Thursday, December 20, 2007
Ballin’ With Chain… Every year during the holidays I like to vary up the Chain a bit, sometimes wondering into various reflections about the holiday season, sometimes ruminating on the state of the restaurant, wine or overall food world. There is something about these few weeks leading up to New Year’s Day that just seems to change all of our perspectives. It’s a pressure-packed, emotionally rich recurring opportunity to experience just about all of our innermost feelings – hopes and dreams, fears and follies. Lord knows I vacillate between Grinch and Santa, usually throughout each day, each holiday season. The Chain is vacillating, too.
Hold on while I pour something interesting and attempt to liberate my incarcerated imagery.
Pre-Med Orientation… Martini. Mister Beefeater, a good splash of Noilly Prat, a few small olives, ice and a glass. Just put it together and let it synergize. Why not begin right here, discussing this highly uncivilized civilization sustainer. Since the Industrial Revolution turned society into a collection of drones attached to various arms of the machine (see Chaplin’s 1936 classic, Modern Times), humans have encountered a resultant phenomenon – stress. The unnatural demands placed upon a human spirit forced to rise at a predetermined hour, dress appropriately, arrive at a designated place of employment and remain for a specified number of hours/days/weeks per year and engage in activities can be distasteful, repetitive, dangerous and can result in any number of other unappealing characteristics – and create a buildup of unresolved tension within the bodily system. Thankfully, innovative humans, through the miracles of fermentation and distillation, have created counterbalancing remedies.
Foremost among these, at least in a modern Anglo-derived society like ours, is the martini. One can follow the calming effects created by slow ingestion of a well-made martini as it systematically unwinds the strata of the human body layer by layer, until finally, the mind itself softens, freeing its functions, restoring its natural abilities. In fact, during this very exercise, I have entered into Phase I Relaxation. My martini is approximately 10 percent engaged, and my bodily stress is just beginning to be affected.
Properly Shaken…I notice the acute tension in my upper shoulders, neck and jaw. I believe that is my system’s various regions calling out for help, relaying messages to the brain to relay martini massages to the tense areas. It is Sunday night. Normally, I write this on Wednesday morning, very early. For seven years, it has been almost always Wednesday morning, very early.
As long as I can recall, Sunday evening brings with it the dread of Monday morning. This Sunday evening is no different, hence the tension. Therefore, at a time when I would almost never entertain the idea of having a martini, well, you know the rest. I guess you could say I’m working now, but the fact is that I don’t consider this like working. What it is I’m doing requires a relaxed and flowing system, what I believe is referred to in certain martial arts as mushin, or “no mind.” Or, as Charles Mingus once said, and I apologize for paraphrasing here, although paraphrasing might be more jazz-esque than not (wouldn’t you agree, Gary Hamada?): “When I’m playing right, it feels like I’m not actually playing, the music just comes through me and the instrument.” Or some such thing.
Serious Riff… Well, Mister Mingus, my friend who never met me, that’s what we’re going for here. That’s what we always go for, which means we always try to get out of the way and let it happen. Only thing is, got no sidemen to help along with the process. Maybe I should start a writing combo… we all sit attached to keyboards and bang into the same Word document (stay with me, I might be onto something). Like musicians jamming, we have to harmonize our sound (words) together. I’m about halfway down the martini, starting to get some swing in my typing step. Just realized I was digging my leg into the ground, tenser than the skin on Elvin Jones’ snare drum. Matter of fact, the whole lower body is rigormortized, way too stiff for Fred Astaire. There’s basically an all-points alarm active throughout my body, screaming for relief from the tension.
Extra Olive… I’ll tell you what else I like to do. I like to take a small chunk of good bleu cheese and toss it in the martini as well. Forget about the silliness of trying to stuff an olive. Firstly, the olives should be good quality and juicy, preferably whole and with pits. That reminds me of something. Please pay careful attention here. The majority of bars use the acceptable (when fresh) large manzanilla-type olives that come in humongous jars and are usually kept in the reach-in refrigerator behind the bar. Each day, before the shift, the opening bartender sets a number of them into a container to use during service. Always, please, always cover them with enough of the juice from the jar to keep them from drying out and becoming disgusting. No matter what you may do as a bartender or bar owner or restaurateur, if you have dried out, blackening olives because of this oversight, you are broadcasting your ineptitude.
Before I go, and with a good 35 percent of my (first) martini still remaining… please have a delightful holiday season, lived in the fashion that comes from your own soul, not from some predetermined freeze-dried version spit out by someone other than yourself and your loved ones. Don’t buckle under the pressure, do give freely of your love, give it to everyone and give it to yourself. Big hugs and kisses… big hugs and kisses.