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Notes from Open Land
by Wendy Lewis

Love in the Time of Absinthe

Summer is waning; the days are shorter, nights are cooler. One year ago, the B-Rent, beloved present-tense husband and I vowed to love each other for the rest of our lives and threw down an unrivaled party for 500-plus of our closest friends, just to prove it. Love, I mean. The Big Love continues to rule our house. We have just begun dreaming of sweaters, boots and two chairs parked in front of a crackling fireplace. I smell Irish whiskey and long nights spent talking about this... and that... and whatevernots.

So many things have transpired and conspired over the last month. It's the time of transition as summer has its run and runs out, exhausted. A coquettish, all-white-clad Pimm's & croquet bash, and an outlaw birthday party both staged in suburban theatres; the nephew's band at a lo-fi St. Paul bar that never found my ears because their set time was thrown into clubland infinity and past my bedtime on a work week; a mostly amazing and absolutely spontaneous wedding anniversary party. I'll stop here to extrapolate, to the best of my blurred and satiated memory. It is theoretical at best.

Yeah. Shit yeah! There was good food of course, for starters, meaning, beast... steak... juicy red-blooded American bovine eye of the fragile rib. There were sweet, Yukon gold potatoes mashed into a delectable mess with garlic cloves. The Salad, as it is known in our house, made a glorious appearance in a divine Italian bowl with delicate Bibb lettuce leaves, Granny Smith apples very thinly sliced, dry roasted walnuts and bleu cheese with a fairly perfect, I must say, white wine and Dijon mustard tarragon vinaigrette. There was wine of course, the table lubricant ... pinot noir and red zin and carmenere and very possibly, rioja. It's all about dining. And, most importantly, there was anticipation, due to a package that had arrived days prior to that lovely, serendipitous Saturday night.

Fatguy cannot be genuflected enough. He was our priest. He doesn't forget mentions made around a Christmas Eve fireplace in 2005: flagrant, antiquated asides of ex-patriotism and absinthe and politics and France and the poets and painters, some of whom died for the passion they could never quite achieve, all delivered that night with wine-soaked panache (and possibly, embarrassment) for those who have heard this a few times before–from me. Suddenly August, erect on a Wednesday night table, was a bottle of extrait d'absinthe ... Absinthe Edouard ... shipped to us, under cover of brown paper packaging. God bless the postal service who would deliver unto us this gift, even though it's been banned in the US since the early 1900's. Just for the record, it's not illegal to possess it in America but it is illegal to commercially import it.

We Googled. How much will bring on the high? How much will render one helpless or, worse, delivered unto alcohol poisoning? This opiated liquor is 150 proof, just for starters. It's the wormwood extract, thujone, a narcotic-like substance produced in the making of absinthe, which creates the clarity of the adventurer amidst the slam-dunk of high alcohol content ... a delicate balance. It's hard to explain the experience, but as one absinthe explorer on the internet shared, "The best way I can describe the effects of drinking five glasses of absinthe is that it is similar to drinking several shots of liquor, eating a single mushroom cap, and smoking a tiny amount of opium at the same time." Enough said. It was quite an evening, and I was idyllically ushered, finally into the ranks of Van Gogh, Picasso, Rimbaud, Hemingway, Bob Dylan, Marilyn Manson and Eminem, in having experienced the altered world of absinthe historians.

On the far side of that indescribable event, my oldest daughter moved into her new apartment in Madison, courtesy of her father and sister; dinner with Juliet the Poet, which might have gone on far past our ability to stay awake had we been able; the birthday of Pal Billy celebrating his 21st year whereupon shots were poured and downed far too late into the night; more work (which is the contiguous thread throughout this essay, just for the record) and ending gloriously with The Flaming Lips on the opening night of the Minnesota State Fair. We drove through a break in the Tornado Alley of August 24th, experiencing a brilliant, heartfelt, politically infused concert under cloudy but unrelenting-to-rain skies at the Grandstand until we (just) slipped back into our car at the far reaches of the fairgrounds, heading home. Excellent corndogs were consumed on the way in and plastic glasses of beer were consumed on the way out, compliments of lifer Dudes at the Epiphany Diner. Some things are just meant to happen.

Since then; a night at Le Meson with Lola during which we downed a bottle of wine and three delectable plates of tapas, discussing those peculiar, eerie and inspiring days of luminousness, when children "see you" for blocks and blocks upon blocks ... even through a car windshield. We decided that fear (read, vulnerability) is the entrance into that awareness where there are few if any boundaries. It's alchemy. She was gifted an amazing 1960's vintage green bicycle which was proudly presented to me after our evening. I watched her ride away down the grey, uneven sidewalk after we paid our tab and exited our table. The sky was clearing. I drove home listening to songs B-Rent had written ten years ago... a further window in. Life is long.

Coming up: Kitty, my last baby, moves into her freshman dorm room on Saturday. Our nest is full and filling, not empty. Where does this lonely "empty nest" metaphor come from? It's not about loss, it's about full-on, flourishing, ripe, heading-for-the-horizon love and arrival. There is nothing, absolutely nothing ... better. Carry on.

©2006 Mental Contagion • Making Space for Visual Artists & Writers