Improbably, sometimes even I crave a bit of writerly elegance.

Okay, it's true: I don't necessarily spend a lot of time trying to be elegant. (Those who know me may now clear your computer screens of the food and drink you spluttered in your horrified laughter at my understatement.) However, several years ago I did venture into the lobby of the Algonquin Hotel to write amidst the opulence and the ghosts. Every now and again, a bit of atmosphere — nay, perhaps even a bit of affectation — is fun.

Here's the lobby of the Algonquin Hotel — isn't it great????

Yesterday was another such time. Houston and I sought out Sydney's amazing Absinthe Salon, run by the extremely knowledgeable and not-even-a-tiny-bit patronizing Joop and Gae. Not only were the surroundings fabulous (see below), not only did Joop and Gae invest enormous quantities of time making sure we chose the absinthes that would be enjoyable for each of us, but I got to indulge myself in the mystique, the ritual, the aura, the je ne sais quoi of being a writer and drinking absinthe. Yes, my friends, oh, yes, it was an adventure.

The Absinthe Salon

Absinthe is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of thing. It's not "fun" per se to drink. Its flavor is alarmingly intense and complex, the sort of thing that compels you to savor it, because your only other option, should you be so crass as to gulp it, is probably to experience a fervent longing for death. I was not so rash: tiny, tiny sips over the course of nearly two hours was my approach, and it was a good one. Conversation flourishes in such an atmosphere (and, indeed, the proprietors consider it one of their missions to foster good conversation). I confess I didn't do too much writing (mainly I just posed affectedly for the photo that Houston took), but I can foresee an afternoon when I go into Sydney to wait for Houston to finish work, and find myself in the Absinthe Salon with a fountain pen and a Moleskine notebook and a serious jones for writing and absinthe.

Me, being writerly and absinthe-y

The intoxication you get from absinthe is famously "clear-headed": I, at least, did not feel the same kind of woozy furry-headedness one can get from an imprudent rate of wine consumption (I originally thought this was my imagination, but then I looked it up, and apparently I'm not the only one to think this). Granted, I wasn't after intoxication, and I was (as I mentioned) seriously taking my time. However, the feeling was quite distinct, and really rather invigorating. I could certainly see how it would be conducive to conversations with the Muse, as well as with one's husband.

It's not cheap — particularly the very, very fine stuff available at the Absinthe Salon (no Green Fairy Brand for them) — but God knows you only need to drink absinthe once in a very great while. Unless you have a yearning to really chase after the whole garret-in-Paris experience, which I think may possibly be taking the Neo-Romantic, Oscar Wilde thing a bit too far.

A few more links for you:
Famous Absinthe Drinkers
A story on the lobby of the Algonquin Hotel
Strindberg and Helium in "Absinthe and Women"


At 7:55 PM, Blogger Helen V. said...

Very elegantly writerly - and absinthe-y - you look. I confess I've never tried absinthe. The smell of wormwood has been enough to make me want to avoid anything that might even possibly contain it.

At 11:12 PM, Blogger Laura E. Goodin said...

Odd -- I find the smell of wormwood to be intriguing, rather than repellent. Yet more proof that everybody's different.


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