Tom's Corner

Tom Irons © 2013

Shot Glasses Memories:
My $900 Shot Glass

By Tom Irons

Sam's Gift

       That I appreciate good whiskey has never been a secret— be it Kentucky bourbon, Tennessee sour mash, Irish or Scotch, Canadian or Thai, blended, single barrel or double, oak or cherry aged, I’ve tried and enjoyed them all. Early in my sipping career I discovered that good whiskey is better if it is not mixed with anything other than ice. In my latter years I’ve moved away from ice (except when drinking the cheaper or poorer quality whiskey) and started employing the small group of shot glasses I’ve collected over the ensuing years.

       My Singapore glass is named for its city of origin. Made of pewter and bearing an etching of a sail boat I’ve always claimed that the one ounce-sized cup cost me $900 (in 1973 dollars). I saw it in the Singapore Hilton Hotel gift shop, bought it on the spur of the moment and told the clerk to charge my room for it.

       What a five day liberty that proved to be! The ship I was serving on had just departed ‘the line’: a Gulf of Tonkin deployment that provided me my third and final shipboard combat experience during the Vietnam ‘Conflict’. My cousin, Roger, also was serving on the ship and as we approached Singapore he and I discussed the potential ways to celebrate our liberty. We both had five days of freedom from having to report to the ship. We both felt the need to stretch our wings and enjoy some luxury, eat some truly good food and drink some great booze.

       After signing for a room at the Hilton’s reception desk and being escorted to that room by a bellboy, we each enjoyed a long luxurious shower, shifted into civilian clothes and headed for the main dining room. We ordered Snow Crab salads, prime rib of beef, caviar on toast, wine, and dessert. The food was served on china plates and saucers, the drinks came in crystal glasses and goblets and all was speedily delivered to our linen clad table by quiet waiters, wearing black pants, shoes, and coats over starched white shirts; pleasant and attentive in their demeanor toward a couple of small town sailors just a bit out of their element.

       The five days passed in a blur. I remember meeting and adopting a couple of fellow sailors, Kiwi’s, who had little money to spend but big hearts, a love of laughter, and a desire for adventure. Taxi bicycle racing from bar to bar we sealed a friendship made from camaraderie, mutual vocations, and a deep appreciation for demon rum. I recall bits of a 3 A.M. open air breakfast we shared consisting of eggs to order, fried potatoes, bacon, ham, and sausage, pancakes and coffee. And lots of laughter.

       Over the course of those five days we charged a lot of expenses to our room: food and booze the main items.

       In the morning of our last day of liberty Roger mentioned the need to go shopping. He wanted to buy gifts for his mother and sisters. I agreed to tag along and ended up buying the little shot glass.

       When the time to settle the room bill arrived we split the room, food, and booze charges down the middle and each paid for his own ‘extra’ items. My total charges came to $900 and a few errant pennies. All I had to show for those five days— that little pewter cup and some fine memories.

       I still have it, still use it, but only when I can tell its story and why it cost $900.

Homer, Alaska

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