Sober Girl in a Drunken World: Drinking Kava at Mystic Water Bar
Photo by Betsey J. Denberg
Sober living is especially a challenge when you're the clubs editor at an alt-weekly paper, but Betsey J. Denberg is doing it. Read as Denberg attempts to undertake nightlife living without a martini in hand.
When I think about drinking kava, I imagine sitting in a room where there is a drum circle on stage and a woman hands me crystals that will fix my damaged aura. But with my newfound "I'll try anything once" outlook on life, I went off to Hollywood's Mystic Water Kava Bar for a different type of drink.
The Mystic Water ambiance is straight out of a psychedelic dream, reminiscent of your blacklight-poster-covered dorm room. New Age music fills the air with soothing, twinkling-bell sounds. Magical paintings of wizards adorn the walls, and there's the lingering smell of incense. However, to describe this place in full detail almost feels as though it'd be a spoiler for tempted goers. So let's just say, in one fell swoop, you go from being on a concrete slab of sidewalk to the middle of a magical forest straight from the television show Once Upon a Time. I seriously spent the entire evening waiting for a unicorn to pop out of somewhere.
The room is surprisingly -- and annoyingly -- bright with a few patrons sipping quietly in the tree-house-style booths. Apparently when drinking kava, you don't crave dimly lit rooms to socialize with strangers. A bald man with a boisterous New York accent shows off his alligator-tooth necklace to a man with dreads flowing down his back. We take a seat at the opposite end of the long, wooden bar. Edwin, a bespeckled, gapped-tooth, smiley "bartender," greets us with his all-too-mellow personality. He suggests we try the basic flavor to get the full first-timer experience. (Spoiler alert: We should have asked for the flavored option.)
Edwin returns, placing a large wooden bowl filled to the brim with a milky brown liquid. I've never seen a more unappealing refreshment in my life. I could never be on the show Survivor.
"Traditionally, one person is the server," he explains. "And before you sip, say bula. [pronounced boo-lah] It means life." [Cue eye roll from me.]
We pour the mysterious liquid into coconut cups. Bottoms up. Or should I say "bula up"? The kava is oddly cold with a consistency comparable to coffee. But the taste. Oh, the unforgettable taste. It will forever remain ingrained in my senses. Quite frankly, it's like drinking dirt-flavored water. Luckily, a small dish of pineapple is served alongside the kava like a lime with a tequila shot. I've never eaten so much pineapple in my entire life, and I despise that fruit.
After an agonizing first cup, we sit. And sit. And sit. Waiting for something to happen, like a bunch of teenagers who just smoked pot for the first time. And then it happens. OK, it wasn't all that dramatic, but it was weird. A numbing feeling takes over the mouth, moving through my tongue, cheeks, and into my throat. It's sort of like spraying Chloraspetic in your mouth. As the physical effects settle in, the mental transformation slowly creeps in. Uncontrollable laughter ensues. The mind feels loose but not blacked out like after one too many margaritas. It's sort of like taking an extra Klonopin or two more than you're prescribed.
Would I go for another 'round of kava? Definitely. But perhaps opt for a flavor or something more appealing to the taste buds.
Stay tuned for next week's adventures, when I explore the perplexing world of hookah smoking.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.