“The Prohibitionist must always be a person of no moral character; for he cannot even conceive of the possibility of a man capable of resisting temptation.”
I've been waiting for this moment. My long anticipated date with the Green Goddess is tonight. But will I live to tell about it? Or will she make me cut off my ear and wrap it in newspaper like Van Gogh?
The Green Goddess I speak of is absinthe-the notorious, mysterious, allegedly hallucinogenic, herbal, highly alcoholic, bitter, translucent green beverage that is barred in the United States and many other countries because it supposedly causes in its users episodes of madness, violence and epilepsy.
Being illegal, the only way to obtain absinthe is through mail order from the European dark market. So, from an ad I found in the back of Modern Drunkard Magazine , I ordered a cask of absinthe.
Tonight I plan to drink it all.
For tonight's absinthe-fest, I chose the Classic Method of preparation. For this you need an absinthe spoon, a sugar cube, and an old-fashioned or parfait glass. You put the sugar cube on the spoon and slowly pour ice cold water over the cube so that it drips into the glass of absinthe.
The sugar water clouds the absinthe. It looks delicious, but I'm expecting the worst. This goddess is notorious for her bitterness and her scandalous alcohol content (160 proof). I close my eyes, gulp and list sideways. It's a cruel swallow.
The notable ingredient of absinthe is an herb called “wormwood.” It's also known as “wormweed” or “wermuth” or by its chemical name “thujone.” It is wormwood that gives absinthe its bitter taste. It is wormwood that supposedly has hallucinogenic effects. And it is wormwood absinthe that I am sipping now; totally, wonderfully, deliciously, bitterly illegal.
Wormwood absinthe wasn't always illegal. It was used throughout history and dates back as far as Pythagoras and Hippocrates, who lauded its medicinal benefits. Champions of Roman chariot races drank absinthe to remind them that every victory is mingled with bitterness. In the late 19th century, absinthe became popular among the decadent Parisian artistic sub-culture. It was drunk by Vincent Van Gogh and Ernest Hemingway; by Toulouse-Lautrec, Rimbaud and Baudelaire. It was drunk by Edgar Poe, Aleister Crowley and all those other disturbed artist-writer types who gathered for this ritualistic sort of happy hour they called “the Green Hour.”
They got throttled on absinthe and behaved the way drunk, wired painters and poets tend to behave. This irritated/confused/frightened the people who don't understand drunken, wired writer-painter-types-and an anti-absinthe movement was born.
Prohibitionists and politicians of the time hollered about the evils and the dangers of absinthe. Political cartoonists drew these bleak scenes that depicted emaciated absinthoholics hunkered over a table, dripping sugar water from some funky-looking spoon into some funkier green liquid like some surreal freebase scene on Planet Chlorophylus.
Then came the famous Absinthe Murders: In 1905 a Swiss man named Jean Lanfray murdered his entire family. It was learned afterward that he had been drinking absinthe, and news of the absinthe murders swept the world. The prohibitionists made a big deal about wormwood's role in the murders, and soon after, America and much of Europe deemed it illegal-thus saving the absinthe drinker from himself. Whew!
But what the papers and the politicians and the prohibitionists didn't say was that he had only two glasses. Of course, Jean Lanfray was also drinking brandy, wine and beer as well, but it was the absinthe that was to blame.
That first glass of absinthe was a hard tilt. The second and third weren't any easier. You can hardly get past the acrid taste without shutting down some vitals. But the afterglow is a sweet, sweet moss. I twirl the emerald girl in my fingers-what is it about this green? What makes her so green? Is God in the green?
Absinthe is truly a marvel of ancient herbal alchemy. Its creator was probably more regarded as a diviner than a mixologer. What makes absinthe so green is the chlorophyll of the many herbal extracts used in the making. Coriander, mint, lemon balm, fennel and hyssop, marjoram and aniseed (anise) and more are blended in such a way that the chlorophyll retains its verdure.
Consider the times. You had a subculture based around this strange chartreuse liqueur, made with all these ancient herbs, drunk by these bizarre bohemian types who created bizarre art with their bizarre friends and spake in the tongues of their bohemian subculture lingo. It's obvious, the wormwood prohibitionists were afraid of the absinthe drinker's counter-culture, revolutionary tendencies.
The bottle is horizontal and the worms are climbing all over me now. Sleep soon, I hope. This wormweed buzz is different and different is good. But as far as drugs of choice go, I still prefer my red wine and green bud because it's tastier going down. Anyway, the point has been made. I did not kill my family. I did not butcher my ear for love of a hooker. I didn't even write morose poetry. Hmmm. I guess it must be another oppressive law based on irrational fears.
Does it remind you of the prohibition of another green goddess with medicinal qualities? The kind you smoke with your counter-culture bohemian artist and musician friends, with the bizarre paraphernalia and subculture lingo (420 dude!)?
Remember the allegations at the dawn of marijuana prohibition? They said it caused insanity, epilepsy, violence and death. It's like a freaking broken record. Ban this, ban that-it is the way of the prohibitionist. I would be laughing right now if I hadn't just read an article about how they sentenced San Diego medical cannabis grower Steve McWilliams to six months in prison.
They did this because, well, because McWilliams was under the impression that when the citizens of California voted to legalize medical cannabis, that that meant that medical cannabis would indeed be legal.
Silly, silly Steve. Not while John Ashcroft rules your innards it won't be.
Prohibition is a never-ending cycle of sickly, frightened worms, eating the living from the inside while purporting to be saving our lives. But what life is there if there is no wermuth, no weed, no abandon. Whose life is worth saving then?
“Got tight last night on absinthe and did knife tricks. Great success shooting the knife into the piano. The woodworms are so bad and eat hell out of all furniture that you can always claim the woodworms did it.”
To find out more about dark market absinthe, or better yet to order some, go to www.absintheoriginal.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org