GW: “What if the Old Great Chief is not? Because AB was not! Now, at the front, when we’d had the Chiefs parties, this was out in the woods too, this was not anywhere near anywhere. We’d go out to the old great stomping grounds of the many Chiefs that had gone before us, the Old Great Chief would come out in feathered headdress, and the whole nine yards, right? Come out of the teepee, we’d, everybody would get there we’d socialize for a little bit, we’d talk about it, you know? Let the sun go down, um we’d have a big bonfire ready to go, right? And then, the teepee would be there and in front of the teepee was the Old Great Chief’s chair and then the council had two members on either side of the Old Great Chief, they would retreat to the teepee and get into their war paint and big headdress and everything and then they’d come out and beat the drum and, cause part of the, part of the council is you had, I don’t even remember what all of the uh, the uh roles on the council were, but the lowest ranking member on the council was the guy that beat the drum. So he was the drum bitch, so ‘Beat the drum, bitch!’, ya know? Boom boom boom boom boom boom boom. So, they would go into the teepee and get all their war paint on and everything. In front of where the council sat, there was the groveling pit, ok? So that would be a place where we dug up all of the, um stuff there, stirred up the dirt and then uh, hosed it all down. So it was a, it was a mud pit, right? In between the groveling pit and the um, uh council was a giant bowl of what we called wisdom, right? So the first thing that council did was come out, right? And because the unnamed Chiefs were not wise and not initiated they needed to grovel for wisdom at the feet of the council, right? You see how that works? Ok so, the unititated were boys, right? They were not fit to be chiefs yet. So all of the boys would be led in and would grovel at the feet of the council and lay in the mud and, uh, every time they did something or said something stupid, which was very often, they were sent to the grov – to the wisdom bowl, to gain more wisdom, right? Then, behind the grovel pit, would be all the rest of the chiefs, sitting in their chairs and, ya know, having a beverage and hanging out and having a good time. Well, as the council came out, the Old Great Chief would start off by, um, applying his war paint, and taking his wisdom from the Chiefs that had gone before. Which meant he had to kneel down to the bowl, to get his paint and to get his wisdom, right? So everybody else had to ‘oh my goodness’ get down this low so that nobody was higher than the Old Great Chief. And he would always look around, to see if anybody was higher, and then call them down to get more wisdom, right? So the boys are laying in the grovel pit, the Old Great Chief introduces the council, and then the Old Great Chief would introduce every member of the tribe. And then each member of the tribe as they’re called, would let out their war cry and then go get some wisdom. Well the unfortunate part is the only way to get to the wisdom was, the boys were between the tribe and the wisdom. So you usually had to step on, over, through, somersault on, whatever, the boys, to get to the wisdom. And once you got to the wisdom, you would take your wisdom, and the Old Great Chief would give you your war paint, and you’d get your feather for the night, and then you would go back and sit in your chair. Again, you had to trip over the boys on the way out. Make sure they felt loved. Which was great, until Chief Blundering Bison was called up, um because he was not a small man. He was a large mammal. And all the, when I was a boy, grovelling in the pit, and they called Chief Blundering Bison, who liked to do somersaults all the way down the grovel pit, um, the boy next to me was, his call sign was Necklace, his Chiefs name was uh, Chief Dripping Loincloth. Um, but, when he was a boy, he was a football player in college. I was about 140 pound soaking wet. So, when Chief Blundering Bison was called Necklace just put his arm around me and I’m like ‘Ok good. I’ll just hide here.’ We had, we told high ranking old guys not to show up to Chiefs parties unless they really meant it. We did break the ribs of a colonel one time when he was a boy, because we treated him – if you’re gonna show up you’re a boy, you get in the pit. We had to send him to the hospital. We tied uh, one of the boys was so unruly at one Chiefs party um, Russ Russon, Steve Russon. So his call sign was Russ. So every fighter squadron has call signs, right? And your call signs tend to kinda stick with you after a little bit. But you still get a chiefs name, even when you have a call sign. Anything else you wanna hear? Because I could probably go on forever.”

