11.09.2013

Good Morning, Saturday

Last night I went to a friend's house for a social, which some of my other friends were referring to as an "absinthe party," because there was going to be some of that elusive liqueur there. There was a lot of mystique surrounding the absinthe, much of which could have been done away with via some web surfing. But it is probably the mystique that makes the whole idea of an absinthe party cooler than just a regular party. So it is probably better to willfully suspend the truth and enjoy the mystique.

The mystique comes from an ingredient in absinthe called wormwood, although it is questionable whether the absinthe at this party had any of this. The urban myth, totally unsubstantiated, is that absinthe with wormwood is banned in the United States.

I don't think wormwood is banned in the United States. If it is, then the vitamin company I used to work for was violating some laws, because they sell an ethanolic extract of wormwood. There are several supplements containing wormwood that can be purchased easily online.

In any case, if wormwood is one of the defining traits of absinthe, then it seems like wormwood-free absinthe is a bit like sugar free soda or decaffeinated coffee.


If the production of absinthe is anything like the production of herbal supplements in the United States, whatever wormwood content it has is probably highly suspect as well. Even with FDA regulation of the supplement industry, there is a huge variability in the content and quality of product ingredients. The companies rationalize this by saying that their more natural ingredients have more natural variability, which is good, because, you know...it's coming from nature, and anything that comes from nature must be good, right? I can tell you that is totally a marketing ploy, having worked in the industry myself. It's a way of spinning quality control laziness and poorly sourced ingredients into profit. And vitamin companies are diabolically good at spinning their products. For example, a manufacturer is not allowed to say a product lowers cholesterol, but they can say it supports healthy cholesterol. Most consumers don't see through it, which is why the supplement industry is so profitable.

Anyway, the party was fun. The preparation of the absinthe beverage involved lighting liqueur soaked sugar cubes on fire, even though that is not the traditional method of preparation, because the fire burns off alcohol content and reduces flavor. The burning sugar cube is considered a modern day gimmick, mostly for show. Anyhow, someone tried to prepare absinthe in a plastic cup, and sure enough, a flaming melting plastic cup of absinthe soon resulted. It's not a good party until there's an absinthe fire. Always make sure there is plenty of glassware at an absinthe party.

There was talk of some late night jams at the party, but everyone bailed before that happened. I guess rocking is not a compulsion for some people to stay at a party. If I were a guest at a party with live music jams, I would stick around to hear them. But whatever.

I got some decent jams in on Thursday night, when I went to Clifford James' open mic night in Whitewater WI. I often have conflicts on Thursdays, usually band practice, but this was a free week. I had planned to just swoop in and play my songs, then leave, but I have a new friend who lives in Whitey and she stopped down to the open mic. So afterwards, I took her to the Brass Rail tavern down the street so I could reminisce with her on the handful of years I spent living in Whitey (actually while I was working at the vitamin company, which is not far from there). The Brass Rail was my favorite place to hang out, a very chillaxed bar with a great jukebox (still great, and the place has not changed much at all). Some of my bands even played there, although it is a small place. Good memories.

So now it is Saturday morning and I am taking it pretty easy. I did not indulge in any absinthe last night, I just had a very small taste to see what it was like. It was pretty much like ouzo, with a strong licorice (anise) flavor. It may very well have been ouzo, bottled and labeled as absinthe, based on what I said above about the quality of product ingredients.

I have a very free weekend for once, and I am going to take great creative advantage of it. I am going to play lots of music and also work on my book writing. The only band practice I have this weekend is Sunday evening with the floundering band with Jon and Phil. We have six pretty easy songs on the practice agenda, so I should be able to knock those out pretty quickly. This band practice is kind of an acid test for the band though. This project hasn't really been going anywhere and we are going to spend the next two months analyzing progress. Everyone should arrive at practice fully prepared, knowing the songs solidly. I think one of the reasons this band is lacking momentum is because the songs aren't solid and we don't practice enough to make them solid. Those two things have to change, and that is what we will be analyzing over the next two months. If it's not there by the new year, we shut it down and walk away, no hard feelings.

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