Music and Cocktails: Folded and Unfolding

Those of us who love the band Counting Crows know that it simply does not exist without its charismatic frontman Adam Duritz. Since he has written the lyrics to almost every one of their songs, and since he incorporates so many proper names and places into what he writes, we tend to view his music as autobiographical and confessional. In the beginning, Duritz was often criticized for his name and place dropping, but it did not faze him, nor did it deter him from doing so. In an interview with Brent Hill from clture.org Duritz is quoted as saying, “When we started out a lot of people told me to use less proper nouns in my lyrics. ‘You can’t use specific places and names they told me – other people won’t be able to relate. It’s too personal.’ That advice seemed stupid to me. I’m not going to write shitty, vague songs just to relate to other people.” Music to my ears – awful pun not intended. The more personal Duritz was with his lyrics, the more I felt like they helped me to uncover deeper meaning in things that were happening in my own life. And, quite honestly, his lyrics drew me in. I wanted to know why there was “a piece of Maria in every song that [he] sings.” Didn’t we all want to know that?? When Duritz explained it by saying, “I mean, she’s me. It’s through the eyes of a girl, but it’s someone very much like me struggling at the edge, not sure if she’s going to fall off on one side or the other,” it became even more intriguing.

Something that I did not originally know about Adam Duritz is that he suffers from depersonalization disorder, a serious mental illness that makes him feel as though he is disconnected from himself or from his own body, viewing his life as an observer looking in from the outside. Since its sufferers can still distinguish fantasy from reality, and are aware that their symptoms are related to their own perception rather than outside forces, it is not considered a psychosis. Yet it remains incredibly difficult to deal with since those who have it often end up questioning their sanity and their existence on a daily basis. Duritz was diagnosed with the disorder back in 2008, after having suffered from it for years, and has talked openly and publicly about it ever since. Although he will admit to his illness being a part of everything that he writes, much like his girl Maria, he will not point to any one song as being specifically descriptive about the way it makes him feel. There are music journalists, critics, and fans that point to a list of songs that could be about the disorder, but one that is mentioned fairly often is “Colorblind,” released in 1999 as part of the album This Desert Life.

I was excited to choose this song for today’s post because of all the Counting Crows music that I love so much, it happens to be one of my favorites. (You can listen here as I discuss the lyrics.)  I know what you’re thinking, but it has nothing to do with the movie Cruel Intentions, although it was amazingly perfect in the love scene between Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Philippe. Go ahead, google it on YouTube and rewatch it. I won’t tell anyone. For me, “Colorblind” is a deeply personal song, much like Sylvia Plath’s poem “Mirror” from Monday’s post, that transcends the confessional aspect of its meaning, and allows us to draw our own interpretation and feel its relevance. This is what truly great poetry and music have the power to do. The song’s lyrics are about looking in and feeling the extremes that exist within all of us that we are often too afraid to reveal. They are “coffee black and egg white” for us, and we are often blind to the colors in between, or the nuances of our particular situation. We have trouble articulating these extremes and we do feel “taffy stuck and tongue tied / stuttered, shook, and uptight” at times. We would keep them inside forever, but then a person or a particular set of circumstances “pulls [us] out from inside” and we are ready to finally allow ourselves to unfold, despite what seems like a lifetime of unwillingness to do so. But here’s the catch: when Duritz sings again and again “I am fine,” we know that repetition in his lyrics often means the exact opposite. (Think of “Anna Begins” from August and Everything After, and you’ll know exactly what I mean.) So the question remains very much the same as it was on Monday. When the unfolding actually happens, how does it make us feel?

For today’s cocktail, I decided on a riff on a classic Old-Fashioned that would have components that would draw out one another’s flavors. I began with a base of Catskill Provisions honey rye whiskey, that I’d infused overnight with fresh rosemary. I then added a rosemary honey syrup, yellow Chartreuse, and a dash of Krogstad Aquavit in place of the bitters. The idea was that the honey simple would draw out the flavor of the whiskey, the herbal aspects of the Chartreuse would do the same for the simple, and the Aquavit would accentuate the anise flavor of the Chartreuse. It was intended to be a cascade effect, very much like the process of something unfolding, and that was very evident as I sipped the drink. I’ve included a video at the bottom of this post of a live performance of “Colorblind” that I found to be especially moving. Cheers everyone. Happy Wednesday!

Folded and Unfolding

2 oz Catskill Provisions Honey Rye whiskey (infused overnight with rosemary)
¼ oz rosemary honey simple (1:1 honey and warm water, rosemary allowed to steep overnight)
¼ oz Yellow Chartreuse
1 dash Krogstad Aquavit

Build the drink in an old-fashioned glass in the order of the ingredients listed. Stir to combine, then add one large cube and stir again until chilled. Garnish with a rosemary sprig that you’ve rubbed between your palms to release its aroma. Enjoy!

[watch here]

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