Wednesday, January 27, 2010


This morning, the coffee was named "Ambrosia". I had to look up the definition, out of curiosity for such a Greek-sounding word.

Definitions of ambrosial
* extremely pleasing to the taste; sweet and fragrant; "a nectarous drink"; "ambrosial food"
* worthy of the gods

In ancient Greek mythology, ambrosia (Greek: ἀμβροσία) is sometimes the food, sometimes the drink, of the Greek gods (or demigods).  It was brought to the gods in Olympus  by doves, so may have been thought of in the Homeric tradition as a kind of divine exhalation of the Earth.

Additionally, some modern ethnomycologists, such as Danny Staples, identify ambrosia with the untameable hallucinogenic mushroom Amanita muscaria: "it was the food of the gods, their ambrosia, and nectar was the pressed sap of its juices", Staples asserts.

The wikipedia entry goes on to talk about how it may have been as lowly of a substance as honey or mead, the drink made from honey. But I like the thought of my morning coffee being laced with some kind of magic mushroom.

We used to eat our mushrooms chopped up very finely and mixed with peanut butter or gagged down with orange juice. They imparted a bitter aftertaste on anything they were mixed with. After taking them, you had just a short while to get where you wanted to be until the buzz started coming on. I remember living in the Haight, eating the stash, and then boarding the bus to get out to Lands End. The group of us transferred from on bus to another and then once again, eager and urgent to get out into the open before the trip would begin. There was always a bit of doubt, a worry that this time, I wouldn't get high, that this time, the mushrooms might not be strong enough. Were they tinged with enough blue? Had they been in the freezer too long? Had the shrinkwrap leaked air in and sucked the potency out of the plant?

As I stepped off the last bus at the end of California street, the pavement waggled below me. The street lights wavered just a little, and the green lawn of the golf course glowed intensely as if the blades were spiked with neon. Perfect timing! we had arrived at the intended destination, and like clockwork, forty-five minutes after consumption, the world was about to become more visible. The thing about enhanced perception - when it's there, it's so obvious! And when the drug wears off and the windows of the mind close, you can't force them back open. Gradually, on mushrooms, the vibrations of the world become something that you can sense and see. The space between atoms, the motion of particles, the open space between the pore of one's skin - all that movement is visible, all the vacuums are filled with light. The walls or ceilings move with an undulating pulse. Body parts breath and sigh in the tempo of the heartbeat. The sky vibrates with wind and heat and moisture.

There is also the mundane to deal with - the slight nausea brought on by eating the fungus, and the thirst, and the dizziness that comes in waves. These are minor compared with the elation and thrill of seeing the world again with eyes that are bigger, as big as teacups, as wide as movie screens, as deep as the moon.

We climb past the golf course and gawk at the white-panted men driving miniature cars across the greens. We laugh and sigh and hoot and holler. We run up to the edge of the cliff and are blown back by the ocean wind and the sight of the enormous Golden Gate Bridge, which must have been strung across the gap by giants with engineering degrees. How could they have begun this project? How could they have set those pillars into the water? Climbed those towers and hung the wires? The bridge floats, suspended from itself, a magical construction. The color, burnt vermillion, against the brilliant azure of the water (tipped with white) and the golden honey brown of the hills on the far side.  What world is this? The only green in sight is the chemically treated, falsely trimmed artificiality of the golf course, where clowns drive their clown cars and take aim at tiny balls with their oddly shaped sticks. The rest of the world is toasted wheat. Every blade of grass is crisp and sharp.

We stand wobbly and gleeful at the sight of this wonder-touched world.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Studio and Art

Our 2010 resolution is to create more art. Carving out a time for this is the essential thing. It's not that we don't have the time - we just don't have the habit. So if we make a timeslot, then it's possible. Sunday afternoons - no web browsing, no newspaper, no crosswords.. we call it Sunday Studio.

Last week I was on fire, worked on my painting/collage work, wrote up some things. This week, I am in the kitchen (culinary art? does it count?) trying to make a Martha Stewart cookie recipe. Hmm, harder than you can imagine. Also, I'm blogging. Is blogging an art? The eternal question: what is art? As long as the creative juices are flowing, and there is some passion involved in making it: that's my definition.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Virtual travel leads to actual trip

I'd like to get this blog going again - this year, Facebook took over my time & attention, and although I do love reading about friends new and old, somehow knowing WHO is reading my updates makes me less free to write what I want to. I think I write better with an anonymous (or in this blog's case, a nearly non-existent) audience. Of course I know this blog is public, too, but there is a disconnectedness to the real world that somehow makes me feel more free.

When I look back at 2009, one experience stands out as something that not only was new to me, but also employs relatively new technology and therefore worth noting as iconic for the times. It has to do with my preparation for the trip to Provence that we took last fall. I used Google Earth extensively for the trip planning. We had bought a guide book or two, and I read online about hotels and restaurants in the area, but Google Earth took the planning to a different level. I felt like a futuristic voyeur as I entered what I came to call "the bubble".

I started out looking at Nice, a city I had never been to before. I needed to choose a hotel, and couldn't really tell from the map which part of town would be attractive to us. Sometimes it's best to be near the train station, but some places, it's not - it can be seedy or inconvenient to the spots you want to see. So I opened Google Earth and took a look. What I discovered is that the street view in GE is quite extensive. As you zoom in close to a street, you start to see bubble-like orbs floating above the streets.

Click on a bubble, and you move in, like Glinda the Good Witch in the Wizard of Oz, passing through a fuzzy out of focus moment, until you are vitually standing in the center of that very street.

This particular view is of a street where a highly recommended hotel was located. As I rotated my vantage point and looked at the neighboring buildings, the traffic, the people loitering by the entrance, I could tell that this was not the hotel for us. For one thing, there were no nearby cafes. There was a large parking lot next door that was filled with mostly motorcycles - imagine the roar that might awake us in the morning!

I found that many of the hotels in the guide book were all in one neighborhood with little character. As I rode my vitual helicopter above Nice, I noticed an area of buildings which were much more dense, with streets that meandered circuitously, rather than fitting into a grid. Could this be the old city?

I zoomed closer and found that the street view bubbles were not available in this part of town! The street must be too tightly spaced to allow the Google photo vehicle access. However, in certain places, Google Earth has a red dot with 360 on it. These are 360 degree photographs, taken by aficionados and uploaded. Clicking on one of these in the old city sent me over the edge of excitement - I couldn't wait to get to this place and start exploring! I did a search right on this screen to find the hotels closest to this neighborhood. We ended up staying in one just a couple blocks outside Old Nice, which was perfect in every way.

 I spent so much time exploring virtual Nice that by the time we arrived, it felt familiar, like somewhere I had visited in my dreams.