Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bedtime Beverages

'Crystal tumbler of absinthe'! 'Crystal tumbler of absinthe'! Finally, somebody understands Pretty Lady. Although her beverage of choice this evening is an Art Nouveau pint glass full of Midas Touch, which, she likes to think, was probably provided by the cartload at Cleopatra's shindigs. It is disgracefully expensive at Pretty Lady's corner store in Brooklyn, however--so much so that she's considering buying a case of it, next time she pops out of The City, to a place where local grocery stores do not have both a captive market and exorbitant overhead.

Somebody offered Pretty Lady some actual absinthe, once, back in the days when it was still decidedly illegal. (Is it still illegal? Pretty Lady read a long article in The New Yorker about a modern-day absinthe-distiller, but Wikipedia doesn't say anything about the bans having been lifted in the modern-day proto-Puritan police state that used to be our beloved U.S. of A.) The absinthe story is part of a long, long story about Pretty Lady's naive youth, which she refuses to tell in public until a certain party has actually passed on, which event looks, possibly, to be imminent.

Pretty Lady has no remarks on that.

The moral of the long story that Pretty Lady is unable to tell, however, is that Pretty Lady Cannot Save Your Soul. And if you try to get her to try, this is Bad for Everyone. She realizes that most of you already knew that. And without the long story, this moral is bald, it is bare, it is boring. Pretty Lady is sorry about this, but not sorry enough to tell that story. It's on a Xeroxed chapbook in the bottom drawer of her filing cabinet, and there it will stay.

No, darlings, as Pretty Lady's old friend Raphael used to say (before she permanently alienated him, in the very week before she left town forever, by telling him that her Best Friend was Out Of His League--it was TRUE! Blast these fellows and their fragile egos!), once you've reached Enlightenment, all there is is Hanging Out.

There are no Needs, no Desires, no Commitments, no Divorces, no Plans, no Agendas, no Goals. There are no Contracts, no Exchanges, no Battles, no Support, no Derision. There are no Separations at all. All of us has everything, and thus have no need to get it.

Pretty Lady has been meditating, lately, upon Funding for the Arts. (This is relevant.) She recently received an email questionaire from a local arts organization of which she is a desultory member. One of the questions was, "How has being a member of X Organization helped your career?"

Pretty Lady has been PMS-ing, just lately, which may be why her reaction to this particular question was so extreme. "No, and WHAT CAREER?!!!" was an approximate summary of her response. Upon further consideration, tallying up her relationships and histories with arts organizations in general, she realized the truth: that the more she has relied upon external entities to provide her with a Career, with Support, with Opportunity, Funding and Exposure, the more the aggregate result has been a gigantic sucking sound, as Pretty Lady's creative energy disappears down a bureaucratic vortex.

Yes, Pretty Lady could tell you more sordid stories than you have the time or inclination to read, about those dear friends who said, with a straight face, "All you have to do is get these six organizations to fill out ten identical forms and sign them, agreeing to match funds, in-kind if necessary, write up a proposal, send in your application, and you have a fifty-percent chance of getting the smallest available grant to work with the most troubled children in the worst school in the city! For a really short time! Isn't that sexy?" Or the cultural organization representative who declared, "This is a wonderful idea. You'll need about forty thousand dollars, and we don't provide grants, but we can provide the hoops for you to jump through so that you can qualify to ask someone else for the money..." Or the sweet, friendly, warm and cuddly art dealer, who, after being friendly and cuddly for a year and a half, said "No, it's a waste of time," when Pretty Lady offered to display her portfolio.

And these were the projects that Pretty Lady initiated, out of her own creative ingenuity, after spending a decade or so filling out the more conventional reams of paperwork for approved artistic Career Trajectories, and figuring out on her own that it was merely a huge pyramid scam. Degrees, residencies, grants and competitions--pah! These are Nothing! They are Not Art! They are Pretension, they are Agenda, they are Precious and Foolish and False!

That is what Pretty Lady now thinks about all that. She now wishes only to communicate, to all those hungry artists out there, in whose eyes she sees that selfsame desperation lurking--let go. You have what you need. Your absinthe tumbler runneth over. You have your hands, your mind, and almost certainly a computer; use them! Care not what the Public thinks! De-schmooze those Curators, those Directors, those Lord High Dispensers of Wholly Inadequate and Downright Insulting Grants!

Because the best investments Pretty Lady ever made in her art career have been 1) family; 2) friends; and 3) vocational school. Love and Support and Somewhat of an Income, in other words. She wishes she had realized sooner that she needed nothing more.


Desert Cat said...

Absinthe is available from overseas, and though not legal to sell in this country, I don't believe posession is an issue.

Not all that glitters is gold however, and there are some products that are truly atrocious--the generic beer versus a fine Belgian ale equivalent. I've found one that is the genuine article and a fine beverage, and until I use it up (which may take years at the rate I'm sipping it) I'm not exploring other brands for now.

