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Gin and Tonic

Some short time ago, I became interested in gins. Not just interested, but fascinated. I am not a tippler. I barely drink. A bottle of Plymouth gin I have is still more than half full and it is more than eight years old.

Gin, and gin and tonics, are nothing new to me. My Aunt Esther and Uncle Dave used to give them to me when I was four. Maybe even younger than that. But I could go years without onûe. I liked them, but no big deal.

But now I became preoccupied with gin. The differences in tastes, textures, bouquets. And, so I, with my friend Craig, looked for a place that had gins to taste and came up woefully short.

One place I called used to be a favorite more than a year ago. It was one of the last places I took my wife to eat before she died, before she was no longer able to leave the house, before hospice, before her death. Even toward the end, hard as it was for her to be out, to enjoy her days, they had great patience for her, for her needs, and for mine. I called with trepidation, but Matt’s Casbah, I thought, was a good bet for gin and, I had hoped, I could reclaim this place as a favorite happy haunt instead of only associating it with radiation therapy.

No, they did not have any different gins, the manager, Justin, told me. But rarely had he heard of anyone else interested in gin, and he happened to have a bottle of Smalls, a “boutique” distillery that produced, what he felt was a superior and different gin. And he remembered me, and my Lee, and asked if I would come in to have a drink with him, on the house.

I was delighted. Elated, really, and I did go there, to have a drink with Justin. I took Craig with me and we sat, happy, sharing a bottle of small-batch gin, fragrant, strong, viscous, with Justin. With our first sip, we toasted Lee. It was a small thing, but a great kindness, and it allowed me to reclaim something I had lost, and in that, I knew I could reclaim other places, other things, I had lost. Other things associated with pain could be brought back to joy.

Some days later, Jazmin handed me a National Geographic. In it was an article about dying languages she knew I would be interested in. It discussed languages and how they formed, and were formed by, a culture’s way of thinking. In one section it discussed Kazakhstan, and the word for juniper, which, of course, is the main flavoring for gin, coming from the word genièvre, French for juniper. It stated that the Kazahks burned juniper berries to allow those who have passed to move on, and those who were still alive, to live on. It cleared the souls who lingered for the rest of their journey.  Kazakhstan is the part of the world from which Lee, the doctor, the shaman, and her family comes and she but one generation removed.

And here I was, at the one year anniversary of my wife’s passing, fascinated, preoccupied, with gin, with genièvre, with juniper as distilled in spirits.

When the soul reaches, listen and lend it your hands. And gin is what I was reaching for.

Since then, I have tried many gins. Many awful, many wonderful. I found a bar in San Diego while there for a book signing that had over forty gins, Aero Club, and the barmistress set me up with a tasting. I described what I liked, and she set it up. All for a Jackson and a tip. Junipero, one of the first small distillery gins, made by Anchor Steam, the first microbrewery to make it big. Farmers Botanical Organic Gin. Smalls. Hendricks, well-known but under-appreciated. Others. Many wonderful. All different.

I feel much better. And, I know, so does she.

 

Have a Shamanic Gin and Tonic

When a friend or loved one’s passed
(we know the body doesn’t last),
but the spirit’s not moved on
of those whose time has come and gone,
or those alive are still bereft
over one who long has left,
there is a cure one can employ,
a special drink one can enjoy,
to clear the space and tears away
and free a soul who mustn’t stay.