SW: “Who decided all of this, where did it come from? Does anybody know where it came from?” 

GW: “Where did Chiefs parties come from?”

SW: “Yeah.”

GW: “Um, so each squadron in the Air Force kind had its tradition for…”

SW: “I mean it seems like it’s a giant hazing ritual.”

GW: “Um… yeah I mean so in my F-15 training unit, which was the deadly jesters, that was done in the squadron bar, we didn’t go out in the woods for that, and it wasn’t quite as elaborate. But, ya know, the deal there is that in order to get your name you had to drink some swill and then eat a raw egg shell and all, and then you would get your name, ya know?”

SW: “Significantly less elaborate.”

GW: “Yeah, it was less elaborate, it was a lot noisier, ya know, but they were naming every class of F-15 guys that came through, right? Cause we’d never been named, right?”

SW: “And that’s probably more people to…”

GW: “Yeah, and it was, ya know we had 15 in my class, so, ya know, it would be, ya know you’d get there and hang out, you’d be part of the squadron for two or three or four weeks, by that time they’ve kind of gotten to know you. Because naming is all about um, giving you… like, like some of my friends like to say, ya know, um, your parents give you the name that’s on your birth certificate but your buddies give you your real name, the one that you earn, right? So you earn it by doing something of distinction, it could be either something really spectacular or really sepctaculalrly stupid. And, and usually it has a double entendre to it in some way, right? Sometimes it’s sexual innuendo, sometimes it’s a play or a pun, sometimes it’s the opposite of what you are, like one of my friends Fast A., Fast Frank, was not fast, ya know? So… ya know. So, how does it come about? It comes about because part of your job is to go to really strange places, live there by yourself, with 20-300 of your favorite male friends, and let other people shoot at you on occasion. So, you kinda tend to come up with things that are silly. Now, in 1992, I guess, which was the 50th anniversary of the formation of the 335th Chiefs, back before the Air Force existed when it was the Army Air Corps, and in 1942, the 335th was actually part of the RAF as the American volunteer forces in Britain before -”

SW: “So you were in like one of the oldest squadrons.”

GW: “Yeah. And when they, in 1992 the Air Force did a um, heritage study, of all of the squadrons in the United States Air Force, to see which ones had the most heritage and the best traditions, and the 335th Chiefs were the number one most historic squadron in the United States Air Force.”

SW: “Which is why you have such elaborate rituals for naming people. That involve a lot of… stomping on initiates.”

GW: “There’s also roof stomping, that’s completely different.”


GW: “So this is absolutely initiation and acceptance, building of esprit de corps. It is a common bond, it is, I mean, people walk in, and part of the fun is ‘what’s your Chiefs name?’ ‘Oh… Chief Dripping Loincloth…’ ‘Oh really, where’d you get that?’”

SW: “Yeah you’ve lucked out with names that aren’t really particularly bad. Doc doesn’t really have any story behind it.”

GW: “Well, the story behind that is that the guy, the OpsO, was, his call sign was Doc. And he liked me, and I was excelling, I mean this was in the F-15 class. I’d already graduated number one out of nav school. I’d graduated as the air-to-air and overall top gun out of F-15 school. So, and then my last name being Watson, he just called me Doctor Watson, so, ya know. As in Sherlock Holmes and.”

SW: “Yeah, no, I get that one all the time too. In fact [significant other] calls me Watson now too because of Sherlock.”

GW: “Yeah. So that’s where that one came from.”

SW: “And crooked beak is just a, you have a big nose.”

GW: “Yup. I mean, there were, so I think what was on the table was Crooked Beak and Texas Turtle.”

SW: “Why Texas Turtle?”

GW: “Because apparently they thought I was slow or lazy or something, ya know? Because mostly I’d be like ‘Eh, we don’t need to work that hard.’”

SW: “Yeah, that sounds about right.”

GW: “They didn’t really have much more than that on me. Cause mostly, I was the instigator, not the guy that was gonna get caught. Most of the time.”

