Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Patrick Stolley at Futureappletree Too
Nearly every single week, in the New York Times or somewhere else, I find a recipe for a drink that I clip out and put in a stack of papers in a room in my house that exists for my stacks - papers, books, records and the sort. The thing with the recipe isn't an obsessive-compulsive thing, I don't think, only because it comes with the best intentions. It's done with the thought that, some night, we'll sit down and try to just relax and cool the engine. We'll throw on some vinyl and just mix a drink that we've never had before and listen or we'll sit side-by-side and knock off a bunch of pages in the book that we're working on finishing. It will be one of those nights where you comment upon retiring for the evening that you should do more often. They shouldn't be the rare occurrences. They should be part of the plan -- something nice as a regular nightcap. But it's so twisted the way that our lives own us.
My stack of drink recipes - while still mostly gibberish to me with their directions and their calling for ingredients that I'd never know where to find at the store and would feel like too much of a rube to ask about - sit yellowing in the corner, probably never to be stirred by me. We unremarkably just go to the fridge for the easy beer with the pop top and we settle in for some more work that needs to get done before we're allowed to finally rest.
New Yorkers The Grahams remind us that we're doing it all wrong. Yes, all of it is dreadfully wrong. Their music is something like a middle finger to our hurried night of easy and inconsequential beer and little spark. Alyssa sings as if there should be nothing to just slowing things down and step-by-step, put together a cocktail to be proud of, to sip and to savor. She seems to do that with a lot of things in her life. She makes you feel that you're missing out on so damned much by doing things your way. She's built differently and needs things to be different for her to feel the thrills that she craves.
Her blood might be traveling in a different way now than it did just a few years ago. She's going with it. Alyssa and her husband, Doug, got the muddy Mississippi River in them recently, taking to the Great River Road, which travels up and down the waterway. They left the city and adventured. They played gin and juke joints. They roughed it. They encountered critters -- some menacing and some not. They felt heat and humidity, saw bugs the size of which they never knew existed. Doug bearded up. As much as they sing about revival on the record that they made as a result of all of their travels, they did it to themselves, forcing a cleanse, a new awakening to what they value -- to what everyone maybe should value.
*Parts of this essay originally published February, 2012
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