Volpane In Love

Decade Archive of my personal blog from 1999 to 2009.

Thursday, March 25, 1999

Absinthe & La Belle Epoch

In 1997 when I was working at Pistil Books on Capital Hill, Seattle, Wa, my friend Purple would come into the store every Saturday morning and visit with me. In one of these conversation he mentioned his experiences with brewing liqueurs. The subject of Absinthe came up, which I'd read about once and imagined a very exotic and taboo sort of drink. Later I did a few searches on the Internet and was surprised with the wealth of information on the subject. Apparently, this emerald green, bitter drink has, despite being outlawed in most countries for having a reputation for inducing insanity, become very popular, especially in underground and artist communities.

I ordered Absinthe: History in a Bottle for Purple and also gave him the information from the Internet I'd printed. Additionally I made up some labels from images I'd downloaded off the Internet of old original Absinthe labels. Soon, after a few months of procuring the ingredients, Purple invited a selection of friends to partake of his labors.

Purple knows how to put on a party and the preparation he did was meticulous. The absinthe cocktail is made by dissolving sugar cubes into the liquid with mineral water. Traditionally a special slotted spoon is set on the glass to hold the sugar cube as the water is pored slowly over. The resulting drink is magical because the water causes the liqueur to cloud into opalescence. Purple had designed and created his own slotted spoons from lapidary silver. He based the design on a maple leaf, which made a very elegant base to dissolve sugar cubes.

People started arriving an hour after he'd asked people to arrive, but everyone had dressed up in appropriate dress. Purple was dressed in a deep fuchsia Sari with lots of face makeup and a fancy bendi dot. Other people also wore saris, black beaded "flapper" dresses, cloaks, vests, etc. For my costume I began with pointy old-fashioned black lace up shoes with a high, heavy heel. I wore wool slacks (it was still winter) with tight pinstripes. Then a white silk shirt with flounce sleeves under a tight, yellow-brocade, scoop-collared vest with pearl buttons that Purple had given me for Yule. I wore a turquoise cravat secured with a resin brooch in the shape of an elephant's head that was colored like ivory. For outerwear, I slung over my shoulder a white satin lined, black velvet cape that was once my mother's. One person basically came uninvited. He was someone I hadn't met before (and I haven't seen him since), but I found his presence enlightening as an example of the powerful effects of absinthe. This person had been out attending an early film on Capital Hill and happened to meet up with some of the guests who were arriving, getting him invited by association. He turned out to have been drinking as well and was talking very loudly and boorishly. He was skeptical and wary of the liqueur.

Purple showed us all how to set up the sugar cube on a spoon and pour the sparkling water over and into the Absinthe. And one by one (there wasn't much room in the tiny apartment), we made our drinks and then toasted the host and the evening. As is the case with these friends we began reading aloud from Absinthe: History in a Bottle, Oscar Wilde and other readings we'd all brought along for the occasion. Le Fee Vert blessed our company and tempered the mood. I was standing next to the window and I noted how wonderful the evening was progressing. The light in room seemed suffused and softened. Even while standing I was very comfortable and didn't feel tipsy in the way I was accustomed with other spirits. Even the gentleman who'd crashed the party, having commandeered one of the only chairs in the entire apartment, had quieted down and was noticeably succumbing to the Sandman's call. Soon he was asleep.

The mood of the evening was light and high. Unfortunately, when I woke the next morning feeling like I'd been run over by a Mogul Steam Engine sleep avoided me the rest of the morning and was obliged to rise from my bed. Purple had made enough liqueurs to hold more parties and serve drinks at friend's parties. He even gave me a bottle, although I don't drink that much and I've been wary of drinking this bittersweet liquid by itself. It has been some time since Purple has held another absinthe party. Soon I hope I can look forward to his next gathering, because now I know it will be interesting and wonderful.

Tuesday, March 09, 1999

Currently on my reading pile...
�as opposed to on my "to read" list which is much longer! Reading has always been a pastime for me. My parents shared their books with my siblings and me since we were very young.

Books on Buddhism

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

I read a lot of magazines, only some of which I have subscriptions for�The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Smithsonian, Launch (a CD-ROM mag), Interview, PC Magazine and Maximum PC (formerly Boot). I'm letting some of these run out in favor of some new ones: Sunset Magazine, Cook's Illustrated, 100 Greatest Books Ever Written (leather bound editions by Easton Press), Time/Life Books: What Life Was Like. Not sure I can afford the last two but the introductory offer from Easton Press is leather bound Moby Dick for $10, hardly something I could pass up.

