54 has always seemed to me a somehow oddly significant number. It’s not my favourite multiple of nine by any means (it has a good run with 27, 36, and 45, and 72 is pretty nice, but I’ve always been iffy on 81, 18, and 54), but still, they all have some force, and… what are its other associations?
Well, there’s Studio 54, for one. I wasn’t in New York for the glam disco club’s heyday, and I would have been too young (and poor and unknown) to go if I had been, but even in distant Alberta I heard of it. And anyway, I have been there – when it was back to the building’s original role as a theatre. Aina and I saw Cabaret there with Brooke Shields. (I can’t remember now how we managed to get tickets when we were in town, but I’m sure it had to do with dedication to the task on Aina’s part.)
There’s also the Canadian band 54•40, who came out with (among many others) the song “Walk in Line.” They’re named after the slogan “Fifty-four forty or fight!” from the Oregon boundary dispute of the 1840s, when some Americans wanted to push the US border west of the Rockies up to 54°40′north – which, if you don’t know, is just north of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, and just below the very southern tip of the panhandle of Alaska (which was owned by Russia at the time); it’s also a bit farther north than Edmonton, Alberta.
And then there’s this bottle that I’ve seen in liquor stores for I don’t know how many years, though not as often recently.
Stroh’s “54” spiced rum. So named because it’s 54% alcohol. I had never had it, but I decided, since I am now reaching 54 years of age, that I would buy it and see how it is. I looked on the Liquor Control Board of Ontario app and discovered that there was only one bottle for sale in the whole of downtown Toronto. I went to the store that was supposed to have it, and no one had bought it yet. I scanned the run section and found the bottle on the shelf, sitting there, just waiting for me; it looked lonely and hopeful. I brought it up to the cash, and the woman who rang it through informed me, as I put it in my bag, that they weren’t going to be ordering any more of it in that store.
Well. Just in time, I guess. I will decide that it was meant to be. I, too, will not be 54 any more after this one time. And it remains to be seen whether the bottle will last longer than my current age.
By the way, it tastes exactly as I expected (which is like most other spiced rums, but with a bit more alcohol). On the other hand, being 54 years old is weird so far. It feels normal, but my whole life I’d heard it was old. Oh well – clearly that’s not true.