The Taste of Tea

I still have no idea what tea tastes like, or what it is. Does it depress or stimulate, shock or soothe? (Clearly, it must be one of the two.) Maybe I've never wondered anything else, and the longer spent at something can just as easily leave one worse at it as better. It seems to me that skill and recklessness are nearly the same thing in marriage. I blind tasted ten bottles of wine just a few hours ago, and past number four I couldn't tell you what any of them tasted like. The first four, I recall only how others described them. Whatever notion of the emperical was being put to the test, it made at least one thing clear to me: that I have no taste. Our thumbs up or down were polled (someone intrepid presented her thumb sideways, a captiulation to the binary I thereafter deployed several times), and at no time did I know which. Some poured wine away into a tasting chamber pot and I thought my god, is it that bad? One taster told us that as a child he felt deprived of childhood trauma, and made up some. We of course believed that he manufactured that story. I was extremely nervous of anyone finding out the emptiness of my preferences. But I would have been relieved, too.

Leave it to Kylie Minogue (or her songwriters anyway) to further clarify the tea question. "Into The Blue" sounds either soaringly self-affirming or profoundly morbid. I don't know that there is anything in between. "Don't need no one to rescue me / Cause I aint' waiting up for no miracle / Yeah tonight I'm running free." Who doesn't report wanting to be unhindered, but what is the absolute independance posed here but death? If one is no longer waiting for a miracle, what does one have besides looking forward to? (Much, I think, but that's another story.) How close hope sounds to acceptance here.

Tea can be offered at any time, as a motion to carry on. Leaving behind a tragedy, going back to work. Coffee has both a tighter association with working and these days, more glamour as a commodity. It's an excess and a necessity. Coffee intake must be controlled, it's addictive and indefinably unhealthy, and yet how to get through a day without it. Tea, the same word for tea and non-tea, could be a comfort. It carries a certain insipidness that no amount of fancy tea shops will wash away, as if its minorness oddly survives infinite brewings. I'm probably misunderstanding, but I think Kylie's song has just as strange a logic: "I'm still here holding on so tight to everything that I've left behind. I don't care if the world is mine, cause this is all I know." If this is mocking the version of herself that she's leaving behind, it has all the retentiveness of sarcasm. If she's giving up on having the world to more fully commit herself to her own small part of the world, that's an odd note of realism for pop to strike. What does one prepare oneself for by such broad acceptance of one's own limits? The blue, "where nobody knows, wherever the wind blows." The unknown is where the imagination ends or it's just the end. Either way, this is neither the dreams "they let you dream just to watch 'em shatter" nor the "dreams he'll never take away" in Dolly Parton's "9 to 5."

"Into The Blue" could be the theme song to The Returned. "I drew this smile up on my face / I paved the road that will one day leave me lonely," she would sing, and then the school bus would drive off the cliff. But that's wrong. Any intimacy between optimism and giving up becomes pure irony in this show. Rather than a witless, groaning horde, the undead are just people no longer dead. The affliction seems more like a miracle, and the survivors of the now returned, desperately attached to their bereavement, are the diseased. A resurrected butterfly is strong enough to break its glass case. The camera follows the butterly, and the first human the camera reveals is dozing in front of the television. He could be dead. The first episode centers around the family of a girl who died in the aforementioned school bus, and then comes back months later. Her father has been attending a support group of the parents of the kids who died on the bus. One says it has helped "not exactly get over our loss, but to carry on, move forward." She's having a baby, a "gift" of which she says "life always prevails." The show is essentially a sneering "and how." The departed are solid objects to stand on, and the returned are threats. Standing on can be a bit more like trampling. Her father finds the memorial the support group is planning "pointless" and its design "ugly." One time the sewer backed up into my sink. When her parents meet their undead daughter, their reaction is the same. It could be worse. Her sister just stands there screaming for a good minute.

PG Tips has three "Premium" teas that almost sound like male love interests: The Strong One, The Rich One, and The Fresh One. The Rich One is "like a hug in a mug," they say, whereas The Strong One is "not a tea you will forget." You can of course try to flee trauma and repair to The Fresh One, which is what you drink when you want to forget you're drinking because it "promises to provide an easy to drink cuppa." Their triad does have a certain comprehensiveness, among black teas. I want to like intangible, pricey Darjeelings (or worse, demanding Chinese oolongs that ought to be brewed several times to appreciate), I actually want a brutish Assam CTC to hit me over the head, and when I'm displaced, I've recently relearned, I thoughtlessly pick up a box of PG Tips, which may as well be The Fresh One, because it's both forgettable and amnesia-inducing.

14 February 2014