Thanks to my usual cast and crew of Editors and Advance Readers, most of whom prefer to pretend that they don't know me and wisely wish to take no responsibility for any part of my addled writings...
Il n'est rien de réel que le rêve et l'amour - Nothing is real but dreams and love
(from Le Coeur innombrable, IV, Chanson du temps opportun by Anna de Noailles)
"Let me be mad, mad with the madness of Absinthe, the wildest, most luxurious madness in the world." —Marie Corelli
"The first stage is like ordinary drinking, the second when you begin to see monstrous and cruel things, but if you can persevere you will enter in upon the third stage where you see things that you want to see, wonderful curious things." —Oscar Wilde
She was my one true mistress and ever faithful lover, my Green Lady and guardian of my dreams and now that I was back home again I yearned 0nce more for her tender embraces, but I resolved myself to wait but for yet awhile longer, to stoke the fires of anticipation just a bit further. As in most passionate romances, it is often good to tease one's lover, to dangle her remotely, but tenderly just out of arms reach. To entice her but yet remain seemingly unmoved by her charms so that the flames of passion might be further stoked, and the ultimate embrace of surrender is ever that much sweeter still.
My other suitor for my immediate attention, my long neglected tomcat, Admiral "Bull" Halsey, had pleas of his own, quite equally vociferous and forceful! My downstairs neighbor had been feeding him while I was gone, but that never substituted for the sort of regular proper attention that my rather needy feline roommate tended to require at regular and frequent intervals. Bull wasn't much of a companion, truth be told, but he was reasonably affectionate, fairly decorative (if not too bright) and other than an affection for regular feedings and frequent bestowments of cat-treats, he wasn't too terribly high maintenance ... which is more than I could say about either my ex-wife or my last two serious girlfriends. The alternatives being much the worse, Bull made for an adequate life-companion – and he held little if any annoyance for my other vices, such as my regular companionship with my other lover, La Fée Verte, the Green Fairy.
I was home now after being away for two weeks, as usual. I have a good petroleum engineering job that's absurdly high paying and utterly secure employment, both pleasant rarities in this shitty economy, but the duties require me to be 'on-site' at the production site in North Dakota, far from my home down here in the South. Working in teams, our group works two weeks, twelve hour shifts every day, and then has two weeks off back at home. Most of the drilling crew is from down here as well and we even have our own corporate 707 jet to shuttle us back and forth every other Friday. No frequent flier miles, but letting the company handle all of the travel does save a lot of hassle. It's a perfect schedule for getting a lot done at the drilling site without distractions or much corporate over-management and then being able to enjoy a prolonged rest and recuperation period at home, allowing me time to do other things ... including a great deal of quality time spent with my green lady, La Fée Verte.
More than my job or any past relationship, my la heure vertes, my so-called 'green hours' spent with the fairy have increasingly become my primary pleasure and enjoyment of life. My income would allow me any other sort of diversion and recreation that I could wish, but just being home and relaxing is invariably pleasure enough. As for inspiration, my green dream lover provides that too. In my weeks off here at home I can indulge my novice skills as a writer, and when properly inspired, I've been able to type the night away, working on a half done novel or just creating a short story for amusement, to be posted anonymously at an internet story site. For me, it has been my green muse that inspires and gently both provokes and encourages me, and when I am apart from her for those long weeks absent from her companionship the pain is at least as real as any romantic pains I've suffered in the past.
As in most romances, absence doth indeed make the heart grow fonder.
Now already, here in the quiet still of the growing dusk of the late afternoon, she was already beckoning plaintively to me, calling me to grasp her and hold her to my bosom as the lover that she is. It is early still for my usual green hour with her to begin, but I decided that I could not refuse her any longer. She is my mistress and I cannot rebuff her entreatments any further. She is my joy and my comfort, but a demanding and stern one. My lovely Green Fairy soothes and reassures my fears, and placates my other more dangerous and perilous desires. Her cost is small, and one that I am more than willing to pay.
