Poverty Is Not an Accident

Poverty Is Not an Accident
Nelson Mandela

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Strega ...email

You are reading http://livinginthehood.blogspot.com

I first tasted Strega when I was a child. My parents were seriously into weekend drives. Sometimes, we'd go to Santa Barbara and up to Solvang. We often stopped at Andersen's Split Pea Soup Restaurant. They had a fabulous bar, full of the most interesting stuff. One day, my parents got curious about that strange-looking bottle, with that beautiful color inside.

Well, Dad bought a bottle to take home.

We only drank it on the most special of occasions.

It was at home I first tasted it: just a sip, mixed in water, with ice.

Strega is said to be enchanted. They say that, if one drinks it with another, those people are bound for life.

I've only shared Strega with the most special people.

There was one exception, and I learned my lesson: the people weren't special and they didn't appreciate it. They didn't finish it.

I finished theirs.

I've always drunk Strega chilled, on the rocks, or on the rocks with milk.

It is extremely pungent. It's made with rare herbs and spices. The color comes from saphron.

When I fist read Ray Bradbury's "Dandilion Wine," I thought of Strega. That was in Ms. Dengler's English class, in Junior High.

Marianna Dengler became my life-long friend and surrogate mother figure. She died last year of leukemia. I learned of it the day before Halloween. Performance Today played, of all things, "Appalachian Spring," a piece I associate strongly with Marianna. Why they played THAT, the day before Halloween, is still a mystery to me. I stood in my garden, harvesting sunflower and morning glory seeds, remembering her and weeping.

Marianna was a witch. She was also a recovering alcoholic. And she understood my sentiments about Strega. We never drank it together, but she's as much a part of my associations with Strega as anyone.

I've only drunk it with one lover. I've drunk it mostly with lifelong friends. They are, after all, more fundamental to my personality than lovers, anyway.

The last times I drank Strega, I was in Louisville, Kentucky. I was preparing to drive here. I drank it with each of my three, best, male friends, on seperate and memorable occasions, all from the same bottle.

The bottle broke a few months ago. I threw the rest away, but I kept the neck. It sits on my altar, with my most special things.

You don't know this, but your present of that bottle to me has deep significance to me. I have a great deal of respect for you. Your opinion of my work matters more to me than almost anybody at KUNM.

Remember: I've been listening to KUNM much longer than any of you have known me. So, I know who's who over there.

Your support has been very healing to me.

I saw the resistance and skepticism in your face. Yet, I knew you'd see me, eventually, and learn to respect me.

I was not offended by your position toward me. I know you're not a petty, small man. And I know you're doing your level best to produce healing, productive and useful radio.

Well, so am I.

Our experiences, methods and approaches may seem radically different, but the bottom line is the same.

I wanted that bottle of Strega to honor and commemorate the brave, if awkward, struggle I'm experiencing, trying to come home to myself.

I've been very lost, for a very long time.

Strega is a symbol of coming Home.

I have no other home besides myself. I needed to honor that.

I sat in my pretty yard, wearing a designer dress I found in the trash and just laundered. I put on my four hundred dollar pearls, for which I felt guilty for years, until a Buddhist friend reminded me they're a tangible symbol that I am capable of getting anything I want, through hard work and persistance. That's why I wear them at the radio station: to remind myself. All the times I've been homeless, sick, alone, scared and hated, I never seriously considered pawning those pearls.

I slowly poured that Strega, still warm from your car, into a beautiful glass. It's crystal. It's a wine goblet, with a bowl the size of a small brandy snifter. It chimes when touched.

I took that little, two-ounce drink of warm Strega into my yard. The first whiff was as strong as horseradish, and watered my eyes.

I toasted my past: Net4tv Voice, KAZUfm, The Lesbian Tide magazine, Pacifica, KUNM and others. I toasted those who let me write, edit and produce.

Then, I admired the oiliness on the glass. I held the Strega to the sky and looked at leaves and clouds through that vibrant color.

I still have over an ounce left, an hour later. I doubt I'll pour another tonight. Strega must be rolled on the tongue, savored, breathed. Strega must be loved.

I can't describe the flavor; it's too many flavors, combined. It doesn't taste "like" anything. It tastes like Strega.

The best I can tell you is: Strega is profoundly joyful, deeply complicated, with somber overtones. It will hurt, if not respected.

Strega is a lot like me.

It's an acquired taste. But, once past the superficial strangeness of it, it is not to be forgotten.

Thank you, with my entire experience of happiness, for getting this for me. And thank you from the depth of my need to be seen as something besides a crazy bag lady, for making it a present for me.

I had a grand time today! We should do this sort of thing more often! Thanks for organizing it.

Fondly and sincerely,


Thank you,

Rogi Riverstone


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