Cities & Towns

Loving Cups

A cupboard staple, brimming with New Orleans.

Words By Sam AlvianiIllustration by Janice Wu



18 Apr 2024

Reading Time

3 Minutes

A CACOPHONY OF PLASTIC filled my trunk after my last visit to New Orleans: go-cups in an uproar of colors, freshly washed, free of street grime and sticky dregs of cocktail. I was coming off both Mardi Gras and my wedding reception—two big reasons to celebrate, not that you ever have to look far for one in New Orleans.

All year long, during any parade but especially during Mardi Gras season, riders on floats throw plastic go-cups into the crowds. Some are caught; others linger along curbs, waiting to be claimed. Pour your cocktail from glass into plastic, and it’s ready to travel. Go-cups stack up in kitchens and line bathtubs for shampoo rinses. I fill one up when I’m homesick for the city.

Each cup is its own vivid time capsule. “Bienville’s Wet Dream,” inked in gold across cobalt, is a token of my first rowdy Krewe du Vieux parade. Line drawings out of Greek mythology grace a pair of coveted Muses throws, one given to me by a stranger. A plain logoed cup evokes balmy springtime walks in Bayou St. John, watching pelicans nosedive the water, veering off Moss Street for a twilight drink. I remember the snoball flavors that mingled in my most treasured go-cup, from Hansen’s Sno-Bliz: Thai tea and satsuma, melding together over shaved ice on a steaming April day.

Next year, I’ll catch what I can, then scan the streets for more of the year’s spoils. A few more for the stacks. It may look like trash, but it contains a day’s memory, for safekeeping.

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