Mixing Martinis, Grammar, the Past and the Future

Dry Martini

As Magritte might have said, this is not a martini. This is the future.

My parents offered me a sip of a martini when I was seven or eight years old. I recall recoiling in disgust from its sharp, medicinal tang: “How can you drink that? It’s terrible!” Yet a crisp, cold martini on a Friday at five now seems the ideal reward for a week’s labor.

It is always amusing to remember the heated declarations you make in earlier days—”When I get outta this house I’m never going to cut my hair, ever!—and to consider the cooling of those declarations when they’re set out for a stretch on time’s countertop. That’s why I had to laugh when I saw the term “Future in the Past” in a grammar book the other day. Let’s relate it to the martini: who wants to read a grammar book for pleasure? Think of squirming away from grammar lessons in grade school; it would have been a difficult decision to determine whether you’d rather have a toothache or listen to someone prattle on about grammar.

Grammar: It’s Funnier Than it Tastes

But I’ve been in the writing trade for a while, and I think it’s good (and even fun) to continue to sharpen your tools. So, I’ve been reading Grammatically Correct: The Essential Guide To Spelling, Style, Usage, Grammar and Punctuation. Yes, you’re right, I’m a riot at parties. Anyway, in one of the sections on tenses (stay with me, people), there’s a discussion of some tense variants that are little used, and the one that seemed delightful to me was “future in the past,” described as expressing the idea that an an earlier time point, there had been an expectation that something would later happen.

Dig that! So, if you say, “I had a feeling that you were going to bloat like a dirigible if you ate that entire cheesecake,” you are using the future in the past tense. I also liked the further explanation that it doesn’t matter if your future/pasting was correct or not. So, we can all shoot to be soothsayers, but if that doesn’t work out, we can go into accounting.

Yeah, I guess you had to be there. But just to push it further: over time, with different editions of yourself, you learn a bit more of who you are. That kid who spat out that martini would never have dreamed that something in a grammar book would delight him years later. He might have said, “I knew that Tom was going to hate martinis and grammar when he grew up.” And he would have been wrong, but he would have crafted a fine future-in-the-past utterance. You live, you learn.

And continuing to learn: that’s a crisp, cold martini to me. I’ll take two.

Anchor Distilling’s Junipero Gin—delicious!

2 thoughts on “Mixing Martinis, Grammar, the Past and the Future

  1. Tom, what you say about different editions of ourselves is so true. Thank you for posting this.

    To start with, back in college I once drank so much too much gin that I thought I had ruined that beverage for me for life. In fact, I almost never went into the realm of spirits at all after that, being content with beer and wine when it was too late in the day for latte and water just wouldn’t do.

    Then, recently, I decided to make, and drink, a martini. Totally traditional- 11 parts London dry gin (Broker’s), 3 parts extra dry vermouth (Tribuno), and an olive. Stirred. The olive reminds me of my childhood more than a twist would. As the story goes, I was with my parents at a party that was WASPy enough to have cocktails but no real food, so I ran around eating all the olives out of peoples’ martini glasses. So, olives for me.

    And so it is with creative endeavors. I used to play the sax back in school. For a time there I was photographing everything like mad. Now I’m writing. When I don’t write for a time, I get the shpilkes. It’s actually a deeply upsetting feeling, to be writing-deprived.

    I’ll still take a pic or three, I’m sure. And saxophones- I’ll dabble from time to time. I do believe writing is here to stay, though. That pain-at-the-absence vibe never happened with anything else.

    Including gin. Fortunately for my liver.

  2. Rick, I had the same evacuate-your-soul experience with vodka once, and thought I could never drink it again. I have, though it doesn’t rank among my favored spirits. I’m both an olive(s) and a twist man, because they please me visually (and chewingly).

    But you made a SINGLE martini that was 11 parts gin and 3 parts vermouth? My goodness—did you use the empty bucket to soak your feet afterwards? That’s a linebacker’s martini, certainly.

    We do move through our time and dip in and out of interesting fancies. I always wanted to play the sax, but didn’t. I did, however, have an odd fascination with stemmed glassware when I was 10 or 11, which is perhaps why I have an affection for spirits in the first place.

    Please keep writing. I’d hate for you to be a shpilkes victim, and the world is a better place for your stirring (with olive) prose.

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