Have a shamanic gin and tonic
served tall in a glass that’s cold and conic,
prepared by a shaman with a twist of citrus:
cinchona bark and a gin that’s viscous,
and cubes of stone that fizz when you drop ’em
(better than pills that appall when you pop ’em,
or capsules or tinctures or some New Age option
is tonic and gin, the shamanic concoction)
or cubes of ice—they’re even freezier
(they dissolve in the drink, and that is much easier).
Then sniff the bouquet of the herbs and the roots
or the leaves or the stems or the barks or the fruits
or the spirits of plants that the gin spirit suits!
Have one or two
with a friend or a few,
and beat a skin drum
or rattle bones some—
then slip with a buzz down a hole or a drain
to discover your lack or the source of your pain
or maybe the unattached bits of your soul
that keep you from feeling as though you are whole
that fled long ago and now can be found
safe in the keeping of leopard or hound
or in a small cave or hole in a tree,
and finding them now, you set yourself free.
Then bring them back home as you drum with your drink
(it’s really quite easy, just try not to think)
with the cubes made of stone
as you journey alone
in the land underground (or is it within?)
assisted most ably by tonic and gin.

And what herbs or roots or fruits should we add
that would be good—or by virtue of excess or vacuity of some constituent or actions or combinations thereof—would be bad?
Cucumber’s a wonder in high summer heat
but in juniper, gin should be more than replete,
and filled with the spirits that cleanse and abide
for clearing the home (or office or what-have-you) and sending them outside,
so inside and happy now people can live
without items disappearing or dishes crashing or things going bump in the night, and they can be happy and productive and get a good night’s sleep without antidepressants or therapy or a sedative.

So toast those now gone, or gone but still here,
and raise them a glass in celebration and cheer!
And don’t take to drugs or psychiatry or colonics—
just drink some shamanic ice-cold gin and tonics.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on October 13, 2012 in Family, Food, History, philosophy, Poetry, psychology, Religion, Writing

 

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Video

Bud the Spud – The Video!

My newest book, “Bud the Spud,” is available now on Amazon and at your local bookstores. Here is a video for the book and, soon, an audiobook with music by Brevard Busking Coalition.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on August 12, 2012 in Books, Writing

 

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St. Adamus Day or The Slackers Jubilation.

It is my birthday party today. I just got this email:

In order to take no chances in offending the Gods (and or Saints) I have duly
pronounced the Ode to St. Adamus this morning. In my underwear of course
and toasting with a large glass of ice water (it’s hot here!) I’ll say it again on Friday just to make sure that the word goes up on high that I am a follower!

This is from a lady who, unlike me, is not afraid to admit she is wonderful. I’m learning. I’m a slow learner. Here is my response.

See, it’s a movement!

And I’m going to take a page from your book and proclaim, to everyone far and near, as they arrive, welcome to “me and all my awesomeness!”

A movement it is. St. Adamus started quite a few years ago and is now celebrated, though that may be a bit too energetic of a word for it, by lucky, lazy observers in many locals. Here is this year’s invitation:

You are invited, you lucky person you, to The Feast of
Saint Adamus

August 5th about 6pm

This year, we shall hold the feast at the sacred shrine. The shrine is located at Darwin Manor House at Peepton Hill, The Lap of Luxury (Palm Bay).

The Feast of Saint Adamus, also known as the Slackers Jubilation, is a newly created Ancient Tradition. Being traceable as far back as the necrotic period, records have indicated this to be one of the most hallowed of days, significant for the sheer number of people who kept the Holy Day, which comes as no surprise when one discovers the truly devout celebrants were required to do nothing more than lounge around in their underwear and snack.

Held on the Eve of the Ides Of August, or the Saturday night following the anniversary of the illustrious Saint’s day of birth, or whatever day is most convenient, during the dog days of summer when Canis Major rides high in the night sky and inertia and laziness prevail, when things seem dead and doing anything, exerting any energy for any reason, seems not only useless and futile, but impossible, The Feast of Saint Adamus festivities consisted of a costume party and pot luck. In ancient Mesopotomy, prizes were often given for the best Feast of Saint Adamus costume and usually went to infants and slave girls. This begins to make sense when one looks further into the customs of this most advanced, civilised culture and discovers that an ancient Mesopotomus hardly ever wore anything more than underpants, and infants and slaves less.

