When I was a teenager I had lots of albums that I listened to endlessly on the stereo that I had in my room. I considered myself to be quite the audiophile back then and was always looking for ways to improve how my records sounded. Since I am a self-professed gadget girl, I’d buy a new stylus for the turntable or better speakers and I’d swear that the difference was amazing. My friends would go along and tell me “yes, yes it sounds so good,” but I know deep down they thought I was wacky. It never mattered to me though. I was on a quest for perfect sound and I was determined to find it. As technology evolved, I was always the first to give something new a try. I quickly learned that the perfection I sought was not to be found in cassette tapes that seemed to always end up unravelling and disappearing into the player. Remember that weird noise they would make when that happened? And 8-tracks were definitely not the answer. Whose idea were they anyway?? I was in my twenties when the Holy Grail of music finally came along for me in the form of CDs. My turntable collected dust and my albums migrated first to the basement and then to the Good Will store. Who wanted to hear that crackling sound that albums made when you could have the blissful nothingness in between songs on a CD?
You can imagine my surprise when my kids all bought turntables a few years back and began asking for vinyl for birthday and Christmas presents. Were they serious? Yes, indeed they were. I had since moved on from CDs to streaming services and I was spending more and more time making playlists and less and less time listening to complete albums. To quote my youngest son, I was becoming a bit of a Philistine. Being the true music lover that I am, I did not take that accusation lightly. I recently considered buying my own turntable, but I dismissed the idea as being unnecessary, and before long I had returned to the convenience of iTunes and Spotify. I would have remained there had it not been for my middle son suggesting to his younger brother that they buy me a turntable as a Christmas gift. Last Friday was the perfect day for a number of reasons, but listening to my albums (all four of them) like I was 15 again was close to the top of the list. I realized that a whole new world was about to open up for me.
I’m sure it doesn’t surprise you that I soon began drawing a parallel between life and listening to my new turntable. It’s really not very hard to see the connection, right? In many ways, our lives have become so much like the ultimate streaming service. Technology allows everything to be accessible through just a few clicks on our phone or keyboard. We can shop, communicate, read the news, plan our day, watch a movie, take a virtual tour, or find the love of our lives. It comes at us, it happens to us, it often requires almost nothing from us, and it grants us the ability to switch back and forth between activities with relative ease. I see the benefits, don’t get me wrong. After all, I did almost every bit of my holiday shopping online and felt positively joyful this season. There is, however, an element to our modern lives that takes us in the direction of mindlessness, despite the fact that we are admonished daily by multiple sources to live mindfully. It can be so difficult to focus when we’re surrounded by so many distractions, but if pressed, we’d probably admit that we won’t be giving them up anytime soon.
Rather than move in the direction of what we’re willing to eliminate, it might make more sense if we think in terms of what we can add. We can cook, slowly and with intention and love. We can make cocktails that are perfectly measured and made with ingredients that demand our attention because they are so good. We can make coffee using the pour over method that requires us to patiently wait for the coffee grounds to “bloom.” My middle son made me a cup just last night with his new Christmas present and it was indeed amazing. And we can listen to vinyl records on a turntable that provides the fullest expression of what the artist intended us to hear, that resonates with a sound that is warm and full, and that doesn’t allow us to switch tracks with a keyboard click or phone tap. Suddenly we’re listening to albums again rather than songs. Finally, the act of placing that record on the turntable requires a certain amount of patience, thought, and care, three things that we all need to weave back into the fabric of our everyday lives. Vinyl provides us the opportunity to experience high fidelity, or the most accurate and honest representation of what’s true in music except for live performance. It just may give us a glimpse of living life that way too, and wouldn’t that be oh so wonderful?
For today’s cocktail, I decided on a riff on a simple lemon drop that substituted tequila for the traditional vodka, pink lemons instead of regular, and added a dash of Suze and DRAM Palo Santo bitters for their ability to be eye-opening. The end result was a cocktail with lots of nuance despite its simplicity. I’m going to drink it while I listen to Billie Holiday… Cheers everyone. Happy Friday!
Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until very cold. Double strain into a cocktail glass of your choice and garnish with hibiscus salt. Watch it turn from black to pink as you sip your drink. Enjoy!