I came across a photo opportunity that involved photographing absinthe, the drink, for possible publication. The images needed to show the drink in a setting that was more interesting than a simple studio shot. Thinking that a shot of the drink in a bar or restaurant would do the trick, I looked around for a place in Spokane that could help me with this project on a Friday in the middle of the day. I found just such a place: Garageland at 230 W Riverside Ave in downtown Spokane.
Garageland is a cozy place that I'd never been to before this project. It's a combination lounge, music store and vintage store, and they sell records there -- real records, as in vinyl long-play. I was surprised at how many records are available for purchase at Garageland. If you like vinyl LPs and you live in the Spokane area, Garageland should probably be on your list of stores to frequent. I saw a few LPs I need to go back and buy before someone else does, particularly the Cal Tjader record that contains his original version of that great Latin jazz standard, Soul Sauce.
By the way, the music they were playing in the background during our visit was superb. I immediately recognized the Django Reinhardt / Stephane Grappelli tune that was on when we walked in. That was a really good sign that this is a cool place to be.
Two local photographer friends of mine, Sarah and Bon, joined me on this project, and we arrived at Garageland a bit before noon, before the place was filled with customers. Alex, a Garageland employee whom I'd spoken to by phone earlier in the day, welcomed us and was a great host during our time there. So was J.J., one of the owners. Alex and J.J. treated us right. They seemed to be as interested in our project as we were, offering to arrange whatever we needed to get the shots we came in to get. Thank you Alex and J.J. for your hospitality. You were great!
This was my first opportunity to see absinthe in the flesh. I'd heard of it and knew it was something of a racy drink in the 19th Century, but I didn't know it was a current thing. And I knew it was greenish. Then Alex set up the devices that actually make the drink, and I was struck by how the set up seems to give the drink a distinctive status that you don't get with a drink that is simply poured into your glass and then down your throat. It's all very 19th Century Parisian.
There’s a bit of a waiting period as you watch the drips of ice-cold water drop from the absinthe fountain onto a sugar cube sitting on an absinthe spoon that sits atop the glass. The drips of sugar-water drop into the waiting absinthe in the glass, increasing the volume and turning the absinthe a cloudy pale green. It's a bit fancy, but it's worth the wait as you watch the transformation from clear to cloudy and anticipate the moment you can drink it. And let's not mention that wonderful liquorice/anise taste. Yum! Yes, I took a sip just to taste it, but that's all. I don't drink and drive, and neither should you.
Go to Garageland, try some absinthe, buy some records, eat some food, and enjoy the atmosphere and music. Tell 'em Scott Martin sent you. But don't drink and drive. Enjoy your absinthe, but make sure someone who hasn't been drinking drives you home.