I've always enjoyed alcohol and had a healthy taste for it, and I'd like to think that I'd taken more from my liquid pleasures than they've exacted from me. I've always enjoyed wine, often taking several glasses of it a night, but occasionally imbibing more. My last girlfriend went so far as to consider me an functional alcoholic, but I reject that notion. True, if I were to take any of the AA 'Are you an alcoholic?" tests, I'd probably score pretty highly. But far from ruining my life, my thirst (while considerable) remains within the bounds that I have set for it. I cannot enjoy my hours with my green lady during my sober weeks at work, but that just means that I can enjoy her company all the better during my long days of rest at home.
While it is true that sometimes I feel that I need my la heure verte on most days, my lovely wonderful Green Fairy has never caused me the pain or heartbreak that my more 'real' former lovers and companions have, and given the choice I would eagerly prefer my gentle green lover, La Fée Verte instead. While alone at night at the drilling site, far from home and comfort, I sometimes think of old lovers, of our better days together and the genuine warmth that only a human companion could offer, but those visions tend to be fleeting and often surreal. Contrasting the merits of these all too tangible ghosts, it's the reassurance of my Green Fairy that beckons to me most in these long lonely twilight hours when every whim could now be satisfied. Some nights, it is the forlorn calling of potential human companionship that beckons the strongest, but not this evening.
Besides, my love luck with women of the warmer flesh is less than satisfactory and even when I go out for the evening to some club or restaurant is rare that I'll even make eye contact, let alone speak with a woman. Sometimes my muse La Fée Verte will offer me tantalizing visions of herself, an ideal dream-woman that no flesh and blood female could hope to match or compete with. I think it is her that I see in my near sleep visions when I am tired and lonely and very far from home.
She once again calls to me and I can refuse her tender embraces no longer. I'd opened the china cabinet in my green room, my study and writing room and held the antique glass bottle in my hand. The glass Absinthe decanter was a rare one, an 1890's era Daum hand-engraved cameo glass with silver gilt bottle that had a provenance originating from the hands of the famous French Art Nouveau artist Henri Toulouse Lautrec, a gift from him to a friend complete with a short hand-written note. I'd bought it at auction at an absurd price, but I could afford it easily. The thought that I possessed a decanter that had poured service to this great master, and many other impressionistic and post-impressionistic artists and also famous writers of the Gilded Age and the Lost Generation was an irresistible one. The bottle was fragile and utterly irreplaceable and thusly I only used it for serving my finest liqueur and on special occasions, like my first green hour back home. Decanted into this was a very expensive Czech-made Absinthe that bent, if not quite broke, the current EU alcohol distillation rules. A fine beverage that nearly duplicated the famous original French Pernod recipe, using distilled wine rather than grain alcohol for its base. There were many cheaper but similar liqueurs on the market, but this one was my favorite and undoubtedly the closest 'modern' version of the classic beverage.
I own a few rare bottles of pre-1915 Absinthe, bottled before the final European ban of 1915, but those were hugely expensive to obtain as well and will be saved for some future happy occasion, if not for posterity.
After placing the decanter lovingly in the center of the round wooden golden oak table in front of the bay window of my study, private office and museum to my La Fée Verte, I turned on the table side lamp, formally lighting the green lamp to officially begin my 'green hour'. The lamp was another rare antique I'd acquired at an major auction in New York, bidding here from my computer at home. The lamp base was of cast bronze bearing the nude figure of a beautiful young woman, an ecstatic follower of Dionysus, bearing a large drinking cup. The hand-etched signature of the artist on the base marks it a Raoul Larche, a very famous sculptor of the late 19th century. The lamp post behind the nude figural held three glass tulip shades of hand-blown and etched green Tiffany glass. What I paid for this lamp could possibly send a student to college for at least a few years, but it was worth it!
Next, it was time to move the fountain from its position of honor in my display cabinet onto the table, next to the decanter. It was a dual-robinette Absinthe Legler-Pernod fountain with engraved glass and circa 1900 Pernod publicity on the sterling silver base. It was scarce, but not unique, purchased from a noted Absinthealia antique collector and dealer in Switzerland. The clear central reservoir was now carefully filled up with spring water and ice, ready for dispensing.
