Thursday, January 03, 2019

A personal bond with his whisky

You never know what kind of bond an American may have with America, one not only American but also German, not only German but also a pianist, that not only but moreover a composer, not only him but actually anyone at all with America, it's a mystery this bond any Tom or Dick can have with America, the pianist's America was measured out in bourbon, topped up with water and chilled with ice, that was the only way to appreciate whisky in its American incarnation, which is what I was missing, I was sticking with my well-known good taste not innate but belatedly acquired, in the context of an apparently successful marriage which had led me to encounter though not necessarily recognize all kinds of whiskys, single and pure malts, and to despise fans of blended whisky, those drinkers being not enlightened enthusiasts but a lower class of consumers, as conceded by all true enthusiasts distinguished by their refusal of admixture, consumption combines while good taste defines, this is what I'd learned in the context of my marriage, my objective then: success founded on the theoretical knowledge of whisky, I therefore pursued the single-mindedness particular to good taste which cannot be learned for lack of a particular upbringing. These were my prejudices around taste, acquired belatedly and still channeling my judgment in accordance with conventions whose universally relative nature I didn't always understand, I judged without considering the pianist's capacity to judge which had enabled him serenely to sip his tall blended whisky on the rocks without in any way snapping back at this my anti-American sarcasm of the lowest kind, the most questionable sarcasm given the knee-jerk anti-Americanism that the pianist was always condemning and which I'd never meant to be part of, in which I was participating despite myself, which I made no attempt to resist: pro-Americanism would have been equally poorly received, the pianist has never been pro-American, has never supported America for America's sake nor America versus the rest of the world, he has more than once taken a stand against America but without anti-Americanism either knee-jerk or of any other kind, ordering a blended whisky on the rocks was not a pro-American decision and called for no further anti-American critique, yet I criticized the pianist's choice without first taking a deep breath and counting to ten or any other number, criticism he thought uncalled-for, being first and foremost a pianist-composer well up on America, better informed than he is hard to find. The pianist's bond with blended whisky was in some way loaded, so I gathered from the nervy way the pianist had placed his order, as if it were quite a complex order and called for lengthy explanation to the Kaiser's waiter, who it seemed did not serve tall blended whiskys on the rocks every day, the way he snatched up the glass and made the ice swirl inside it. Doubtless the pianist felt a personal bond with his whisky [...]; at the Kaiser Café the pianist was neither between heaven and earth nor between one drink and the next, simply keeping up his unalcoholic bond with blended whisky, an intimate and precious connection, perhaps even more intimate and precious than the pianist's bond with his car, a relationship one doesn't enter into just like that, in open comradeship, but that remains for ever mystical and personal.
— from Blue Self-Portrait, by Noémi Lefebvre.

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