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In Boozo Veritas #7 by Teege Braune

The Green Fairy

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Ah! the Green Goddess! What is the fascination that makes her so adorable and so terrible?”—Aleister Crowley

Absinthe, that exotic emerald green liquid with its secret ingredient Wormwood, a powerful and dangerous psychotropic. Absinthe, scourge of the nineteenth century salon, through whence bohemians became maniacs and gentlemen, murders. Absinthe, essence of the Green Fairy who inspired the ecstasies and nightmares of an entire generation of artists and writers, whose whispers drove Van Gogh to take his own ear and later his life and awoke forbidden lusts in the doomed poets. Absinthe, a drink so addictive, so frightening, so alluring that no lover of beauty make look upon her and turn away. One sip is enough to drive the most stalwart to a lifetime of obsession. Long had a I yearned to try this mysterious beverage, to dance with the Green Fairy. I had not a clue what it would taste like, but imagined that its effects would be similar to mixing alcohol, LSD, and opium. I worried that I would go insane or perhaps blind by overdoing it, but figured that I would never procure more than a measly sip of a substance so illicit.

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Before the U.S. ban on it was lifted and I actually got a chance to try the delightful spirit, I learned with grave disappointment that just about all of the rumors mystifying absinthe were completely untrue. Throughout the majority of the 20th century, absinthe was illegal to buy or sell in the United States and most of Europe based on a series of misconceptions. Outdated scientific experiments with Wormwood, smear campaigns led by rivaling wineries, impurities caused by the inclusion of other substances, and over-romanticization by the very people who loved it the most all led to the notion that absinthe caused hallucinations and derangement, when in truth it was nothing more than a very drinkable beverage with a very high alcohol content, no more dangerous than potent moonshine. Most likely stories such as Oscar Wilde’s vision of tulips, lilies, and roses growing out of the floor of his favorite cafe and Ernest Hemmingway’s warning: “Be careful with knives if you are having more than one. You never know what that little green fairy will do!” come from the same lively imaginations that made these men successful and timeless authors. While wormwood does contain a chemical called thujone, you would die of alcohol poisoning long before you felt its effects, and even if you did, you wouldn’t have much fun. It isn’t a hallucinogenic at all; its a neurotoxin that causes muscle spasms and then death. After all, when was the last time you went to a party and were handed a joint of dank wormwood?

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Every wannabe bohemian I knew, including myself, was dying to try absinthe when the ban was first lifted and it became available in your average liquor store. My friends and I made a big to-do about our first bottle at an Edward Gorey themed Halloween party, filling cordial glasses with the beautiful emerald elixir. Abiding by tradition, we strained sugar cubes overtop delicately ornate absinthe spoons, the water turning the spirit a milky greenish white that bore little resemblance to anything familiar. Surely, one thinks, this must be a magic potion.

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My first sip reminded me of the line from “Hills Like White Elephants”: “Everything tastes of licorice. Especially all the things you’ve waited so long for, like absinthe.” Made as it is of anise and fennel along with the wormwood, this shouldn’t be a surprising flavor profile, and yet everyone expects the first sip to be something else. I don’t know what. As incomparably exotic as everything else about it, I suppose. For a moment, I found myself almost disappointed by the taste of it, which was not much different than a handful of Good ‘n Plenty, a candy granted I like, but after my initial reaction, I simply gave myself over to the experience. You should drink absinthe with its sordid history firmly in mind. Embrace the elaborate ritual. Hell, light it on fire if you have a penchant for theatrics. Don’t forget that less than a decade ago you thought you’d never get to try it at all.

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Most importantly, don’t do what I just did and ruin it for everyone. You are now in on a secret shared by some of the most brilliant and romantic minds of centuries gone by. Breathe new life into her majesty by telling tales of debauchery and bizarre visions to those acquaintances too faint of heart to dance with the Green Fairy themselves. Despite the internet’s tendency to create and dispel rumors at the click of a button, a whole new generation of bohemians can keep the myths of absinthe alive. As for myself, I awoke from a night of over indulgence with a black kitten curled inside the crook of my arm and a rabbit mask on my face. I knew not how they’d gotten there, but I could have sworn I saw a emerald hue shining on my surroundings and heard singing in a strange language. I’m not making this up. It was her. The absinthe had taken hold! I had been blessed by the Green Fairy!

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Teege Braune is a writer of literary fiction, horror, essays, and poetry. Recently he has discovered the joys of drinking responsibly. He may or may not be a werewolf.

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