Get to know D.C. with our daily newsletter

We dive deep on the day’s biggest story and share links to everything you need to know.

Editor’s Note: Earlier this year, Justin wrote Iceland, a blog about his band’s American tour. Justin isn’t on tour anymore, but Iceland continues, twice a week, on City Desk.

“Someone drank my vodka and replaced it with water,” a relative commented. We stood in the kitchen of a large house. The vodka bottle in question sat on the countertop before us. We contemplated it.

“How did you discover this crime?” I queried.

“It is a matter of chemistry,” my relative replied. “Vodka has a very low freezing point. Over a year ago, I put my vodka in the freezer to enhance its ‘chill factor’ and forgot about it. Vodka does not spoil and has no expiration date. Thus my vodka should have ‘chilled’ in the freezer until such time that I rediscovered it and resolved to consume it.”

“So far, your reasoning is sound,” I commented.

“Today,” my relative continued, “I remembered my vodka and resolved to consume it. I opened the freezer and, digging through assorted packets of hot dogs and hamburgers, excavated my vodka. However, I found that my vodka had—-very mysteriously and contrary to all known physical laws—-frozen in its bottle.”

“This is impossible,” I confirmed.

“Indeed,” my relative continued. “In the interest of science, I let my ‘vodka’ melt. The liquid that formed at room temperature was odorless, colorless, and flavorless. Though another liquid may fit this description, I am tempted to conclude that this liquid is tap water. But my question is not a ‘what,’ i.e., ‘What is this liquid?’ Instead, my question is ‘who,’ i.e., ‘Who drank my vodka and replaced it with water?'”

“Hmmmm,” I murmured. “I must conclude that you can never know and will never know who drank your vodka and replaced it with water. As you know, this house is large and is not equipped with surveillance cameras. Many persons—-not all known to you or me—-circulate through this house, and we cannot know their motives or minds. Perhaps one of your friends or one of my friends drank the vodka. Perhaps a friend of one of these friends or a child of one of these friends drank the vodka. Perhaps one of your parents drank the vodka. Perhaps a building contractor, cable repairperson, or maintenance engineer drank the vodka. Or perhaps I drank the vodka, or perhaps even you drank the vodka. We can construct a history of the missing vodka and a solution to the case of the missing vodka but, at root, our history is a construction, and the case is unsolvable. The truth is, as is its wont, undiscoverable.”

“But I didn’t drink the vodka,” my relative protested. “And neither did you.”

“So you say, and so I say,” I said. “But, ultimately, how can we know what we are saying?” I let this weighty metaphilosophical query resonate through the large kitchen. Then, another thought occurred to me. “Maybe it was low-quality vodka,” I suggested.

“No,” my relative replied. “It was Grey Goose.”