Once the ice cold water had filled the dual nozzle fountain, I selected a small sugar bowl for the table. I had several very nice vintage appropriate pieces to select from, made from either antique European leaded crystal or silver, mostly plated but I had a few good sterling pieces as well. Today I selected an English Sheffield plated piece that had nice period advertising engravings upon it. It wasn't my rarest or even my most aestetically pleasing sugar bowl, but it was one of my favorites. It had been used for years, perhaps decades in some British drinking house and now it still served its original purpose and function well once again.
To fill the sugar bowl for use, I had to rely upon more modern materials, a Swiss brand of ultra-processed and pure rectangular flat sugar cubes, individually each wrapped in paper. The sugar itself was as pure as was chemically possible and only minimally compressed so that the sugar would dissolve easily and completely into the absinthe.
Then came the antique silver match striker or pyrogene, which would have been on every Parisian café table. I didn't usually smoke, except for the occasional cigar, but the table wouldn't be truly complete without one and set it down next to the lamp base. I wasn't in the mood for a smoke just now but there was no telling what inclinations might strike once my Green Fairy lover began to hold me in her embrace.
Last, from a selection that filled two full rows of the large china display cabinet, I selected a La Rochere reservoir glass, also from the circa 1890-1900 period along with a sterling silver Absinthe spoon selected entirely at random. I'm extremely proud of my vintage spoon collection, having now acquired more than 200 antique spoons from all over Europe, and a few rare ones from the US. Mostly from eBay, but some of the nicer and scarcer pieces came from absinthealia antique dealers in Europe. They still make entirely suitable modern ones from vintage patterns, but in keeping with my rituals to the Green Fairy, I prefer the original antique ones the best.
With the lamp lit, it was now officially l'heure verte, the green hour had begun!
I was about to begin the ritual to prepare my first glass of refreshment when the doorbell rang and my evening plans were interrupted and delayed, but not entirely abandoned.
"Hi Simon," the cheerful harvest golden red haired woman outside cheerfully chirped. "I heard you stomping about upstairs so I figured that you were home again, but I thought I'd double-check to make sure. You usually don't make it back home until much later in the evening. Anyway, I've already made dinner and have lots to share ... and thought I'd bring you some."
Pamela Fleming was my ever friendly downstairs neighbor and the gal who watched over Bull Halsey and kept his food and water bowls filled while I was gone. Just on the more gracious side of the age of forty, she always looked pretty good for her age. Her secret, she'd once told me, was to remove any and every source of stress from her life. In her case, that had most definitely involved a former husband and most boyfriends since then. Like me, she didn't get out much except for work and trips to our condo's laundry room on Friday or Saturday nights. We'd met there and became casual enough friends that when she'd seen my bulletin board notice about needing a teenaged cat-sitter, she'd applied for the job. She was a cat person too, and the first two teenaged girls I'd hired to watch over Bull had both been very neglectful and in both cases I'd returned home to find that my roommate's food and water dishes had been allowed to both become empty. Pam in the two years since she'd taken over cat-sitting for me had done a perfect job and even did a few extras, like keeping his litter box immaculate and also emptying out my normal trash for me.
She also needed my bit of largess to keep up with the condo payments since she only held down a single part-time job and money was always tight for her. She'd been a nurse once, while she was still married, and she had worked crazy hours and could easily afford the condo payments then. After the divorce and after quitting her job entirely to make her new life entirely stress-free, things were less rosy financially. Weekday mornings and early afternoons she now drove a school bus and apparently enjoyed it. Dealing with kids didn't stress her ... it would have given me a mental breakdown!
I'd sort of once about a year ago, made a pass at her, kind of ... really nothing more than an invitation out to dinner but she'd declined and I'd quickly retreated. While we were very much 'Simon' and 'Pam' with each other, the friendliness had very definite boundaries and I'd strictly observed them. Being offered dinner was something new and entirely different.
"Our flight left early today, just after lunch really. The weather was getting bad with snow forecasted later and once our replacement crew arrived they didn't see any sense in leaving the plane on the ground for another four hours, so off we went. It is different to get home while there is still some daylight outside."
