SORDID TALES by Edwin Decker

I HATE SAGEComing to terms with ‘mind over matter'

I really don't want to go all new-agey on you here, but I was thinking about the phrase "mind over matter." Hiking in the Santa Rosa Plateau outside of Murietta recently, I came across a large patch of Cleveland sage alongside the trail.

I loathe the smell of sage.

I don't know why. Perhaps when I was young my parents locked me in the spice closet with a coupla hippies. All I know is sage is my evil, olfactory archenemy. Whether it's Purple, Black, Cleveland or Creeping, sage gets inside me the way no other odor can.

Not that it's sage's fault, mind you. I understand sage has its own priorities that don't necessarily include perfuming up Ed's afternoon hike. Nonetheless, my heart rate spiked as its noxious waft entered my nostrils, navigated through strands of dangling vibrissae, drifted through both nasal fossae, past the vertical septum, over, under and around the superior maxillary bones, up the Eustachian tubes, and then flooded my brainpan, filling me with nausea and the terrible memory

of a sage incident that occurred about six years ago.

I call it "Incident at Tabula Rasa."

It was during a show at a now-defunct art gallery of the same name. It was mostly art viewings and poetry readings, but the final presentation of the night was one of those sickening Jim Rose Circus self-mutilation type shows.

I don't mean to criticize. I say "sickening" because that sorta thing grosses me out. I can't help but imagine that it's my penis that's sewn to my leg with a Slinky or that it's my nipples that have been impaled with a closet rod and suspended from the ceiling.

They herded us into a room before a stage filled with various implements of torture. On each end of the riser, two women in grass skirts were waving huge stalks of burning sage and throwing a thick brown-violet smoke throughout the now sweltering room. Then somebody with a closet rod through his nipples was suspended from the rafters and I could actually see the blackness closing in around my internal eyes. The heat was rising. The sage was suffocating. So with rubber legs I staggered toward the exit, stepped outside-and vomited at the feet of the eight or so socialites who were standing there smoking cigarettes, and chatting, and posing. But all the posing and chatting stopped cold as I genu-wretched before them.

Oh, bitter sage, what hath thou wrought?

Actually, sage is not bitter at all. The scientific classification of sage is salvia officinalis. It is a member of the mint family. It has many culinary and medicinal benefits, including (some say) immortality. Sage probably even saved Jesus' life. Legend has it that, in her flight from Egypt, Mary hid herself and the baby Jesus from King Herod under a thicket of sagebrush.

"Well, gee now," I thought. This sage stuff sure seems like a useful organism. It seems to be a plant that's using its planty powers for the forces of good. So what's my problem? Why does it offend me when most everyone I know seems to like it? I hate to get all new-agey on you, but could it all be in my mind?

Consider the phrase, "Thinks his shit doesn't stink." I can honestly say that sometimes I don't hate the smell of my own excreta. But I always hate the smell of yours. Does that mean I have a superior stool stench? Not likely. I suspect it's more about perception: I allow myself to tolerate it because it came from my own butt, but it's inconceivable that I might enjoy anything that came out of anyone else's. Which means it's probably a matter of mind over matter, which means maybe sage doesn't smell bad at all; rather, I'm just smelling it badly.

Now I hate to get all new-agey on you here, but what if?

We've all heard about the magic of placebos. We've also heard that stress can create physical ailments (so, then, does not stressing prevent them?) And what about those peculiar examples of patients with multiple-personality disorder? There are documented cases where one personality will test positive for cancer (or some other physiological disease) while another personality will show no signs of it all-even though they occupy the same body.


If that's true, the possibilities are endless: Cure yourself of disease? Regain vision? Pass mandatory drug tests? Make Creed tolerable to your eardrums? I hate to get all new-agey on you, but if all this is true, I might have to start wearing robes, and growing crystals, and feng shui-ing my fish tank. But, hey, I'll try anything to be immortal, even if it's only temporary.

So I figured I'd give this mind-over-matter business a try. I would will myself to enjoy the smell of sage. I would find that same offensive patch and sit there cross-legged for no less than a half-hour, inhaling the fumes of Satan's fromunda while pretending it was the most smell-riffic smell I have ever smelt. And that's what I did. I sat there and sucked down the "delightful" aroma of Cleveland sage-for all of about eight minutes-until I could stand it no more and bolted out of there in disgust.

Screw sage. Sage sucks. Death to sage. You hearing me, old buddy? Better watch your back now. I told Parsley, Rosemary and Thyme to take you out. Told them to toss you off the Scarborough Ferris wheel and make it look like an accident. Mind over matter, my ass. Screw you.

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