I enter the liquor store and immediately see a small boy, maybe eight years old. This does not alarm me in and of itself, nor do I judge his parent(s) for bringing him there. I’ve dragged my kid into a liquor store before while out and about trying to conduct 12 errands at once, cuz hey, daddy needs his medicine. My neighborhood is about equal parts Irish and Polish, so kids in a liquor store = not a big deal, as long as they’re not indulging in samples, and at least 90 percent of the time they’re not.
What does catch my eye is the fact that the boy is enraptured by an elaborate display. It is a large box that looks like an old timey suitcase or a trumpet case, lid open. Inside, a life-size glass Kalashnikov, full of vodka. In the case’s extra space, 10 neatly arranged shot glasses, each sitting in its own little nook.
It looks a lot like the example you see here, except 100 times more opulent. Having lived the last decade-plus of my life in neighborhoods with sizable Eastern European populations, I am very familiar with the firearm-shaped vodka container. Still, this was by far the biggest one I’d ever seen. It even had a strap to sling over your shoulder, in case you decided to take it hiking. And the case it was in, a thing of beauty! It was lined in a faint green vinyl, the color of an old portable turntable. Its exquisite leather straps had shiny brass studs,and the lock was the kind you’d see on a steamer trunk. The inside: crushed red velvet.
And this boy is just staring at it, like Ralphie gaping lovingly through the department store window at his Red Ryder BB gun. I could understand why; hell, I wanted to take this thing home.
It reminded me of my first trip to New Orleans, making an obligatory trip down Bourbon Street, and seeing soused, beaded tourists stumbling down the block carrying enormous “grenades” full of booze, giant plastic containers topped off with a straw. Sometimes they were actually shaped like grenades, sometimes footballs. It struck me as a very childish thing, putting booze into what is essentially a sippy cup.
It also struck me as a very American thing to do. I love Thing A. I love Thing B. If I put them together to make Uber-Thing A-B, it can only be better! Hence, turducken and cheese-injected pretzels.
Of course, when I first saw a rifle-shaped glass vodka delivery system, I realized that maybe this is more of a universal impulse than I first suspected. Perhaps all of us, regardless of origin, want all the things we love in one place. It is, after all, a very infantile, pure-id imperative. How else to explain the sight of an eight year old, staring lovingly at an impeccable designed, marvelously appointed Kalashnikov filled with vodka?