"And dinner too," she added, "I was trying a new recipe for chicken and dumplings and just kept adding more things into it until the pot was full." She gestured at the oversized covered casserole dish and took a tentative step forward, thinking that I was now holding the door open for her. I wasn't really, but the idea of dinner did sound good.
She parked our oversized meal onto the dining room table and began to feign fumbling about to find the necessary plates and utensils. In truth, she spent about as much time in my place as I did and knew where everything was. She knew exactly where the kitchen stuff was ... and probably where my porn DVD's were stashed as well, hidden on top of a bookshelf. Bull sometimes needed a lot of personal attention and could be a lap-cat when in the right mood (or bored enough). If Pam enjoyed just hanging out in my place and watching TV or playing DVD's on my big screen with Bull snoring in her lap, that was to be expected and quite fine with me.
Still, for appearance sake only, she let me set the table and I poured us a pair of glasses of red wine to enjoy our dinner with. Probably white wine would have been more correct, but I didn't keep any on-hand. As the Cajun comedian-chef Justin Wilson always said, 'the right wine to serve with any dish is your favorite', so red it was and she didn't complain. I had no complaints about the dinner either.
We did our best with the conversation over the meal, but frankly it was noticeably stilted. We were both rather shy and independent types of people and when our hands almost met together reaching for the wine bottle in between us, she jerked her arm back probably rather more forcefully and abruptly than she might have intended, almost knocking over her nearly empty wine glass. She let me be gentlemanly and pour her refill, while doing so I could see that she was mentally reproaching herself for her skittish abruptness. I'd had the general impression that she had a bit of a phobia against being touched, at least by men anyway, and the apparent guilt on her face now rather sort of confirmed this notion.
The remainder of our dinner was kept to increasingly inane small talk, and with growing durations of awkward silence in between. She helped me clear away the dishes and load up the dishwasher but collectively the evening didn't seem to be heading anywhere for either of us. I'd always been attracted to her, physically any, but I was determined to not screw up a good friendship by making what would probably be (from my viewpoint) another unwelcome advance, and she had already been about as forward as she dared by coming here at all bearing food. Now it was time to either find a second act to this rather awkward performance or else we were both likely to give up and call it quits for the night.
I was searching for some sort of invitation I could make for her to stay, hang out, have another drink (or three) and maybe watch TV together on opposite safe sides of the sofa when Pam suddenly discovered a way to break the ice between us after sneaking a peak into my green room office while returning from using the restroom next door to it.
When I'm gone away from home, I keep the door shut and even locked, using the old mundane skeleton key lock for the door. Nothing that couldn't easily be picked, but enough to keep the room marked as being out of bounds, especially for Bull Halsey, who tended to rip and tear up things when I wasn't home. I do a lot of online shopping and banking and this just seemed prudent, to keep my study/computer room somewhat secure during my absence. Not to mention the vintage absinthealia collection stored in there as well.
Pam had actually never seen the insides of the room before, with everything decorated in full Art Nouveau style, every piece antique and precious to me, except for my desktop computer where I did my writing. I've tried writing from a laptop, but it just doesn't work for me. I need a full-sized screen and keyboard to bring my inspirations out. Now that my Shangri-La was open for her inspection, she insisted upon the complete tour.
"The art work posters on the wall are all originals, 1880's to early 1910's, mostly all French or Swiss liquor advertising, except for the small Toulouse Lautrec charcoal study above my desk." I didn't bother to tell her that this was a real original work and not a print or a reproduction. It portrayed a man sitting at a café table in front of a bottle with green pencil coloration fills. The work's title, 'The Absinthe Drinker' made this one of the highlights of my shrine to the La Fée Verte. It had cost me several months pay, but since I didn't do much else with my salary, it made for a most pleasant and crowning figure piece within this holy cathedral to the Green Fairy.
"This one, the girl holding the glass while not wearing much very ... I suppose that's your favorite?"