Now that I've seen the movies Trainspotting and Gods & Monsters, I am reading the corresponding books, Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh and Father of Frankenstein by Christopher Bram. Trainspotting is unique because it recreates for you the sound and style of the Scottish dialect, which is almost a puzzle to decipher. Father of Frankenstein is almost verbatim from the screen. I believe the experience of reading could have been better and more interesting had I waited to read the books first. At least this way I know what the payoff is like.

Finally read Jeff Noon's VURT, good but unlike Gibson's Neuromancer (which I was told it was similar to and also took me years to approach), most of the characters I liked weren't in the action. Followed up with The Automated Alice, which interested me as a fan of Carroll's work but ended up disappointed because while it repeated some ideas from the Vurt and Pollen cycle, it is merely a written joke. I'd like to finish with Pollen but apparently after the initial publishing of the hardcover here in the States it went out-of-print. Anyone willing to send me a copy for review?

Also am reading Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift after seeing a very good television adaptation starring Ted Danson (of "Cheers" fame, can you imagine?).
What I listen to�usually when I'm futzing on the computer.

They Might Be Giants�Factory Showroom
I love TMBG and I have been listening to their special brand of adventure since I first heard "Ana Ang" and decided I needed a new favorite band (to join all the others).

Joni MitchellBlue
This is quintessential Joni. I remember a talent show back in high school where the school�s aspiring folksinger performed flawless versions of every song on this album�at least that�s how I remembered it.

Tracy ChapmanTracy Chapman
I can barely believe that her debut album is over ten years old. Every time I hear "Fast Car" I have to hold back the tears, it gets to me so.

Loreena McKennitt�The Mask and the Mirror
This goes back to why I like Dead Can Dance, modern songs in a traditional folk mode.

The Great Ladies of Jazz�Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Pearl Bailey
You hear their names tossed around like they are royalty and they are: The Original Sophisticated Lady, The First Lady of Jazz, The Queen of the Blues, The High Priestess of Jazz, Lady Day and The Real Pearl. All on two CDs. Thank you, Russell.

The Smiths�Best of�I, II
I first listened to the Smiths first back in �88, since then I�ve followed Morrissey and collected these two compilations of their best hits.

Claude Bolling's Suite for Violin and Jazz Piano Trio
This Album says to me that the seventies were not so bad as I remembered and the Twenties Art Deco revival back then was not half as bad as the Seventies revival we see today.

The Beautiful South
When I was introduced to this band's wonderfully cynical lyrics back in '96 I swore that someday I would own all their albums. I now own Welcome to and Choke. Their songs are catchy, I love the lyrics and Blue is the Colour could be their best album. I stripped these onto my computer as MP3 files so I could listen to them with out the CD along with my Sunday's albums. They make a wonderful mix of cynical lyricism.

The Sundays�Reading, Writing, and Arithmatic
I listened to them obsessively back in '93 and '94 when I finally purchased their first album. The vocalization of Harriet Wheeler combined with David Gavurin's layered guitar riffs are to me the quintessence of urban living and the melancholia that results from relationship angst. They inspired some way cool web sites too.

Kate Bush�Hounds of Love
Ever since Running Up That Hill first appeared on MTV, I was hooked. Kate is a goddess and someday I will own all her albums and not just The Whole Story.

Yo-yo MaSoul of the Tango: The Music of Astor Piazzola
Tango, tango, tango! I remember coming across his work first on an album by the Kronos Quartet and thinking I had discovered the meaning behind the movie Kiss of the Spiderwoman. Yo-yo Ma makes Piazzola's melodies come alive and weave their magic in such a subtle passionate way that you will have your breath taken out of you before you realize that you are listening to one of Argentina's greatest composers.

Deep Forest
Okay, I know this is "world-beat-techno-trance-mainstream" schlock but it is: Still cool listening even after all these years...spawned all sorts of similar sounding cool "bands" like Enigma. Hey! They have a great web site. If only I could find that URL!

Malcolm Mclaren's Paris
I am told he stole all the tunes shamelessly from Frenchmen, and even though the poetry is really cheesy, this is an incredible album.

Dead Can Dance�The Serpent's Egg, Spiritchaser
Need I say more?

ZBS�Ruby, the Galactic Gumshoe
The best radio drama on the net.