Saturday, June 19, 2004

night sky

There are a few things on my list of
Essential Items for a Satisfactory Existence.

I try to keep the list short and sweet; it won't do to add any old thing you come across that gives you momentary pleasure, like the latest coffee concoction from Starkbucks-- I don't drink coffee anyway (yeah, yeah, get over your over-caffeinated self!) and I don't prefer to support Evil Corporate Empires-- or some new music that's caught your fancy.

Give a good look at that word Essential-- say it a few times, let its suggestive sibilance slide off your tongue-- and now rein in your leaping imagination and cull your own burgeoning list accordingly. Let it mean "that without which, though your body might well continue, your spirit and mind would wither, either quickly or slowly."

The list at present:

1. Clear night skies, free of light pollution, so I can see the stars.

I've always been a lover of astronomy. I don't know when it started but I do recall a book we had in the family that was filled with illustrations of all the major (Western culture, northern sky) constellations. I used to look through it quite often. But I spent the first ten years of my life in a city. I could probably see a few dozen stars on a good night. At age 10, we moved across the country to a small mountain town. That's when I really fell in love with the night sky.

I've since lived in even bigger cities with worse light pollution and, though logicians may find fault with my reasoning, I attribute my unhappiness in those places, in large measure, to the fact that I couldn't see the stars at night. For the last five years I've lived in a rural setting where the stars are brilliant enough to pluck from the sky. I don't go out and enjoy them as often as I should (sometimes I have to remind myself of the Essentials) but I know this is one for the List.

2. Clean air.

Same story, similar progression: city, rural town, bigger cities, rural town = breathing okay, breathing great!, choking to varying degrees, breathing again. I don't have asthma or other respiratory problems. I just think air should be invisible, healthy to breathe, and easy on the nose.

3. Relative quiet.

Maybe I've got a mild case of environmental sensitivity-- the kind you hear about ever more frequently these days where typically mild annoyances create serious problems for some people. I don't know. I've become something of a hypocritical Luddite in my early middle age: here I am, after all, worshipping the digital god one again. But danged if I don't like things to be quiet-- at night at least. I don't know how well I could re-adapt now to city life, a frequently recurrent thought as I consider making certain changes to my life.

4. Organic tomatoes.

I don't get it. What the hell did they do to the poor tomato? You ever put a commercial, grocery-store 'mater next to a home-garden version? There's no comparison. They're two completely different fruits. Store-boughts are hard, invariably tasteless, and of a strange color that doesn't belong in the tomato spectrum. Sure, nowadays you can getcher "hothouse" and your "vine-ripened" varieties (Yes, folks, still attached to the real tomato vine!) but they're still mostly chemistry experiments for the better-off. Nothing quite like the feel and smell and taste of a real, JAN-U-WINE, all-American-red, organic tomato.

And think of all the luscious varieties! Agribusiness, in its infinite capitalist wisdom, reduces all produce to a few species-- probably genetically altered and always designed to serve THEIR needs first (principally of transportability and uniformity) while duping us into thinking we're getting what we want-- but the truth of the tomato is in its extensive speciation. Red, orange, yellow, purple, green; humongous, grape-sized, elongated or fat, this berry has got it goin' ON.

Yeah, life without good tomatoes is just not an option.



At 6/21/2004 2:24 AM, Blogger tess said...

I agree with 100% of your good-life list, and would add to it:

5. Really good bittersweet chocolate.

There is no substitute; milk chocolate is not even worthy of the bean. Semi-sweet is as fence-sitting as it sounds. No, the bean must be almost unaltered; my favorite presentation was obtained in Japan and had a light dusting of bitter, powdered green tea around it. Yum.

At 6/21/2004 9:05 AM, Blogger Algernon said...

Rather than hide my dubious proclivities, I will here publicly admit that I love milk chocolate.

Pause for catcalls.

Before you get carried away with personal attacks, let me set the record straight: I also very much enjoy a good "dark" chocolate-- its toasty richness is like a husky low word uttered at a speakeasy's door that promises sensual joys to come-- but I must stand up for the unpretentious splendor of milk chocolate.

I just loves that smooth sweetness rolling smoothly about in my mouth; come to think of it, there's a texture consideration here, folks: milk chocolates, seems to me, are a bit more compliant to the tongue; they melt more quickly and smoothly and don't play coy like darks.

And the past masters of chocolate, the Swiss, must know something if they keep making milk choco by the megatonne.

And the Japanese? What?! The Japanese?!

Call my tastes plebeian if you like (you won't be the first) but there it is. My palate is red-shifted toward the sweet end; I have little need of bitter. A friend once told me mine was an immature palate, that I still have my "baby taste"-- as though a taste for bitter meant maturity. I resisted when he told me, of course, but it sure made me feel guilty inside, as though I'd failed to grow up. Now I realize it wasn't my problem but his: his definition of "proper" palate had actually narrowed as he got older! Now he sees my palate as "lesser" than his because it doesn't include what he deems "proper."

Well, all I can say to that is..... BITE ME.


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