Terry Marotta: Absinthe is back? What’s next?
Yesterday’s gasp is tomorrow’s ho-hum, and things move continually in and out of style – acceptance, too.
Take the young in their swanky watering holes, downing quarts of the hard liquor the rest of us took a lifetime to kick, convinced at last it was bad for us.
Or the magazine ad for St. Germaine’s Delice Du Sureau, a liquor billed as “the new absinthe.” It shows a sepia-tinted 1890s photo of two young women faced away from the camera in filmy garments that would be decent in an ancient Rome kind of way, but for the two absolute peep-show windows in the back, exposing the twin peaches of their bare bottoms. Also, each girl has an arm draped around the other’s waist in such a way that her fingers ever so lightly dent the tender flesh of her friend’s derrière.
Now I’m a member of the generation that threw away its own undergarments, donned body paint and kicked over every sacred cow it could find, but this picture shocked me to my Reeboks -- though I frankly thought I COULDN’T be shocked anymore with the way the young dress today, the girls in tops the size of potholders, the girls and guys alike in beltlines worn so low the bones flanking their bellies jut like tiny Mount Rushmores.
You can see this picture for yourself, either by getting the June issue of Vanity Fair or by following the link to my blog Exit Only, directions below, but let’s get back to the way trends change -- so much that you come to wonder if there’s ANYTHING once banished that isn’t later welcomed back and celebrated.
This Delice Du Sureau likens itself to absinthe, a commodity that perfectly illustrates this principle: In the past, everyone loved it. Then it was banned. Everyone loved it over here. Then it was banned over there.
A powerful brew made of wormwood, anise and fennel, it was THE drink of choice among all kinds of 19th-century “artistes.” I’m talkin’ about fun-lovin’ guys like Charlie-the-Chuckles Baudelaire. Crazy Vinny Van-Gogh-Gogh. Polly-Wolly-Doodle Verlaine. And of course, my own personal hero, Oscar the Wilde Man, that rock-star of an author who took America by storm when he came here in the 1880s in his ankle-length greatcoat with the green fur trim.
Oscar himself said absinthe made him feel as though tulips were sprouting from his lips. Others claimed it gave them a “lucid drunk.”
But many others lined up against it, like several giants of 19th-century art who depicted its evil effects: See Degas’s “The Absinthe Drinker” in which a hatted lady in a bar sits staring stupidly at nothing. See Maignan’s “Green Muse,” in which a cruelly grinning fairy in lime chiffon squeezes the temples of a tortured-looking poet.
One outraged citizen wrote that it makes “a ferocious beast of man, a martyr of woman, and a degenerate of the infant.” (Wait, the infant?!) And one of Emile Zola’s novels has reports of an absinthe drinker who stripped himself naked in the street and died doing the polka.
But surely there are worse ways to die. I know I fell down doing the polka at Charlie Potzka’s girl’s wedding and Charlie fell, too, and the two of us were having a wonderful time.
Anyway, now tolerance for the stuff is “in,” and absinthe must be back on the OK Today list because you can buy it again in the States, and also your Delice Du Sureau and even your shocking pictures, too.
God knows what’s next. Maybe the revelation that that -- wo, hey! -- tobacco’s actually GOOD for you!
Write Terry at firstname.lastname@example.org. To see this odd old photo, go to her blog Exit Only at www.terrymarotta.wordpress.com and mosey around till you come to the post called “Peachy Keen.”