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Boxes of wine, ordered in the early days of the pandemic, at the Levingston home. COURTESY KIRSTEN D. LEVINGSTON

By KIRSTEN D. LEVINGSTON
For Montclair Local

KIRSTEN D. LEVINGSTON

Kirsten D. Levingston moved to Montclair in 2008. She works in the city and writes on the side. In “Welcome to Montclair” she explores the quirks of this special town. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Huffington Post and Baristanet.

For about a month now two sealed cases of wine have been sitting by my front door, relics of the virus, or more precisely my response to the virus. 

Early on in the COVID-19 lockdown a friend shared a funny video of a woman, clad in the same pajamas all day and all night, who coped by dousing her breakfast cereal in rosé and minutes later drinking merlot from a container the size of a fish bowl. 

When I first viewed the clip I chuckled; only later — after I signed up for regular wine delivery service — did I appreciate it as a cautionary tale.

Pre-pandemic drinking was a social activity for me, something to do standing with friends at the Halcyon Restaurant bar on Walnut Street, watching a show at the Wellmont Theater, or sitting in a circle for a book club discussion. Back then my personal wine cache was petite, but never depleted, stocked through the kindness of friends who’d gift a bottle of sauvignon for a birthday or deliver a Bordeaux to say thanks. 

But when coronavirus closed restaurants and public venues and ended in-person contact with friends, my from time-to-time “social drinking” became near-every-night-sitting-in-your-housecoat drinking. 

Spoiler alert — I did not slip into alcoholism. At its height, I was drinking one to three glasses of wine most days a week. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism would have classified me as somewhere between a moderate and heavy drinker. 

But that’s not me.

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Before the virus I’d have a glass of wine with dinner a couple of days a week. Forced to stay home, that couple of glasses a week became a couple of glasses with dinner almost every night. Some days there’d also be a pre- or post-dinner Zoom happy hour with college friends or work colleagues I miss terribly. 

On top of that some nights another pour accompanied me to DJ Nice’s Club Quarantine dance parties. (If you don’t know DJ Nice, find him on Instagram — you won’t regret it.) Homebound, socially distanced and awash in stressful, daily gubernatorial coronavirus updates, that daily wine-down offered great comfort.

Facing a dwindling supply, I sought out ways to restock without making a trip to Total Wine & More in West Orange. Friends shared the name of an app, basically an Uber Drinks, that arranged for booze deliveries to your door in a matter of hours. 

Using it seemed convenient, yes, but also a bit desperate, no? I signed up for a monthly wine delivery service, an introductory offer to get the first six bottles for $19.99, and six bottles a month after that for much, much more. 

When it came to toilet paper and hand sanitizer, “buy in bulk” had become my motto. Why not stockpile wine alongside the materials already inventoried in my basement bunker? 

When UPS left that first box on my porch I picked it up as if it were a stork-delivered baby basket, precious, fragile, welcome. Carefully I removed the tape, pulled back the cardboard, removed and placed each bottle in a rack with its brothers, sisters and cousins. One growing happy family.

SNAPPING OUT OF IT

Originally I planned to nix the deliveries and rampant drinking once the pandemic passed and life returned to normal, as soon as I could wrap my arms around a friend rather than a wine glass. 

Experts now say coronavirus is likely to be with us for at least another year, something we will battle even after a vaccine becomes available. For the sake of my liver and my bank account, I’ve snapped out of my virus-spawned drinking habits and started focusing on other things, like staying healthy. 

I’ve deleted the booze apps on my phone and unsubscribed from the monthly wine deliveries. My warm and fuzzies are coming from giving and receiving more hugs from people in my pod and downing nightly pots of peppermint tea. I’m taking more walks and riding my bike. During my last happy hour Zoom with friends I cooked dinner while I chatted.

That’s why two sealed boxes of wine are sitting by my door. With holidays around the corner the bottles will find proper homes. They make nice gifts.