Archive for February, 2007

Nostalgia for Tisane

Posted in Uncategorized on February 26, 2007 by Patrick

I just made myself a cup of tea while working on papers, and had a Proustian moment.

When I was young, maybe nine or ten, I decided that I would be a witch.  My family’s reaction was not what you might imagine.  My father gravely informed me that there wasn’t any such thing as real magic.  My mother informed me that, in fact, there was.  I remember I made the announcement at the dinner table.  It seemed important that I let them know, since it would, no doubt, involve — umm — something noisy or messy.  Hopefully both.

I made some rather arbitrary decisions what was necessary for witchcraft.  Among the things necessary were tomes of forgotten lore.  Our local library had exactly one such tome.  And I could only keep it for a week.  Fortunately, there was a bookstore in our little town, and I used to order books by name (carefully copied out of the backs of other books).  The proprietor’s name became a household word, and he seemed quite willing to order the most outlandish and age-inappropriate books for me.  The only time he ever choked was when I ordered The Function of the Orgasm.  He also taught me to pronounce Machiavelli.

In any event, I had other things on my list of things a witch must do:

  • Burn incense.  I remember the first scent was coconut.  I burned the hell out of that incense.  Our house no doubt smelled like Copa Cabana.
  • Read books.  I read everything, all the time.  At one point, my mother asked if I’d bring a book to my first date when I got old enough, and I believe I said yes.
  • Burn candles.  Fire figured heavily in my view of witchcraft.
  • Drink tea.  Actually, technically, tisanes.  Herbal teas.  These, like the incense, were chosen largely for scent and not for purpose.  I didn’t know anything about correspondences.

Obviously, what I was doing was being a hippy, not a witch, but close enough.  My mother did her best to teach me some actual magic — visualization, affirmations, that sort of thing.  When I wanted to do some magic and didn’t know how, I would squint on my incredibly inadequate books (in the ’80s, there were a string of occult books promising vast power and great wealth and listing “spells.”  They were risible, but I didn’t know).  I’d squint until something looked like it made vague sense, and then I’d just — make it up.  And sometimes, it even worked.

Later, in my teenage years, I discovered the Qabalah.  Became an instant fan.  Studied Hebrew in college, Latin and Old English in graduate school, etc.
But the thing is, I wonder . . . Yeah, coconut incense, a blue candle, and a cup of apple cinnamon tea are not exactly the way to vast and terrible power.  But there was something in the beginner’s mind of the whole thing that, sometimes, I miss.  After all, I didn’t just light a stick of coconut incense; I lit a stick of incense, brewed my tisane carefully (I had a peculiar ritual involving the saucer on top of the cup; I don’t know where I got that from), and paid attention in a way adults rarely ever manage.

When was the last time a cup of tea was mysterious, dangerous, and forbidden?  When was the last time an air freshener might open the way to Power?  When was the last time I excitedly carried a book home, expecting to find a Great Secret in its pages?  Most people grow out of a belief in magic.  I never did.  My belief in magic became more and more sophisticated, complex, and philosophical.  I think, instead, that I grew out of wonder.  Damn.


Dance, I say!

Posted in Weird on February 15, 2007 by Patrick

So I gained about ten pounds over the winter, and since it’s too cold to do my favorite exercise (walking), and there’s nowhere to walk around here anyway, I did what any self-respecting nerd would do.  I bought a version of Dance Dance Revolution for my Playstation.

I’m not sure how I feel about it, though.  I mean, the pad is like trying to shuffle around on a garbage bag, and makes more noise than the game.  It’s filled with songs I don’t really like much (they have yet to make a punk version, but if they did, it’d have one button right in the middle of the pad that you jumped up and down on).  And there are so many blinking things and moving things on the screen I’m not actually completely sure what I’m doing.  I mean, I get the basic concept: match the arrows.  But the “game” apparently consists of doing this with three songs.  Why three?  After that, you get a grade, evidently based on your accuracy.  But . . . why?  Is there some sort of advancement based on grades?  Do I somehow unlock songs that don’t suck?  I’m largely baffled, but that’s okay.  I spend a lot of time baffled these days.

I tried the workout mode, which seemed like a lot of fun until the warm up ended and the arrows started flying in all directions much faster than I can move my eyes, let alone my feet.  I’m also a bit nervous about annoying my downstairs neighbors by jumping up and down, but I suppose that’s something one must get over, if one is to have the attractive body sported by so many gaming enthusiasts.

The biggest value so far is the realization of how silly I must look doing this absurd little game.  One of my friends suggested I tape it and put it on Youtube.  Actually, the suggestion was couched in terms of a moral imperative.

That’s not going to happen.