Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Some useful words

Since leaving Vegas, I've been looking for ways to explain to myself what happened to me when I ate the Prawns at Mix, the John Dory at Twist, the Crispy Sea Bass at Guy Savoy and viewed the city at sunset from the ascending elevator at THE Hotel. A recent movie about Canada's great environmentalist David Suzuki giving a speech summing up his long career, offered the following two paragraphs:

David Suzuki, Force of Nature

Now I am uplifted by the amazing story that has emerged from modern science. It tells us that a moment after the big bang, as matter spewed forth into an expanding universe, every particle exerted a tiny pull on every other particle. The universe is not mostly empty space, it is filled with evanescent tendrils of attraction, that some people call love. And that attraction is built into the very fabric of the cosmos.

What I realized was that Guujaw and the Haida don’t see themselves as ending at their skin or their fingertips. To be Haida was to be connected to the land. That the air, the water, the fish, the trees and the birds were all a part of who the Haida are. Their connection to the land was their history their culture, the very reasons why Haida are in the world.

I recently finished the book The Fruit Hunters by Adam Gollner. His description of eating a particular fruit seemed tangential to what Suzuki was talking about.

For Joyce, the idea of the epiphany in the everyday was about “a sudden spiritual manifestation.” Beauty, or truth or God, can exist within anything, particularly in the places that are so evident that we’d never think to look.

These jaboticabas, full of promise, seemed to be pointing at revelations that I had yet to experience. Holding them, I felt like something miraculous had fallen into the palm of my hand, like the answer to a prayer I hadn’t even realized I was making.

From the North Vancouver library, I picked up clawing at the limits of cool, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and the Greatest Jazz Collaboration Ever, by Farah Jasmine Griffin and Salim Washington, and found these quotes about one of my favourite musicians, John Coltrane:

p. 6

Once Trane reached his mature stages, it was as if he were dealing directly in spirit matter, with the medium of music serving as a material expression of a higher force.

Two generations later, saxophonist Joshua Redman would say of Trane’s music: “At certain times in my life this music has kind of swept me up and transported me to a place where I can sense that there is something greater than the material existence of things. And a fabric that binds the material world together and offers an escape from that world."

Just before I moved to Japan in early August, 1971, my cousin had taken me to The Troubadour, a popular club in LA, to see Cannonball Adderley perform. This concert was recorded as the album The Black Messiah. I remember being so entranced my cousin thought I'd gone so far into the music I'd never return to real life. Unfortunately, I did return, and caught my plane for Japan a few days later, but the memory of that transcendent musical experience is the closest my memory lets me get to the "worlds" Suzuki, Gollner and the writers of Clawing describe, and I found myself entering via my menu choices at those Vegas restaurants. Just signed up for a foodie event in Vegas in early May called Vegas Uncorked where I'll have an opportunity to meet the chefs who created those reality-defying recipes. It would be great if I could talk to them in French, but we'll see what happens.

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