On a Friday night not too long ago, I decided to make mixed drinks for myself and my lovely German wife. I call these drinks ‘Maschsee Mai Tais.’ They consist of a few ounces of rotgut vodka, an equal amount of bitter lemon mixer, a splash of tropical vitamin juice and a whole mess of fish-shaped ice cubes. (Funny ice cubes are the most important part, because smiles are in short supply after you’ve pickled your liver.)
Without a single thought, I left our apartment and went to our local grocery store. There, I grabbed a bottle of vodka (or ‘Tears of the Russians,’ as I like to call it), went to the check out counter and paid for it. I took one step outside the store and realized I’d forgotten my grocery bag; I had absolutely no way of carrying or concealing my new purchase. Oh sure, I could have strolled home with a 5th of hooch clenched in my fist, but I find something unsettling about the people around me knowing exactly what I intend to do with my Friday night. “What are you all staring at? This is for cooking — I’m making a spicy vodka sauce over angel hair pasta. YOU’RE NOT BETTER THAN ME!”
Now, I was wearing a stretchy blue pullover at the time, so I glanced down at myself and that’s when genius struck: I jammed the bottle up my sleeve, cradling the base in my hand, and stuffed my hands in my pockets. Like an illusion of perspective painted by the Renaissance masters, the bottle was entirely concealed, and I finally had validation for those 4 years I spent in art school.
Below is a recreation of the subterfuge. Click one of the images to begin the slideshow.
I made it all the way back to our apartment building, but I encountered a problem I had not anticipated: one of the people who live in our building — a tiny Polish woman — had forgotten her keys and was waiting out front to be let inside. She recognized me and asked if I could open the door for her.
Now, my keys were in the right pocket of my pullover, sitting directly beneath the bottle in my hand. Trying to reach them with my left hand would have been physically impossible (though hilarious to witness). I panicked and looked at the woman for a moment, then proceeded to withdraw the bottle from my sleeve like an almighty bastard sword. Like King Arthur pulling Excalibur from the stone. Everything seemed to move in slow motion: the woman’s eyes dropping down to the emerging bottle; her pupils dilating as she realized what she was seeing; followed by the ambiguous smile and world-weary nod of a woman who has just decided I hid this bottle up my sleeve because I stole it.
I transferred the bottle to my other hand, raised the keys and unlocked the door. The woman mumbled some words of gratitude, but I did not hear them; I was already halfway up the staircase with my baseball cap pulled low over my eyes, shouting for the entire building to hear:
“I’M MAKING SEARED SCALLOPS WITH LEMON AND TARRAGON IN A LIGHT VODKA SAUCE! IT’S A ROMANTIC DINNER FOR MY WIFE — ROMANTIC AS HELL, YOU SONS OF BITCHES!”
Click here to learn more about the term “Culture Shock.”
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