“What does one do when a column is due and inspiration fails to strike?” I asked myself one recent sweltering afternoon.

Why not make a cocktail to get the creative juices flowing? Writers are known to be a rather soused bunch. Yet, Straight Up is a feature about drinks and drinking, so killing writer\\’s block should be as simple as deciding what or where to imbibe. But if you can\\’t decide what to drink, what can you do?

One of the realities of my job is the fact that I constantly receive mail, phone calls, faxes and emails pitching stories about people, events, services and products. Apparently, everyone has the best, most amazing, biggest, most compelling story to tell.

Then of course there’s the offers of free swag (anyone want a book of supernatural erotica?). Ethically, there’s little a journalist can do with the freebies offered by publicists to entice us to write stories. Certainly, we’ll get comped for shows and concerts so we can write reviews on our reporters’ salaries, but it’s tricky business when we’re offered gifts ($25 is generally the max value we’ll accept).

But some of the token gestures arrive at the perfect moment (or at least offer a convenient device for a column).

Thank you, therefore, to the Macerich Co. The owners of Ventura’s Pacific View Mall took a creative approach to announcing the upcoming Lemon Fest, to be held at Pacific View Sept. 8 and 9. Included in a mailing we received last week was a cute pouch of powdered lemonade. Its presentation was so decorative that I’d like to believe it wasn’t just a repackaged pile of Country Time but the dried juices of ancient trees hidden in one of the mall’s stockrooms.

For those who aren’t aware, before Pacific View was built (under its original Buenaventura Mall title), the land beneath it was planted with lemon trees, as was the nearby neighborhood south of Main St. known as Lemon Grove, and much of Ventura. Of course asphalt, concrete and Gap Khakis are apparently more interesting to the average Venturan than the tart citrus, so those orchards are more a quaint memory better served for packing label posters.

That doesn’t stop Macerich from celebrating the lemon, however, with a festival “celebrating Pacific View’s and our county’s history.” The free event will feature plenty of events and lemon-themed contests, and the mall has secured the attendance of many top local restaurants offering their own lemon-inspired recipes.

Thus, in honor of the spiking of Ventura’s heritage with corporate commercialism, I offer my own twist on the wholesome lemonade. Admittedly, spiked lemonades are nothing new, but the beauty of the Corrupted Journalist isn’t in its originality, but in its rushed state.

To make your own just do the following: pour out whatever’s left of your powdered lemonade mix into a pitcher. Mix in a little less water than the package says you should. Take those last few shots of vodka from the freezer and add them to the mix. Taste. If not flavorful enough, find about two cups of pineapple juice and mix it in. If you’ve killed the tartness of the lemonade, which you likely have, stir in some lemon and lime juice. Then, if you’re still not satisfied, add a little tequila. Taste. Do what you need to do to it until you like the taste. Pour into a cocktail glass and enjoy.

Then start writing.