The Way of the Way

Things have a way. This gin, for instance, is dry, spicy, rich — it doesn't want to be a martini. But it does want things that I don't know how to satisfy. So I keep it simple until I know more: two smaller ice cubes (more, and the flavor dissipates; less, and it's too astringent for my palate). But I was at this bar the other night where my bartender was doing all sorts of things with this gin.  She knows the way of this gin, just as any chef or bartender knows the way of her ingredients: how each interacts with heat, tongue, pressure, bitters, and so on.

I love learning the way of a booze.  Gin is new to me so I am trying to figure out how it can go — how much can I drink; how quickly; in what forms; and when. Tequila, I know pretty well.  I can navigate blancos, reposados, anejos across a range of brands and regions. I generally know how it will hit my tongue, affect my mood, my digestion, my sleep.  This is not a scienfitic knowledge; whatever I've learned about what tequila, technically, I learned from Wikipedia long after I'd learned the way of tequila.

The way to know a way is not to know its physical make up but how it makes its way in the world.  When it comes to ways, experience takes precedence over facts — two different kinds of knowledge.  Now, facts are good, too.  Sometimes, facts are great: tequila, distilled in the old stills, needs no starter — it kickstarts itself.  I love that.  And it helps me to know the way of tequila.  But to know the way of tequila, I began with experience, with what it did to me.

This is not to disparage other ways of knowing tequila — or knowing anything. I mean, my knowldge will not empower me to make tequila.  It's just to point out that everything has a way and the way to know a way is to begin with experience.

Gin, I don't really know. I'm in the process of learning its way which, in many ways, is the most exciting time in the life of knowing something, like the early stage of a love affair: danger and ecstasy loom around every corner. 

Everything has a way — chair, pen, pad, screen, song, nose, follicle, person, food, idea, shoe, sheet, window, whisper, stair, orgasm, lip, belly, breast, dream, kiss. Every chair is different from every other chair and every kiss is different from every other kiss.  And yet there is something about a chair and something about a kiss and this something is many things and it changes and it includes the spine and lust and reverie and ass and the abstraction of how all those things can be. 

This is what's strange about a way.  It's always particular — this kiss, this chair — and general: kisses and chairs.  I think this is what I love most about the way of ways: it takes everything. It's so generous.  Got a fact? Great! Got a story? Fantastic! Got a theory? Let's hear it.  All of these things make the way of this or that.

A way is never done — there is always unpredictability. But this unpredictability is not utterly without pattern or stipulation.  Each thing tends to be unpredictable in the fashion distinct to it.  A gin, for instance, is not all of a sudden going to be a whiskey, even it may partake of the way of whiskey every now and again (Ransom Old Tom? a little? maybe not).

A way is a differential equation: infinite, yes, but infinite in this way. 

Think of the job a baseball shortstop has: he has to make sense of the way of a ball.  He never knows exactly how the ball is going to go off the bat.  But he knows the range of speeds, the range of motion, the kinds of ricochets it can take, the trajectories of line drives. But each line drive, every ricochet, is different within that general range.  And then, once in a while, that range adjusts and the shortstop learns something new about the way of the ball.

The way of something is historical and contemporary, particular and general.  The way of the way brings me great pleasure.


dustygravel said...

The way of bowling. That's a sport I can't get the hang of(I don't do it much), but the thing I don't understand is it's challenge. There are no variables in bowling. the ball is always the same the pins are always the same the lane is always the same yet I can't seem to get it to work. Maybe the variable is the beer I'm drinking? Who knows.
Maybe the infinity is bound in the curve of the ball. Or that wobble vibration that shots through your arm as it wipes toward the end of the lane.

Daniel Coffeen said...

It's why I kind of love bowling — it's all me. The other variables don't vary; only I do. So why the fuck can't I throw a 300 every time? It's a great lesson in humility and self-mastery.