So, uh, yeah, I've been a bit remiss in keeping up with this blog but maybe I can do better now that I quit the crap job that enslaved me for nearly a year and a half. Three weeks into detoxing from the ex job, I am literally watching grass grow (re-seeding a sparse backyard), along with tending the veggie garden and harvesting herbs for new uses.
This year I'm growing both lemongrass and pandanus so that I can recreate a wonderful herbal tea I have everytime I'm in Bangkok...but that is another post. Today's post is about an idea I had this weekend to make a concoction of mixed herbal tea. I had an abundance of Egyptian Mint, Spearmint, Thai Holy Basil, Genovese Basil, and a half leaf of Pandanus. I washed all the greens and put them in the above glass jar and set out in the sun for a day. I found that sun tea with herbs doesn't work quite as well since the herbs seems to require quite a lot of heat to release their flavors, so I dumped the whole lot into a pot and brought to a boil, simmered for 1-15 minutes, then turned off the heat with cover on, and let the whole thing continue to steep as it cooled down. I then strained it into the glass pitcher and refridgerated overnight.
It ended up more minty than anything else with a clear undertone of the Pandanus, which is a very unique and specific taste (it is what gives Jasmine rice its unique scent and taste). Next time I will omit the Pandanus and Mint and just see if I can get nice Basil & Lemon Thyme Tea going. That's what I was after in the first place but I let the abundance of other herbs get the better of me.
I really dont think this needs anything extra from me...so just sit back and enjoy the reality of the most real place on the planet, fucking New York City, my home town, and damn proud of it!
It sounds funny in retrospect, but really, it all started in a parked car, in the driveway of my friend's parents house in New Jersey. We had worked together for about a year, during my last year of high school, and it was the summer before I went off to college and I was biding my time until my release to freedom. It was one of those hot summer days, where it's too humid to actually do anything, so we sat in his air conditioned car, listening to music. He - I don't remember his name now - asked me if I liked the Grateful Dead and I proceeded to explain how I hated that loud, heavy metal crap. I said it pretty authoritatively too, what with having just graduated high school and being so smart and worldy about everything. He looked at me as if I was speaking Russian and said, "Huh? It's not heavy metal." "Yes it is", I said, "it's like that Black Sabbath shit, isn't it?" He laughed and then smiled, as if he was about to reveal some big secret to me that only a few people know. I remember him reaching over and pulling Workingman's Dead out of his glove compartment, and popping it into his 8-track player. Yeah, I said 8-track, go ahead and laugh now and then you can finish reading this story!
So he puts in the album and instead of hearing crashy heavy metal, I heard the most beautiful music pouring out of his car speakers. Music that was melodic, meandering, and that had lyrics woven into the most stunning poems I'd ever heard.
"Maybe you'll find the answer, in some direction, where it's been waiting to greet you..."
"When I had no dreams, you dreamed them for me..."
"There is a road, no simple highway...that path is for, your steps alone."
"It's just a box of rain, or a ribbon for your hair, such a long, long time to be gone, and a short time to be there..."
I couldn't imagine writing such stunningly gorgeous lyrics. They were, quite literally, lyrical. They unfurled themselves like delicate silk ribbons, floating on a breeze across a field. And as I explored this music more deeply, the storytelling mesmerized my soul. I felt like I was sitting in a candlelit tent in some Arabian Nights realm and this band was Scheherazade, enthralling me with these captivating tales of forgotten places, corners of the universe where mystical things happen on a regular basis. Tales of love both requited and unrequited. Epic battles of good and evil and the human condition. But everything was wrapped up in these precious stories of cowboys, gamblers, men on the run, sailors, soldiers and fair maidens - each one wrapped with a musical ribbon that, as it unraveled, the story came to life, leaping into the air between the band and the audience. Each one, waiting to be deciphered by the listener, each listener's experience different from one another.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to turn you into a Deadhead, I'm just trying to explain something that's really, honestly, sort of unexplainable. I mean, just look at the guys who created this music. A motley bunch of guys who weren't particularly good looking by today's standards, but their musical souls, ahhh! There was a never-ending pool of stories that they kept pulling up from that well, one bucketful at a time, and each one both quenched the listener's parched psyche, and at the same time left us all thirsty for more, as if we were wandering some sort of musical desert desperately seeking to quench this audible thirst we felt. Like the ragtag band, we too, were a mishmash of all kinds of people - students, doctors, lawyers, professors, off the gridders, hippies, parents and grandparents - all coming together for one reason - to listen to the music play and to dance the night away, like some tribal ritualistic dance that has been passed down from one generation to the next, without words, just through a shared experience. To experience that moment when the outside world faded into black, and the only thing present was an aliveness of story and color that the music created, captivating us all, transporting us from city to city, town to town, like a roving circus of musicians and audience, moving as one entity across the country and back again. I saw many towns back then, met many people, experienced many things. All of which I'd never have done had it not been for this music.
There is a new incarnation of the Dead today, and while there are key voices missing, there are enough original voices remaining to conjure up the incantations needed to create the magic. As one of the original voices always says at the end of a show now, it's a collaborative relationship between the band making the music, putting it out to the audience, and the audience receiving it and giving it back to the band, creating a unique synergy that is never the same. Like a shamanistic ceremony, every night is different, every song never played the same way twice, as it's always been and, hopefully, as it always will be. There are times when I can let the music play throughout my body, dancing and enjoying the moment, and then in the next second I feel hot wet tears, unstoppable from the palpable loss of not having the dearest voices still present. And yet, I can hear those missing voices coming through the music, and I know that even though I don't really believe in religion, or heaven and hell, I know with absolute clarity, that the spirit of the missing voices is present in those moments, guiding the band towards a new path, a new direction, a new way of playing a particular song that night. And in those moments, I feel so incredibly lucky. Lucky to have been turned on to this music that touches the inner core of my being in such a visceral and tribal way, and lucky that even today, when so many of my old friends have fallen from their musical path, I can still enjoy this music live, in the company of friends old and new. Lucky to have this touchstone, that I can go to whenever I feel like I am getting too far away from the core of who I really am, and have it bring me right back to the freer, unrestrained version of me that I found so many years ago. And at the end of the night, if I'm really lucky, and they play Brokedown Palace, I will cry for the sheer beauty of this music, and what if feels like to be touched so deeply by something so primal that, even though I've described it here, it really isn't all that describable.
"In a bed, in a bed, by the waterside I will rest my head; listen to the river sing sweet songs, to rock my soul."
Everyone should have something this special in their life. I only wish I could remember that guy's name, so I could look him up and thank him for unknowingly giving me a gift that changed my life and lasted a lifetime.
I occassionally like to tally up all the countries I've been to, just to see how many it is. It really seems like a lot to me, in my head at least, but according to this site, world66.com, the 49 countries I've been to only amounts to seeing 21% of the world's countries. That seems like such a small percentage compared to how many places I've been to, doesn't it? Check out your own world map tally at: http://www.world66.com/myworld66/visitedCountries
A friend of mine shared a video with me today that just stunned me. Absolutely the best use of spoken word poetry and video I've seen in a very very long time. The sort of thing I wished I'd made, but didn't. For your enjoyment, I present Taylor Mali's "Totally like whatever, you know?" Video typography by Ronnie Bruce.
Since viewing the above video this morning, I started researching the work of Taylor Mali and, well, simply put, he's brilliant. His use of language to disect and highlight the obvious in our society is so spot on, it brings a tear to the eye.
On the irony of our educational system:
For more on Taylor Mali, please visit his website at: http://taylormali.com/
You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/user/taylormali
The Bowery Poetry Club: http://bowerypoetry.com/