Food offerings consisted of gifts of leftovers brought in adoration of Saint Adamus. Anything hanging around the house would do, as long as it took little or no preparation, bespoke of no creativity and left hardly anything to clean up or wash. Utensils were considered an abhorrence to Saint Adamus, unless they were made of candy and entirely edible. Of course, in true homage to this beloved saint, as yet, no-one has ever taken the time or initiative to create these.

One must remember, the hallmark of the Celebration of Saint Adamus and the Feast bearing his name is that nothing special happens. A sort of Super Sabbath, celebrants are required to do nothing more than pay homage to their saint and each other by bearing witness to our mutual inertia. And let us do as the pious have done for centuries uncounted. This Feast of Saint Adamus, let’s get together and do nothing.


No-one ever goes to the trouble of coming in costume. Good. Some do come in their underwear. Excellent. Some come dressed and in their underwear: wearing it outside, on their heads, stuffed in, overflowing from, pockets.

When someone does manage to follow the rules, I find a prize. Since I never plan for this – it would be too much trouble – I just pick something off my shelves – candles, knickknacks, a flute – and hand it to them. I have too many things anyway.

People circumvent the rules by all sorts of strange means, like religions everywhere. Can’t use an elevator on the Sabbath? Just turn it on to stop at every floor from Friday afternoon to Saturday night. Can’t drive to temple? Drive mostly there and park down the street. Letter, not spirit. Likewise, people tend to make… Well… Here is another email:

Oh I have made something sinfully good for your party

My response:

As long as it’s a leftover. You can’t make something ‘special.’ then you
aren’t bein a slacker!

(Thank you)

Re-response:

It’s leftover. I made it yesterday 😉

What am I to do? One of the reasons I chose leftovers was to keep people from working to out-do each other. Also, I wanted a party that was not based in food, delectable, delicious, diet-shattering delicacies need not arrive. I want to talk, not chew, sing, not drink. You get the idea.

So, I started cooking in advance or picking up food I liked. Food, most likely, only I’d be eating. Not that others can’t enjoy them if they like. But, chances are, I’m the only one who’s going to drink the kvas and eat the cold-smoked mackerel. Today, I am smoking a rather large, a bit over a foot long, beef tongue. Smoking it means it’ll still be pink. As a centerpiece, I have a feeling that will keep a fair number of delicacies off the table I’ll be eating from.

A few hours of delight and pleasure need not end in extra pounds. I am serious. Really.

Besides, I’ll be far too busy throwing out Mardi Gras and being entertained by the masses there to celebrate the awesomeness that is me. Unless they read the Ode to St. Adamus, which, of course, is recited every year.

Ode to St. Adamus

A man named Adamus, a saint,
Had but a single loud complaint:
His workload nearly made him faint-
His time was not his own.

The other saints, he’d explicate,
Had time to sit and contemplate,
Philosophize and meditate,
Or solve an ancient koan.

But he alone of all the bless’d
Got not a single moments’ rest
He’d end each day dog-tired and stressed
His hands worked to the bone.

This sorry state continued ’til
The tired saint had had his fill
I need a day to just sit still!
The neighbors heard him groan.

Amidst the papers in his room,
A lovely thought then pierced his gloom
A way he might escape his doom
And find the time to zone.

To each saint is a feast assigned
And patronage of those whose kind
The saint’s good works were most aligned
With, when his works are known

Saint Adamus then beamed with glee.
It seemed that he would soon be free
His own feast he would now decree
Ere one more hour had flown.

A day of utter laziness
Steeped in the summer’s haziness
A break from all the craziness
Would be its general tone.

And so it is at August’s peak
When heat runs high
And will runs weak,
We gather, some relief to seek,
And sit around like stone.

Mind you, this was not written by me, Oh, no. It is by Jeannette Westlake. See, I have fans. It’s a movement.

I think I’ll need more knickknacks by the end of this evening.

Room for one more, Honey

 
3 Comments

Posted by on August 5, 2006 in Culture, Family, Food

 

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