Tuesday, February 1, 2005

It all started this morning when I saw a sprinkler system watering a vast field of dead, brown weeds on Medlock Bridge Road. The ambient temperature, according to my car thermometer, was 41°, and the sky was overcast. The day progressed downhill from there -- in short, it has been a series of unanswered questions, with one exception -- our trip to The Clay Oven.

The Clay Oven is a little Indian restaurant in the north Atlanta suburb of Duluth. We decided to head there for lunch, then drop over to the Indian market next door, where we were to help our friend Geeta select spices for her next culinary creation. While Geeta was making her final decisions, Keith, David and I headed over to the video rental section, where we perused such titles as "Freaky Chakra". At the checkout counter, we purchased a pan leaf, also known as Piper betle, for twenty cents from a small tray which was sitting there. According to Geeta, her grandfather had often chewed pan leaves to achieve a nice feeling of calm nirvana. She said that it also left a reddish color in his mouth. Given the day and week we'd all been having, it sounded like a good idea. The cashier told us that the pan leaf was often used in prayers or mixed with rose petals and fennel seeds.

When we got back to the car, Geeta said that she might be thinking of something else, and it wasn't the pan leaf after all, but rather a type of nut from the plant that her grandfather had chewed. Unfortunately, by this point Keith and I had already chewed up small sections of the leaf, leaving us with bad tastes in our mouths, no red discoloration, and a strong essence within Geeta's vehicle -- there was no recognizable feeling of calm nirvana.

After returning to the office, we did a little research on the Internet and found that the Piper betle plant is actually quite popular in parts of Asia, and is widely believed to have medicinal value. The list of afflictions which old Piper addresses is staggering: throat ailments, boils, bronchitis, elephantiasis...some even say it's an aphrodisiac and a laxative. Go figure.

But what is life if not a series of discoveries? We found on this trip that there are certain things best left on the shelf or on the tree. Namaste.