The Things I Drank From

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a misty remembrance

Stemware was standard, of course. I preferred wine glasses with a certain heft, a solidness. Most of mine were clear, but I once bought a violet blue glass I liked, and should have loved, but never did. At a Renaissance fair in the 80s, I bought one made from pottery, thrown on a wheel, glazed in earth tones. There’s a picture of me, circle of silk flowers balanced on my head, sipping wine while watching a jousting reenactment, which is such a good metaphor for my drinking that I can probably quit right now trying to write anything better. Just before I got sober, my wife and I bought a pair of stemless wine glasses. If a highball glass and a wine glass had a child, it would be this lovely thing. Thick, heavy bottom, delicate sides with a perfect, soap-bubble curve. Sometimes I drink lime seltzer from them now, and I’m here to testify that it’s a goddamned waste of a gorgeous glass.

On a trip to New Orleans a hundred years ago, I bought two mass-produced highball glasses with the Tobasco logo on them, and cocooned them in bundles of packing tape and bubble wrap for the flight home. They were the perfect vessel for vodka tonics with lime, a discovery I blame my on former in-laws because there’s no way this whole mess was my own fault. When we used to visit these in-laws, vodka tonics were in hand at 4 pm on the button, and I’m pretty sure we switched to wine at 6:30, but the memory gets fuzzy around 6:15. (My former in-laws were members of the elite group who could drink me under the table, and I have nothing but mad respect for them.) A few weeks ago, my teenage son dropped and broke one of my Tobasco glasses while unloading the dishwasher. It was an accident, and he was unloading the dishwasher, so I cheerfully swept up the pieces, but a few small pieces of my heart were among the shards that slid from dustpan to trash. Goodbye, perfect cocktail glass. Godspeed.

Hand-blown Mexican glass tumblers with cobalt rims were gifted to me, along with a matching pitcher, as a gift from my brother and his wife. I believe they came in a basket with a bucket of margarita mix, rim salt, and a bottle of Cuervo Gold. The fat rims of those glasses were challenging to salt, but you can be sure I managed. After I realized that tumblers hold much larger margaritas than the weird, flat-bowl-on-a-stem glasses used in Mexican restaurants, I further realized that I could get tequila-drunk much faster at home. (Pro-tip: it’s even faster still if you’re alone. Bonus points if you ditch the tumbler and go all the way to Mason jar, though that rim is awkward to salt.)

An embarrassing number of the glasses my family members bring to the dinner table are pint glasses with brewery logos on them, but they deliver milk, orange juice, or water to one’s face just as efficiently as they ever delivered beer, and what are we supposed to do? Throw them out? What are we, made of money? (I know, I KNOW. Don’t call the justification police. Progress not perfection and other slogans apply. Move along, please.)

I’m required by the laws of my people to pay tribute (even if brief) to the red, plastic Solo cup, where so many of us launched long, illustrious drinking careers. Solo cup, I salute thee.

By the end, (and this truly is a diagnostic criteria of the end) I wanted most of my booze in a coffee cup. Most readers will immediately understand why, but for those of you who somehow don’t have a substance use disorder, let me explain. The best drinking glasses meet the following criteria: (a) a casual observer has no way of knowing what’s inside; (b) a casual observer has no way of knowing how full or empty the vessel is; (c) a less-casual observer can’t tell if the drinker has, say, sneaked off and refilled that thing again despite promising that three refills ago was the last one; and most importantly (d) the drinker can more easily avoid confronting their problem because the association between cup A and substance B is less clear. Could be coffee. Could be hot cocoa with mini marshmallows. Could be straight Absolut. Could be any combination of the above. By the fourth one, who cares?

Crystal. Ceramics. Mass-produced glass. Lovingly hand-shaped clay. The job of the things we drink from is always the same: to deliver liquid from bottle to face without incident. It should be a practical relationship, like that which we enjoy with our forks, but it isn’t. A few months ago, in a Marie-Kondo-esque effort to de-clutter our house, my wife and I plucked the pieces of stemware from the cabinet, wrapped them in newspaper, and put them in the Goodwill box, leaving only the violet blue glass that I should have loved but still don’t. I’m not going to say that I wept openly for an hour afterwards, but I won’t insist I didn’t either. The glasses had long ago ceased to spark joy, but I mourn them anyway for what they would have meant had I turned out to be some other person. All I can do is shrug and find other things to carry.

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