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Analysis:

The tradition of naming ceremonies in the Air Force, as well as the names themselves, provide an in-depth look at many values and beliefs shared by members of the Air Force, and especially fighter pilot squadrons. The first, most obvious reason for their existence is to form a camaraderie within the squadron. By having elaborate initiation rituals that only insiders would know, and bestowing unique nicknames that can only be used by the initiated, the group forms a bond of exclusivity. 

This initiation ceremony also both honors and removes the liminal status of new members of the squadron. The “boys,” as they were called in GW’s squadron, can not be considered full members of the group until they have undergone this ritual. When squadrons are sent into combat, it is vital that all members can trust and rely on each other in all circumstances – their lives depend on it. The naming ceremony provides a way to quickly build this trust when you may not actually know someone very well before you are sent into battle with them.

The fact that naming ceremonies are presided over by the member that has been at the squadron the longest, rather than the person with the highest rank who is normally in charge, speaks to both their status as unofficial culture and the fact that they are rooted in the traditions of a specific squadron, not the Air Force as a whole. There appears to be an element of wanting to subvert authority and the usual power structures of day-to-day life, and have the common man take control of everyone for a night. GW’s repeated mention of the “Old Great Chief” and the fact that they made sure the squadron commander knew they were not in charge at the party highlights this fact. Not only is one of their own taking control from the normal authority, they are taking control of what is considered the most sacred practice within the squadron. In doing so, they are showing that as far as the men are concerned, they are really in charge of the important parts of the squadron, even if the commander is technically in charge.

The usage of traditionally Native American elements, while ostensibly an homage to the squadron’s name, the Chiefs, may also serve as a patriotic reminder that this is part of the United States Air Force, and their traditions are uniquely American. At the same time, they borrow from the most wild or “savage” interpretation of Native American culture. This might serve as a way to blow off steam and indulge the wild aspects of their nature that are otherwise strictly confined by Air Force regulations. It might also serve to reinforce their own self-image as warriors and great heroes before they are sent into battle. 

The names that are chosen themselves seem to be a way of recognizing and normalizing something that a member may not like about themselves or may have done wrong at some point. The names serve to poke fun at someone or act as a reminder of something stupid they did, but at the same time this practice actually normalizes that undiserable trait and makes it known that it is not something people are actually judging them for. By turning undesirable traits into a joke or badge of honor, it makes them less likely to be used to actually inflict harm. 

Captain Dickhead

We call it Captain Dickhead. I’ve also heard people call it King’s Cup, but we always call it Captain Dickhead.

So there’s one can in the middle, usually a beer can, but something with a tab is essential. And 52 cards are spread in a circle around. Continuous circle, cause the circle has to be connected at all points. and the way it goes, everyone sits in a circle around the can and each person takes a turn drawing a card and each card have specific meanings.

Ok so king is categories and the way that works is the person who drew the king will say a category like “dogs” or “types of beer’ and then they’ll say something like ‘labradoodles’ and everyone has in the circle has to say something that fits in to the category. So the first person that takes too long to repeats something thats already been said has to take a drink.

Queen is question master so if you pull a queen you put it down in front of you and then if you ask anyone else playing the game a question and they answer it as long as you have the queen they have to take a drink…BUT if they ask you a question and you answer it then you have to take a drink and you give them the queen. So the queen gets passed around until a new queen is drawn… once a new queen is drawn it gets stuck under the tab of the can, of the beer. So every card, once it gets played, get put under the tab and then whoever cracks the tab has to drink the whole beer or whatever you put in the middle, and then you just sub in the new one. Also, if you pull a card and it breaks the circle you have to drink.

So we do Jack as ‘social’, so for social everyone has to take a drink, it’s just like we all cheers and drink. 

10 is waterfall, so the way waterfall works is whoever drew the 10, they start drinking then everyone else in the group starts drinking at the same time. So once the person that drew the 10 stops drinking then the person to their left can stop drinking, and then once that stops the person to their left can stop and on and on.

So whoever’s to the right of you when you have the ten gets screwed over because they have to drink a bunch.