"It's my rarest one. That's a very famous and iconic 1896 advertisement for Absinthe Robette and is regarded as an artistic masterpiece. I paid too much for it at a French auction, but it's an original in almost perfect condition and not one of the 1898 or later reprints. My favorite actually is the one with the cat drinking next to it; it's for Absinthe Bourgeois, called 'Chat Noir'. That one is a later reprinting, but still antique. It's one of the most desired original advertising posters and when I find a first printing, it will be outrageously expensive."
"It does fit the room. Is everything here devoted to absinthe? What is absinthe anyway? Didn't they make it illegal because it drove the drinker insane?"
"Yes and no. Absinthe was banned virtually everywhere in Europe by the start of World War One. The EU legalized it again back in the 1980's and it's even legal again to buy now in the US. The drink was no more dangerous than any other alcohol, except when demand began to exceed supply in France; bootleggers, like during prohibition here, made their product illegally from industrial alcohol. That, more than anything else, was responsible for driving people mad."
"So what's the big deal about it then?"
"It's the history, and for me especially it's the relationship absinthe has with great art and authors. It was the drink of the Impressionist artists and the Post-Impressionists as well ... Toulouse Lautrec, Degas, Manet, Monet, Van Gogh ... all of the culture and decadence of Paris in the Belle Epoque. It was the muse of many writers such as Edgar Alan Poe, Oscar Wilde, Mary Shelly (she wrote Frankenstein while drinking Absinthe), and later in the twentieth century, Earnest Hemingway, Somerset Maugham and Jack London all worshiped at the altar of the Green Fairy too. It gave them inspiration and clarity."
"Or rather it got them insanely shit-faced drunk!" Pam giggled.
"Well ... and that too," I admitted.
"Most of the posters seem to feature women, rather happy ones at that!"
"During this time period, absinthe was directly and uniquely advertised at and for women. Bars or saloons had always been a male dominated establishments, but the absinthe cafes and clubs promoted 'drinking equality' for women, alcoholic if not quite sexual liberation previously unknown to European women. It was the drink of the working class guys and gals, and especially the bourgeois."
"Even more popular than wine?"
"Much more so, at least for awhile. Absinthe gives you a different sort of drunk, mostly due to the herbal additives with combined local herbs, wormwood, anise, fennel and hyssop among others, in an alcohol base. It's the wormwood, or rather the chemical thujone, the psychoactive stimulant it contains, which alters, usually benevolently, your cognitive thought. The wonderful contradictions of absinthe make it a unique drinking experience! It has a high alcohol content, which you know is generally a depressant, relaxes inhibitions and promotes creativity, but with the powerful herbal stimulants, your brain can process these new thoughts and ideas rationally with an unusual level of lucidity, and for me sets free my mind to write, with clarity and a forcefulness of vision that it would otherwise never have had before."
"You're a writer? So am I! What do you write?" She exclaimed. Now that we apparently had something in common, the opportunities to interrogate me, about both my writing and the Green Fairy were irresistible.
"Take the chair there and sit, and if you'll share a glass with me, I'll tell you anything else you want to know ... no matter how embarrassing."
Pam seated herself at the French golden oak round table in front of the empty reservoir glass and spoon, originally intended for my pleasure, now awaiting hers. I gathered up a second chair for the other side of the table and quickly selected another vintage glass and spoon for my own service. She reached out for the Daum decanter, but I abruptly stayed her hand.
"No, wait! Let me serve you. There are important crucial rituals that must be observed." I beseeched her as her hand returned to her side and she began to more closely inspect all of my gathered absinthe paraphernalia.
"Please do, but I probably won't like the taste. I hate the flavor of almost all hard alcohol. It just doesn't suit my tastes, so I mostly drink wine ... even while I write, but I can't say that it blesses my clarity or vision very much."
"This will be either a very sweet or very bitter taste, depending upon how much sugar one uses and the licorice taste is one that takes getting used to, admittedly ... at least at first. Will you promise to be patient and try at least two glasses with me?"
"Two? That much? I don't normally drink that much." The sideways glance she then gave while looking away from me suggested otherwise, but it certainly wasn't my place to discuss or criticize other people's drinking habits.