I bought a bottle of absinthe on my recent trip to Europe. I haven’t tired it—yet. I’m a little afraid that the mythos, the glamour, the fascinating history of absinthe will lose its allure when I finally drink it.
But let me backtrack. Last year, on a rainy, summer day in the Jordaan section of Amsterdam, I stumbled upon a wine store with an intriguing promise about absinthe in its window. I took a photo, but I didn’t go into the store. Back in NYC, friends asked why I didn’t go in and buy a bottle. I didn’t have a real answer. It was a combination of rain, exhaustion and the real fear that “real deal” absinthe would disappoint.
So when I found the same store window on a sunny Saturday on my recent trip, I reconsidered going into the store. My imagination was tickled by images in paintings by Toulouse Lautrec and memories of a scene in a Jack The Ripper movie with Johnny Depp (From Hell, 2001).
This time, I overheard a conversation at a café near the store. The store’s owner was described as a “pompous ass, who knew his stuff” about absinthe. With that qualified recommendation, I went for it. And yes, he was a pompous ass and yes…. He knew his stuff.
Like a wizard in a fantasy novel or the wise man in a fable, he warned me to only drink ONE glass. Absinthe, real absinthe and not the green syrup that passes for the real deal, induces LUCID DREAMS if imbibed in moderation and with the proper proportion of cold water and a sugar cube. I bought the bottle and the special slotted spoon for the sugar and I plan to have an Absinthe party soon.
But will I experience a lucid dream?
I can’t help but think of Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Lathe of Heaven” in which the patient’s prophetic dreams are manipulated by a psychiatrist with the best of humanitarian intentions—all with the worst of consequences.
Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder or, perhaps, it makes the heart see clearer. But only if taken in moderation.