Anonymous said...

Off thread:

"So there. I'm off to drive my SUV now."

Loved it. Daddy's a pretty cool dude.

iacb said...

Ditto to what Desert Cat said. Check out the La Fee Verte for more than you ever wanted to know about absinthe.

According to La Fee Verte, Absinthe is now legal throughout the EU (it used to only be legal in France, Spain, and the Czech Republic) and France and Switzerland are producing absinthes of very high quality.

I still have a bottle left of Deva (Spanish Absinthe) from what I mail-ordered from Spain back in 1999. I've been thinking of finishing that off and ordering more (this time some high-end French or Swiss absinthe), though mail order prices from Europe have gotten outrageous since I last ordered.

Desert Cat said...

Yes! That's the place I got some great leads from.

Here is the one I am currently savoring. It got good marks from the reviewers, but from my perspective it is head and shoulders above anything else I've tried so far.

iacb said...

I have a great affection for very old styles of drink. I'm actually quite partial to Madeira.

Anonymous said...

I have been curious about Madeira. I need it for a recipe as well as for tasting (want, need, what's the diff?). I did research it, but to be honest, there are so many types, I get a little turned off at purchase time being uncertain of my knowledge. I am very interested in tasting, but it will have to wait. Is there any brand that was particularly good?

I have two bottles of absinthe on my short list of things to get. A German (cheap(er)) and a Swiss, I think. Both come with better scores. I usually drink really good scotch (rarely, but well when I do). I add water, so I'll be used to that part, if not the drip by drip method of adding water they seem to recommend with the ab.

About the Midos Touch, can't get it out of the NE can you? I've heard about it and wanted to taste it for years now. But it doesn't look like there is even a way to order.

I usually drink a German beer, it's the best to my taste that I have found. One of their beers, October Fest, is also good though the regular is my favorite. I just checked, Spaten. What is the Belgian Ale you drink?

iacb said...

Well, as for absinthe, there's a very thorough website called Madeira Wine Guide for everything you ever wanted to know about Madeira. While I'm mentioning sites, For the Love of Port is the definitive site for Port wine info, and quite a bit about Madeira there too.

The basics of Madeira – for cooking I recommend getting a simple, low-end 3-year old Madeira that nonetheless is still a real Madeira. In other words, from the island of Madeira, not generic California "Madeira" (read the label). Most of what's used in cooking is labeled Rainwater Madeira and most brands are similar (though Henriques & Henriques is particularly good). For sweeter cooking Madeira, a "Fine Rich Sweet" Madeira (like Broadbents) is good. For Chicken Madeira (which I usually make instead of Chicken Marsala), I use a blend of Rainwater and Fine Rich.

For drinking, I recommend 5 year-old Madeiras or older. This is the minimum age where Madeira can be varietally designated. The varietals are (in order from driest to sweetest) Sercial, Verdelho, Bual, and Malmsey (plus a few rarer varieties). Five-year old Madeiras are quite nice, but not particularly complex, and still not a bad intro to Madeiras. Ten-year old Madeiras are starting to get into more concentrated, intense, and complex flavors, and are often a very good buy. Fifteen-year old Madeiras are much less frequently come across and are generally excellent. 20 years on up are vintage dated and are rare, unique wines that can be very, very old (a 1795 Terrentez is still sold). Old vintage Madeiras are nothing short of incredible – very complex and intense with an extremely long finish that continues to fill your mouth even after you've swallowed the wine – like nothing you've ever tried and totally worth spluring on if you ever get a chance to try some (there are a few restaurants around the country that sell it by the glass).

But I digress – brands? Given the above, they can vary quite a bit across there range, but one can make a few generalizations. Blandy's is OK, but tends to be a bit generic. Henriques & Henriques and Barbeito are generally excellent, though. Broadbent is kind of a mixed bag, however, their 10-year old Malmsey is one of the very best in that class. (The above applies to non-vintage Madeiras – any vintage Madeira will be excellent, regardless of brand.)

Hope that helps.

Doom said...

Wow, and thanks. Yes, that is very helpful! I'm printing that in advance of a review. And the port link was quite welcome as well. So much to drink so little time and money. Thanks again.

mitzibel said...

If you're broke and like playing mad scientist, Dale Pendell's "Pharmako/Poeia" has an absinthe recipe which a vintner/moonshiner friend of mine uses with excellent results. You can find it at

Doom said...

I am always and never broke, per se, but I am a mad scientist anyway and that looks down right fun! I have most of those ingredients on hand for cooking, minus the star anise, I believe, so... I will just have to hobble a distiller together for the first time. With second hand stores, a few coils of copper pipe, and a few odds and ends, I think that is doable. My only worry is wine spirits, but I will figure that out too. Thanks!

Oh, I did find your writings. Tech savvy or not, I can still be blind and foolish. Your patients is appreciated, dear lady.