The past month has been a bit of a whirlwind--
I won a cocktail contest that involved making a drink with Tullamore DEW whisky and telling a story along with it. What follows is, mostly, that story:
One of the great pleasures of summer is lying outside on a lawn chair, in my underwear, for at least a few minutes a day either deliberately reading or, sometimes, reclining with my eyes closed, just listening to the sounds of nature and the city buzz and bustle around me. I was determined to read Ulysses but just couldn't seem to make myself forge ahead. So I left the book outside. All summer. Hoping someone would steal it out of the yard or, perhaps, that the rain would destroy it. That one of the dogs would use it as a chew toy and put me out of my "misery." And yet Joyce's book survived.
And I was thinking about this, about how literature survives, how anything created out of love survives, how literature is translation of spirit, how anything created out of love and desire and passion survives. How the same could be said about Irish whisky and the nature of storytelling.
And I was thinking about how Joyce set his novel on a single day, June 16th, 1904, to pay homage the that particular date as it was the day that he walked around with a woman he'd just met who would someday be his wife. How art is nuanced and layered, like whisky, like love, like people.
Which brings me to Bloomsday and the fact that, on Bloomsday in 2004, on the 100th anniversary of the fateful day in the book, the city of Dublin fed 10,000 people an Irish breakfast. So the drink I made had at least some of the elements of love and that breakfast in mind. The drink consisted of freshly squeezed lemon juice, orange marmalade, a toasted barley and tellicherry peppercorn syrup, an egg white, mascarpone, and, of course, Tullamore DEW. Shake with ice then without and serve over ice. Add soda and top with just a sprinkle of cracked black pepper. Many of the elements of an Irish breakfast and all of the love.
The toast was essentially a riff on the passage where Molly speaks about lust and sex and is "Yes, yes, yes"------When I first held a glass of Tully in my hand, I heard it whisper a question: "Do you love me?" And I whispered back, "Oh, yes yes yes." But it asked me again, more urgently: "Do you love me?" And this time, I brought the glass to my mouth so that wet lips and whisky could meet, all sweetness and spiced desire, took a sip, and said, aloud, "Oh, yes, yes, yes." So, I hope that whenever you share a glass of Tully with someone you love, it, too, ends with a kiss and a "Yes, yes, yes!"
So now I'm getting to go to Ireland to tour the distillery and think about the nature of stories and love and craft and desire and what it means to translate love and desire into something tangible. It's something I've been thinking about a lot lately--this idea that love is passion, is knowledge, is dedication, is desire, that those things are the only thing that seem to satisfy. A sort of singular pursuits of excellence. That the desire for knowledge is the thing that saves us.
I have been thinking back to a time i told someone I loved dearly how I felt in no uncertain terms. I was eloquent and wrote, beautifully, of desire and understanding and care and all the reasons for the three, in essence, how I understood the beloved to be both human and, in my eyes, often magic. People become magic when they are beloved, at least in some ways. But I also articulated the embrace of flaws and how, in my old age, I've come to understand the flaws in myself and others as the things to be adored. How our flaws, as well as our strengths, are the things that makes us more perfectly ourselves and how that is something to be cherished. These are all the things I said. And meant truly and sincerely and with such love and affection. And I was, essentially, met with a "reader" who was not ready to read this personal "Ulysses."
Which was heartbreaking. And bittersweet and a little wry as I thought about how I had left this great book outside unattended and hoping it would disappear because the idea of reading seemed like it would ask a lot of me. And when I finally did read, it was a lot, but it was also magical and rewarding.
And yet that experience was, in some ways, no different than reading Ulysses or any other great work of art. We HAVE to be bold and loving and careful and attentive readers of any text, whether it be human or literary or otherwise. We have to accept the limitations of that text and of, perhaps, ourselves as readers. And, continue on and try, try, again until we reach new plateaus of understandings and new iterations of "yes, yes, yes."
So on to Dublin (and a quick jaunt to London to see a beloved friend of mine who'll be there) and to continued reading and writing and translation as constant acts of love.
May we ever be better readers seeking to not only understand and cherish, but, in doing so, create ever more perfect texts of all kinds.