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The entirety of this article was found in issue #1 of Morbid Curiosity, which sold out and is therefore no longer available from Automatism Press. Disclaimer: I was more than a little fried and frazzled and deranged from Paxil withdrawals while writing this one. Look for my, uh, more cohesive articles in future issues. I've been in the first 5 issues, to date.

Paxil, Absinthe, and Gargle Blasters
by Jasmine Sailing

Technically this is an article about absinthe and gargle blasters. Why the Paxil? Well... Paxil is a prescription mood controller that I have been taking for the past 8 months. It doesn't kick in for about 6 weeks and, after that, the crashes are a bitch. At this very moment I'm crashing off of it for the last damned time (thank the Blessed Cnidaria). Call this article an experiment in how well Jasmine can write whilst suffering from the dizziness, jitters, and bitter mood swings of a Paxil crash. And whilst breaking down into a stream of drool over the thought of partaking in any intoxicants, no matter how foul they may be. On with the shaking, the sweating, the theorizing, and the blanking out.

(snip through nerve damage)

First we should have a brief history of absinthe. Absinthe was once believed to stimulate creativity and has long been popular amongst artistic types. Some of the historical figures who regularly indulged in it were Verlaine, Van Gogh, and Baudelaire. Hemingway tended to let his characters regularly indulge in it as well (somewhat akin to Burroughs characters partaking in junk). Absinthe had the pleasure of sharing the vain popularity of opium. However, in the 1850s, concern over the effects of chronic use began cropping up. Regularly indulging in absinthe was believed to produce a syndrome, called absinthism, which was characterized by addiction, hyperexcitability, and hallucinations.

(snip through absinthism scare)

What exactly is absinthe? Absinthe is an emerald green alcoholic drink made with an extract from wormwood (Artemisia absinthium). It is very bitter (due to the presence of absinthin) and is, therefore, traditionally poured over a perforated spoonful of sugar into a glass of water. The drink then turns into an opaque white as the essential oils precipitate out of the alcoholic solution. I heartily recommend doing that, and adding flavoursome herbs, to jazz up the taste. Many times have I seen a cluster of people spitting and grimacing whilst passing the absinthe bottle around. Many times have I spit and grimaced over it as well. Calling it a foul tasting beverage is putting it severely mildly. The two main components...

(snip through components, molecules, and effects)

The symptoms of absinthism are, coincidentally, very similar to those of alcoholism: hallucinations, sleeplessness, tremors, paralysis, and convulsions. This suggests that the syndrome "absinthism" may well have been caused by alcohol. Another minor detail to take into consideration while gauging whether or not you should take the absinthism risk seriously is that, while the effects of absinthe were being studied, there were a variety of other additives in it. Particularly colour enhancers. The emerald green colour is due to the presence of chlorophyll from the ingredient plants. If the product was not properly coloured, absinthe makers were known to add things like copper sulfate, indigo, turmeric, and aniline green. Antimony chloride was also used to help the drink become cloudy when added to water. Lastly, you might also take it into consideration that Van Gogh was a (sometimes) walking health and mental disaster for many reasons that had absolutely nothing to do with his fondness for absinthe.

What are the basic happy effects of absinthe? For me, it is like being drunk and on speed. Lightly floating in a distracted chill while my brain sloshes around. I have a reverse chemistry though. Other people say it is like being drunk with a slight narcotic effect (no stronger than, say, codeine). Supposedly absinthe can make you hallucinate but that never happened to me or anyone I know. The basic conclusion is that the hallucinations only occur with abuse of the drink. Quaff it regularly, see what happens, let me know. Yes, even *you* can be a guinea pig!

How is absinthe made? Yet another endlessly debated question. Many people feel that homemade absinthe isn't worth the drinking experience. The problem, however, is that absinthe is always going to be homemade unless, perhaps, you fly out to Portugal to sample it. The validity of homemade absinthe basically boils down to finding your preferred recipe and avoiding botching the preparation instructions.

(snip through old and new absinthe recipes and distillation methods)

Note that each of the recipes include peppermint or fennel seeds. Fennel seeds give the taste of black licorice. You can decide whether you prefer peppermint, licorice, or both, and adjust it to your own tastes.

(snip through official French method, variations on absinthe, and purchasing instructions for ingredients)

My favourite variation on absinthe is a homemade concoction and, sadly, far more of a health hazard than straight absinthe. This would be the Earth version of a "Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster" created by Tantric Lobotomy Commission's Chris Yardley. I stumbled into trying one of these four years ago and the effects simply don't slip the mind. He's considering changing the name to Christ on a Crutch due to the infinite numbers of inferior Earth-Bound gargle blasters in creation.

(snip through ingredients)

According to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the effect of a gargle blaster is "Like having your brains smashed out with a slice of lemon wrapped 'round a large gold brick." This would very much apply to Chris' earth-bound version of the drink. For one thing, the shots are very large. You need to slam it as one, without choking on the candy corn or the optional olive. And then you undergo the initiative cycle of trying desperately not to barf it back up. I don't remember ever chewing a candy corn. I think I swallowed the chunks along with the rest of the swig. Considering the automatic retch reaction the drink gives you, I'm not of the opinion that it's in your best interest to have chunks of sugar floating in your mouth whilst you fight off the nausea. Handy hint: huffing nitrous *before* quaffing this concoction can be incredibly helpful.

(snip through tales of Christ on a Crutch/gargle blaster experiences)

The day after the gargle blaster party was miserable. My brain was burning and being flattened simultaneously. Even after I took a long shower I had people asking me why I smelled like a gas station. Uh... hmmm...well...because I drank a gas station last night? The devastation of the following day is the main reason for not trying it more than once every few years. The buzz itself is excellent. However, I also used to enjoy the buzz of spraying starting fluid into flannel shirts, throwing them over my head, and hyperventilating. And that is something I will never ever do again or recommend to anyone else. The damage it causes your brain is *not* worth it. I haven't done that particular buzz since 1988 and the after-effects still have me cringing. I remember several nights of doing black-out back-flips into bath tubs and such in the midst of severely painful brain fevers. The joy... the overwhelming pain... ugh.

Skip that thought and try a gargle blaster sometime if you have an iron stomach. Just be sure to set aside some painkillers for the following day as you will most definitely be needing them. And keep flames far away from you while you are ingesting the blasters. Not only do you smell like you are quaffing a gas station, you become about as flammable as one. Spontaneous combustion isn't something I've worked up the gumption for trying once yet. Yes, yes, call me the adventureless one.

My present analysis of given situations: a gargle blaster hang-over isn't as bad, nor does it last nearly as long, as a Paxil crash. I think I could use a gargle blaster right about now.

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