Nine is rhyme, you have to say a word like “butt” and then everyone goes around the circle and says a word that rhymes with the word and when someone can’t think of a rhyme or repeats something thats already been said and whoever loses then they have to drink.

Eight is date that means you pick someone else in the circle and say “youre gonna be my date” and then whenever they have to drink because of one of the other cards then you also have to drink and it goes both ways. So once

Seven is heaven, so basically when you draw a seven the first thing you have to do it is stick your hands up in the air, and then everyone else has to stick their hands up in the air as fast as possible and the last person to do it has to drink.

Six is dicks, so all the guys take a drink

Five is slap the table – the last person to slap the table has to drink

Four is whores, so all the women have to drink

Three is me, so whoever drew the card has to drink

Two is you, so you get to pick someone to drink

And then Ace means youre Captain Dickhead, thats the titular card. So when you draw an Ace you lick it and you stick it to your forehead, like you slap it up against your forehead and as long as the Ace stays stuck to youre forehead, youre God. You can break all the rules, like you can say “Hey James, take a drink” and he has to do it. If you have to drink and you don’t want to, you can just pass and not take a drink. The same goes for rhyme or any of the other games, you can pretty much just play however you want to play.

I learned it from some friends in Louisiana, and we usually play at parties and stuff but I’ve also seen a lot of variations since I went to college. Ive talked to a lot of people about it, and they usually don’t recognize it by the name but they recognize it once it starts playing.

I was probably 15 or 16 when I first learned it, we usually play it at parties and stuff when we’re trying to get drunk because it makes you drink a lot. Its a heavily….heavily…yeah it makes you drink a ton. So usually like small groups no more than 8, usually with 8 or less we’ll play it and…yeah. It’s great. We like to just do it to get drunk and its something to do ya know, something to pass the time.”

This card game has a number of variations, and seems to change depending on the group playing it.

So-Maek

Main Piece:

Original script: 소맥

Phonetic (Roman) script: somaek

Transliteration: (Acronym) Soju and Maekju

Full Translation: Soju and Beer

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the interviewer and the informant.

Informant: Koreans love drinking and there are a bunch of drinking games and traditions, but I think the most commonly known one is So-Maek. It’s basically a cocktail, and you make it by mixing soju and beer. Koreans love drinking so-maek because it’s more delicious than drinking either of them by itself, and it gets you drunk quicker for some reason.

Interviewer: Can you describe how you make this cocktail?

Informant: So basically the ratio of soju to beer is 3:7, that’s kinda the golden ratio. Since soju is much stronger than beer, the more you want to get wasted, the more soju you put and so on. A popular way of mixing this drink is you make a row of beer glasses, and place a row of soju shots on top of these beer glasses. You tap on the soju shot, then it has this domino effect and al the soju shots fall right into the beer glasses.

Interviewer: Are there any other variations of this so-maek recipe?

Informant: Another famous one is mixing called so-maek-col, which is basically so-maek with Coca Cola. Or, mixing soju with Yakult (yogurt beverage) is good too.

Background:

My informant is a college student (21 years old) living in Seoul, Korea. Seoul is famous for its nightlife, and with her age, my informant is particularly well versed in drinking culture, as well as being an active participant in it. Another important part of Korean drinking culture is that it’s something you learn from the elders, whether that be your parents or older friends. My informant told me that she learned how to make so-maek from a classmate who was older than her.

Context:

The conversation took place over the phone, while it was 12:30 am (PST) for myself and 4:30 pm (KST). The informant was at her dorm room, no other person was present in her room during the talk.

My thoughts:

Soju has become quite popular in the United States over the past decade, it’s not hard to find this alcoholic beverage at bars or restaurants. Like any ethnic culinary traditions, soju and soju cocktails are becoming a trend for a lot of non-Koreans, with more non-Korean establishments selling these recipes. While I think globalization of a culture is beautiful – the fact that everyone around the world can share this great cocktail recipe is exciting- but at the same time I can’t help myself but to think about the dangers of cultural appropriation- price influx and lack of credit to original owners.